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“Perspective on XML: Be humble, not imperial” was directly inspired by conversation with Simon St.Laurent about whether RDF is separable from design hubris (and how such hubris intersects XML). Today I found an interesting juxtaposition of premise in Sean McGrath’s “Inefficiency revisited“. One thing I seem to share with so many of my colleagues in the XML world is a wary attitude towards traditional data modeling practices. It’s an attitude that has also informed my thinking in related articles pondering data supermodels,
coupling of distributed systems,
OO encapsulation, and the like.
Some of us see XML as a bit of a refuge from established schools of data modeling. OO and Unified Process in my case, E-R and other relational based modeling in others’. Some just came from document-centric backgrounds where such extremely rationalized data modeling was not the mainstay. In my case, interest in XML was part of a general interest in data modeling as a vehicle for human expression rather than for robotic simulation of the real world.
I learned a lot in my own journey along this path from folks such as Sean McGrath, Simon St.Laurent, and Walter Perry. Walter in particular is worth a note. He doesn’t publish many articles, nor do I think he posts much to XML-DEV any more, but you would do well to look up some of his older postings on that forum, especially some of his debates with John Cowan (who is also always worth a read). He has a very interesting perspective on the role of XML in data sharing, and though it takes a bit of close reading to ravel the important conclusions from his expansive essays, I’ve found the effort rewarding.
I think a lot of the stress in the XML community centered on the fulcra of XQuery, SOAPish Web services and W3C XML Schema represents a split between what I’ve called the Bohemians and the Gentry. The Bohemians see in XML some escape from deep-rooted philosophies elsewhere that they feel lead to software boxed in by overly sophisticated (and imperial) design, and thus doomed to integration woes and expensive maintenance. The Gentry think that imposing the rigors they bring from other spheres of data modeling upon XML is the only way to bring order to XML’s strange arcadia of uneven structure and untyped chunks of data.
It’s easy to over-sell the “agile” ethos. Even though I can agree with XP folks that Big Design up Front (BDUF) too often leads to death-march projects that never end up truly meeting the customer’s needs, the Engineer’s training in me can’t accept that this is an inherent flaw in the idea of design before implementation, but rather a sign that popular design mechanisms are just not good enough to support software development needs. I find XML much better aligned with the agile world view, but only insofar as it brings a perspective to design that still needs proving and codification, and that once established will still demand the highest standards of professionalism from its practitioners.
Has using XML changed your general approach to data design and modeling in any way?