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XML-L  December 1998

XML-L December 1998

Subject:

Re: storing XML documents on relatioanl database

From:

Mark Birbeck <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

General discussion of Extensible Markup Language <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 17 Dec 1998 14:01:33 -0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (113 lines)

Marcus Carr wrote:

> There's an interesting white paper explaining Oracle's upcoming
support for
> XML - it covers just these issues, from their perspective, anyway.
It's
> located at http://www.oracle.com/xml/documents/xml_twp/

Looks like an interesting first step, but IMHO it raises as many
problems as it solves. For example, in their example of an insurance
report the paper suggests:

        <DamageReport>
                A massive <Cause>Fire</Cause> ravaged the building and
                <Casualties>12</Casualties> people were killed. Early
                FBI reports indicate that <Motive>arson</Motive> is
                suspected.
        </DamageReport>

We have tended to avoid this approach. With our stuff, we use the
following type of syntax:

        <TEXT>... today the <COUNTRY NAME="US">US</COUNTRY> announced
...</TEXT>
        <TEXT>I would like to visit <COUNTRY NAME="US">North
America</COUNTRY> for a holiday ...</TEXT>
        <TEXT>Leary travelled across <COUNTRY NAME="US">the
USA</COUNTRY> sampling ...</TEXT>
        <TEXT>Iraqi newspapers today said that the <COUNTRY
NAME="US">evil Empire</COUNTRY> ...</TEXT>

which means that even if 'US' is not used in a document, you can still
find all documents that 'mention' the USA. It seems to me that you
either have to code up the information on the object, e.g. (back to
Oracle's examples):

        <DamageReport Cause="Fire" Casualties="12" Motive="Arson">
                <Summary>
                        A massive Fire ravaged the building and
                        12 people were killed. Early
                        FBI reports indicate that arson is
                        suspected.
                </Summary>
        </DamageReport>

and so set the possible values for the elements in the DTD, or you have
to add an attribute to the actual word:

        <DamageReport>
                A
                <Cause Type="Fire">
                        massive fire
                </Cause>
                ravaged the building and
                <Casualties Number="12" Type="Death">
                        12 people were killed
                </Casualties>
                . Early FBI reports indicate that
                <Motive Type="Arson" Status="Suspected">
                        arson is suspected
                </Motive>
                .
        </DamageReport>

What I'm getting at is you can't weigh down free text with too much
information - that should come from the meta data. The Oracle example
that follows this, of a query for 'MOTIVE = ARSON', shows how messy
things could get if you don't 'normalise'. With our approach we can
have:

                Early FBI reports indicate that <Motive Type="Arson"
Status="Suspected">the fire
                may have been started on purpose</Motive>.

because the text itself is not carrying the weight of the information,
but Oracle couldn't. With their example you would have to search for all
possible wordings of 'ARSON' or you would have to tell everyone in the
company to use the word 'ARSON' when they are writing their reports.

Note that I only make this point is relation to free text situations. I
have no problem with:

        <DamageReport>
                <Cause>Fire</Cause>
                <Casualties>12</Casualties>
                <Motive>Arson</Motive>
                <Summary>
                        A massive Fire ravaged the building and
                        12 people were killed. Early
                        FBI reports indicate that arson is
                        suspected.
                </Summary>
        </DamageReport>

which the Oracle proposal would easily implement. But I think you need
to implement the 'attribute' type solution as well, to fully make use of
the free text approach.

Regards,

Mark



Mark Birbeck
Managing Director
Intra Extra Digital Ltd.
39 Whitfield Street
London
W1P 5RE
w: http://www.iedigital.net/
t: 0171 681 4135
e: [log in to unmask]

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