IN TODAY’S WORLD, cardboard is an ever-important
part of life. Given the major investment of resources
and money, you might question whether it’s worth it. It
turns out the efficiencies and savings from cardboard
outstrip the costs to manufacture and later recycle it.
Semi-structured representations of data are not
the cheapest format. There is typically a lot of extra
stuff like angle brackets contained in it. JSON, XML,
and other semi-structured representations allow for
wonderful flexibility and dynamic interpretation. The
efficiencies and savings gained from flexibility more
than make up for the overhead.
Cardboard surrounds and protects stuff as it
moves across boundaries. No one uses cardboard
to move parts around within a factory. Instead, they
use custom-designed containers that are specially
purposed for the parts being produced. Cardboard is
used to protect the stuff as it leaves the factory.
JSON and XML are used to protect
data when it moves across trust boundaries. Semi-structured data wraps a
single message or a single item in a
key-value store in a way that allows for
flexibility and extensibility. Inside an
application, relational data is more
tightly controlled and well formed.
Evolving your relational data inside the
trust and management boundary of an
app is tractable.
SQL and relational data are easier
and better for processing data within
a trust boundary. XML and JSON are
more flexible and dynamic as they capture the information and its metadata.
This makes it easy and flexible to squirt
data across trust boundaries.
Self-defining and self-identifying.
Cardboard is usually self-describing.
Your new TV has printing on the outside of the box telling you what’s inside
the box. As you move your old TV to
your new home, you write “TV” on the
outside of the moving box.
JSON and XML are usually self-describing. This can be done by referencing a schema or by examining the
attributes expressed within the docu-ment/file itself.
Generic vs. custom. The last time we
moved to a new home, I bought a bunch
of boxes of varying sizes, tape, wrapping paper, and padding, and a bunch
of marking pens. Like most other folks
in the throes of packing and moving, we
worked hard to describe the contents
of every box we filled, but we occasionally messed up and omitted some items
from the list as everything went into a
box. Most things fit well into one of the
standard boxes, although some of our
household items involved really creative uses of cardboard, tape, and padding as we worked to protect our stuff.
Manufactured items frequently have
custom-made cardboard protection.
My wife loves the vacuum cleaners from
one particular manufacturer. Indeed,
the shape, form, and workings of the
vacuums can be fun and surprising. To
me, half the fun is disassembling the
cardboard protection used inside the
cardboard box. There are dozens of spe-
XML and JSON
Article development led by
Cardboard surrounds and protects stuff
as it crosses boundaries.
BY PAT HELLAND