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   Re: RFD: comp.text.xml

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  • From: len bullard <cbullard@hiwaay.net>
  • To: Steven Champeon <schampeo@hesketh.com>
  • Date: Tue, 05 May 1998 20:17:17 -0500

Steven Champeon wrote:
> Len, you're sounding a bit defensive. 

Quite true.  Some ideas and principles are worth defending to 
a point.  This post is the last point.  I've not time for a 
flamewar, and anyway, that is what the icon that looks like 
crossed sabres on the Outlook menu is there to stop. :-)

> Do you think C would have gotten as
> far as it did if every time someone brought it up, someone else popped up
> to remind everyone that it was inspired by BCPL? Need we say that Java was
> once named Oak in order to reap its benefits?

No.  That we remember this is the case is sufficient.  OTOH, in my 
own descriptions of these, I decline to call Java a standard. It is 
a product of Sun well on its way to becoming a standard technology 
similar to RealMedia.  These distinctions enable me to look at 
customers and say, "yes, runs best on X machine" and not endure 
the endless "But Why Won't They Implement the Standard?" questions.  

When it goes to ISO, as HTML has, I will call it a standard.  Until 
then, XML is a standard technology and the property of the W3C.
> I started out working with SGML, waited for the CALS table model, hung
> out wondering when DSSSL would be done, learned Author/Editor's internal
> styles language as a desperation measure, bemoaned the ridiculous complexity
> of FOSI, and when the Web hit I never looked back. 

With you all the way.  I spent time and personal capital pleading for a 
simplification.  When the SGML On The Web project was announced, I 
stepped up to endorse it.  It was an idea whose time had come and 
in fact, was overdue.  I had watched customers, friends, companies, 
pay large prices.  OTOH, I was also there to see certain ones 
pay off as SGML delivered on the lifecycle properties promised.  
Markup works.  Since XML is the same subset of SGML that most 
of us had always been using, I feel confident it will deliver 
the same benefits.  No quarrel there.

> I'm thrilled to death
> that the idea of separating presentation from markup has become a reality
> for those of us without multi-million dollar consulting budgets, 

So am I Steve, but frankly, I am the rogue who didn't buy into the 
whole arcana and was using an SGML hypertext system with stylesheets 
by 1992-93.  I even arranged to give it away:  IADS.  It wasn't 
everything I wanted, but it sure proved the point, and hey, it 
even let you design and use your own DTDs.  That reality has been 
real for almost a decade.

>  and I'm
> thrilled that XML will be part of the next generation of browsers. I'm
> afraid that Microsoft has cornered the market on Windows-based XML parsing,
> by virtue of its being built into the "Internet Explorer OS Upgrade" blob
> they seem to be pushing as a pre-req for any new application installs,

This doesn't bother me a bit.  The rules for introducing standard 
technologies using the W3C processes have been followed apparently 
to the letter.  Practicality prevails.  At this point, MS is the 
defacto standard platform.  Having XML on it is the right thing.  
It will be interesting to see how well it is used and by whom.  
There are some real issues about integrating Chrome with other 
standard languages, but that is another problem to be worked.  
I think XML and MS may soon face a pretty unruly crowd over that one.

> but the fact that there is a standard to appeal to - a simple standard,
> which doesn't give MS much cover should they decide to slightly alter
> their implementation. I think it's amazing that there are fully-functional
> parsers out there today. 

Since the goal was to enable the DPH to write a parser in a week or so, 
this shouldn't amaze you too much.  Meeting the design requirements is 
usually good practice in engineering efforts.  Given that no one had to 
start from scratch and most of the major decisions were pruning
over existing solid work, I would be very surprised if that weren't the 

> AFAIK, there isn't a single application out there
> which fully supports all of the SGML arcana.

AFAIK, you are right and that hasn't made a warts worth 
of difference.  SGML has been and is applied to large 
publishing and database projects with much success.  Cost 
of tools varied, but that was mainly in the rendering.  
The SGML vendor community overcharged and often 
overemphasized complete compliance.  It was suicide 
and opened the door to the events that followed.  The SGML 
Way was a recipe for commercial failure.  XML proves 
that lesson was learned.  Good.
> Len, I've known you since my first days reading comp.text.sgml, and I
> respect your enlightened approach to subjects both technical and humane.

Thank you.

> Please don't expect XML to be a bait-and-switch move to bring SGML into
> everyone's home.

I don't expect it to be.  Nor did I expect SGML On The Web to be a bait 
and switch move to replace SGML with XML, but I was wrong.  OTOH, at 
certain levels, I don't care about that either.  For those of us who 
were fortunate enough to watch Dr. Goldfarb, James Mason, Lynn Price, 
Martin Bryan, Steve Newcomb, Sharon Adler, Anders Berglund, and the
others who created 
SGML, XML is the crowning achievement, the proof that their ideas and 
their work have succeeded.  If a name change is required to ensure 
the continuing success, so be it.

But I will not sit by and watch them be robbed by the also 
rans and newtoBes of the industry of the credit for that.  Not 
only does that deny what I know to be true, it is wrong.  It also 
repeats and legitimizes that same precedent set by those who have
derided a work to capture their own market, then turn to 
take that same work, rename it, and call themselves fathers 
of a new language.  History requires a certain 
ethical and moral payment:  respect.

>  And please recognize that XML is a powerful, simple,
> iteration on some of the ideas espoused by SGML. 

To be sure:  SGML On The Web.

> Where XML will not suffice,
> perhaps SGML will thrive. 

ISO 8879 is dead.  Without a base of implementors, no ideas however 
good can thrive.  But there will be a price for it.  ISO 
rules and processes had a hint of openness and rule of law.  
A Don Park stood a chance in that.  Yet these rules and 
processes are made by men and in that, justice is the 
gift of the individual.  I remember that very strange 
fellow with the prison tattoos who made it into the 
HyTime meeting in Almaden (sorry eliot, this predates 
you).  I thought it awkward that he was there, yet, Dr 
Goldfarb neither feared him nor took measures to remove him. 
It was an awesome demonstration of integrity.  If this 
is the case with the Director, then let him change the 
rules and open the meetings.  This technology which he 
espouses and has done so much to promote enables it and 
without nearly the problems Dr. Goldfarb overcame.  Let him 
be that much a man, and I will give him that much credit.  

> But where XML will suffice, its users need not
> know thing one about SGML. In my mind, this is a good thing.

In my view, they are the same thing and that is a good thing.  If 
we have to accept that our *standards* are the product of 
The Director's approval, and that only the elect can know 
the shape of things to come such that a Don Park doesn't even 
have half a chance to compete, then it is time to go back to 
playing guitar for happy hour crowds.  It is something I 
understand and can see the good of doing.

I appreciate your comments, Steve.  I really do.  But my 
time here is past and there are other tasks to be done.  

There will be comp.text.xml, then there will be whatever 
follows that.  As the twig is bent....


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