XML: Still Just HypedWebStuff

Len Bullard cbullard at hiwaay.net
Wed Nov 24 23:56:42 GMT 1999

David Megginson wrote:
> Not only could we, but many of us have -- I've written quite a few
> thousand lines of LISP in my life, and I know that it works fine for
> representing data structures, but nobody uses it.  XML also works
> fine, and everyone uses it.  

Actually, no.  It just looks like that from the chair.  Most proposals 
I see still accept and endorse CSV.  If you try to deliver XML to 
the FBI for NIBRS, for example, they will send it back to you and say, 
"Try again.  No certification."  Seems they are heavily invested 
in some new tech on old tech.  

> So, let's get on to the interesting
> stuff, and actually start doing something with information rather than
> just marking it up.

Hmm.  Maybe not so fast.  Got to do that cost analysis first.

I think if we actually look at a lot of server sites, we will find 
relational databases, eg, SQLServer, Oracle, etc., doing some 
variant of ASP slicing and dicing of recordsets, wrapping them 
in HTML, and sending them back.  All of the ads in the paper 
here look for ColdFusion authors, etc.  So, sure, there may 
be advantages to XML, but they are still more hyped than 
realized.  Right now, XML is still the newKidOnTheBlock, 
trendy, but unproven.

We have a few more years of waiting for stable 
platforms, and the DoJ case just pushed that out a little 
further.  Are we quickly heading back to the same market 
and community conditions that beset CALS:  lots of agreements, 
separated by miles of NIH water. consultants who get fat but 
systems that aren't compatible, pronouncements of the 
next new thing, and conferences where the consultants 
flock around the newest toy?

I wish it weren't so, but all the discussion of SML assures 
me it is.  What we have is a more complete toolset than 
we have ever had, cheaper tools, a simpler spec that is 
made complex by the family of spawning application languages,
so just as heavy and just as hard to learn by the majority if 
a little more palatable to the hardcore parser junkies, 
and industries still unconvinced that the performance is 
realizable, or that their razor thin margins can be sustained 
when shoppers see the price everytime they put something in 
the virtual cart, and have no incentive to impulse buy.

The Kroger online shopping experiment is fascinating.  They 
did it here in Huntsville.  The published results were that 
it wasn't well accepted; the unpublished *comments* are that 
when you let them out of the store without passing the 
Enquirer counter, they don't buy, and there goes the margins. 
Again, to quote my boss at GE in the Eighties, "All this 
visibility f**ks up the game."  Took me a long time to 
figure out what he meant:  if the capital flow lessens, 
the quality subsides concurrently. 

Ask yourself why ANY good technical VP responsible for the 
bottom line of his company implements a technology that 
costs more to implement and maintain owing to the instability of the 
platforms, has to be sold for less given the hyped perception of 
ease and ubiquity, and in the end, gives moreorless the same 
results as the relational system and CSV?

Cost justify XML. 


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