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Re: Improved writing -- who's going to pay for it?

  • From: "Simon St.Laurent" <simonstl@s...>
  • To: "'xml-dev@l...'" <xml-dev@l...>
  • Date: Thu, 12 Oct 2000 08:35:33 -0400

formal schema
At 02:57 AM 10/12/00 -0700, Ronald Bourret wrote:
>Linda van den Brink wrote:
>> What I'm interested in knowing, is how sure are we that the w3c (schema and
>> other?) specs are not comprehensible enough, and that implementation
>> experience and rapid acceptance are being affected. Is it just a hunch we
>> have? A general feeling among people on this list? What's the w3c's view on
>> this?
>For me, it's largely a hunch. I'm smart enough to have waded through the
>XML 1.0 spec and written a DTD parser, but dumb enough to need to read
>most specs quite a few times before I begin to undestand them. I'm also
>in the target audience for the schema spec -- I'll (hopefully) be
>writing a processor in the next few months to generate database schemas
>from XML Schemas. So when I feel (as Miloslav Nic does) like a "10 year
>old child reading in general theory of relativity" and put the spec
>aside (yet again) due to frustration, I can only assume that others feel
>this way, too.

I'm in a similar position to Ron.  I've been through most of these specs
repeatedly, but no longer claim I genuinely understand them.  (I was once
naive enough to believe I had a handle on the XML 1.0 spec, but have since
decided that even that spec has enough unexplainable choices in it that I
shouldn't claim understanding.)

Unlike Ron, though, it's not just a hunch for me. I get similar responses
from developers every time I present on these specs at conferences.  

I've heard from developers using XML Data Reduced simply because they could
read those specs and make sense of them.  

I've heard from developers who have decided to ignore the formal schema
creation process entirely because they found English-language descriptions
far more precise and readable for their needs.  (Limited needs, but real

I've heard from developers sticking to DTDs because the costs of learning
and implementing schemas still seem to outweigh the benefits.

I've heard from a lot of developers who think XML Schemas should be
subsetted for an initial release, though everyone appears to have a
different set of priorities for that subset.

I've heard from developers who are trudging forward through XML Schemas
because they're convinced there's an answer their, but who admit readily
that they can't find it.

I deal with a lot of folks who take the W3C imprimatur very seriously, and
feel they must learn XML Schemas simply because it comes from the W3C, but
who will readily admit that they aren't happy with this product.

And yes, I do hear from some people who adore XML Schemas, even from people
who didn't help write them.  Just not very many of them.

Improved writing, reduced scope, and a process that's more willing to pause
and reconsider when large numbers of developers make clear their
frustration are all things that might help XML Schemas.  I've suspected
that it's too late for a very long time, however, and doubt that this
heavily-loaded train rolling down the mountain can be stopped.

(What happens at the bottom of the mountain is another issue.)

On the other hand, good writing may not be enough to get a spec
implemented.  XLink is (IMHO) one of the best-written W3C specs out there,
but I still don't see a lot of activity there.

Simon St.Laurent
XML Elements of Style / XML: A Primer, 2nd Ed.
XHTML: Migrating Toward XML
http://www.simonstl.com - XML essays and books


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