Thursday, July 1, 2010

We OPML'd the DoD

I'm just giddy about this. We OPML'd the DoD. Specifically, we published OPML for Joint Capability Areas. It turned out to be so easy, too. I wish I could easily convey the significance of this achievement.

JCA's are an exhaustive military taxonomy declaring hundreds of defined military capabilities. They are predominantly referenced in decision making for acquisitions and planning. All over the military there are organizations who are required to map every aspect of their existences to JCAs or else be denied resources. Consequently, nearly every “decision support” and “business intelligence” tool under the sun (there are hundreds, if not thousands of them; costing tens, if not hundreds, of millions) has a requirement for mapping JCAs. Just this week (in fact, after we decided to do this) one of our teams received a requirement to add JCA mappings in a database. The first question that came to my mind was, "how are they going to get that data into the system?"

You see, JCAs are published in
formats that are only readable by people, and not in formats that can be used by tools. As a result, people repeatedly spend unnecessary time manually keying in JCAs just so they can be available for menu items, pick lists, and other input forms in their software applications. This is inefficient, error prone, and easily solved by publishing JCAs in Outline Processor Markup Language

So that's what we did.

Now system integrators can consume a URL-addressable, well-formed, hierarchical, text document as input to their application development. No more need to manually key stuff. No more typos. Point any developer worth his/her salt as this URL and they will be off to the races.

It's too bad the owner of JCAs doesn't publish more portable content, but maybe now they will.

Credit where it is due:
Our (2nd) wonderful co-op student from Rochester Institute of Technology, Ben Kaiser wrote the code. Longtime Bridgeborner, Rob Shell shared some SME-ness and was Johnny-on-the-Spot with this (mostly well-formed) HTML version of the JCAs. Thanks also to Sunlight Labs for feedback on choosing the right technology to get the job done. Raymond Yee provided an excellent model for us to follow (in response to this project idea from Clay Johnson).

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