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XML and entropy, again

  • To: XML Developers List <xml-dev@l...>
  • Subject: XML and entropy, again
  • From: Michael Champion <michaelc.champion@g...>
  • Date: Tue, 21 Dec 2004 10:22:23 -0500
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  • Reply-to: Michael Champion <michaelc.champion@g...>

entropy xml
We had a  classically xml-devish thread back in October about the
implications of Shannon's information theory for XML.  I must say I
didn't understand  much of that thread, but Kurt Cagle has an
intriguing entry in his weblog
http://metaphoricalweb.blogspot.com/2004/12/xml-and-entropy.html that
puts forth some ideas that seem both interesting and somewhat

"Entropy is important because it can better clarify the domain at
which it is best to work with a given document. XQuery I think
provides a good case in point here. XQuery supports XPath, and so it
has some of the advantages that XSLT has, but it's not really all that
useful for dealing with documents -- converting a DocBook document
into WordML or vice versa would be impossible in XQuery, but for many
business schemas with comparatively low entropies, XSLT is definitely

 I for one like the idea of his interpretation of the entropy of an
XML document in terms of the number of discrete states that its
(implicit or explicit?) schema allows.  I also like the idea that
certain tools are more or less appropriate depending on the entropy of
the documents being processed -- perhaps it's something like SAX and
DOM for low entropy, XQuery for medium entropy, and XSLT for high
entropy (very document-ish) documents.   I wonder, however, about the
assertions made for the appropriateness of XQuery and XSLT, e.g.
"converting a DocBook document into WordML or vice versa would be
impossible in XQuery".  It gets back into our XSLT vs XQuery
permathread -- do the two have radically different capabilities with
respect to handling recursive structures and/or recursive alorithms,
or are they more or less different syntaxes for the same capabilities?

Thoughts, anyone?   Sorry to reopen the permathread, but I think
Kurt's approach might lead to a more focused and possibly conclusive
discussion,  Maybe wwe can all can trade ideas about this with our
relatives over the holidays :-)


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