"We recently implemented the webservice interface from our vendors," Eric writes, "they're a large and generally well-respected software service firm."

"Their webservice returns SOAP messages — which is just fine — but instead of returning a useful XML string, it returns this."

<!-- ED: soap envelope omitted for readability -->
<string xmlns="urn:Initech.Global.Services">
  &lt;CompanyGetConnector&gt;
    &lt;xs:schema xmlns:xs="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema"&gt;
      &lt;xs:element name="InitechGetConnector"&gt;
        &lt;xs:complexType&gt;
          &lt;xs:choice maxOccurs="unbounded"&gt;
            &lt;xs:element name="employees"&gt;
              &lt;xs:complexType&gt;
                &lt;xs:sequence&gt;
                  &lt;xs:element name="EmployerName" type="xs:string" minOccurs="0"/&gt;
                  &lt;xs:element name="Employee" type="xs:string" minOccurs="0"/&gt;
                  &lt;xs:element name="Firstname" type="xs:string" minOccurs="0"/&gt;
                  &lt;xs:element name="Prefix" type="xs:string" minOccurs="0"/&gt;
                  &lt;xs:element name="Lastname" type="xs:string" minOccurs="0"/&gt;
                  &lt;xs:element name="Org._unit" type="xs:string" minOccurs="0"/&gt;
                  &lt;xs:element name="Function" type="xs:string" minOccurs="0"/&gt;
                  &lt;xs:element name="E-mail_work" type="xs:string" minOccurs="0"/&gt;
                  &lt;xs:element name="Telephone_work" type="xs:string" minOccurs="0"/&gt;
                  &lt;xs:element name="Mobile_work" type="xs:string" minOccurs="0"/&gt;
                  &lt;xs:element name="Birthdate" type="xs:date" minOccurs="0"/&gt;
                  &lt;xs:element name="Hired_since__irt._yearsemployed_" type="xs:date" minOccurs="0"/&gt;
                  &lt;xs:element name="Image" type="xs:base64Binary" minOccurs="0"/&gt;
                &lt;/xs:sequence&gt;
              &lt;/xs:complexType&gt;
            &lt;/xs:element&gt;
          &lt;/xs:choice&gt;
        &lt;/xs:complexType&gt;
      &lt;/xs:element&gt;
    &lt;/xs:schema&gt;

    &lt;employees&gt;
      &lt;EmployerName&gt;
        My Client
      &lt;/EmployerName&gt;
      &lt;Employee&gt;
        100001
      &lt;/Employee&gt;

      [cut rest of employee info]

      &lt;Image&gt;
        Nx4U8fSs+0lLRRNjORrUg/495x23NWHYf6j8T/OqW7QnsndLp74jJ5p64q6XycDrWZYk4PPc

        [cut rather large blob]

      &lt;/Image&gt;
    &lt;/employees&gt;
  &lt;/CompanyGetConnector&gt;
</string>

Eric continues, "while we can obviously write the code to extract the XML-encoded XML, decode it to XML, and then parse it as XML, we figured it'd be easier if they could just return XML in the first place. The vendor's response: it's actually better this way for future compatibility and, regardless, several customers already use it tihs way."