Wednesday 21 August 2013

Thad McIlroy on Demystifying XML

Thad McIlroy is a publishing consultant and author, currently writing and blogging at The Future of Publishing. Thad, along with Carol Wolfe from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, will be hosting a webinar on Demystifying XML next month. 

Here, in a guest post, he reflects on just what it is that makes XML so pesky yet so important, and how they'll demystify it in the webinar.

"XML was created around 1996; the standard XML 1.0 was first defined in 1998. PDF – the Portable Document Format – was introduced by Adobe in 1993 and became an ISO standard in 2008.

I’m sure that like most publishers (and their teams) you don’t give PDF much thought anymore. You easily convert files into PDF and exchange those files over the web without any fuss. You don’t need to read the 756-page PDF 1.7 specification.

Why can’t XML be so straightforward? 

Because it’s complex, very complex. That complexity makes it extremely powerful. It also makes it hugely difficult for the non-technical to get their heads around how it works and what it enables. I’m not trying to suggest that PDF and XML are equivalent. PDF concerns the look of pages and XML their structure. But they’re part of the same publishing universe.

XMLers will tell you that XML is a simplified version of SGML. 

That’s like saying that xxx is a simplified version of yyy. Gee thanks. They’ll also tell you that the XML DTD syntax is one of several XML schema languages, but that XML Schema utilize an XML-based syntax, whereas DTDs have a unique syntax held over from SGML DTDs. Gee, double thanks.

Nonetheless I’ll tell you that if you’ve somehow managed to postpone adopting an XML workflow you can avoid the challenge no longer. You’re going to have to crawl inside XML, enough to get your bearings so that you can make strategic choices of how important XML will be to your future publishing workflow. 

What you can achieve with XML cannot realistically be duplicated any other way. 

And today, where a handful of output formats have become a multitude, the only way to find publishing nirvana (OK, nirvana might be a stretch) is to add XML structure to your publishing mix.

We’re fortunate that joining the webinar will be Carol Wolfe, VP, Publications and Drug Information at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (AHSP). Carol can tell it like it is. She explained to me that her view is strategic, not ├╝ber-technical, and I thought: perfect. 

Because more than anything else we all need to recognize that XML is now core to our publishing strategies.

Carol will describe how her core association publications, like the 3822-page AHFS Drug Information and the 1,280-page Handbook on Injectable Drugs were destined to migrate online and why XML structured coding was essential to facilitate the transformation. She’ll describe how she’s managed moving these publications online while also managing online journals and ebooks, while optimizing her publications also for tablets and smartphones.

We’re not going to head too deep into the XML weeds because that would take all month (you might want to Google “introduction to XML” before the webinar if you’d like to brush up). We will introduce XML in non-technical terms so we can describe, in everyday publishing language, why demystifying XML is worth every ounce of effort for you and your staff."

Demystifying XML: A practical guide and case study will be held online on Wednesday 25 September, 2013, 11:00-12:30 ET, USA, 4:00-5:30 UK, 5:00-6:30 CEST. 

Don't miss it, book now

If you can't make the time, you can register and still receive the recording to view at your leisure.

The webinar is sponsored by ALPSP and Copyright Clearance Center

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