The human who connects XML
by Simon St. Laurent
Related link: http://xml.coverpages.org/
As long as XML has existed, perhaps longer, there have been visions of machine-readable registries and discovery systems which will let computers talk to each other automatically. While millions of dollars have been spent pursuing these dreams - and more are being spent every day - a much simpler system has been keeping the users and creators of XML vocabularies talking. XML has an incredibly powerful trick up its sleeve, a bibilographer named Robin Cover.
I've been using the Cover Pages since I started working with XML. When I arrived, it was still very much about SGML, with a convenient XML sub-section I could browse. Over time, the XML content has grown rapidly, and I can't say I envy Robin his task of keeping up. He collects some of the information by scouring lists and sites, and some of it comes to him directly, but there's pretty much a continuous flow of information - and a collection of nearly eight years' worth of news entries! (He has been collecting bibilographic information on markup since 1986, for nearly seventeen years of total collection.)
The Cover Pages demonstrate a lot of things that I like about the Web. Its blog-like style - see 1995 for a taste of its early days - manages to collect huge volumes of information over time, conveniently accessible through a variety of search engines. While Cover's site is a centralized source of information, the actual details of the many XML technologies he covers are stored at their original and very decentralized homes. And while Cover certainly filters his content to choose appropriate content, I've never heard a complaint about "that uppity Cover won't publish my XML stuff".
The Cover Pages also demonstrate that keeping humans in the loop isn't a bad thing. Apart from Cover's own hard work, the site's readers are a critical interface between the information they find on the site and their code. Whether those readers are programmers, managers, or markup wonks, the Cover Pages is a good place to start. While glorious visions of XML schema registries (biztalk.org, xml.org) and Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI) may have set off waves of hype and even led to some useful developments, I suspect the Cover Pages deserves lots of credit for connecting people and programs at many levels on a regular basis for nearly eight years.
In PR-speak, that might result in triumphal press releases about "enabling [millions | billions] of [dollars | euros] of [enterprise integration | document management | hacker twiddling] with XML and Web Services." The Cover Pages prefers to describe itself as an "Online resource for markup language technologies" - no small achievement.
Have you used the Cover Pages?
Definitely agree with Simon, Robin Cover has done a *fantastic* job putting this resource together.