Friday, October 2, 2009

XML-In-Practice Day #2 Summary

Keynote - XML and Web 3.0 - Mills David

This keynote was presented in a very interesting style. Very visual, very content packed. Not only did he talk about Web 3.0 - the semantic web, he talked about Web 4.0 and work that he believed was already being done to support it. For Web 4.0, he defined it as ubiquitous (image of computer implanted in back of skull) where everything (not just everyone) is connected and has some level of intelligence. For Web 3.0, he talked about representing the meaning of content and using that meaning to improve the way we work with the web to make the internet more relevant, usable, and enjoyable. A basic example is today, we may expose the contents of a database to the web without giving away the schema. If we instead exposed both the content and the schema, computers could find ways to link this data to another similar web repository or service and create new value based on what the data meant.

The eXtensible Business Reporting Language, XBRL - Evan Lenz

This session started with an excellent overview of XBRL (a XML usage required for US financial reporting by the SEC), then showed the issues, and then proposed a new approach.

Among the issues he cited:

a) all concepts are global (no namespaces, no hierarchy) which meant (as shown in one real world example that required 12,000 concepts) there would be no way to work with the data except in tools, no adhoc queries, and names of concepts ended up being on average 49 characters in length (hierarchy being built into the name).

b) the use of schemas and XLink really required too much plumbing for little value.

c) high noise to signal ratio meaning that with the linkages being so verbose and separate, it becomes very hard to work with XBRL without tools (not human readable, not ad hoc queriable).

In general his proposal was to use XML to represent the structure of reports. Even though XBRL is based upon many XML concepts, Evan suggested the use of XML, currently, for XBRL is incidental.

Work Flows, Standards, and Innovations Panel

Along with two other vendors, I participated in this panel. I again demonstrated the WebSphere XML Feature Pack (mostly this time focusing on XSLT 2.0). I went over some slides that show Rational tooling for XML, XSD, DTD, XPath 1.0 and XSLT 2.0 including editors, validators, wizards, debuggers, executors, etc. I then showed a live demo of some future Rational Application Developer work we're considering in the XML space.

Tools from NIST Created to Support the Development of XML-Based Content Standards Through the Application of Naming and Design Rules (NDR) - KC Morris

This presentation showed a very interesting demo of tools NIST has created to validate schemas and instance documents. This validation is centered on rules defined by an organization that ensure all applications of XML technology use consistent naming and definition patterns for data and metadata. My guess is it might have flagged XBRL instances as in error (if the format wasn't required by the SEC). Also of interest was that there were rules for OAGi BOD which is heavily used in automotive manufacturing.

The use of XML in the Irish Government's eCabinent Initiative - Michael Boses

This presentation talked about moving the old process for distributing data across the Irish government (large volumes of paper delivered by military personnel) to electronic form stored in an XML content repository and accessed through personalized portals. In the end, they showed the tablet PC's built into the cabinet table meaning that all the way to the top, there was the ability to stay entirely digital. Some interesting points where a) even though XML (DITA) made this possible, they avoided talking in XML terms in implementing the project as XML is totally behind the scenes and doesn't "sell" - instead they just used terms of like "smart documents" and b) they piloted the program with stakeholders to work out the bugs and purposely avoided turning the solution live until it was totally ready (they for a few months used electronic right up to the main cabinet meeting and then printed the documents for the meeting). Also, they avoided XML being seen by the users by using XSLT to web and Quark's tool for editing of XML content in Microsoft Word.

XML Tools Summit

As somewhat of an extension of the panel done earlier in the day, this was a session to have all participants catalog what tools they are using in the XML space, what tools they need but can't find, and exchange information with each other about what tools work well. This tools summit will be carried forward after the conference online as IDEAlliance hopes to create an "Angie's list of tools". It was very interesting to see how many tools people used (I counted over 30) and how critical these tools are to the publishing, standards, data scenarios.