RE: What makes a data component good forstandardizing?
Roger, your example is weak. If the name is not useful outside its context, then neither is the address. Is it a shipping address? Home address? Birth place? Current residence? Future residence? For sale? For rent? Target? Party house? Yes, you can put it in your contact list, but you can do that with the name as well, and with just about as much value. If I understand him, I agree with Len, what is or isn't worth standardizing is negotiated with at least a surrogate for the anticipated but as yet unknown user. Who buys after-market motorcycle parts? You might not yet know the person, but you know the role they play in the transaction you build into your system based on the established market dynamics that you've studied carefully and documented fully for your SBA loan approval. That's the context you use to decide what to standardize. Without that, you don't even have a market, and therefore no competitors or related services, so why bother standardizing anything since there aren't any other business services to interoperate with. Some data clumps have a context larger than a specific market segment, such as name and address and credit card info. They represent the social infrastructure that makes interoperability in a specific market segment possible. A particular user (role player) might be unanticipated, but the role they play is not. The value in standardization is in reducing friction in a transaction, which in a market is measured by changes in profit. In an academic context, standardization might mean reducing effort in getting published, or the cost of publication, all tending to improve one's standing in the community. In every case I can think of, the decision to standardize or not would be a cost vs. benefit for effort involved. If the data already has a standard representation, someone has answered that question in the affirmative. They've done so on the basis of some abstract model of the transaction, probably derived from historical records, regulations, custom, or other past experience. Surely, some such decisions are just wrong, due to poor analysis or based on poor, tacit, or seat-of-the-pants models. What to standardize for the sake of interoperability is based on the model of the operation, which has to include all the roles for potential users, even in the hypothetical nirvana of the semantic web. That stuff just pushes it to a higher level of abstraction, making it all the more difficult to achieve since there will be less chance of agreement on the model and (I'm going to really stick my neck out here) absolutely no chance of basing the model on any actual human behavior. How can we expect people to behave in accord with an abstract model that is completely foreign to them? Does this mean that the semantic web actually makes interoperability more difficult rather than less? Hmmm. But that's completely off topic. Sorry. Enough rambling. Bruce B Cox Manager, Standards Development Division OCIO/SDMG 571-272-9004 -----Original Message----- From: Len [mailto:cbullard@h...] Sent: Saturday, January 10, 2009 11:49 AM To: 'Costello, Roger L.'; xml-dev@l... Subject: RE: What makes a data component good for standardizing? The user anticipates you. It is a negotiation. len -----Original Message----- From: Costello, Roger L. [mailto:costello@m...] Sent: Saturday, January 10, 2009 8:34 AM To: 'xml-dev@l...' Subject: What makes a data component good for standardizing? Hi Folks, Suppose you set out to create some standard data components. Your goal is to improve interoperability by creating standardized data components. Particularly, you want these standardized data components to improve interoperability between systems that weren't a priori coded to understand each other's data exchange format (i.e. you want to improve interoperability with the "unanticipated user"). What makes one data component good, and another bad? (By "good" I mean the data component would in fact help improve interoperability with the unanticipated user. By "bad" I mean the data component would do little, if anything, to improving interoperability with the unanticipated user.) I'll share my initial thoughts. I'd like your feedback on my initial thoughts, and I'd also like to hear your thoughts. Note: by "data component" I mean a chunk of markup that can be reused in multiple XML vocabularies. MY INITIAL THOUGHTS I think that some data components would be good to standardize, while others would not be useful. I'll start with two examples of data components would be good to standardize. Think about a postal address. It would be a good data component to standardize. It's a useful data component even if I don't understand the context in which it's being used. For example, suppose some nuclear physicist unexpectedly sends me a document containing data that I have no clue what it means, but embedded in it is a postal address. I may not be able to process all that data about subatomic particles (quarks, neutrinos, etc), but I can pluck out the postal address and store it in my address book. That's interoperability between unanticipated users, albeit limited. Another example of a useful data component is a business card (vcard). Again, that's a useful data component that I can immediately utilize, even if I have no clue what the rest of the document is talking about. These data components are useful independent of their context. I can use the data components even if I can't use all the stuff that they reside in. Now I'll give an example of a data component which I think would not be useful to standardize. Both postal address and vcard gives a person's name (along with other data). Suppose I decide that I want data components with finer granularity than postal address or vcard. Would "person name" make a good component for standardizing? I think not. A person's name would not be useful independent of context. For example, the same nuclear physicist above sends me the same document but containing the standardized PersonName data component, about a person named "Jim Brown. I am PersonName-aware so I am able to pluck out that Jim Brown information, even though I have no clue what the rest of the document says. Have I gained anything? No. It could be Jim Brown the ex-football player or some other person by that name. To make sense of the data component I need to understand its context. I propose these two metrics for evaluating the usefulness of data component: 1. The data component must be standardized and broadly adopted (see below). 2. If I can meaningfully use the data component without understanding any of the context in which it resides then it is a good data component. If I must understand its context then it is a bad data component. Standardizing is good. It enables two parties to understand each other, i.e., interoperate. But standardization is not enough. I want more than interoperability between two parties that have a priori agreed to a data interchange format. I want interoperability between two parties that haven't a priori agreed to a data interchange format. I want interoperability between unanticipated parties. So the key is to not only standardize, but standardize the right things. SUMMARY We would go a long way toward advancing interoperability of unanticipated systems if we focused on creating standardized components that are useful independent of context. What do you think? /Roger _______________________________________________________________________ XML-DEV is a publicly archived, unmoderated list hosted by OASIS to support XML implementation and development. To minimize spam in the archives, you must subscribe before posting. [Un]Subscribe/change address: http://www.oasis-open.org/mlmanage/ Or unsubscribe: xml-dev-unsubscribe@l... subscribe: xml-dev-subscribe@l... List archive: http://lists.xml.org/archives/xml-dev/ List Guidelines: http://www.oasis-open.org/maillists/guidelines.php
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