Friday, May 30, 2003

XML – Can you dig IT?
An explanation into all the hype surrounding XML’s contribution to software.

I wanted to write about XML for every day people because I found that over all the information available and insight of developer’s would do well to impress consumers who are no longer in a place of “blind trust” where IT is concerned.

I wanted to address the fact that developers working with and for the integration and optimization of XML are doing so, so that consumer’s may find greater satisfaction in their software investments.

Yet and still this is an exciting industry, even skeptics (of which there are many) cannot really stay away from IT. The main reason being, that the possibilities boggle the mind and stimulate the imagination with an unparalleled sense of enthusiasm.

XML may not presently have the power to convert you, but it should at least lift you out of non believer status and make you curious again as to what the future of developments may hold for personal and business applications.

I also wanted to mention the results of the most recent AI (artificial intelligence) publishings that I have found. When I think AI immediately I get sci-fi images swirling around in my mind and I have remind myself that AI as it relates to data-mining is a good thing. As it enables large amounts of data collections too, which would not only possess analytic functionality but also incorporate complex memory retrieval and associations within the analytics. You’ve got to admit that is impressive if only from the developer end. I am not certain what something like this will do in the mass market as now more than ever people are expressing a strong passion to do their own thinking and speaking. If the final product of AI is solid there will be an audience to follow. If it consolidates the data-mining requirements as a web service like system. Any thoughts or concerns on this one? My response, don’t be intimidated by the sound.

Most of these developer tools, however, are made to simplify the workload of large corporations and streamline the evolving workload of small businesses so that real time business may be had evenly throughout various industries as required to address management and customer needs alike. Who likes waiting around for so and so to get back from vacation to complete a transaction likewise, who wants to be prevented from attending an important event because business cannot be done without them. This type of technology makes it possible to incorporate more of the realities of the human existence without interfering with the equally important demanding 24 hour a business world.

XML as it relates to structured data, unstructured data, and databases.



Why the sudden tie in? Because while the term XML does not have the power to evoke the same stimulation to the imagination, XML is every bit as intoxicating and relevant to the every day demands for efficient technology. These areas seem to be growing every day.

As you know, structured data is the term used to relate to data that organized within specified rows and columns, though structured data does not necessarily have to be in the form of database content or spreadsheet formatting. These are after all just frames created to express some organized way to contain structured data requirements. Unstructured data is often synonymous with content stored and published in MySQL but may also take the form of metadata (data about data) or simply regarded or understood as such whenever one is in the position of experiencing large chunks of information like say text books or resource documents. Because there is only minimal organizational efforts implemented the data itself may still be regarded as unstructured because context and circumstance retain the ability to affect it.

XML as an optimizer for structured and unstructured data because lets face it, it is an instinct to explore the results of our explorations and quite frankly with good results. XML makes interaction, manipulation, and analytics more efficient by not allowing data to lose its shape, format, or original display while it is in the process of being explored. Basically allowing for the ideal situations for the enhanced learning process. How many times of you opted to not pursue a curiosity about something because you thought it would change, break, or harm it in some way? XML developments regard this instance and enable the process to continue without the side effects.

All the while databases and spreadsheets still have a special unbreakable bond with data that won’t be damaged by optimizations created outside of its framework and storage capabilities. Which may likewise be enhanced with XML collaborations.

Database duality explanation to shed light on the benefits of XML (as needed).

Think of databases as you would bodies of water some are self-contained, like ponds and lakes with very little external influence impacting the existing ecosystems thriving beneath the surface. In this scenario, over time and predictable routine there will inevitable generate a demand for something to “happen” in order for these ecosystems to thrive with the same energy, less the pond and every organism within it stagnate and become obsolete unto itself.

XML is much like a filtration system that may be used to resemble more fluid relational database systems that function with the constant activity of rivers and oceans. These occurrences sometimes are ironic for too much activity is as detrimental as a lack there of, databases systems function in real world situations in much the same way. The development and integration of XML within the ecosystems of database content management, collections, group collaborations, and retrieval systems are the reasons why XML may be used as needed to maintain the balance of information so that it is constantly current and consistently reliable or useful.

With the duality in mind it is important for users to distinguish between database types. There are front-end application requirements and there are back end requirements.

MySQL would be a great example of the back end variety. Because it may be used for “front end” components it is often mistaken for a cure all for database requirements.

Access would be a great example of the front-end variety. Unlike MySQL you cannot make the same mistake where usage is concerned. Back end software is a developer tool and front-end software is an administrative tool.

Another duality example would likewise be relational databases versus flat databases. A common misconception would be then that front-end database systems are flat, while back end are relational. This is not so, both MySQL and Access have relational capabilities (connecting data that is related between multiple database tables. Flat database tables are basically independent Excel and Access may be used as flat tables. Likewise, most web database existing to date like eCriteria.net are flat database tables and they are intended to specifically be used as front end applications for general data collections requirements like contacts, polls, FAQ, and the like. The difference is that Access and Excel are more evolved to expand to accommodate more complex (relational) requirements intuitively.

So why the need for web databases if software is so much more efficient? The answer simply, is that typically in situations where a database is meant to be published (made accessible to visitors). Flat database solutions are required. Therefore, web databases meet the required database needs as well as the publishing and hosting requirements readily. To clarify, this is the premise to web databases but not its limited focus this concept may work as efficiently for intranet or group collaborations efforts within multiple departments for the same effect.

That should make sense, after all what site visitor is going to spend hours filling in relational database Q & A? That is an inner office or administrative demand and responsibility. Additionally, it is also the premise to CRM and Knowledge Management systems. That is to optimize the data transfer and transcription of customer or visitor entered data into company or organization entered data so that for every demand there is a real time response of supply and vice versa. I like to call it data assimilation. To touch on where data-mining fits in for the purpose of closure are the algorithms for the analytical results where data has been collected, stored, and needs to then be interpreted efficiently for relevancy. Data-mining as an “IT” development (back end developer focus) is evolving rapidly in these times and becoming much more user friendly and comprehensive for administrative applications. My prediction for AI in the future of business will be that it will preserve data-mining’s complex requirements for companies that stay for generations.

For example, a 100-year-old company. AI would enable a company of that age to cultivate its experience and data collections from inception. So that, trends of the times and the evolutions of societies may further enable them to intuit next phases of development, their role in the ever changing world, as well as capitalize (get the most use out of) the depth of their experience.


Want more?

Two great articles I have found on discussion of XML Database evolutions and expansion concepts are:

http://www.db2mag.com/db_area/archives/2003/q1/webdev.shtml
http://www.xml.com/pub/a/2003/03/05/tmrdb.html

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