Creating a new, common language for machine-readable information allows information to be shared across organizations with disparate information systems and information formats. The Global Justice XML Data Model is a successful example of such a language. Its success prompted the development of a similar, but broader initiative called the National Information Exchange Model. Both models integrate information systems via very general communication standards (a shared language) and common resources (forms for specific types of communication). As long as an system includes an interface that speaks the common language, it can communicate with any other system. Moreover, a repository of forms makes it less costly to implement communication of a specific form.
Creating a new language for machine-readable information sharing has significant costs. Teaching persons to use well a new language is costly. Developing a large collection of works in the new language (a library of forms) requires considerable time and resources. Moreover, these languages typically aren’t easy for humans to read. Presentation software can be developed to translate the machine-readable language into something that a human can easily parse, but that requires additional investment.
An alternative to creating a new language for machine-readable information sharing is to have information shared via machine-generated, human-readable presentations. Demand for human-readable information already exists both within organizations and across organizational boundaries. Considerable resources are already engaged in meeting that demand through machine-generated, human-readable tables and reports. Machine-readable information sharing via human-readable forms requires technology for tagging and aggregating machine-generated, human-readable information.
Sharing information across information systems via a human-readable layer isn’t as powerful or efficient as sharing via a new, machine-readable language. But the former better enables the development of human constituencies for information production. Among small, loosely connected organizations, local public constituencies for information production play an important role in supporting global information sharing.
Academia offers an instructive example. Academic initiatives to foster data sharing and journal requirements for use of data repositories have had quite limited success in fostering data sharing. Sharing of human-readable academic papers via personal websites and working-paper repositories, in contrast, has grown enormously. New publishing tools that easily integrate databases into new forms of electronic publications to create dynamic tables and charts will link much more data into human-readable forms. Such data can be translated, with some effort, into machine-readable forms.
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