is there an "xml-include"

Douglas Trainor trainor at UIC.EDU
Wed Nov 21 18:22:06 CET 2001


I'm not a taxonomist, but I suggest that several folks on this list take some
of their current character data and make an example out of it in XML and
comment on the example.  It need not be perfect.  This could quickly educate
others about the strengths and potential weaknesses of an approach with a
specific examplar.

XML will make it very nice to move data between different applications,
or between component parts of a large application.  I just want to write
nifty plant/insect applications against the XML-wrapped character data.

Going right off for a perfect Holy Grail has sabotaged other group projects in the past.
One of the best examples is how Algol language folks got into bitter debates about
when an object is a chair and when it's a table.


Steve Shattuck wrote:

> There seems to be a number of problems being addressed in the current
> discussion:
> 1) Gregor's original post asked for a solution ("how do I do an include in
> XML") without posing a problem ("how do I maintain a separate global
> character list and link a number of independent taxon descriptions to it").
> I would suggest that using an "include" is only one of a range of solutions
> to this problem.  And if this isn't the problem then we should revisit it
> before spending too much time coming up with a solution.
> 2) Whether XML is hierarchical or relational is of little importance in
> practice.  All major relational databases can suck in and spit out XML -
> it's a non-issue from an implementation standpoint (which is what we are
> ultimately concerned with here).  IDs and RefIDs are primary and foreign
> keys - the mapping is one-to-one if you want to structure the XML that way.
> 3) Leigh is spot-on when he says "define a model for the data" as this is
> "separate to the details of its [the model's] syntax".  The syntax (= XML
> model) will be useless if it doesn't manage the information that's important
> to us no matter how "rigorous" or "technically accurate" it is.
> 4) At the Sydney meeting I thought we agreed to restart this discussion with
> specific examples based on real-life characters (in the biological sense).
> This current thread would seem to be very much a continuation of the one
> started 2 years ago: 80% focus on solutions (largely round XML syntax) and
> 20% on specific problems (addressing business needs).  I fear we'll end up
> the same place we were before.
> Thanks, Steve
> Steve Shattuck
> CSIRO Entomology
> biolink at
> P.S. - A solution to Gregor's problem would be to use unique identifiers
> (GUIDs) in his global character list.  Any one using this list would then
> include these identifiers as part of taxon descriptions along with metadata
> (a citation) to find where the global list is housed.  If you then want to
> combine separate description datasets you can compare the character
> identifiers: if they are the same then it's the same character, if they are
> different then it's not the same character.  It's a simple, foolproof
> solution that's easy to implement technically (whether people will actually
> do this is a completely different matter ;-) ).
> P.P.S. - I'm well aware that I have the power to direct this discussion by
> actually doing what I suggest in No. 4 above.  And I really, really intend
> to do it.  I just have one more meeting to get through, and then another 10
> emails, and then ....

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