Dissillusioned about interoperability.

David Megginson david at megginson.com
Fri Oct 8 13:05:40 BST 1999

"Kent Sievers" <ksievers at novell.com> writes:

> While these examples are totally contrived, they represent the
> problem we are facing: Even after we have conversions that take care
> of disagreements over tag names, data types and allowed values
> (i.e. the point at which we would expect to reap a huge benefit from
> XML) we are still doing as much conversion as when we had our own
> proprietary (non-XML) format.

Well, no, you might have had to do another level of processing on each
file type as well -- one might have been comma-delimited, another
might have been in INI file format, another might have been
fixed-length fields, etc.  Only after you managed to extract the raw
information from each of these would you have had to do the same level
that you're doing with XML right now.

Your only problem is that XML is rather low level: it solves the
lexical "how-do-I-represent-this" problem (see above), not the
syntactic "what-do-I-represent" problem.  XML is designed so that you
can build layers on top of it for more specific kinds of data
representation, such as object serialization.  

The two best candidates for representing objects right now are RDF and
XMI (since they're both controlled by independent bodies).
Personally, I prefer RDF for data exchange, because it's more Webby
(XMI is just UML with tags instead of little pictures).  

Of course, that won't help you now, because you have a legacy problem
that comes from your group's own underspecification: just saying "use
XML" is like saying "use ASCII" or "use TCP/IP" -- it's a great start,
but it's hardly enough by itself.

All the best,


David Megginson                 david at megginson.com

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