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The XML Family
of Technologies
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Repurposing Museum Content with XML
In its quest to keep up with the times, a large national museum has introduced small,
handheld computers which users carry around and on which they can view details of the
objects at which they are looking at any given time. A difficulty is soon encountered: the
HTML code that the museum currently uses for its Web pages is not suitable for delivery
to handheld PCs with their smaller screens and slower processors.The digitised images
that complement the information well online prove unsuitable for display on a handheld
device.
Using XML coupled with XSLT will allow the same data to be repurposed and
delivered to a variety of devices or media including desktop PCs, PDAs, printed cata-
logues, and mobile phones without having to rewrite all of the individual markup pages.
In addition, it can be used to drive the ordinary Web catalogue, the data for which are
stored in a database and can be delivered as XML for the Web. A separate presentation or
transformation technique (e.g. schema, stylesheet) will need to be introduced for each
device,
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but the fundamental data remain the same and these data should be compatible
with most future interface devices the museum management might wish to use.The
alternative would be to write entirely separate markup scripts for every device, which
would be both time-consuming and wasteful, and fails to take into consideration the
likelihood that other devices or ways of delivery may become prominent in the future.
An XML-driven solution can improve maintainability and integrity, as all of the content
is stored centrally and delivered as required, rather than stored in device-dependent
structures and formats.
This course of action will require the introduction (or training) of a devoted XML
coder. Using freely available online tutorial resources, an IT-savvy novice should be able
to come quickly up to speed on the processes of markup, batch conversion into XML,
and specifically formatted delivery via XSLT.The main question for the museum will be
financial: can they afford to devote a member of staff to this on a full-time basis, and will
the benefits outweigh the costs?
Academics Arriving at a Schema
A group of literary academics have heard about XML markup from colleagues, and
suspect that it may be of use to them.Their dream is to link and exchange documents
using a shared vocabulary, syntax and protocol.This, they hope, will speed the develop-
ment of their area of study among the wider scholarly community, and popularise their
ideas across a number of related disciplines. Much comparable work has previously been
carried out in the academic sector, and the Text Encoding Initiative and the Whistler
Correspondence project are two examples the team has investigated prior to beginning
its work.
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Their first step will be to decide exactly what the information and materials they
create will be used for, and to arrive at a shared goal through discussion and consultation.
This may well be the most frustrating element of the process, as the unstandardised
language used in the field is likely to be very similar if not perfectly congruent.The
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For preference, `no-image' options should be catered for to improve accessibility across all formats.
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http://www.tei-c.org; http://www.whistler.arts.gla.ac.uk/correspondence/index.htm
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