XML, A Love Story

What does XML mean to you?

Chances are that if you’re querying it at all, you already know what it is in general, and are looking for some specific solution to a problem you’re facing at work.  If not, well, bear with me and maybe you’ll find something a little intriguing.  I thought I knew what XML was, until I actually started working with it for a paycheck.  Turns out it means a lot of different things to different people, different situations.  Talk about naïveté.

So, what we have here is eXtensible Markup Language.   Nifty.  So what?  You’ve prolly heard of HTML, you know web pages,  so why would anyone want more markup languages?

In a word, archiving.

People like to be able to find their stuff.  There’s a lot of stuff on the web.  If part of your job involves getting yourself published in some format, to have your name and work cited, then it’s nice to be able to have a way to keep track of data that’s consistent and easy to implement.  And that’s where XML comes in.  It’s very flexible and a quick sproogle search will lead you to a plethora of tutorials.   What won’t be immediately apparent, however, is the importance of working under a specific tag suite, a specific Document Type Definition, or DTD.

A DTD is what XML uses as it’s rule book.  And there are lots of them.  Depending on the industry you’re working in, you might be using,  say, for scientific, medical, and technical publications, the Journal DTD suite of the National Library of Medicine.  Or, if you’re just doing a generic web page design, you might just use one of several generic DTDs.  It’s important to note, I think, that most web tutorials are going to assume you’ll be using a generic DTD.  And that’s fine for getting the hang of the markup language.  However, based on the experiences of this author’s slightly less dubious alter-ego working here, I would highly advise getting to know other DTD’s if you’re looking to branch out in your career.  If only so you can sound like you know what you’re doing a little bit more at that job interview.  It might just save you some heavy future water-treading, so to speak.

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