iCONN News

Friday, August 26, 2005

XML and libraries

While we're busily preparing for the back-to-school crowd (with a 4-column article in the CT PTA newsletter coming out this month) and the fair season, I took a little time out for professional development this week. I took Patrick Yott's excellent 2-day XML course at the MLSC. We've got a lot of "balls in the air", but this breather really helped me to understand ways in which data could be packaged for infinite transformability. I mean, you may be asking, what good is XML to me? It just sounds like geek-speak doesn't it?

But let me paint a blue-sky scenario, brought to you courtesy XML. Imagine a world in which data -- say, for example, the articles in our iCONN databases -- were packaged solely as content... that they didn't have a single interface controlled by a vendor. If you didn't care for the front-end of one of those databases, you could make your own. Then you could funnel all information into that one easy-to-use front end. You'd never be beholden to someone else's idea of what you wanted to do with the data, it would all be there for you to play with. To see only the grade-appropriate articles for an elementary school child - currently we need to purchase a specialized database, like Kids' InfoBits. But maybe that's not the answer we want. With standardized, portable, and readable data (from the information being input in XML format), we could ourselves specify what we wanted at any given moment in time. That is the power of XML.

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