Thinking Outside the VC Box is a fantastic, almost Philip K. Dick-like, essay by an unnamed SOA Web Services Journal writer. It's on one of my favourite themes, the virtual office. Among the things discussed is "the momentary enterprise", defined as a temporary business that leverages "pervasive data". It seems to support Evan Williams' recent list of rules for start-ups, where the number 1 rule is to be super-focused - i.e. a specialist and not a generalist.
In the SOA article, I particularly liked this description of how and why XML is a crucial part of the 'momentary enterprise':
"XML formatting allows proprietary databases and records to now have a nearly universal method for describing their contents. One does not need to be a sophisticated programmer who understands how to read a "schema" document or how to encode SQL statements to make sense of XML statements. A computer-literate teen could happen upon an XML fragment and derive some sense from it. He or she could likely import it into a favorite spreadsheet package and sort or average or trend it with a few keystrokes.
Business back ends are now XML-crazy. Information that needs to be expressed to another computer system is now expressed in some XML format. Most significantly, XML enables far higher business-to-business cooperation that is squarely aligned with the Web's chief goal: information exchange (as opposed to data exchange). XML has been enthusiastically embraced by business and allows for significant efficiency gains and better customer experiences. We will see XML reaching into the consumer world and our homes as well via wired and wireless appliances, for example. For the momentary enterprise, XML is the magic glue that allows vast sources of data and internetworking infrastructure - from PDAs to wireless video cameras - to share information."
That's got to be the best description of XML I've read this year. It captures the simplicity and ease-of-use of XML; its pervasiveness on the Web; and its utility to computer networks, 'users', businesses and programmers alike. XML is the lingua franca of our networked world.
The writer goes on to describe the web-based office, which has been one of my main themes this year. The human part of this is what the author calls a "matrix worker", defined as a subject-matter expert in a particular area:
"Often these people prefer to work as independent consultants rather than full-time employees. Technology and connectivity have truly allowed a great many of us to work anywhere and everywhere, and at any time. As more and more people allow their skills to be better published and exploited, a new form of professional - the "matrix worker" - will emerge."
I'm like a prototype matrix worker, I suppose. Along with millions of other people. The great thing is this kind of working life is becoming more and more common. XML and all the other technologies of our age - wireless, laptops, mobile phones, Voice over IP, etc - are enabling many of us to work and create outside the box. Or should that be -- in The Matrix?