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> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Simon St.Laurent [mailto:simonstl@simonstl.com]
> >
> > XML is a wonderful set of tools for marking-up information with
> labeled
> > structures.
> XML is a wonderful tool for (a) marking-up textual data and (b) interop
> of 'data', typically serializations of either relational or object
> structures.  I work with people using XML to great success for both
> purposes.  Both purposes have alternate solutions, which may be better
> in some cases, but for whatever reason XML has been chosen as the tool
> of the day.  SOAP ensures that huge numbers of people, and mostly people
> who would never invest the time to join xml-dev, will fall into the (b)
> camp above.  I express no opinion on whether SOAP as XML is good or bad,
> but it most definitely _is_.
> Many people in the (b) camp see XML as an abstraction.  They could care
> less about the syntax, but are looking for a tool to pass information
> between systems such that they can leverage many existing tools to
> process that information along the way.  The (b) camp typically involves
> files where no human ever sees the data.  All they care about is interop
> and tools.

I may come off as harsh and militant, but I have no time for such warm and fuzzy big-tent thinking.  Any technology that is pressed into being all things to all people will soon evanesce into nothing useful for anyone.

If people just needed interop and tools, they didn't need to hijack XML for the purpose.  Comma delimited files provide *all* the power of XML for relational and OO dumps with much fewer inefficiencies and much less cruft (CDATA sections, entities, etc.)

Again, we are here talking XML, not OO or relational systems.  XML is a *text processing system*.  My potted theory of why XML has gained so much sudden prominence in such a diversity of fields is that a lot of the weaknesses of the super-platonic approach to software design (i.e. relational and OO thinking) have been showing of late, and developers were initially amazed at how much more productive they could be with loosely-coupled systems based on XML.

It is my contention that a lot of very smart people have inexplicably missed the whole point of this felicity and are busy remaking XML into the tightly coupled, top-down structured system from which they were originally finding solace.  This is a very bad thing, and this is why people like Simon and me are happy to just say the OO and relational folks are laying a cuckoo's egg in the nest of XML.  I originally thought it was far too unaccommodating when Simon suggested that people you categorize as (b) went off, found their own data format, and left XML alone.  I'm no longer so sure.

Which leads us straight into the politics.  I actually come from the OO/relational school to XML and not the SGML old-head school.  I understand all the market and technical pressures behind the effort remake XML.  I also know that as soon as the tech rags decide to move on to next year's topic, that these people will also move on, hoping to find the next Big Thing that will rescue software development from its current state of high cost, low quality misery.  If they do remake XML, then those of us who saw in it an opportunity to fundamentally rethink information processing will just end up with a mess to clean up.

Which is why we are so vocal.  Certainly, we can't stop OO people from trying to hijack XML with the sorts of alien ideas that infest WXS and XQuery: it's a free world, and if it weren't, we'd be the ones to lose, anyway: traditional software development types have the money and glamor.  But we can fight a feisty rearguard action.  You drag in the byzantine WXS and we rally behind the more appropriate RELAX NG.  I expect XQuery will be the next bastion under direct attack (rather than just complaint).  We will put our support behind XML efforts with a right-headed approach such as XPath 1.0 and XSLT 1.0.  I understand you represent interests for whom WXS and XQuery are thought to be big wins.  Well, it's your prerogative to put your own support behind these for this reason, but I would suggest you did so clearly, and not try to mollify others with the idea that the XML community should go out of its way to accommodate all needs.  I like Jonathan Robie's position for this par!
ticular clarity, even though I disagree with all the substance of his argument.

Anyway, the OO camp may have the dollars and the corporate endorsements, but the shoeless XML gang have just as many success stories on the wild wild Web.  The end game is by no means clear, otherwise XML wouldn't be the anthill of speculation and prospecting that it is currently.  All we know for sure is that in the end, the invisible hand will sort it all out.

Uche Ogbuji                                    Fourthought, Inc.
http://uche.ogbuji.net    http://4Suite.org    http://fourthought.com
Track chair, XML/Web Services One Boston: http://www.xmlconference.com/
The many heads of XML modeling - http://adtmag.com/article.asp?id=6393
Will XML live up to its promise? - http://www-106.ibm.com/developerworks/xml/library/x-think11.html


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