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Well, the key is the word "easily", I guess. As Paul pointed out, doing this
programatically on the assumption of XML interfaces for all the relevant
data sources wouldn't be that hard. It would clearly be beyond the abilities
of the average user, however.
On the assumption that you mean easily from the perspective of the end user
(as I did), I see two possibilities. I can't for the life of me see what
difference it would make if SOAP or REST are used, so I'll be interested to
see if Paul has some insight into this.
S1) Most obviously, provide a visual development environment that lets users
graphically draw workflows that link together XML data sources. I could view
the cinema listings in XML, drag the name of the movie (in English) into the
input field of the "queryMovie" command of the Internet Movie Database, and
select the resulting fields that interest me. I sort of imagine this looking
like MS Access, with a box for the movie itself with "joins" to Ebert's
review and the Rotten Tomatoes site. I would then format the output based on
some sort of report generation interface (also similar to Access, perhaps).
None of this is any different from any number of 4GL-type environments that
are out there. I'm ignorant about what kind of environments are out there to
do this specifically in the context of web services. In any case, this would
be very cool but probably not accessible to the average user either, but
rather to a slightly more sophisticated power user in the VB mold.
S2) The other possibility I see is to do something like QBE. I could press a
"record" button on my browser, run through the steps that interest me, and
click on areas of the resulting pages and say "add to summary" or something
like that. I am supposing at this point that the HTML pages are linked to
the underlying XML, probably because the former is generated from the latter
using a stylesheet. So I can just click on the stars in the Ebert review,
and the system knows what field to take from the XML document. It could then
rerun the whole process automatically.
Something like this might be usable for a lot of users with very limited
computer skills. Of course, it would be very very hard to implement, but
I have a few questions of my own (not necessarily for you specifically but
I'm struggling with them myself, so I'd be curious to see if anyone has
Q1) Supposing that the end user is using any one of the three environments
postulated above (programmatic interfaces, visual flow/data or "QBE"), what
are the concrete advantages of REST over SOAP? I can see the inconvenience
of extracting the useful XML data from a SOAP response, but this doesn't
seem to alter the underlying principles.
Q2) How half-baked is S2? How would I tell the system to iterate over the
film listings for a particular cinema and "run" the recorded process? How
would I tell it how to produce the results. At the end of the day, the
process of creating this kind of view is not going to be *that* simple, I
guess (since I know all this has been tried before). I'm still thinking
about how simple we could make it.
Q3) How do we apply these scenarios to a real B2C or B2B app? I need to
think more about this as well. I'll try to come up with a relevant use case.
B2C is probably more obvious than B2B...
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Dare Obasanjo [mailto:email@example.com]
> Sent: Thursday, April 25, 2002 5:33 PM
> To: Matthew Gertner; Simon St.Laurent; firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: RE: [xml-dev] What are Web Services for? (Was RE:
> [xml-dev] lots of WS reading material)
> So explain to me how you think the current web service technologies
> WSDL/SOAP/WS-*/etc can easily solve your problem in a
> feasible manner?
> This is an honest question.
> PITHY WORDS OF WISDOM
> If you want to recapture your youth, cut off his allowance.
> This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no
> You assume all risk for your use. (c) 2002 Microsoft Corporation. All
> rights reserved.
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Matthew Gertner [mailto:email@example.com]
> > Sent: Thursday, April 25, 2002 8:29 AM
> > To: 'Simon St.Laurent'; firstname.lastname@example.org
> > Subject: [xml-dev] What are Web Services for? (Was RE:
> > [xml-dev] lots of WS reading material)
> > Thanks Simon, there's a lot of really interesting stuff
> > there. What I found most interesting was the article by Frank
> > Moss linked from the web log. I can't get too excited by the
> > REST vs. SOAP debate because there is such an overwhelming
> > precedent for ugly technical "standards" push by large
> > companies to win out over much cleaner and more sensible
> > alternatives. Paul's article is totally convincing, but at
> > the end of the day this stuff
> > *will* be encapsulated in toolkits so it probably won't make
> > that much difference. It seems hideously illogical to take
> > the SOAP infrastructure and encapsulate it under URIs using
> > an additional layer (one of the comments to Paul's article
> > points to an example of this), but that's what will probably
> > end up happening.
> > Anyway, Moss's article points to a much more fundamental
> > point: why bother with all the web services stuff in the
> > first place? If it's just a way to replace one kind of API
> > with another, then the effect is going to be incremental at
> > best. Certainly not enough to justify the amount of attention
> > that web services are getting. Having XML interfaces to web
> > pages is a vital first step, but in itself it doesn't
> > represent any quantum leap forward.
> > I constantly find myself wanting to build little custom
> > applications that consume web data and do something useful
> > with it. For example, consider the process by which I decide
> > what movies to see. First I go to the local film listings
> > (www.dokina.cz) and check out what's playing in my favorite
> > Prague cinema. Since the names are in Czech, I then click on
> > a movie to see the description (and translation of the name
> > into English, which is the only part I care about). Then I go
> > to www.imdb.com and check out the user rating (from 1 to 10).
> > If it's an 8 or more, the movie's a winner, otherwise I might
> > want to investigate more. In this case, I click on the
> > external views and check out Roger Ebert's star rating (I
> > don't read the article so as not to spoil the suspense).
> > Since Ebert has his own bizarre agenda, I also check the
> > Tomato meter on Rotten Tomatoes. I then go back and repeat
> > the whole process for the next movie.
> > What a pain. Wouldn't it be nice if I could quickly assemble
> > an app that consolidates all this information on one page for
> > me? Ideally it would actually alert me when there's a movie
> > playing that meets my minimum criteria, as well as offering
> > an aggregate view of all movies. It should be quickly
> > adaptable so that if I happen to be eating dinner in Prague 4
> > (way out in the boonies) I can generate a page for the nearby
> > Multikino Galaxy instead of the movie theatre in the center
> > that I usually go to.
> > I suppose someone is going to point out that I can do all
> > this in Python or whatever if the appropriate XML interfaces
> > are available. But the success of the Web is based on the
> > fact that the barriers to entry are so low... even people who
> > barely figured out how to turn on their computer are soon
> > happily clicking through the hyperlinks. To me the
> > culmination of web services will be when I can put together a
> > quick app like this by pointing and clicking at the
> > appropriate areas of a set of web pages (implying that the
> > web pages of this type are generated from the underlying
> > XML... a big and important part of the web services idea
> > IMO). This idea applies equally well to B2C and B2B
> > applications with web interfaces.
> > I feel like I must be stating the obvious here, but maybe
> > not... apparently people seem to think that web services are
> > about some sort of new RPC whose only advantage is that it
> > has a lot of marketing momentum behind it.
> > Matt
> > > -----Original Message-----
> > > From: Simon St.Laurent [mailto:email@example.com]
> > > Sent: Thursday, April 25, 2002 3:55 PM
> > > To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> > > Subject: [xml-dev] lots of WS reading material
> > >
> > >
> > > There's a lot of new material on the Web Services
> discussion today.
> > >
> > > Paul Prescod's "Google's Gaffe" is a good place to start:
> > > http://www.xml.com/pub/a/2002/04/24/google.html
> > >
> > > Clay Shirky's "What Web Services Got Right... and Wrong" has
> > > a different
> > > take:
> > > http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/network/2002/04/22/clay.html
> > >
> > > Edd Dumbill's "Kicking Out the Cuckoo" suggests that Web
> > Services need
> > > to find a more appropriate home:
> > > http://www.xml.com/pub/a/2002/04/24/taglines.html
> > >
> > > Marc Hedlund's "SOAP Wars" seems to continue the "it
> works" line of
> > > argument Dave Winer put forward here last week:
> > > http://www.oreillynet.com/cs/weblog/view/wlg/1331
> > >
> > > Dave Winer's written a "Rebuttal to REST":
> > > http://www.xmlrpc.com/rebuttalToRest
> > >
> > > Finally, most of my recent Weblogs have been about
> related issues:
> > > http://www.oreillynet.com/weblogs/author/166
> > > http://www.advogato.org/person/simonstl/
> > >
> > > I'm sure there will be more to come.
> > >
> > > --
> > > Simon St.Laurent
> > > Ring around the content, a pocket full of brackets
> > > Errors, errors, all fall down!
> > > http://simonstl.com
> > >
> > >
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