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   Re: [xml-dev] XML-based Automation (Was: Zen or Games?)

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"Simon St.Laurent" wrote:
> But seriously, I think we're racing down the wrong path toward
> maximizing automation rather than complementing human capabilities with
> a lot of the XML work being done today.

> <heresy>
> I fear that the value of many XML-based automated services will be problematic. 
> Why? Because as the interconnectedness increases the likelihood of unanticipated
> circumstances increases too. An XML-based Web service is great, potentially, at
> automating a useful service and performing consistently time after time. But I 
> expect it to be equally consistent at providing undesired responses when circumstances
> conflict with the expectations of the designer.
> </heresy>

Aaah, a topic near and dear to my heart -- automation and the pitfalls
thereof.  If anyone has ever visited our website, you would see we make
a very clear distinction about home *automation* vs home *management*. 
In fact we devote a whole page[1] to that single concept.  Unless a
process is completely and accurately defined to the point where it is
mathematically proven to be complete, I'll never be convinced that you
can automate it successfully.  And no, fuzzy logic cannot improve upon
that because in the end many day-to-day decisions are based upon factors
previously unforeseen and not taken into account in the current
decision.  (How boring would life be otherwise?)

A quick easy example (and then I'll actually make a reasonably on-topic
point):  Many home automation "experts" will suggest that when the
homeowner opens the front door from the outside that the inside light
comes on.  Simple enough, until the limo drops you off after a hard
night on the town, or you're sneaking in past your significant other
sleeping on the family room couch, or on a more a positive note, the new
parents walk through the door after a successful drive around the block
finally getting baby to sleep.  The simple decision of turning on a
single light that at first glance is completely and accurately defined
is not when faced with new and unusual scenarios.

And finally the point: I can think of no business process nearly as
simple as the automated light decision above, yet many are "racing down
the wrong path" (to quote Simon once more) towards web services and
automated discovery.  While there may be many non-critical C2B
applications (entertainment comes to mind) of services being discovered
and consumed automatically, I cannot begin to comprehend a B2B situation
where a business is going to ~automatically~ discover and do business
with a trading partner except in the case of the simplest of commodity
items strictly defined by commonly accepted standards (e.g. futures
contracts).  Beyond that there are many intangible elements to a
business relationship that determine who wins a particular contract that
could never be captured by XML no matter how many facets are added to
the schema.

The continued successful use of XML would be best served by giving users
the tools to manage their world -- not automate it.  

Trust me.  I know.  Been there.  Done that.  Way too many times...

[1] http://www.ElectronicSolutionsCo.com/WhyManagement.html

Steve Rosenberry
Sr. Partner

Electronic Solutions Company -- For the Home of Integration

(610) 670-1710


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