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limits of the generic

  • To: xml-dev@l...
  • Subject: limits of the generic
  • From: "Simon St.Laurent" <simonstl@s...>
  • Date: Fri, 27 Sep 2002 17:19:19 -0400

hairshirt meaning
Recent discussions of HLink here and on www-tag have made me reconsider
how much value there can really be in generic technologies.

XML is generic markup, capable of representing pretty much any ordered
and hierarchical content.  (Applications can throw away the order if
they choose.)  Labeled structures are useful.

There are a number of tools for manipulating that content which rely on
the labels and the structures - XSLT, DOM, SAX filters, etc.  These
tools have very few expectations about the content they process, and
programmers can provide whatever logic they want to produce results that
are meaningful to them.  

(RELAX NG is on the boundary of this, I think, but crosses out of it at
times, in things like mixed content processing.)

Unfortunately, there are also technologies which attempt to provide
meaning.  These technologies often define vocabularies which are meant
to be useful across all situations, but which can only prove effective
in situations which correspond to the worldviews of their designers.
W3C XML Schema is a classic case (especially its datatypes), but XLink
now seems destined to join it as a limited technology whose ambitions
outran its abilities.

(Note that I am NOT including in that category applications of XML which
seek to define vocabularies used in particular situations, only those
which would pretend to provide meaning to any XML document.)

Can we give up on the dream of generic semantics so that we can get some
real work done with labeled structured content?  Please?  A single
syntactic solution is useful.  A single semantic solution is a wretched
hairshirt straitjacket.

Simon St.Laurent - SSL is my TLA
http://simonstl.com may be my URI
http://monasticxml.org may be my ascetic URI
urn:oid: is another possibility altogether


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