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XML Unlocks Information

XML is gaining acceptance today, not because it is a great technology looking for a problem, but because today's problems require its flexibility and simplicity. In this article Doug talks about how XML can be used to accomodate human-authored content. He also discusses structured and unstructured data as well as tips for designing XML DTD's and more.

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By: Doug Domeny
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May 13, 2002
  1. · XML Unlocks Information
  2. · How XML Accommodates Human-Authored Content
  3. · Tips for Designing an XML DTD or Schema
  4. · Elements vs. Attributes with Database Oriented Data
  5. · Conclusion

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XML Unlocks Information
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XML is gaining acceptance today, not because it is a great technology looking for a problem, but because today's problems require its flexibility and simplicity. XML enables you to create structured and semi-structured documents that can be transferred and read by people and programs in multiple formats (for example, pages that can be read on the web, handheld devices and print). This "multi-use" of content is the driving force behind the adoption of XML technology.

Today, most of the world's information is locked in paper, unsearchable documents with proprietary file formats, or web pages where search engines return too much data and not enough information. Just think about how much your company has spent to create documents that can't be easily found or distributed because they are unstructured.

XML lets business users create structured documents that can be leveraged for multiple purposes in-house and exchanged to people and businesses around the world. XML breaks new ground by connecting the front office business users with the back office developers.

Bill Trippe, in his article "Do XML Editors Matter?" (Transform October 2001, page 27), makes this point by saying, "You can view XML as the bridge between the two worlds of structured (relational) and unstructured (document) data." He continues, "On one hand, you have a growing need for content to be tagged at its source and maintained in a structured form. On the other hand, users are resistant to more complex tools and processes."

Like a telephone line which carries both voice and data, XML can carry information suitable for computers and people. Computer-generated XML is dynamically created by a program for B2B ecommerce or other server-to-server transaction. These applications are addressed by XML standards such as ebXML and SOAP. Human-authored content uses XML for improved search capabilities, multi-channeled publication, and syndication. These applications are addressed by standards such as MathML, NewsML, VoiceXML, and any number of custom XML dialects. This article focuses on how to apply XML to human-authored content.
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