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XML: the next frontier.

The chances are pretty good that you've heard the term XML. As ubiquitous as the term has become, the chances are also good that you wonder just how it will make your life easier. Although the XML standard was published in 1998, we are just now only beginning to see the power that it can deliver. Across the next few years, XML will blossom to become a major factor in how associations and nonprofit organizations transmit and communicate data.

The Extensible Markup Language (XML) was created to describe data. It was created by the XML Working Group, a group endorsed by the World Wide Web Consortium. The W3C is the same group that created and maintains the HTML standard. Although the W3C provided XML as a tool for us to describe data, it only meets us halfway. It is our task to create either a Document Type Definition (DTD) or an XML Schema to standardize the definition of our data.

You may wonder how this affects associations. Ask yourself these questions: When you chose your association management software, how difficult was it to migrate your existing data into the new AMS? If you import any of your member data into other applications (such as the Web), how difficult is it to synchronize the data? By having a standardized data definition, data migration and synchronization tasks are simplified. This will result in significant cost savings to associations.

But who will create the DTD? To ensure universal acceptance, a community of association professionals and vendors must work together to create the data definition. The Association Data Standards Consortium was created last year to do just that. The objectives of the ADSC are to create standards, specifications, and business practices to improve electronic business for associations and the businesses that serve them. Their definition of association is general--it includes trade associations, nonprofits, foundations, and other member-centric organizations, such as chambers of commerce. The standards the ADSC creates will be available free of charge to the association community. At that time, it will be important for the ADSC to pressure the vendors to adopt and adhere to the standards.


XML will play an important role within your constituency as well. Your members may have already begun the process of creating their own data definitions. Some of the early adopters were the chemical and mathematical industries. In these industries, defining a way to communicate complex formulas electronically was a real issue. Other industries, such as the medical industry, have established definitions to improve the electronic transmission of their data. If the industry that your association serves hasn't already done so, you should encourage your members to create a forum to establish and promote XML data standards within your industry.

You may already be using XML within your organization without realizing it. Behind the scenes, software developers have used XML to provide a greater degree of interoperability within software applications. XML has improved the software we already have and has given us the ability to create exciting new technologies as well. XML is the cornerstone of Web services. XHMTL, the next generation of HTML, uses XML to standardize the definition and use of markup tags in HTML.

Whether you realized it or not, XML has already influenced the way many software applications handle information. Although we have already begun to see its benefits, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Because of the ADSC and the standards it will create, we will soon enjoy major enhancements in the way we store and communicate our data electronically. I recommend that you support ADSC, or at least keep a close eye on its progress. Our future is in its hands.

For links to ADSC and other XML-related information, visit PragmatiQ's Web site at

Woody Medina is the president of PragmatiQ, Silver Spring, Maryland. E-mail:



PragmatiQ specializes in creating custom Web and database applications for associations and nonprofits. By partnering with our clients in the development process, we are able to provide tailored solutions that both exceed expectations and stay within budget.

Our certified technical staff is highly experienced in creating complex Web applications using virtually any development platform--Microsoft (IIS, ASP, SQL Server, .NET) or open source (Apache, PHP, MySQL). As a result, we are able to leverage the systems that our clients have in house instead of forcing them to purchase expensive new hardware.


Woody Medina, President PragmatiQ Inc.

817 Silver Spring Ave., Suite 305 A

Silver Spring, MD 20910

301-770-2029; fax: 301-770-2866
COPYRIGHT 2005 American Society of Association Executives
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Title Annotation:TECH TOOL KIT
Author:Medina, Woody
Publication:Association Management
Article Type:Advertisement
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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