Sam Ruby has a post that is particularly on target for answering (or at least exploring) a couple of questions I posed to the atom-syntax group (see Threads: “Why Use Atom?” and “Atom Inside web application architecture”). His was a follow-up to Yaron Goland’s entertaining Revenge of Babble post. The comments are enlightening, both in the ways folks try to answer/address the problem AND in the ways that no one really DOES, at least definitively (or so it seems to me). The closest is Sam Ruby:
Yaron Yoland: “What are the criteria that identify a problem that ATOM is a good solution for? And even more importantly what are some key flags to look for that identify a problem that ATOM is probably a bad idea for?”
Sam Ruby: “My take: Atom is good for circumstances where data can be organized into “chunks” that you can identify by title, location, who made the last change, when that change was made, and the data itself is either textual or a brief textual summary can be obtained/synthesized. When is it bad? While the above list suggests several pieces of data that should be present, these requirements don’t tend to be equally weighted. The most fundamental pieces of information in my experience are ones that allow a client to answer the following two questions: have I seen this information before, and did it change? Where can I find it and did it meaningfully change are next.
(…) But my experience is that being able to answer “did this resource change?” in both machine and human terms is essential for proper use of HTTP and Atom respectively.”
The question I need to answer is: “what is the cost associated with Atom, and what are the benefits?”. DASe is built in PHP5, and the XML tools available (XMLReader, XMLWriter, SimpleXML, etc.) are REALLY easy to use when dealing with XML that’s not too complex. In all cases, the XML I am passing around is very simple: lists of collections, lists of items, lists of media files. Seems to me there IS some cost to using Atom internally in the application since it inevitably makes those very simple XML structures more complex. I’m beginning work on a generic DASe Atom class that will help simplify the process of serializing and unserializing PHP objects and object arrays in to Atom entries and/or feeds and see what that gives us. Two things I hope to discover: one: does Atom help me answer that question “did this resource change?” and/or help me “bake” that into the representation of that data, and two: obviously, Atom transforms any/all data endpoints into service endpoints. What’s gained there? Perhaps a lot, in fact, since I can “subscribe” to internal processes in the application (e.g., error logging) as a monitoring/maintenance tool.
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