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RE: Six Reasons Not to use XML Attributes

  • From: "Len Bullard" <Len.Bullard@ses-i.com>
  • To: "David Carlisle" <davidc@nag.co.uk>,"Costello, Roger L." <costello@m...>
  • Date: Fri, 2 Mar 2012 08:26:39 -0600

RE:  Six Reasons Not to use XML Attributes
Let's just use LISP.  Then we can reclaim our Dark Overlord Priesthood
Robes and demand unusually high salaries for being slightly
better-trained than data entry clerks because clerks can't cooder in
their cars.

Xerox tried this long ago, Roger.  It failed pretty badly.

The problem with attributes is not syntax or lack of utility.  It is
that they become a metadata junkyard where information is stuffed that
is rarely used and almost always ignored in templates.  They are often
under-documented particularly where they are used by only a few
corner-case applications.  Here is an example.  Guess how many of these
are being used often, how many are generated, duplicate items found
elsewhere or are a result of using one DTD to govern non-local processes
(same entity being processed by multiple systems serially):

wpno            ID     #REQUIRED
crewmember      CDATA  #IMPLIED
tocentry         (2 | 3 | 4 | 5 )  '2'
date-time-stamp  (date | time | date-time )  #IMPLIED
frame            (yes | no )  'yes'
army      (yes | no )  'no'
airforce  (yes | no )  'no'
navy      (yes | no )  'no'
marines   (yes | no )  'no'
fgc      CDATA  #IMPLIED
lsa-id   CDATA  #IMPLIED
wpseq    CDATA  #IMPLIED
insertwp CDATA  #IMPLIED
deletewp  (yes | no )  'no'
delchlvl  CDATA   #IMPLIED
comment   CDATA   #IMPLIED
changeref IDREFS  #IMPLIED
skilltrk    CDATA  #IMPLIED
security  (uc | fouo | c | s | ts )  #IMPLIED

There is a well-understood impedance mismatch between XML and
Objects-What-We-Love and between SQL tables yet humans seem to be able
to handle them well and understand what they are.  They are in this
sense, a design problem for people who don't understand the
subject-matter or process space with enough clarity to apply them well.


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