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   RE: [xml-dev] XML is easy

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From: Derek Denny-Brown [mailto:derekdb@microsoft.com]

>Given the amount of time I spend explaining 'simple' Namespace, XPath,
>XSD, DTD, etc.. issues to people, I would fall heavily on the 'not easy'
>side of the issue.  

XML is easy.  XML + the dozens of application languages that make up 
an XML system are hard.  If one does simple things with XML, one still 
has to either learn those systems or build one.  Starting with the 
original mythical DePH writing a parser in a weekend, one could 
say it wasn't too bad, but that isn't enough to do much, so yes, 
it becomes hard very quickly regardless of the path one takes.

>The problem is not so much that things are
>complicated, but that things are not what is expected by a large
>percentage of people trying to _use_ it. 

That's a fact.  OOPMen see look for oopies, TableHeads for rows 
and columns, CSVers for empty space and commas, and so on.  One 
almost has to be a docHerder to like a hierarchy and even then, 
WinHelp poisoned the shepherds here.  Only HTML has managed 
to dent their heads and that only after it was made to look like 
WinHelp (HTMLHelp).  Really, all they needed was an easy way 
to do full-text indexing because of WinHelp making everyone 
use Find over a TOC.

>Part of my job ends up being to convince people that XML really is
>complex enough to mandate using existing tools, rather than

Flat pack or bulk? :-)

>XML is simple enough to fool people into thinking
>that they can get away with customized code, but in the open world of
>the internet, this is dangerous.  

I am told that skydiving is easy; the ground is hard. 

There are at least two dimensions here:

1. What is the cost of security and reliability, the general 
notion of Quality Of Service?

2.  What means can be used to contract for high QOS such that 
the procured services will meet those requirements?

>A public webservice should only accept
>_well_formed_ XML, not just something which looks like XML, otherwise
>you end up with customers depending on the ability to accept
>non-well-formed XML.  

That is one requirement.  It creates a self-reinforcing therefore
sustaining and recurring cost.

>Convincing your average developer that standards
>conformance is like pulling teeth.  

Too low a level.  You are herding cats.  The sensitive spot 
in the system is the chain from RFP to Contract.  This is where 
systems are cited.  The weakness in that chain as evidenced by 
the RDDL and Negotiation threads is there is no credible source 
that can be cited for reliable systems meeting criteria such 
as you begin to describe (well-formed).  That is why firms 
such as Microsoft DO achieve lock-in and why I say that some 
of the W3C and other XML leaders cannot fathom this, but in 
fact, use tactics that make that lock-in inevitable.  Unless 
the RFP and contracts personnel can cite by formal identifier, 
solid standards (not specifications for systems development), 
fairly mindlessly, the result is that they cite vendor-specific 
systems which they are certain meets these requirements.  It is 
an issue of who does what kind of work and what level of understanding 
is needed to efficiently do that work.  Proposal writers and 
contracts specialists, as you say, aren't XML-Devers.  (that 
is why I have a job...).

Other than NIST, where does one go to get a list of Internet systems 
or standards meeting requirements clear enough and proven 
that stand up to the rigors of contract-based procurements?

The W3C?  No.  Those pages are mash of competing, let a 
thousand flowers bloom but don't weed, dodgy documents.

ISO?  That used to be the answer and if we are astute business 
persons, it may be again sooner than later.

Microsoft?  In combination with Oracle, Sun and IBM, that is 
what we ARE doing.  It works actually but is that the 
way it is supposed to work, or inevitably, must?

It is the system integrators, the companies that sell to 
the companies, not the general public, that make these 
decisions because it is their job to do exactly that.



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