Meeting:         Naming and Design Rules and Guidelines: Going Forward

Date/Time:     May 4, 2006 / 0900 to 1215

Location:       NIST, Gaithersburg, MD

Executive Summary:

A meeting concerning the Federal XML Naming and Design Rules and Guidelines (NDRG) was held on 4 May 2006 at NIST in Gaithersburg, MD. Representatives were invited from NIST, DoD, DoN, DoJ, IRS, Education, EPA. In contrast to previous NDRG meetings, this meeting was not the normal monthly scheduled Federal XML Community of Practice (XML CoP) meeting. Instead, the plan was to bring together key stakeholders who have been following the NDRG development for the better part of a year in the hopes of deciding on a way forward that will be acceptable to all participants.

One idea which has been under discussion is to have a customizable approach to rules that can be either tightened or loosened as each agency wishes. The original intention of the workshop was to reach consensus that this is a desirable approach and to sketch out some of the tasks this approach would entail.

Participants included Joe Pantella (FGM on behalf of Glenda Hayes, DISA), Simon Frechette (NIST management), KC Morris (NIST), Josh Lubell (NIST), Boonserm Kulvatunyou (NIST), Owen Ambur (XML CoP), Betty Harvey (ECC), and Ken Sall (ODNI CIO/ICEA staff). Invited representatives from IRS, DoN, DoJ, Education and EPA did not attend for various reasons.

An unexpected outcome of this workshop was the suggestion to create something decidedly different from the current NDRG by focusing more on guidance rather than rules (the “G” in NDRG.) Instead of focusing mainly on restrictive rules which would be difficult if not impossible (and possibly ill-advised) to impose on XML developers government-wide, Mr. Frechette suggested creating a Best Practices guidance document. This suggestion was well received by all present, especially because it doesn’t preclude individual agencies from instituting more specific guidance, such as the DoN NDR and the IRS NDR, already stood up by their respective agencies.

Of course, developing Best Practices will involve a gathering of expert opinions, as well as a vetting process, so this activity will take some time. NIST proposed using their Sourceforge site for development of a schema for the documenting, tools for encoding, and encodings of the practices, while Mr. Sall proposed continuing to use for the document and presentation repository. Which of the two site options to use for a discussion forum was not discussed.



Ms. Morris led the initial discussion about the purpose of the workshop, as well as coverage of the NIST Quality of Design (QOD) tool which can be used to evaluate how closely an XML Schema adheres to a rule set. Ms. Morris, Ms. Harvey and Mr. Kulvatunyou discussed design and functional details of the QOD. The QOD stores executable test cases written in Schematron and Java Expert System Shell (JESS). It runs tests against a user-supplied schema and reports results (i.e., which NDR rules are violated). They also discussed potential enhancements to the QOD tool, such as an NDR authoring environment, stand-alone testing of schemas, and generation of NDR documentation.

Ms. Harvey presented the XML Schema used in QOD to describe a rule and ruleset; and demonstrated how this looked in XMetaL. She and Mr. Sall discussed a strawman schema (DTD) intended to cover NDRG as well as QOD needs.

Mr. Sall initiated the discussion about goals and objectives and a possible approach in which each agency could create custom XSLT stylesheets that pull rules selectively from a common rule repository (the full NDRG). Each agency could then control the kind of rules it wishes to impose, as well as their strength (i.e., MUST, SHOULD, etc.). The degree of inter-agency compatibility would be governed by MoUs, policies, laws, etc., rather than by any central governance authority. For example, two or more agencies that need to be tightly integrated in XML transactions could share the same (or similar) XSLT, with specific rules delineated in an MoU.

Mr. Sall and Ms. Morris presented their view of objectives and goals for the NDRG, acknowledging that additional objectives may be identified by other agencies:

    Common source of XML Schema rules that may be applied (to varying degrees) across most US government XML efforts.

    Derived from UN/CEFACT, ISO, and OASIS “NDR” standards.

    Customizable for adoption at various organizational levels: federal, department, agency, and project. That is, IRS, DoN, Education, DoJ, EPA, IC, etc. can each have their own NDR derived from (and traceable to) the common source.

    Provides varying degrees of interoperability across these levels, proportional to the degree of strictness of rule selection.

    Set guidelines for use of xsd:documentation to facilitate XML Registry Services integration.

    Facilitate practical use of the NDRG by providing tools for customization of the common source, and for testing how well specific XML Schemas adhere to their respective organization’s NDRs (via the NIST Quality of Design tool).

Mr. Pantella maintained that the word “rules” causes grave concern among developers and managers; perhaps “best practices” will be better received. Mr. Pantella mentioned that DoD’s Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES) has found the WS-I Profiles to be useful. The Best Practices document outline could be structured around concrete WS-I-like profiles (e.g., EDI, other data exchange, document types, etc.).



Action Items

    Examine WS-I profiles as basis for our user profiles –Joe, Ken

    Finish schema for use for document capture (structure or rule/section) – Betty,

    Define “nature” of rule (structure for rules), --Ken

    Suggest candidate topics for “best practices” document –Ken

    Define approach to modularity of rules --Serm, KC

    Define approach for traceability of rules (mechanism for tracking, versioning, and sharing rules)—Serm, KC

    Use case for how to use QOD in larger scope –Joe