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March 13, 2007 / Bob Black

Bricks Without Straw

Brian looked up from his 15-inch monitor and rubbed his eyes. He stared blankly at his cubicle wall for a few seconds to let his pupils dilate, and then gathered a notebook, a pen, and his half-empty styrofoam cup of water, and lumbered off to his weekly status meeting.

He heard voices murmuring before he turned the corner – the room was packed with people working on his project, and several that weren’t but were somehow involved in some capacity. The meeting got underway and Steve, the Project Manager, asked Brian to give a brief status overview of the modules he was working on.

“As you know,” Brian began slowly and deliberately, “I’m working on translating the XML feed from the MIGLAC system into a format the YUGYAK system can understand, and I’m using XSL to do the translation. Some of the XML files from the MIGLAC system are almost 50 Megs, in addition to being fairly complex. I feel like we’re on target to meet the next milestone, but it would be a huge timesaver if I had a more appropriate tool than Wordpad to work with these XML files.” 

The room grew silent. Everyone was inwardly cheering Brian on, but no one was about to stick their own neck out in case things went sour.

Steve leaned back in his chair. “What’s wrong with Wordpad? Is that the same thing as notepad?”

“Well, it’s a lot like notepad, except it can handle larger files. However, there are many things it can’t do, such as syntax coloring, formatting, and things like DTD or Schema intelli…” 

“Wait, wait,” Steve interrupted. “So what you’re saying is that Wordpad can do the job just fine, there’s just a few bells and whistles, what I like to call ‘fluff’, that it can’t do?” In his most managerial voice, Steve added, “Is that correct?”

Brian cringed, along with everyone else in the room. “Well no, not exactly. Yes, it can open large files, but Wordpad was designed for working with simple text documents, like maybe a letter to Grandma, not specifically with XML!”

At the words, “like maybe a letter to Grandma” Steve looked visibly displeased, and a little insulted. “What exactly did you have in mind?”

“Well, I think Altova’s XML Spy is a great tool for working with XML, however I’m open to suggestions from anyone whose worked with other XML tools.” And with that, he slung a quick, casual glance around the room. All eyes fell to the table. Someone at the far end of the room pursed their lips and slowly nodded thoughtfully, as if trying to appear to agree with Brian without actually doing so.

Steve looked at his watch. “Well, in the interest of time, I’d like to continue this conversation later. I have another important meeting after this one, and I’d like to finish going around the room.” He swung his Tablet PC around, poised himself to write, looked up at Brian and asked, “So you’re on schedule?”

Brian took a deep breath, imagining many long nights ahead, stared blankly at the table, and said, “Yes.”

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