The value of descriptive markup for discovery, utility, and preservation


Publishers and other content creators are finding themselves pushed towards XML. Many see this as an expense, a burden, yet another technical thing they don’t understand but are obligated to deal with.

Part of this is valid: it is new, it can be expensive, and it is in your future. However, XML is not the point, it is a tool. The point is the logic that is encoded in the XML, which does not need to be mysterious and can be the source of significant value.

In this keynote from the 2019 Typefi User Conference, B. Tommie Usdin, President of Mulberry Technologies, argues that the long-term value of XML is not in the XML itself, but in the nature of the markup.

By focusing on “descriptive markup” rather than “XML syntax” we can talk about the real value in the push towards interchange of XML documents. It is descriptive markup that allows the identification of document parts by what they are in system-independent ways, and while understanding the details of XML may be a task for specialists, understanding the nature, structure, and parts of documents is a task for publishers.

“If I handed you a newspaper in a language you absolutely do not read, you could nonetheless circle the headlines and the bylines and the paragraphs—because that’s structure, and you can see structure, and identifying structure is useful.”

Slide Deck (PDF)

Tommie Usdin, President of Mulberry Technologies

B. Tommie Usdin

President | Mulberry Technologies, Inc.

B. Tommie Usdin is President of Mulberry Technologies, Inc., a consultancy specialising in XML for prose documents.

Tommie has been working with SGML since 1985 and has been a supporter of XML since 1996. She chairs “Balisage: The Markup Conference” and is a frequent speaker at JATS-Con, MarkupUK, and other conferences. She is co-chair of the NISO Z39-96, JATS: Journal Article Tag Suite Working Group, and a member of the NISO STS Standing Committee and the BITS Committee.

Tommie has developed DTDs, Schemas, and XML/SGML application frameworks for applications in government and industry. Projects include reference materials in medicine, science, engineering, and law; semiconductor documentation; historical and archival materials. Distribution formats have included print books, magazines, and journals, and both web- and media-based electronic publications.

You can read more about her at the Mulberry Technologies website.