Chapter 12 Author Matija Lah

I can’t tell you how nice it is that we have so many authors willing to jump in to do an interview with us. If there are questions you would like us to send to them please let me know.

Q: What was the driving factor on why you submitted to the Deep Dives book, how did you pick the chapter that you worked on?

A: The idea of donating royalties to charity was by itself enough for me to become enthusiastic about participating on this project, and the invitation to write about something that’s also my passion was another very good reason. From my experience XML after all the time since the initial W3C Recommendation still remains very much underused. It’s true that it has become omnipresent, but with all the technologies that surround it (XML Schema, XPath, XQuery, to name just the essential ones) it still has to live up to its full potential. Consider a typical real-life situation: having to transport structured (e.g. relational) data between heterogeneous environments and have its domain and relational integrity preserved intact. In most cases people prefer to use the native format of one of the environments to export data, and then rely on appropriate data providers in the other environment to make the import. More often than not this involves quite a lot of additional work: transformations, staging, data cleansing, etc. – simply because the two environments aren’t fully compatible. XML can bridge the gap between incompatible environments without creating mutual dependencies on formats and techniques native to either one of them – with the XML Schema protecting the integrity of the data being moved and with the XML Query providing the means to retrieve the data from the transport medium.

Q: For someone who is looking at getting started with XML where would be the best place to start?

A: A good place to start would quite simply be a classroom course. The key to understanding XML is not in focusing on what it is, but what it represents. IMHO, IT is the kind of business where understanding the concepts behind the technology is much more important than the technology itself – technologies change, but the concepts (if they correctly respond to a real-life requirement) remain unchanged, and XML is no exception. A good instructor will not show you any code until you understand the concepts. Online, I think W3 School’s (http://www.w3schools.com/) XML Tutorials are a great reference, although I wouldn’t recommend these as the sole resource for someone just starting out with XML. They do make things seem so simple, when in fact they usually aren’t simple at all. Thanks to fellow MVP Michael Coles there are several articles on the subject at SQL Server Central (http://www.sqlservercentral.com/), and – more or less unintentionally – the SQL Server MVP Deep Dives book can also serve well as an XML/XQuery resource for someone just starting out (as well as someone already “infected” by XML).

Q: When looking at SQL Server 2008 or SQL Server 2008 R2 what is your favorite new feature?

A: As I mainly work with the Standard and Express editions (Slovenia really isn’t a good market for the Enterprise edition), there really isn’t anything in R2 that would really impress me. When Microsoft first started talking about R2 they made it quite clear that there would be no major changes in the Database Engine, which made me think that there will perhaps be some changes in the other elements of the platform (SSIS, SSAS, SSRS). As it turns out, most improvements target the Enterprise and the new Data Center editions.

Q: There is a lot of information in this chapter, what made you think of the homework section?

A: As much as I can I like to avoid leaving an impression on the reader (or listener) that what they’ve just learned is all they would ever need to know about a particular subject. That kind of impression would be completely wrong, as learning is a continuous process – no finish line, just milestones. If properly inspired, most people will continue acquiring and improving their knowledge: for some the inspiration to go on comes spontaneously, others need a bit of encouragement. To the former the homework section is supposed to be a collection of possible directions to explore next; for the latter a collection of unexplored features to help them realize that an example is just that – an example, and that in real-life situations there are always more things to consider, more things to learn.

Q: What’s up next for you?

A: For the last three years I have been making deep dives of my own, namely into the depths of Artificial Intelligence and Law, and there is still a lot of work to be done – both in the way of making law machine-readable, as well as making humans understand the benefits of AI in the legal domain.

Matija Lah has graduated at the Faculty of Law at the University of Maribor, Slovenia, in 1999. As a lawyer with extensive experience in IT he in 2001 joined IUS SOFTWARE d.o.o., the leading provider of legal information in Slovenia, where he first came into contact with Microsoft SQL Server. In 2005 he decided on pursuing a career of a free-lance consultant in the domain of general, business and legal information, which in 2006 lead him to join AI-in-Law Future Technologies Inc. introducing Artificial Intelligence into the legal information domain. Based on his continuous contributions to the SQL community he was awarded the Most Valuable Professional award for SQL Server by Microsoft in 2007.


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