I am trying to read in an xml file, parse it and convert the information into Nodes. I have two questions:
1. should I create these nodes directly under /content to make them visible on dispatcher?
2. After the nodes have been made/updated how do I progromatically push them to publish/dispatcher instance?
When you parse the XML, do not convert every tag into JCR node by default. Instead try to leverage the features of JCR:
otherwise you end up with many unnecessary nodes, which just loads the repository.
To your questions:
1) You can put it in any other location as well to make them available on dispatcher. /content is displayed in the siteadmin and editors expect there to be pages. Therefor it is best practice not to store content, which is not supposed to be modified by editors, in /content. Depending on the nature of your data you can use /etc oder /var.
2) Use the replication service (the interfac for this: http://dev.day.com/docs/en/cq/current/javadoc/com/day/cq/replication/package-summary.html)