Last week, in the first part of Defeating XML & GML, I talked about the fear that many have when it comes to XML and GML. Now, I will explain why the future looks bright for XML and then invite you to take part in the XML Challenge.

[A note about GML: I won’t mention GML again in this post (for brevity) as GML is XML with predefined primitives that help represent spatial data in standard ways. So if your passion is GML, then simply read GML everywhere where I say XML. The story remains the same.]

XML is Everywhere
Earlier this week, Geoff Zeiss commented that 1996 was a pivotal year in GIS with the launch of Oracle SDO, MapQuest, AutoCAD Map and FME. 1996 was also the year that the XML specification was released.

OpenStreetMap and XML

Did you know that OpenStreetMap is really just XML with a different extension (.OSM)?

Fast forward 15 years. XML data is everywhere, spanning every industry. Think of an industry and I would be surprised if XML data is not considered the state-of-the-art way to move/share data within that industry. If it is not, then the XML adoption process is likely underway. In the geospatial arena there are many examples: OS MasterMap, KML, Germany’s NAS, NatureSDI, Swedish EPA, Metadata (OGC, ISO, and others), the Top10NL, and even the ever popular OpenStreetMap.

XML has definitely reached critical mass resulting in a whole industry of tools that continue to be developed to make it easier for organizations to work with XML datasets. These improving tools in turn give organizations more reason to adopt XML. The feedback loop will increase the wealth of data in XML and its importance will thus continue to grow.

As someone who has spent his career working on technology that’s focused on removing the barriers to data access – this is exciting.

Background to the XML Challenge
As I travel and share my passion for XML and FME, I have been asking people to send me XML documents that they wish to work with. Some have sent me datasets that contains data that they want to incorporate into their workflows. Others have sent me various metadata XML.

Here’s one example of making it easy to work with XML data. Take a look at the 3 and a half minute video to see how I did it. This simple technique works for reading many XML documents.

Cartosmart takes the XML Challenge

So far we have been successful with the XML data in all cases and I will keep you posted on those that I am looking at now.

Most importantly is that through this challenge we have been able to help people use their XML data without them having to understand XQuery, XSLT, or XML Schema.

What are your XML challenges? Do you have XML you need to produce? Do you have XML you need to ingest? Can you share it with us? Do you have XML fears? Are you excited about XML?

Take the XML Challenge
Regardless of your industry or XML datasets, I encourage you to take the XML Challenge. Send us your XML data and let us show you how easy it can be to work with XML. The more XML datasets that we are exposed to, the better we can make our FME solution!

And while tackling these problems is fun, it is the anticipation of the dataset that we can’t work with that excites me. The reason is simple. It is these datasets that help us get better.

Take the XML Challenge, and send us your XML data! Comment below, or email your XML problem to

About Data Data Transformation GIS GML OpenStreetMap Spatial Data XML

Don Murray

Don is the co-founder and President of Safe Software. Safe Software was founded originally doing work for the BC Government on a project sharing spatial data with the forestry industry. During that project Don and other co-founder, Dale Lutz, realized the need for a data integration platform like FME. When Don’s not raving about how much he loves XML, you can find Don working with the team at Safe to take the FME product to the next level. You will also find him on the road talking with customers and partners to learn more about what new FME features they’d like to see.


8 Responses to “Defeating XML & GML (Part 2/2: The XML Challenge)”

  1. Don Murray says:

    Thanks for all of the submissions and keep sending them in. I will be looking at them tomorrow. At first glance they all look good!

  2. […] might not be as sexy as Don’s XML challenge, but if our usage stats are reliable, then I’m betting you’ve got stories to share. Oh, and […]

  3. Don Murray says:

    Okay, here is the promised status update. Thanks again for all of your submissions.

    So far so good as I’ve received six examples since the post and have been able to solve all, except for one which is still in progress. The hardest one has been Microsoft Excel XML, but it’s led to good things. I’ve been looking at it and thanks to that submission I’m now awaiting a new transformer for FME that will really help it along. All of your submissions have also resulted in a number of other nice-to-haves including an XMLElementUpdater transformer so you can do updates to XML documents without having to write XQuery. Our list representation in XML is also going to improve in the near future (but be backward compatible), and we are currently discussing some simple things to improve our list processing.

    We really appreciate the submissions as they help us identify ways to make the product better.

    Please keep the XML submissions coming!

    Warm Regards,

  4. […] you find yourself fighting with XML (or GML) reading or writing challenges, Take the XML Challenge! Since I launched the challenge earlier this spring, I’ve received some very interesting […]

  5. […] is all about. It is left as an exercise for the reader to identify such a product. (Hint: It must love XML and be able to move data in about 300 different […]

  6. […] This example came about when attempting Don’s challenge to find an unreadable XML file. In looking for such a dataset I came across an old file of data […]

  7. […] responded to this growing trend by improving the way FME handles XML. During 2011, we launched the XML Challenge to fantastic response with many submissions from people who sent us samples of XML problems they […]

  8. Luke says:

    I have a standard XML template that my Department uses for all our metadata records. Recently we have been receiving some external JSON files containing metadata, I would like to be able to transfer the JSON metadata into our standard XML metadata template. Do you have any recommendations about what my model in FME should look like in order to undertake this task?

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