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   RE: ubiquitous XML?

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  • From: rsanford <rsanford@nolimitsystems.com>
  • To: XML-Dev Mailing list <xml-dev@xml.org>
  • Date: Fri, 17 Nov 2000 13:39:15 -0600

two christmas' ago i got a box set of black & decker versa pack
tools. cool set. there are five tools in the box. over the past two
years i've used four of the five. i don't feel guilty about not
using the other one because i have yet to find a job for which it
is appropriate. the same way with xml - just because there are all
these way-cool tools that come in the box doesn't mean that i have
to use 'em.

i don't use multiple inheritance in c++ either. of course most of
my coding is done in MFC which puts a big damper on that sort of
thing but still, it isn't a tool that i use. that doesn't mean i
can't be productive in c++, i just choose not to use all of the
complexity that is offered.

xml is simple. schemas are pretty darn cool, namespaces are pretty
darn cool. XSLT is way-cool. i don't use 'em all and even when i
do use them i don't always use all of their capabilities. i do
what i need to in order to get the job done and to get it done in
a manner that is easy for whoever comes after me to follow.

chris makes very good points below. i second them with my additional
verbiage above.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Chris Lovett [mailto:clovett@microsoft.com]
> Sent: Thursday, November 16, 2000 11:55 PM
> To: 'Simon St.Laurent'; XML-Dev Mailing list
> Subject: RE: ubiquitous XML?
> Yes after reading this I have a couple thoughts.
> 1. XML is not a passing fad.  It is here to stay, despite all the
> weird and
> wonderful things we are all building on top of it.  XML is simply the
> standardization of an incredibly powerful design pattern that has existed
> for eons and will continue to exist for lots and lots of reasons.  The
> standardization of this design pattern is a hugely powerful thing creating
> all kinds of new opportunities from PDA to Mainframe and everything in
> between.
> 2. The true genious behind simplicity is when it does not limit
> the complex
> from being possible.  This is the balance we must all strive for as we
> continue to drive the evolution of XML and it's related family of
> technologies.
> 3. Sometimes the most valuable tool in software development is the garbage
> can.  When a given solution doesn't stand the test of time, then
> be honest,
> put all politics aside and start over.
> Chris Lovett
> Product Unit Manager
> Web Services
> Business Application Division
> Microsoft.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Simon St.Laurent [mailto:simonstl@simonstl.com]
> Sent: Thursday, November 16, 2000 7:37 PM
> To: XML-Dev Mailing list
> Subject: ubiquitous XML?
> This may prove to be one of those messages people with allergies to "XML
> politics" delete, but it may not.
> I just got back from XMLDevCon 2000, which went pretty well.  I got solid
> questions from the audience, got to meet yet more incredible XML folk, and
> generally had a good time.  I left with a lot of questions about XML's
> future, though, and I'm not sure there are any good answers.
> My background before coming into XML was in hypertext and eventually Web
> development, where I'd marveled at the way Web development seemed open to
> virtually all comers.  Though there were certainly different levels of
> virtuosity among developers, no question, it was also possible for someone
> to learn HTML from a single-page cheat sheet and a ten-minute
> introduction.
>  (I learned from a 116-page book, personally.)
> When I first encountered XML, it seemed like it had the same
> potential.  It
> was, after all, a simplification project, and well-formedness offered
> newcomers a quick path to creating documents.  XML: A Primer weighed in at
> 340 pages, heftier than 116, but a lot of that was examples along
> with some
> dreaming.
> A simple and approachable XML seemed to offer the world a chance to move
> beyond design-by-committee, making it possible for smaller
> organizations to
> develop customized vocabularies which fit their needs very well without
> precluding eventual extension.  On comp.text.xml I even suggested that
> those closest to documents - secretaries, assistants, and others who were
> thoroughly familiar with information in its everyday instances - might be
> better-equipped to handle modeling this information than the experts, at
> lower cost and perhaps more effectively.  (This didn't receive an entirely
> warm reception, of course.)
> As time has passed, I've had less and less hope for this vision.  Not
> because of the familiar claim that 'data modeling is hard', but
> because the
> supporting standards for XML seem intent on growing more complex and more
> obscure simultaneously.  While notations and unparsed entities took a lot
> of figuring out, they could be safely ignored for the most part, and XML
> could generally be pared down to elements and attributes and content if
> necessary.
> The new generation of supporting standards requires a lot more
> understanding.  "Post-schema-validation-infoset", "qualified name", and
> "XPath node-set" aren't optional features for developers who want to use
> the XML the W3C seems to be excited about developing.  My attempt at
> explaining namespaces in one hour at the conference proved more tortured
> than I expected - live audiences make all the assumptions I've learned to
> suppress, and it quickly became clear that the complexities still live.
> This isn't all bad - there is a crew of experts who understand
> these things
> inside and out, but it's taken even this crew over a year to really dig
> into the implications of the Namespaces spec, and this crew is relatively
> small compared to the hordes of people who would really like to use XML,
> not to mention the folks who haven't yet heard of it but might gain by
> using it, even modeling their own information.
> I'm sure there are some folks out there who see this as a good recipe for
> making money.  The confusion over XML has probably helped sell more than a
> few of my books, and certainly contributes to consulting fees which still
> seem to be climbing.  Schemas are complex enough that I generally
> recommend
> that people hide them behind tools, and pray that those tools are always
> available every time the Schemas need to be explored - there's money there
> too.
> On the other hand, I'd like to suggest that it creates a bottleneck,
> keeping XML to a much smaller group of people, limiting the economies of
> scale available by raising the bar for entry.  The existence of
> complex and
> powerful specs has a tendency to make certain classes of people believe
> that they need the biggest most powerful tool around, and there isn't a
> whole lot of room to propose alternatives while remaining even vaguely
> capable of interoperating with the bloatware community.
> I'm not sure there's a way out of this, since so many people seem intent
> and sincere in their belief that 'bigger is better, and tools and experts
> will make this workable'.  I'd still like to think that there's some room
> for 'small is beautiful, and tools and experts obscure as much as they
> assist'.  While 'bigger is better' may help the sectors where
> that rule has
> generally held, it doesn't do much for the rest of the world.
> It seems to me that companies developing projects with only the
> Fortune 500
> in mind have as much potential for helping the world as Boo.com, and that
> the current run of buzzword-compliant tools can thrive only if complexity
> keeps organizations with clearer and smaller visions from
> competing.  Maybe
> Microsoft will bring XML to every desktop, but I'm not sure that's a model
> too many people (outside of Microsoft) see as a good solution either.
> To some extent, I feel like the moralist critiquing today's fleshpots and
> extravagance while promising only a threadbare alternative, a life of
> simplicity that offers more by offering less.  At the same time,
> however, I
> think that a more thorough examination of the different communities and
> potential communities of XML users would be informative, maybe even
> enlightening.
> Any thoughts?  Does the path to ubiquity run through the Fortune 500?  Or
> does it run through the thousands or millions of individuals working on
> projects?  (Both is an acceptable answer, of course, but inflicts its own
> costs.)
> Simon St.Laurent
> XML Elements of Style / XML: A Primer, 2nd Ed.
> XHTML: Migrating Toward XML
> http://www.simonstl.com - XML essays and books


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