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XML Confusion

November 10, 2011

This week is the first week that really has confused me a bit.  I understand the child, grandparent thing and this website helped me a bit understand it graphically.   What I’m really confused about is what is XML good for?   I know I have seen it when clicking on RSS feeds in the past (I think) and it really just looks like gibberish (though not as much now that I’m taking baby steps in code reading).    I had a tough time getting this assignment to validate, but I believe I have it now, but really I don’t quite know how I got there.   Is anyone else having problems fully grasping this weeks work or is it just me?   I get the RSS aspect pretty well.     I do understand that XML is essentially used for data storage and is not supposed to be “pretty”.  But how do we use it?  I guess the lecture notes haven’t really sunk in this week–yes I’m aware that Derek is using XML to actually validate us when we login for assignments…I just don’t really grasp how they work together.  Just rambling…sorry folks…

6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 10, 2011 4:42 pm

    Hi there. No worries as you are not the only one confused about this. I am totally lost , but have an understanding too. I’m just having problems drafting this thing out so that it’s valid. Hang in there ;0)


  2. November 11, 2011 3:20 pm

    I had trouble too, and the xml page is not pretty – attempting the stylesheet soon. But something clicked as I looked at all the examples and realized that the point might be that you can just create your own categories for whatever xml you’re working on. You don’t have to abide by using

  3. or something, you can tell it “this list is about cds, and will include name|artist|cover_art|release date|band members – etc, and really customize it the way you’d like.

    At least – that’s what I’m getting from it. It’s like having a blank Excel workbook to play around with, and then put online.

  • derek permalink*
    November 12, 2011 9:41 am

    The hardest part of this is figuring out that you are the creator of your own XML reality and that you reference that reality through a system which is also your creation. Like Escher hands drawing themselves, it’s easy to get lost until you realize that both hands are you. As for what it’s for, I suggest re-reading the lecture: XML is a mediation language which is easily readable by both machines AND humans.

  • renemartini permalink
    November 13, 2011 3:33 pm

    Don’t worry I really struggled with the homework and failed horribly with the Extra credit.

    Overall I struggled grasping XML and the extra credit area.

  • November 15, 2011 12:10 pm

    My husband is a software engineer and database architect. I asked him for some real-world examples of using XML. If you buy a book on Alibris and pay with PayPal, the Alibris and PayPal systems use XML to communicate. name, account number, order number…each system might use this information in different ways but because they use the same XML tag, each system knows what the information is. PayPal publishes an API that tells other companies which tags to use in order to communicate with them. Google docs is another one. (Tangentially, my husband hastens to add that JSON is the new shiny tool instead of XML.)

    Many chat tools use XML as well, which is what the examples in the W3Schools tutorial show: note, to, from, message.

    If you have taken the cataloging class, you know that different OPACs read the same MARC record. They display data in many ways, but each know that the 245 line contains the statement of responsibility and the 100 field is the author’s name. XML is a similar tool, but as Derek points out, is much more user-friendly because you can use real words to describe data (author) instead of a number (100).

    • derek permalink*
      November 15, 2011 12:16 pm

      Perfect examples and also the usual CE hatred of XML (JSON was invented by XML haters). I might also add that many software programs use XML to set configurations (user settings, default behavior, etc.). XML is literally everywhere.

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