Taking a selfish approach to XML

Creating local solutions to local problems may be a more appropriate use of XML than the large-scale global projects which are the current focus of XML development.

What XML does

XML lets users and user communities create their own labeled structures for storing and exchanging content. XML even provides a feature - namespaces - which allows users to identify which set of labeled structures is in use in any given document. XML's structures are flexible enough to store pretty much any data model, from computer-oriented tables to human-oriented documents and everything in between.

Standard XML vocabularies and their problems

Building monolithic standards is difficult, expensive, and creates inflexible results. Defining requirements, assembling experts, hammering out the technical and political complications, and publishing usable specifications is a difficult task that only grows more difficult as the size of problems and the number of participants grows.

A mismatch with human process

Monolithic standards and human processes don't mix well. Existing business processes don't typically rely on massive standardization of information flows. An enormous amount of business is conducted using ad hoc approaches invented and reinvented independently. Those approaches are sometimes standardized over time, but are frequently refined, modified, or discarded as business needs change.

Modeling XML communications on existing models

So why not use XML to enhance (rather than replace) existing human processes? XML transmitted over networks can fit easily into existing processes, enhancing them much as fax machines and email already have.

The costs of chaos

There are costs to this approach - communications is never easy - but many of those costs are fairly small and widely distributed.

The benefits of local vocabularies

Local groups can create their own structures and processing which supports those structures.

Ownership of structures gives local groups freedom to structure (or not structure) information so that it reflects their needs, avoiding resource conflicts from uninterested participants.

Exchanging information across vocabularies

Transformation approaches permit the sharing of those structures across language boundaries.

How XML provides a foundation for clean chaos

XML's clean structures make such transformation much easier, and simplifies toolset creation.

Transformation strategies

Sometimes transformation is easy, sometimes it's very difficult.

Experience allows you to separate the difficult - good candidates for more formal standardization processes - from the easy - good candidates for simple processing.

Current tools are only scratching the surface.

Staying local in an open environment

Too many possibilities for traditional closed-system approaches to handle. Take advantage of local infrastructures instead.