In April of 2001, I was so much into XML and had some ideas. I worked as a software engineer at Knowledgeview between 1999 and 2001. The company was heavily focused on developing content syndication software for news agencies and newspapers. At the time, Perl language was still dominant for parsing text, and Java was popular for web applications. Knowledgeview was adamant about using standard specifications, including NewsML, NITF, RSS, and more. Initially outlined in 1998, XML was starting to become a hot topic at the company. As a young programmer working mainly from the Lebanon office of Knowledgeview, I had less exposure to the technologies the London office was working on. That did not stop me from trying to innovate. On April 23, 2001, I sent an email to the XML mail distro at Knowledgeview that said:Date: Mon, April 23 2001 11:39:03 +0100
“Attached is a 4-page white paper about a concept that crossed my mind last week. The idea initially started after a brief conversation with Dr. Ali about XML, in which he mentioned that not all companies might integrate XML into their applications. Such a remark made me think of solutions that would keep one form of framework for companies to exchange their data based on customized and different structuring without resorting to application modifications (expensive) but where standards (like any form of XML) still apply.”
If the industry is heading towards XML as a standard form of communication across systems or applications, and if some companies may need more time to jump onto XML, why not generate an orchestration mechanism between company A and company B to share data?
The steps would be as follows:
- let each company declare its set of set delimiters D for its content and publish the format on a shared repository
- define a set of XSL rules that convert each set of delimiters D from (1) into a universal XML X format.
- anytime a company Y would like to leverage data from company X, company Y would query the shared repository for
company X data specification and execute the set of rules in 2 to convert the text from Company X into the format
needed for Company Y.
I named the technique Reverse XML
I did not hear from anyone in the company about my idea. I was 27 at the time and was still young in the industry. I did not push myself or know any better ways to articulate my idea other than just emailing. A few months later, I left the company, not because of this but because I decided to move to the United States and build a new future with my wife.
Why am I saying all this? I thought I had a great idea at the same time. Given that I had limited resources, I did not know that there might have been a similar product out there. Maybe if I know at that time what know now I could have been more aggressive in marketing my idea. Moreover, even if I did not hear from my management, I should have tried another way. Nevertheless, I was proud of my idea and the name that I gave it Reverse XML. I tried to be imaginative and was thinking big. In my conclusion I wrote:
- Our database would include all companies’ source formats. In contrast, our content-representation language that should handle all these formats may create a data bridge between all those companies whose applications still need to be XML-friendly.
- Having said point 1, our database would also be valuable because we can market-focus our products that may interest these companies.
Note: “Reverse XML” may be free to use, and our company may provide the option to write the client’s content key files as a paid service.
I was thinking of open-sourcing the solution but providing a paid service for assisting companies.
It may have been a great business opportunity. This idea may have turned big, just like JSON format nowadays. What if I patented the idea or made something more of it? There is no shortage of one’s tendency to dream and think of significant accomplishments. Why not? Unfortunately, I did not push for it, and, at the same time, I could not convey its value in a better presentable fashion.
I later received a call from management, but eventually, the idea needed to be understood or accepted.
At the time, this idea could have had great potential. But that does not matter. What matters is to keep your ideas. Push for them. That said, if you are in your late twenties, early thirties, or older and have an idea, push for it with your heart and soul. It might win big; if it does not, learn from your mistakes to do something even better next time. Don’t wait for someone to call you … be proactive and make the call - not once but more.
You can download the letter that I wrote in 2001 here.
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