An Implementer's Guide to XML Standards


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This is an older presentation (from 2007) that somehow did not make it up onto Slideshare. I have gone through it and made a series of modifications in part to bring it up to date. It turned out that its core theme remains as valid (IMHO) as it was five years ago. Essentially, this presentation was intended to be a corrective to a common habit of viewing XML standards as either unchanging religious artifacts that must be obeyed without question, or as solutions that will somehow solve each and every problem a given organization might be facing.

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An Implementer's Guide to XML Standards

  1. 1. Joe GollnerGnostyx Research Implementer’s Guideto XML Standards
  2. 2. An Implementer’s Guide to XML Standards• Some Initial Case Studies• Thinking about Standards• Fundamentals• Evaluating Standards• Implementing Standards• Hazards• The XML Firmament• The Expanding Universe• A Tale of Two Standards• S1000D• DITA• FUSION
  3. 3. Case 1: Faux Standardization• Legal Sector (1999 – 2001)• Requirement:Digital Evidence Interchangeamongst courts and caseparticipants• Potential References:LegalXML initiative• Discovery:• Standards barely emergent• Focused on small problems• Untested in implementations• Heavily influenced by asmall group of tool vendors
  4. 4. Case 2: Standardization by Edict• Energy Sector (1993 – 2003)• Requirement:Interchange protocol forproposals, interventions & cases• Regulatory AgenciesDeveloped & mandated aninterchange standard togetherwith associated process &applications• Result:Unusable protocol, unintelligibleprocess & unstable applicationsComplete failure of initiative
  5. 5. Case 3: Standards in Action: A Success StoryStandardization enablingefficient global trade
  6. 6. Thinking about Standards• The Truth about Standards“The wonderful thing about standardsis that there are so many of them to choose from”Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper(Amazing Grace) US Navy• She was one of the first Programmers (Harvard Mark I)• She is credited with writing the first program compiler• She found a moth in a relay in the Mark II calculator and hencepassed the term “bug” into computing terminology• Important Point• Grace Hopper was focused on accomplishing things• Standards were something chosen – as a means to an end
  7. 7. What do we mean by “Standard”?• The word “Standard”• Descends from Middle English for“a flag raised on a pole as a rallying point”• Shortening of “estendart” fromOld French for “extend”• Common Uses• an agreed level of quality or attainment• something used as a measure, norm ormodel in comparative evaluations• principles of conduct informed by notions ofhonor and decency • accepted as normal or average• not special or exceptionalSource: OED
  8. 8. The Objective of Standards• Interoperability enabling• Opportunity Realization• Risk Minimization• Cost Reduction• Relevant Domains• Information Interchange• Process Coordination• Application Alignment• Standards Lifecycle• Emergence• Maturity• Retirement
  9. 9. Evaluating Standards• Independence• From parochial interests, proprietary claims, external influences• Formality• Of creation, validation, approval & modification process• Stability• Of standard over time & the backward compatibility of changes• Completeness• Sufficiency for declared scope as well as availability ofuseful documentation & reference implementations• Adoption• Extent of support amongst tool vendors, authorities & users• Practicality• The extent to which all, or parts, of the standard can be deployed
  10. 10. Evaluating Standards: Case 1• Scenario• Internationalstandard• Esoteric• Small stakeholdercommunity• Mature• Disuseleading toretirement• Strategy• Harvest knowledge& tools to reuse withnewer standardsSGML
  11. 11. Evaluating Standards: Case 2• Scenario• Webrecommendation• Enabling capability• Solid stakeholdercommunity• Emergent• Adoptionleading tomaturity• Strategy• Participate• Plan for adoptionXML
  12. 12. Evaluating Standards: Case 3• Scenario• Industryspecification• Broad scope• Specializedstakeholdercommunity• Continuouslyemergent• Strategy• Implement wherenecessary• Address risk areasS1000D
  13. 13. Evaluating Standards: Case 4• Scenario• Cross-industrystandard• Addressingwidespread issues• Broad stakeholdercommunity• Mature• Further capabilitiesemerging• Strategy• Plan for adoption• Consider for use invariety of areasDITA
  14. 14. Selecting Standards• Considerations• Suitability• Feasibility• Criticality• Adaptability• Malleability• Intended Benefits• Knowledge Acquisition• Project Acceleration• Uniqueness Avoidance• Industry Alignment• Stakeholder Diversification
  15. 15. Implementing Standards• Standards• Incorporated into solutions• Deliberately• Methodically• Included underconfiguration management• Version changes handledin the same way asproduct version changes• Evaluation & testing• Dependency monitoring• Assessment ofalternatives
  16. 16. Hazards: The Standards Wars• Standards are like sausages• If you love them, don’t watchthem being made…• One reason formalityis important• Standardization is a keycompetitive battleground• Why adoption is important• Broad adoption is a sign• The competition is over• The focus of competitive forceshas moved elsewhere
  17. 17. Hazards: Mistakes & Warning Signs• Common Mistake: Confusing Standards for Solutions• Believing standards alone will solve problems• Stretching standards to address all solution requirements• Fixating on the reference implementations• Focusing more on standards than on actual solutions• Hoping that standardization will eliminate change• Hoping standards will erase responsibility• Warning Signs: Excessive complexity & change• Sprawling scope covering several domains• Continual emergence of changes especially• Non-backwards compatible changes• Changes driven by narrow application demands• Appearance of hyper-specialized products
  18. 18. The Amazing & Expanding XML UniverseStill an area ofactivity althoughcommercial focushas moved on
  19. 19. A Tale of Two Standards• Projects will oftenimplement an array ofstandards• Different technology venues• Different functional requirements• Different stakeholder communities• Sometimes standardssupplement each other• S1000D• DITA• Others…A Tale of Two Citiesas illustrated by Ralph Bruce
  20. 20. S1000D – Modernizing Equipment Information• Purpose• S1000D is an international specification forthe procurement and production oftechnical publications• Key Goals• Cost saving on information generation• Avoidance of duplications• Cheaper deliverable publications• Standard format for data exchangeto exploit future developments• Enhanced inter-operability2.…4.0
  21. 21. The Context of S1000D• Technical Scope• Provide a global standard for the encoding, storage, exchange anddelivery of the technical information required to produce, operate andsupport complex equipment systems• Business Scope• Facilitate the effective digitization and streamlining of the informationsupply chains associated with equipment systems that are beingincreasingly developed through multi-lateral efforts• Both the benefits and the challenges are great• The breadth of scope alone poses the substantial challenge ofincorporating an almost infinite array of specialized demands
  22. 22. Implementation Challenges with S1000D• Challenges include• Tailoring specification to reflect project requirements• Establishing & maintaining the required application suite• Managing the impact on people & processes• Adapting to change• Reflecting project requirements• Reflecting the evolution of the standard• The question is whether there are techniques thatcan be leveraged to address these challenges?• More specifically, is there a standard that has madeaddressing these challenges its overriding purpose?• The answer to both these questions is “Yes”
  23. 23. The Tao of DITA: SpecializationTopicTask ReferenceConceptSpecializationBaseElementshighlight programming software UInew semantics specializationDomainsApplicationsType HierarchyDefaultBehaviourCore BehaviourSpecializationsSpecificOverridesMapsEmerged within IBM as a means to manage application costs in the face of continuallyevolving requirements. Experiences in other industries corroborated the value ofspecialization as an essential response to these pressures.Darwin InformationTyping Architecture
  24. 24. Using DITA to Implement S1000D?• DITA can be leveraged as a tool• To define and tailor precisely specializedinformation types that help authorsproduce the required content• Adaptations can be made to handleunique equipment requirements• Adaptations can be made to handlelegacy or parallel requirements thatare not addressed in S1000D(nor should be)• Application architecture can bestreamlined while also improving theprecision & value of the content
  25. 25. The Solution Takes Precedence• One suggestion has been tointegrate S1000D and DITAOne standard to rule them all• This would be adubious undertaking• The two standards embody two different,but complementary, bodies of knowledge• In any one solution, many standards will play a role:• S1000D, DITA, ATA, XML, XSLT, XSL FO, WSDL,…
  26. 26. Top Ten Secrets for Implementation Success• Don’t underestimate your content or your business• Don’t underestimate the power of good automation• Chose an appropriate tool set and validate your choices• Don’t invest in expensive technology too early• Carefully plan and execute migration activities• Take a “customer service” focus in delivering tangiblebenefits (new products / services) from your investments• Be demanding of your suppliers (expect quality)• Engage your stakeholders and “take control” of the solution• Leverage standards, don’t be enslaved by them• Be an active part of the community as a way to learn and asa way to share what you have learned
  27. 27. Conclusions about Standards• What do we take away from all this?• Standards• are agreements formed by communities• are intended to facilitate interoperability• can be applied to information, technology and practices• should result in improved quality and cost-effectiveness• What does this really mean?• standards are primarily important to collaborating enterprises• standards help avoid unnecessary effort and expense• standards enable constructive competition• standards must enable & not obstruct improvement & innovation
  28. 28. An Implementer’s Guide to XML Standards• FUSION (1993)• Focused• Use of• Standards for• Integrating• Organizations and• Networks• A sensible posture• Places the Solution on top• Deploys standards• To achieve solution goals• To realize the intrinsicpotential manifest in goodstandards