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Preview: David Fletcher: Web Development

David Fletcher: Web Development

Tools and tricks for developing on the web

Last Build Date: Thu, 11 Dec 2003 17:41:05 GMT

Copyright: Copyright 2003 David Fletcher

XML in Government

Thu, 11 Dec 2003 17:37:17 GMT

(image) An article in XMLMania asks, "What's your government doing with XML?"  Great question.  And the answer is "more every day", but not as much as we should be doing. 

This is cool:

The U.S. House of Representatives is currently close to drafting all its introduced bills in XML.

The House maintains this XML website that has DTDs, schemas, etc.  XML should be the standard format for bills at every level of government.  That sure would facilitate what I would like to see happen with bills being made available to users as a wireless service.  There may be hope here, since as I mentioned the other day, the state legislature is now doing an RSS news feed.  I always viewed RSS as a gentle way to introduce people to XML and its potential for other services.  Ken Hansen (Administrative Rules) and Ray Matthews (State Library)are working to put together a legal RSS group in the state that would begin to look at some of these things.

Conceptual Modeling and Data Integration

Tue, 07 Oct 2003 15:05:50 GMT

The Data Extraction Group at BYU hosts a website for the International Conference on Conceptual Modeling which will be held next week in Chicago.  They have published some interesting papers recently, such as this one on Automating Schema Mapping for Data Integration by Li Xu and David W. Embley and this one that presents some insights on Target-based Integration Query System (TIQS) for e-business.  This whole site is really quite interesting for those pursuing development of the semantic web and integrated systems.

In his Masters thesis, Tim Chartrand asks, "With all the advantages of the Semantic Web, what keeps it from reaching a critical mass where it will gain widespread acceptance and use?"  Tim sheds some light on viewing and extracting RDF data.  Tim refers to some work done on the DARPA Agent Markup Language (DAML).

DARPA has terminated the Tactical Mobile Robotics project.  Another very interesting project is the neXt Generation (XG) Communications program which is developing the technology to allow multiple users to share use of the spectrum through adaptive mechanisms that deconflict users in terms of time, frequency, code, and other signal characteristics.

(image) George W. Bush now has a blog.  Problem is, according to Dave Winer, the RSS feeds are a mess.

The O'Reilly RSS Devcenter now maintains an RSS digest.

Here's an interesting controversy developing from one of our online services: personalized plate search.

Agile Software Conference scheduled for next week

Fri, 20 Jun 2003 17:59:12 GMT

The First Annual International Agile Software Conference will be held in Salt Lake City at the Hilton Hotel on June 25-28, 2003. As a sponsor, the Utah Technology Alliance is helping to promote this event.

The conference will bring together world leaders in Agile Software Development and Project Management. They will discuss, teach and present the latest advancements in this productive development methodology as well as offer presentations in four areas: research papers, experience reports, tutorials, and technical exchange topics and tutorials.

Details about the conference can be found in the attached a press release and media advisory or by visiting the following web site:

IBM and Web Services

Mon, 16 Jun 2003 21:27:21 GMT

(image) I went to IBM's "e-business on demand Competitive Technical Briefing" this morning and came away impressed that we are underutilizing WebSphere in the State.  But then, don't we underutilize just about every software product that we own?  The presentations focused on topics like developer productivity, web services, and e-business.  IBM has done a good job at evolving WebSphere into a very productive development environment.

It has been almost a year since Utah IT workers were challenged to focus their web development on a web services model.  We still have a long way to go.

Web Services, eGov, and Portals

Fri, 23 May 2003 15:50:29 GMT

Here are a couple of new eGov blogs:

John Gotze points out the latest draft of the W3C Web Services Architecture.  I haven't had time to digest it, perhaps this weekend, but it is something I need to share with a few key people including our semi-active XML working group.  The goals of the architecture standard are admirable:

  • interoperability between Web services,
  • integration with the World Wide Web,
  • reliability of Web services,
  • security of Web services,
  • Scalability and extensibility of Web services, and
  • Manageability of Web services.

XML is the key:

"One can imagine Web services that don't depend on the SOAP envelope framework or processing model, or that don't employ WSDL to describe the interaction between a service and its consumers, but XML is much more fundamental. It provides the extensibility and vendor, platform, and language neutrality that is the key to loosely-coupled, standards-based interoperability that are the essence of the Web services value proposition."

And the debate continues over what web services integration means for the consulting industry.

I am working to coordinate a Webex demo for next week of Forum Systems' XML security appliance.  It looks like an interesting product.

(image) Yesterday morning, Paul Taylor of the Center for Digital Government gave an interesting presentation to state and local representatives in Salt Lake City.  The presentation, entited The Portal as a Capitol Dome, was an interesting metaphor comparing state portals to capitol buildings as the center of government ac tivity and services.  He suggests that it needs the same kind of care and support as the state capitol.  Novell followed up with this presentation on portal solutions.

Website Accessability

Tue, 06 May 2003 17:01:25 GMT

In a memo to state agencies, Utah CIO Val Oveson reconfirmed the State's commitment to website accessability standards.  The Utah State Library is supporting the effort by providing third party assessments of agency compliance and training for agency personnel.

eDG and RSS

Thu, 17 Apr 2003 16:49:14 GMT

Our Enterprise Development Group (eDG) is developing a utility that will allow the user to paste an RSS URL into a form and create presentation javascripts in a variety of formats, including headline only, scrolling, ticker tape, and full text.  In addition, they are creating a variety of RSS creation tools that will allow the user to create and display RSS in a variety of formats compatible with the News @ initiative.  They presented some prototypes yesterday following Ray Matthews' enthusiastic presentation on creative ways that we might use RSS in state government.  Ray maintains an online RSS tutorial that he uses to support a class that he offers through the State Library.  The Library maintains a growing body of RSS feeds such as the Utah and National Public Library News.

(image) I just used one of the Library's outstanding online services to reserve Ben Hammersly's new book, Content Syndication with RSS.  First, I checked the online catalog to see the status, then I used the live chat to see what the process was for reserving materials, and the book will be sent through interoffice mail as soon as it is available (Ray's already got it checked out).

Using Weblogs and RSS for Project Communication

Fri, 04 Apr 2003 00:55:06 GMT

Several days ago, Jon Udell wrote about the efficacy of using weblogs for managing project communications.  I believe that I will take him up on that suggestion.  I already pull my Homeland Security RSS feed into the Utah Product Management Council website.  If I were more conscientious about doing this, it would be much easier than managing certain aspects of the site with Dreamweaver.  I have lagged in adequately maintaining that as other things have taken priority.

Dot Gov Domain Names

Fri, 28 Mar 2003 21:49:24 GMT

Several years ago, GSA was charged with managing the .gov domain by the Federal Networking Council.  Fortunately, Utah had obtained the domain prior to that time.  Today, GSA finalized rules associated with dot gov.  The rule includes recommendations for local government domain names.  GSA's registration service can be found at .  In Utah, we are recommending for consistency and easy recognition that local governments register through with the format "" or".  Al Sherwood is the registrar for the domain.

Ray Matthews is Collaborating with Jenny Levine!

Tue, 25 Feb 2003 14:56:21 GMT

Jenny Levine (the Shifted Librarian) and Ray Matthews of the Utah State Library will both be making presentations on the use of RSS at an upcoming GILS conference.  I am glad to see that Ray is involved since he has done a marvelous job of helping to promote the use of RSS in Utah.  I'm glad to see the collaboration that is taking place.  Jenny's goals for Illinois are very similar to ours:

What I'd really like to see is the RSS-ification of all library and government news (for starters), plus the creation of a news aggregator that can be branded by each individual library. The library would give away the software (or access to a web site), hand-pick a set of default, localized feeds, and then promote the aggregator to its residents while working with local government to RSS-ify the whole town! Ray and I both think NewsMonster has potential for this type of application since it claims to handle news sites that don't provide their own RSS feeds, but neither of us has had a chance to play with it yet. If nothing suitable has developed by August, I'd like to apply for grant funds to create such a beast (along with the bookmarklets + OPAC search toolbar).

I've established a goal with the Utah Product Management Council for every agency to have its own RSS feed.  We've got a long ways to go, but I believe that some progress is being made.


Thu, 20 Feb 2003 14:28:47 GMT

XACML is a newly adopted standard for access control (18 Feb 2003). 

XACML is expected to address fine grained control of authorized activities, the effect of characteristics of the access requestor, the protocol over which the request is made, authorization based on classes of activities, and content introspection (i.e. authorization based on both the requestor and potentially attribute values within the target where the values of the attributes may not be known to the policy writer).

 "XACML is designed to enable the expression of well-established ideas in the field of access-control policy. Such a common policy language, "if implemented throughout an enterprise, allows the enterprise to manage the enforcement of all the elements of its access control policy in all the components of its information systems."

Dave McNamee is the ITS product manager that is assigned to authentication services.  He is working on issues like single sign-on, directory integration with SSO, secure authorization, etc.  XML-based authentication services is another item to add to his plate.

XML and Product Management

Tue, 11 Feb 2003 20:12:47 GMT

Yesterday's Happy Birthday XML! announcement from OASIS.

A must read for egovernment product managers is DM Review's article Easing Integration with Web Services.  Even if you may not need to understand the technology in depth, you need to know what it's about and what it can help you accomplish.  This article may help you to do that.

News Feeds for Government

Wed, 29 Jan 2003 18:52:53 GMT

Bill Gratsch asks the question, "Why doesn't  every elected federal official offer a free feed (of at least their press releases) to local organizational websites back home?"  They should and they will - beginning in Utah.  I think it's just a matter of time.  Watch closely.

I think the idea of doing this on is a great one.  I will discuss the concept with our Division of Administrative Rules to see what value might be added to the outstanding things they are already doing.

Government RSS

Thu, 23 Jan 2003 17:49:08 GMT

There are now 58 government-related RSS feeds on Syndic8.  That is a major improvement from when I looked about six months ago and an exciting development in light of my goal to have all Utah agencies produce their news in RSS.  I discovered that the Utah State Library's Ferret newsletter now has an RSS feed as well.  Good for them!  Time to add more sources to my aggregator.

Actuate and XML

Tue, 21 Jan 2003 21:59:00 GMT

Dave McNamee is the enterprise product manager for Actuate, a reporting tool that several agencies are using to deliver content to the web.  It looks like the Actuate server will deliver content in XML format which presents a number of interesting ideas based on the content that I know is already available through Actuate reports.  I am hoping that Dave and his customers are already looking at ideas related to this and thinking of new services that they can deliver to customers using this vehicle.  Once we have some working models, I would like to share them with the Utah product management council.


Mon, 20 Jan 2003 20:39:22 GMT

I finally added geotags to my site today.  Looks like D. Mitchell's Random Thoughts blog is about the closest weblog around that's using geotags (other than Windley).  Looking through his prior posts, I found this great blogging tool resource.

Blogging in DC

Wed, 15 Jan 2003 13:59:01 GMT

Phil Windley has been blogging at the Universal Access Collaboration Expedition workshop in Washington, DC.  He presents some great information for government on:

Speaking of open-source, I am going to push for several more open-source tools to be included in the State's software standards documents.

Meanwhile, Jim Stewart is dreaming about fiber to his home.  I've got it (just like most of American Fork) but am wondering when the city will ever re-activate it.

OWASP Web Application Vulnerability Report

Tue, 14 Jan 2003 17:21:03 GMT

OWASP has released their top vulnerabilities for web applications.  All electronic product managers absolutely need to pay attention to these issues.  While you're there, you may want to review their Guide to Developing Secure Web Applications.

Rhode Island moves to open-source

Fri, 10 Jan 2003 16:07:17 GMT

eWeek reports on Rhode Island's use of open-source for the development of their online rules and regulations system.  Kudos to Rhode Island.  I imagine that there is probably a lot of open-source utilization by government that goes unreported.

National Middleware Initiative

Thu, 02 Jan 2003 19:02:11 GMT

The National Science Foundation Middleware Initiative (NMI) proposes to design, develop, deploy and support a set of reusable, expandable middleware functions and services that benefit many applications in a networked environment, and which will, a) facilitate scientific productivity, b) increase research collaboration through shared data, digital libraries, computing, code, facilities and applications, c) support the education enterprise, d) encourage the participation of industry partners, government labs and agencies for more extensive development and wider adoption and deployment, e) establish a level of persistence and availability so that researchers and other applications developers and disciplines can take advantage of the middleware, f) encourage and support the development of standards and open source approaches, g) enable scaling and sustainability to support the larger research and education communities, and h) encourage international coordination for interoperability.

Release 2 of the NMI software was made available on October 25th.  It includes eleven distinct software packages supporting many different operating environments, online services, directory schema, conventions and best practices, architecture documents, and policies.

Web Services Specs

Fri, 27 Dec 2002 18:28:31 GMT

Last week, Microsoft, IBM and others released six new web services specifications:

WS-Policy, WS-PolicyAttachment, WS-PolicyAssertions, WS-SecurityPolicy, WS-Trust, and WS-SecureConversation are six new Web service specifications aimed at advancing security capabilities and streamlining business policy for organizations implementing Web services. These specifications are the second wave of work that is part of a broader road map of proposed Web services security capabilities outlined by IBM and Microsoft in April to tackle the growing need for consistent support of more secure Web services.

RSS in Government?

Wed, 27 Nov 2002 20:03:13 GMT

Just discovered this item in the Mercury News on RSS.  Michael Bazely states, "Even government has discovered RSS as a way to share press releases, documents and data with the public and other bureaucrats."  The implication is that government is slow and cumbersome and not very technologically savvy.   Bazely also mentions the Utah State Library's excellent tutorial on RSS.  If you work for the State, be sure to sign up for one of the Library's classes on publishing to the web.

Novell and XForms

Fri, 15 Nov 2002 22:54:32 GMT

(image) Interesting.  Novell has posted ambitious plans to support the new W3C XForms standard.  When you go to Novell's XForms site, you are redirected to Silverstream which was purchased by Novell earlier this year.  I guess this means that Novell is committed to XML?  I would have liked to see something happen with their XIS project which presented an excellent vision for integrating XML into the enterprise.

Unstructured Data

Wed, 06 Nov 2002 20:15:44 GMT

Popular columnist, Jon Udell, weighs in on Phil Windley's comments on unstructured data.  There are all kinds of options here that we are exploring, but Phil's right on about the ROI issue - very hard to determine.  Several Utah agencies are using IBM's Content Manager (not to be confused with Interwoven and other web content management tools) and have suggested making that an enterprise solution for unstructured data.  The master index could reside on the mainframe and allow us to search databases, video, text documents, email, and other unstructured data.  On several occasions, I have strolled through the State Archives temporary storage warehouse, a huge facility with rows and rows of shelving, 10-15 feet high, of boxes of documents.  It's a challenge just to manage the boxes and their content, without even attempting to deal with the content of the documents themselves. And Archives only receives a fraction of what is actually produced.  Jon talks about providing guidance for naming conventions.  It sounds simple, but requires a degree of discipline that most large organizations seldom have.

More Jon Udell columns:

Developing a Statewide News Service

Tue, 29 Oct 2002 17:08:28 GMT

The Utah State Library has done an excellent job at creating a training structure to support statewide online initiatives.  They have created a course designed for PIOs entitled "Publish & Syndicate Your News to the Web."  The emphasis will be the practical application of RSS XMLRDF metadata endorsed by the state CIO for dynamic content publishing.