XML - who needs it?! (Posted by Avi)

I remember not long ago when XML became the "new big thing." Everyone wanted every program they wrote to use XML in some fashion. But rarely when you challenged someone on "why" did you actually get a good answer. Many just figured that if it wrote XML, it must be high-tech.

Sure, it had occasional uses, but overall I heard much more about it than was warranted.

Recently, the latest buzz is RSS. When I was first exposed to it, I thought it was nice that people finally agreed on a format - and of course if you're addicted to more than 5-10 blogs, then an RSS aggregator is a good idea. But only recently have I found a use for RSS which really "does it for me".

As I've mentioned, we own tons of applications that people throughout the company use for various tasks. Many of these applications send notifications to people, and many of them have search pages to find items that may relate to those notifications. For example:

  • Alerts for server problems
  • Alerts for build breaks
  • Alerts for backup failures
  • Purchase approvals pending
  • [Insert random action item] pending
  • Etc…

Each of these was part of a different application, and each had a separate notification system and search page. Well, here's what we're doing now:

Each search page can publish the results to any search criteria that you give it as an RSS. You can then subscribe to that particular search, and get notified (by the reader of your choice) when the search results change. Not only is this good for notifications, but it allows others in the company to get a [read-only] API to this data, which is being requested more and more.

And as an added bonus, I get to scrub the substantial rust off my coding skills by writing a very compact WinForms RSS reader that handles these items in a way that's suitable for our teams. If I don't do something like this a few times a year, I start to go crazy.