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Syntax (was Re: heritage)


h ritage syntax in xml
Tim Bray writes:
>Michael Kay wrote:
>
>> The problem is that it should have an underlying model, but it
>> hasn't:
>
>I couldn't disagree more.  Defining the syntax without the underlying
>data model *maximizes* interoperability because it reduces the number
>of shared assumptions.  The notion that two organizations will share
>the data model for a purchase order or a bill of materials is just
>silly, but they can often deal with each others' serialized output. 
>The evidence in the field is overwhelmingly on my side.

I agree with Tim, though perhaps I go further.  

When I first started out in XML, the notion of "standardizing as much as
you can" seemed deeply appealing.  Over time, the limitations of "as you
can" and the impact of supposed agreements that concealed multiple
approaches has seem more and more dangerous, so I've pulled that back to
"standardize only things you can properly standardize".

Syntax is generally the easiest thing to standardize, if you can talk
the market into using it.  Trying to standardize processing (which XML
1.0 gets into, unfortunately) is much more difficult.  Trying to
standardize meaning is at least as difficult as standardizing
processing, and often interwined.

Unfortunately, standardizing only syntax can hide religious claims
behind a veneer of "but it's a standard", as is so painfully the case
with URIs and anything so unfortunate to use them only as identifiers.
Syntax standardization also seems to embolden people to go out and
standardize meanings and processing, which brings them right into the
weeds.

XML has demonstrated that agreement on syntax across a wide range of
information representation fields is both possible and useful, and
that's new and interesting.

>XML's lack of a data model is a deliberate, careful design decision,
>and the evidence of recent years is that it was correct.

I agree completely now, though I probably disagreed back when you were
making the decision.  (Sometimes it's much better that I'm not
involved!)


-------------
Simon St.Laurent - SSL is my TLA
http://simonstl.com may be my URI
http://monasticxml.org may be my ascetic URI
urn:oid:1.3.6.1.4.1.6320 is another possibility altogether

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