Home > Articles > Information Technology

The Big Score (in a Web Services Way)

📄 Contents

  1. Better Data Transfer Equals Better Data
  2. Going Farther
  • Print
  • + Share This
Web services expert Bob Grogan examines issues of data transfer, data format, and submission control in a continuing look at his example real-time sports score-reporting service.
Like this article? We recommend

Like this article? We recommend

In my last article, "Real-Time Sports Scores as a Service," we constructed a functional, if unremarkable, way to distribute sports scores to wayward employees throughout a company. Although our solution met the requirements that we set, it is hosted by a single point-of-failure, the data is insecure, and it suffers from limitations that would quickly prevent scalability.

The one thing that this approach does not suffer from is extensibility. Let's pretend that the booking quickly takes off in a profitable way that only Web business have a way of doing accidentally. The creators (that's us) quit their jobs and move to the Bahamas with a plan to expand the gambling empire and thus the infrastructure of their application. What would be the initial targets for improvement?

Better Data Transfer Equals Better Data

The most glaring weakness is the method of data transfer. Query strings are fine for returning entries in your remote address book that begin with W and not the ones that begin with X (who was Xander, anyway?), but they're lacking in areas of performance and extension. Any new piece of data to be handled would require distributing the correct query string parameter to anyone who wanted to provide information. If only there was a way to publish our data format and allow providers to expand their offerings as their capabilities increased. Now there is. With all the talk of XML as the solution to our ills, I would be remiss if I did not establish a standard score-reporting XML format (not guaranteed to comply with any standard but its own).

XML is a technology that is developing at the perfect time to capitalize on the distributed nature of the Web and associated services. Falling under the heading of "You've come a long way, flat file," XML provides an ever-increasing array of tools for creating, validating, and manipulating data in a nonproprietary, human-readable format. For the purpose of expanding our profitable message-passing business, XML makes a perfect package, for a couple of very important reasons.

First, let's do a generic survey of some of the more familiar uses. The weakness of HTML, especially as an interface standard for something as important as the Internet, is that, without compilation, developers are free to do it as badly as they choose, with minimal consequences. What a browser does not understand, a browser tends to ignore. With the addition of a rigorous data form (XML) creating XHTML, HTML can be verified as correct.

Extending this a bit further is something called an XSL style sheet. For those of you familiar with cascading styles sheets (CSS), which apply branding to a Web site in the form of fonts sizes and background colors, XSL takes this to the next logical level and applies a sort of structural style to data. Among other benefits, this brings code reuse. Now adding the side navigation bar and the top navigation bar to another page is a matter of applying the appropriate transformations. Finally, allowing the user to choose not to add the one on the left or the right instead is a matter of applying a different transformation. In addition, similar style sheets can be used to limit data to the capabilities of the consumer. For example, pagers receive only text, while the Jumbotron can receive signals to display fireworks when a home run is hit.

XML as Data Formatting

Our needs are less interface-related and more strictly data-related. The weakness of all binary formats, including Java serialization, is the proprietary basis. Whatever packs the data must also unpack the data. This operation must be done in the right order, with the correct parameter byte width, the correct software version, and so on. The weakness of all previous text-based data formats other than the size and speed is that, to handle textual data, text must be used to delimit the data. Not much progress has been made since comma-delimited files, and everyone has their strategies for dealing with names: "[First name], [Middle Name/No middle name], [Last Name], [Suffix/No Suffix]." With XML, it becomes a simple matter of this:

<NAME>
        <FIRST_NAME>Gordon</FIRST_NAME>
        <LAST_NAME>Lightfoot</LAST_NAME>
        <SUFFIX_NAME>III</SUFFIX_NAME>
</NAME>

Adding a middle name is only a matter of another element named <MIDDLE_NAME>. Handling a different combination becomes simple:

<NAME>
        <FIRST_NAME>Prince</FIRST_NAME>
</NAME>

Again, the scoring example intrudes. Sure, as long as we stick to major league baseball, data is relatively obvious:

<NEW_GAME
               start_time = "8:00 PST">
       <TEAM
               location = "Seattle"
               mascot = "Mariners"/>
       <TEAM
               location="Texas"
               mascot="Rangers"/>
</NEW_GAME>

A query string is relatively inflexible and very ugly at any length. XML improves upon this greatly for messaging and formatting, but XML offers the additional benefit of structured storage. We can put updates in a form roughly as follows:

<UPDATE>
       <TEAM
               location = "Seattle"
               mascot = "Mariners"/>
       <TEAM
               location="Texas"
               mascot="Rangers"/>
               <POSITION>5th Inning</POSITION>
               <DESCRIPTION>
                       Alex Rodriguez hit by line drive.
               </DESCRIPTION>
</UPDATE>

Then those updates can simply be inserted between the previous tags with the duplicated <TEAM> information removed. No matter how many separate sources submit their take on an event, they can all be incorporated into a single game-recap file.

Without getting overly excited about this business that I now plan to start, consider a few of the many openings that this format provides. Wrestlemania now becomes a trivial addition to the repertoire, even though only two of the participants are known at the outset. Each time a new wrestler enters the ring, this can be the package:

<UPDATE>
       <TEAM>Stone Cold</TEAM>
<UPDATE>

Now men's versus women's college sports can be indicated with the sex (or gender) attribute. The game recap can include an end_time attribute as well, even though it did not start with one.

Submission Control

Where does it all lead? To the Document Type Definition (DTD). If the business truly will expand beyond the water cooler, a variety of sources must be capable of submitting valid data without having to ask how. By publishing a complete DTD, we allow the general public to view the instructions for formatting. Any updates are controlled by version numbering of a single document. Even if wrestling grows to require an entirely new data format to cover the plot twists and sordid back stories, the update that we showed earlier can still be accepted by a less savvy provider if it's validated against the older DTD. There's no need for database table changes or additions to handle unforeseen customer demands. Yet, XML allows for basic queries, and if the archiving grows too large, a partial database solution could be added to enhance performance.

We also can slap on security features to maintain an official recap from official sources such as ESPN and CNNSi, and an unofficial version supplied by any fans and foes who have submitted their email addresses. Now, color commentary and the words of pork rind-eating brothers-in-arms can scroll in concert across the game and the sport. We also can add a little box next each to allow replies. We then finish with a link to the official team Webcast in either audio or video, depending on the bandwidth. Who could ask for more?

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020