Waiting for Commonality
Technical publications aren’t the only players homing in on the world of XML (eXtensible Markup Language). Sporting industries are also in the game. We know XML to be the future of the Internet, giving content intelligence rather than just formatting. “As a language, XML conveys more information with fewer words than HTML; as a standard, it is elegant and efficient,” says Chuck Kapelke in “X Files-Web services wait in the midst as XML vocabularies evolve” in the October 2002 issue of Continental.
The biggest hiccup with XML is that authors are allowed to create their own tags to describe data. Therefore, a common taxonomy needs to be developed to ensure that everyone is speaking the same language. The International Press and Telecommunications Council’s SportsML committee has spent the past 17 months developing a common vocabulary.
“Everybody was reinventing the wheel. But with XML, you can rally around one consistent way of describing the information being communicated,” according to Alan Karben, vice president of solutions engineering at ScreamingMedia, a provider of information-management solutions. SportsML is similar to RecipeML or GIML (gastrointestinal markup language), each a topic- or industry-specific standard that allows content contributors to swap data tags. Perhaps the future of XML in technical publications is to focus on collaborating to create such a standard as well, call it TechpubsML.
Although the outcome is advantageous, we can foresee a slow course getting people from around the world to agree on how to define and describe myriad document elements. It’s hard enough in technical publications to get people in the same company to communicate and agree. We might be a bit premature for trying to think of collaborating with the world; let’s start collaborating internally first.
Whether internally or around the world, the bottom line is as Anthony Dutton, director of corporate communications at XML Global, concludes, “People who don’t develop an XML strategy are going to be missing the boat.”