What do XML consultants actually do?

David Megginson david at megginson.com
Mon Nov 22 13:47:24 GMT 1999

"Don Park" <donpark at docuverse.com> writes:

> Maybe we live in different worlds.  Based on experience,
> companies starting to adopt XML typically hire XML consultants
> to design their systems.  Most of them are not confident that
> they know all the details of XML and thus are compelled to use
> outside help.

God!  If I were paid to help people figure out XML syntax, I would be
way, way, way, WAY overpaid.  What companies hire consultants for is
to help them understand how to exchange and process information: 90%
of the complexity comes from the nature of the information they're
trying to model and the business environment in which they work, 9.9%
of the complexity comes from finding, learning, and integrating the
software components, and perhaps the remaining 0.1% has something to
do with the syntax of the markup layer (but probably not).

If we switched to LaTeX, or S-expressions, or structured RTF, the only
difference would be in the availability of off-the-shelf software
components and training materials.  The hard part is figuring out how
to manage the open exchange of news, music data, maintenance
information, magazine archives, or what-have-you, not learning where
to stick the angle brackets.

I have billed many thousands of hours on XML projects to large and
small companies, and I have never once sat down and taught XML syntax,
nor can I remember if I have ever (in an XML project) said or heard
the phrases "DOCTYPE", "XML comment", "processing instruction",
"notation", or "unparsed entity".

I fully expect the techs with my customers to (a) learn basic XML
syntax on their own by spending a couple of hours with a tutorial or
(b) simply ignore it and trust the libraries, depending on their
needs.  If they're totally lost, I give the the URL of Robin Cover's
XML Web Page [1] and tell them to get back in touch in a day or two.

> Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised to see people start using
> comments for some new standard.  Removing the comment feature
> will force the people to treat comment as first-class information.

With luck, the Infoset will help avoid this problem by specifying that 
comments are not a required part of the Infoset.

All the best, and good luck with SML,


[1] http://www.oasis-open.org/cover/

David Megginson                 david at megginson.com

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