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Re: The XML 500 word Challenge

500 word essay
10/27/2002 3:22:47 AM, AndrewWatt2000@a... wrote:

>  I would suggest that many Web developers would choke (terminally?) on the
>  term "labelled tree". A (caricature) response might go like this: "What the
>  !*"!)? is a labelled tree? I remember seeing a tree with yellow ribbons on
>  it in that old film but labels? What's this guy talking about? Is he a
>  computer whiz kid or the curator of an arboretum?"
>  Many will genuinely choke on the term metalanguage too.
>  So, in my view, you will have lost/bamboozled a significant number of
>  potential readers in the first substantive sentence of your essay.

OK, fair enough. I'm tempted to surrender in humiliation .... But
some questions before I do:

So, the notion of a "tree" in the data structure sense is
over the head of the average user?  That may be true, or at least its
"truth" was beaten into the heads of the original DOM working group by the 
browser vendors, which it why DOM supports both the tree navigation
view and the "lists of lists of lists of lists" view. I'm thinking that
while "labeled trees" is obviously too geeky, anyone who doesn't understand
Data Structures 101 is simply not going to have a clue what the "XML as
a particular type of hierarchical data structure" view is all all about,
and that's a failure of education that I can't hope to remedy :-) How about
"a specific kind of 'tree' data structure where every node has a label 
(analogous to the 'tags' and attribute names in HTML).  That's not strictly
correct (text nodes, barf) but is it understandable by your audience?

On the "XML as abstract syntax" side of the aisle, I have to agree that
"metalanguage" is definitely in the realm of geekdom. But how does one convey
to Joe Webhacker what the "angle bracket thingies" are if there is no
constraint that they consist of the tags <h1>, <h2>, <p>, <b>, etc. etc. etc.?
"Language for creating languages" is not quite right in the well-formed XML
world.  How about "Conventions for defining what is "markup" and what 
is content?

Yup, it is hard to de-geekify one's vocabulary, that's for sure!  But let's
be a little more specific about what we can assume about typical web developers
before wasting any more of our time.  Do they understand what HTML is and that
it has "elements" and "attributes"? Do they understand the distinction between
content and markup?  Do they understand the distinction between the HTML 
source text and the representation inside the browser that is manipulated with
a DOM-like API?  I'm afraid that people will just have to learn these concepts
in order to have a prayer of understanding "XML" beyond "the secret sauce for
interoperability that everyone says I need to buy."  


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