How do I learn *about* xml (as opposed to learning to write xml code)
January 23, 2009 12:38 PM   Subscribe

Where/how do I learn enough about xml to communicate with elance contractors producing xml output for my company? I am computer literate and had no trouble learning the basics of hierarchical structure, well-formed code, tags etc. from a couple of online tutorials, but I have no programming experience and I wouldn't actually be writing any code myself. The highly rated xml books I've found on Amazon seem to be written mostly with programmers in mind.

My boss (who basically knows what end result he needs) has asked me to make sure a couple of data harvesting projects get done. Our IT guy is in another city, over his head in some big hairy thing, and he doesn't have time to train me or answer questions every day. I don't mind learning on the fly, and in a small business this kind of versatility is actually how I add value. That also means I manage a wide range of projects, most of which have little to do with technology, so I'm not looking to become an expert.

Generally speaking, I need to educate myself so I can make intelligent requests of elance contractors who are doing the actual work. Intelligent requests would include anticipating the need to merge the results of two scrapes and mapping the desired output appropriately ahead of time. It would also be useful to have a sense of how reasonable some requests are that seem simple to me in principle -- like changing an existing xml file to conform to a given schema.

I can give this a few hours a week over the next few weeks. Thanks in advance, and please don't blast me for aspiring to become a dilettante. :-)
posted by gigimakka to Computers & Internet (2 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you've probably done so already, but if you haven't, familiarize yourself a little bit with XSLT and with RelaxNG schemas (the "compact" syntax is much more human-readable than the other syntax, but they're semantically equivalent). This will give you an idea of what kinds of operations and structures people think of as natural/easy for XML. (You probably don't need to bother with the XSLT nitty-gritty of various XPath query axes and all that, just a high level understanding will do.)

Choosing a good representation for some data (in XML or any other concrete form) is a skill unto itself and is not easy to do right the first time, so if possible, budget for realizing you've made a mistake and having to go back and change your representation a bit. Does your IT guy have time to at least review the contractors' proposed schema?
posted by hattifattener at 2:23 PM on January 23, 2009

IT guy is literally swamped with a much more important project for now. I'm working with a general schema created by him, so I can give that to the contractors as guidance. In places where the schema doesn't cover all the data my boss wants, I run into the problems described above...
posted by gigimakka at 4:17 PM on January 23, 2009

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