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Re: Designing XML to Support Information Evolution

information evolution

On May 17, 2004, at 10:20 AM, Roger L. Costello wrote:

> 1. How you structure your information in XML has a tremendous impact  
> on the processing of the information.
> 2. Hierarchy makes processing information hard!  There exists a  
> relationship between hierarchy of information and the complexity of  
> code to process the information.  The relationship is roughly: the  
> greater the hierarchy, the greater the complexity of code to process  
> the information  (Some hierarchy is good, of course.  But the amount  
> of hierarchy that is good is probably much less than one might  
> imagine, certainly less than I thought, as described above.)
> 3. Flat data is good data!  Flatten out the hierarchy of your data.   
> It makes the information flexible and easier to process.
> 4. Order hurts!  Requiring a strict order of the information makes for  
> a brittle design.  It is only when I allowed the lots and pickers to  
> occur in any order that the flexibility and simplicity kicked in.
> Comments?  /Roger

I'm wondering if you haven't rediscovered the relational model?  (Or at  
least you've discovered the importance of "normalization" in the  
relational sense even in the XML context).  But why bother with XML at  
all (except maybe as a data interchange format) here?  Wouldn't a  
relational reporting tool be much easier than XSLT with this data  

  C.J. Date gave a speech recently  
0,289142,sid13_gci962948,00.html complaining that XML is trying to take  
over the world.  Maybe he has a point :-)  I certainly don't agree with  
all he's saying, but if you are modeling data rather than exchanging  
documents, I would think that the relational model would be the  
starting point until you run into its walls.

Clearly if flexibility is paramount, order and hierarchy are a pain,  
and there's not much gain *if* you have unique identies for everything  
and the identity is all you need to know to figure out what to do with  
the information.

  On the other hand, if *context* is important, i.e. the intepretation /  
semantics / meaning / processing paradigm of some bit of information  
depends more on where it stands in relation to other information, then  
order and hierarchy are critical.   That's where the XML "data model"  
(by which I mean "fairly deeply hierarchical labelled trees in which  
order is preserved", not the InfoSet per se) comes into its own.


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