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   RE: Xml Techniques

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  • From: Mark Birbeck <Mark.Birbeck@iedigital.net>
  • To: "'Lisa Lippert (Dusseault) (Platinum)'" <lisal@microsoft.com>, Steven Livingstone <ceo@citix.com>, XML Dev <xml-dev@ic.ac.uk>
  • Date: Thu, 28 Oct 1999 18:56:00 +0100

Lisa, I assume Steven is actually referring to the difference between using XML for document mark-up and using XML for other applications, and is asking whether most work is still being done with the former, or the latter. (Although thanks for the update on your products!)
For my two-penneth worth, I think the areas Steven mentions - XML-RPC and SOAP - and the one that Lisa refers to, WebDAV, are going to be more significant than even the XML revolution itself. Is this possible, I hear you ask? Bigger? Surely not?
Well, yes, because although a standardised document mark-up is a great step forward, the issue of exchanging that information is still posed. Systems have to understand each other, and even if the documents that they communicate are standardised, the manner of their communication must be too. Steven asked for examples. We recently did another recruitment site, and decided as an experiment to see how far we could integrate the client's existing systems with our web server's database, with as little disruption as possible to their existing processes. Now the document mark-up standpoint would emphasise that we should use a standard format for the vacancies and CVs - although finding a good one is difficult. But surely more interesting is finding a means of conveying that information that can be used time and again. In the end we used SOAP; we placed a SOAP client and server on their intranet so it could see their database, and then allowed it to talk to our server. No ODBC connections, DCOM problems or firewall gotchas. And we can use the whole technique again, regardless of whether the next client has a relational, object or ferret database. As I've said before, I think SOAP is a real step forward on XML-RPC, so if you're about to look at XML-RPC, go straight for SOAP. It's a little extra work, but worth it. But both of them are a real leap ahead of the many other distributed techniques that end up being quite proprietary.
Another technique that I think will really take off is WebDAV. Lisa referred to it in relation to Exchange. For a site we recently got going, we have to deal with five publications three of which are weekly. These come out of PageMaker, but get stored as XML for the usual reasons. Now again, it is easy to get distracted by what seems to be the issue - what standard should we use to structure the articles? Well, we went for XMLNews, but we can change it at any time by updating our schema, so who cares? The really tricky bit is how to give geographically separate journalists the ability to import articles to the system in a quick and reliable fashion. Well, we wrote a WebDAV layer that sits on top of the XML store. For now, users navigate through the store with Microsoft's Web Folders because it's a readily available WebDAV client, but now we've proved the concept we will replace that. They drag the article in HTML (exported from PageMaker) into the Web Folder, which sends it to our WebDAV server, which then converts it to XHTML (tacking on one of the three namespaces - told you you needed three ...) applies the stylesheet applicable to the folder imported into and then imports the resulting structure into the store.
Now, any WebDAV client could be used here - and obviously someone will come up with the ultimate publishing client, someone else will come up with the ultimate e-commerce client. But also we now have a standard way of controlling data in remote systems. So if we decided to write the ultimate publishing client, but later decided to move all of the profiles on politicians into the upcoming Exchanged server - which Lisa pointed out will be WebDAV-enabled - all we would have to change is a URL. The application would stay the same. Imagine doing that with your ODBC connections!
[The site is at http://www.parlicom.com but please treat this as a preview. There'll be no fanfare till January. Note that the URLs for articles and contents pages use nearly-XPath - a world where strings have no quotation marks and attributes think they're elements. Also note that if you take the URL for an article and drop the filename bit, you will get the XML for that article wrapped up as a fragment. I wouldn't bother querying for other stuff because the store is in version -9.8 at the moment, and unless the document is in our cache, retrieval will be very, very, very, slow.]
Anyway, my point is simply that the communication of this information is the next 'big thing' for developers to get stuck into. Document mark-up is pretty obvious - you gotta have it. But to build an information-based internet, we need to get the servers talking to each other!
Mark Birbeck
x-port.net Ltd.
-----Original Message-----
From: Lisa Lippert (Dusseault) (Platinum) [mailto:lisal@microsoft.com]
Sent: Thursday, October 28, 1999 2:39 AM
To: Steven Livingstone; XML Dev
Subject: RE: Xml Techniques

Not sure what you're talking about...
 - If you're talking about traditional email messaging type features, the next version of Exchange will expose some email properties in XML over DAV.
 - If you're talking about document markup, Office 10 already supports document metadata in XML, and the next version of Exchange will expose that over DAV.
 - If you're talking about some combination of the two, then I don't understand what the question is :)
I'll be discussing the Exchange XML functionality at the upcoming XMLOne conference in Santa Clara on November 11. 
-----Original Message-----
From: owner-xml-dev@ic.ac.uk [mailto:owner-xml-dev@ic.ac.uk]On Behalf Of Steven Livingstone
Sent: Thursday, October 21, 1999 5:08 PM
To: 'XML Dev'
Subject: Xml Techniques

I am interested in how popular XML has become for messaging type features (eg XMLRPC and SOAP etc...) relative to traditional document markup? - I see two distinct, but (possibly) similar markets.
Any exciting project undergo?


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