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Less Stupid XML

  • From: "Bullard, Claude L (Len)" <clbullar@i...>
  • To: xml-dev@l...
  • Date: Thu, 05 Oct 2000 14:51:31 -0500

shocked monkey
Taking Dvorak to a different level.  We 
know that XML works fine applied well, 
and that folks like Dvorak, and really, 
most users, should not be aware that it 
is there.  He is complaining like a shocked 
monkey usually does: by showing his teeth.

Simplicity and complexity are terms often  
used to beat up solutions we don't like, 
or worse, don't own.  So what are some 
other terms we might use to describe 
qualities of good XML design.  Let me toss 
out three:

1.  Transparency - the quality that the 
designer and or the mechanism is invisible. 
In art, say songwriting, this means that 
the song when listened to, reflects the 
listener and not the singer or songwriter.  
Shakespeare is considered phemomenal because 
you learn so little about him studying his work. 
In fact, we know very little about him.  A good 
XML-enabled site should do that do.  When 
I see a business site, I want to see  
the business, not XML savvy.

2. Coherence - the quality of a signal that 
it transmits the longest distance with the 
least attenuation.  See LASER.  When we begin 
to work with XLang, we will finally see the 
ultimate application of extensibility.  We 
begin to use enterprise modeling to create 
long term transactions.   Consider these the 
macro level of what we do in the business objects 
with ACID properties.  In effect, we hierachicalize 
the business process such that within it, each 
process opens and closes correctly and can be said 
not just to be, well-formed, but well-performed. 

My intuition (with some ancient work to back it up) 
is that the quality of coherence is important.  There 
will be patterns in these processes that scale 
and produce mutually reinforcing patterns.  Thus, 
what we will see in coherent systems will be their 
ability to propagate for very long terms without 
loss of information.  Orchestration will depend 
on achieving coherent presentation and navigation. 
It is a hierarchy of feedback systems, each 
enabling events to open and close such that no 
event transits a view dimension unpredictably.  
Be aware of hidden couplers.  They resonate and 
create interference patterns that look like noise 
or distortion in the image. 

On the other hand, it is precisely such patterns 
that create images and these are very useful for 
seeing around the shape of the thing.  This is a 
hint to those who are working on using XML/XSLT 
for visualization tools.

3. Predictable - In short, Don't Shock The Monkey. 
If the monkey is shocked, it reacts unpredictably. 
VRML navigation has this problem and we are working 
to solve it.

Mammals meet surprise with hesitation.  If we want 
a transparent and coherent system, we have to make 
sure the ear is satisfied with a certain amount 
of predictable repetition over innovation.  (that is really 
at the heart of dvorak's dilemma).  If you must 
shock the monkey, be sure of the reason for it.  
Usually it is to wake the monkey up because the 
predictable experience put them to sleep.  In these 
cases, better bananas than bees.  Paul Grosso 
told me once about the principle of least surprise, 
and it is the heart of the matter.  It isn't the 
same as consistency, by the way.  You really do 
have to wake them up to get them to listen. 

Which is also probably why Dvorak shocks this 
tree from time to time. ;-)

Len Bullard
Intergraph Public Safety

Ekam sat.h, Vipraah bahudhaa vadanti.
Daamyata. Datta. Dayadhvam.h


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