Aiming for elegance, one thought at a time

Wish I’d read this first

Posted: April 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: IT | No Comments »

I’ve been partially responsible for the creation of a new XML format for use at work. We’ve been working on it for around six months. It does the job- but it sure is ugly. A lot of that is because we didn’t have a nice set of standards to begin with. I wish I’d known about Google’s XML Document Format Style Guide six months ago.

The major things that leap out at me:

  • Consistency. This is really grinding on me at the moment. Parts of the format are camelCase, parts are all lowercase, others just random. In parts we use venetian blind design, other placesĀ RussianĀ doll.
  • The build versus design argument: we built part, and borrowed a large chunk at the ninth hour (big part of the reason behind the inconsistency.)

I’m not completely sold that reusing an existing format would have been better. There are existing formats out there to deal with the type of data we’re using (financial services client/account details.) In this case, though, we face some unique constraints.

The schema is directly exposed to users at two levels. Firstly, through automatically generated forms from the off-the-shelf package we’re implementing. And secondly, behind the scenes, to BAs that support that package. The schema that we stole parts of was clearly not designed for this type of exposure. It focussed on machine-readability over human readability. We needed to do a lot of work to clean it up.

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