RELAX and Evolutionary somethingorother
I'm a bit distressed to see the list wander off into the Capitalism thread, but hey, at least the posts aren't in rhyme! Anyway, I think the original issue of the Capitalism thread is worth returning to: what do we know about how technology, business, society, and/or knowledge evolves that would shed light on whether RELAX NG is a viable technology in which to invest time, money, and "love"? * If you believe some crude notion of international capitalism calling the shots, it's not worth discussing. The unholy Redmond - Redwood Shores - Armonk - Davos alliance seems to have already chosen W3C XSD, so get to work figuring it out! * If you believe that "beauty equals truth" http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/26/science/26MATH.html and truth will prevail, bet on RELAX NG and start writing tools to support it. * If you think the world is more complex, and that both the private agendas of the huge companies (who, let's face it, drove the W3C XSD requirements and are its stauchest defenders) and the selection process driven by the Blind Watchmaker / Invisible Hand will interact to determine RNG's fate, we've got a lot to think about. First, what are the needs that drove the requirements for XSD so far beyond what most of us think of as the 80/20 point? AFAIK, it was a) the need to map complex databases and enterprise application data to XML so that data could be mapped to exchanged across systems and applications ... and b) the need to support schema evolution more cleanly, i.e. make minor changes to RDBMS or XML schemas without breaking everything or forcing a simultaneous update of systems all over the world. Does XSD really meet those needs? Can it be implemented consistently to do so? Sooner or later I have to think that it will ... either the spec will be revised by the W3C or (more likely?) some sort of informal "schema interoperability organization" will figure out the profile of the W3C spec that meets the real needs of the Big Guys. Second, how long will that take? The hype machine giveth, but the hype machine taketh away, and one can imagine the "buzz" turning against W3C and XSD and mega-XML in the meantime. Will that happen? That depends on whether you think of the creators of buzz/hype as the paid servants of the Big Guys or not. I personally don't ... I think that hype has a life of its own, but since XML/XSD is supported by EVERYBODY and nobody but a few lonely voices in the wilderness is objecting, one can make a plausible argument that this time the hype cycle won't slide down the trough of disillusionment. We shall see. IMHO, in the long run, the Blind Watchmaker beats the monopolists and the hypemeisters every time. Complex systems (or specification) will only survive if they are assembled out of reliable components that can stand on their own. If a spec or a product is propped up only by monopolistic business practices or paid hypesters, sooner or later the environment will change, and systems and subsystems will have to survive on their intrinsic merits. Herbert Simon's essay "The Architecture of Complexity" (I like this summary: http://www.netage.com/Learning/Publications/Seybold/Seybold9_2-90.html) is the classic explanation in the context of computer science. I don't know whether RNG will "win", or XSD will be cleaned up and rebuilt out of more reliable components, or (most likely) the best features of both will be subsumed by some trancendent synthesis that we can't yet envision. I simply can't imagine RNG becoming irrelevant, however. It seems worthy of study and support; even if what we use in 5 or 10 years is not called "RELAX", it will owe much to the efforts of Murata, Clark, et. al.
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