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   Empty End Tags Considered Confusing

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  • From: Chris Maden <crism@ora.com>
  • To: xml-dev@ic.ac.uk
  • Date: Tue, 19 May 1998 11:16:50 -0400 (EDT)

I think it was xml-dev that was discussing this; the archive is down
(Henry, are you listening?).

I was pretty agnostic on the matter; I won't use them, but can cope
with them.  But I got this message from O'Reilly's German office
today.  They're a pretty clued group of people, but a book rife with
empty end-tags had them stumped:

------- Start of forwarded message -------
Date: Tue, 19 May 1998 12:27:56 +0200 (MET DST)
To: Chris Maden <crism@ora.com>
From: ... <...@ora.de>
Subject: (SGML) end tags in Linux Device Drivers

Hi Chris,
in "Linux Device Drivers" the sgml files contain </> as end tags for
everything instead of specific end tags (like </title>, </para>, etc.)
Is this only because this book was written in SGML by the author or
will we have this kind of end tag in future sgml files from
FrameMaker->SGML conversion.

I ask because we have a simple Perl script which produces readable
HTML files (for reviewers, proof readers etc.). It has worked fine for
us during the last projects. With </> as an unspecific end tag we
cannot use this script.  It's not a problem for our translation of
Device Drivers (the typesetter can handle it) - I just would like to
know which end tags will be used for the next projects (and if it
would be worth the effort to update our Perl script).


------- End of forwarded message -------

Now, the Perl script could have been updated, but to handle the
general case (even in an XML+empty-end-tag world) would have added
considerable complexity to what's currently a pretty simple script.
They can use spam to get around this, or hack up a custom solution for
this simpler case (which is what one of their people did).  But it's
confusing and even potentially dangerous, without a pretty large chunk
of SGML knowledge (ref. _The SGML FAQ Book_; you need to know a lot to
avoid *accidentally* using a feature).

I have to side with Jon Bosak et al. that empty end-tags are
potentially a sizable amount of trouble, and that the perceived value
is negligible in a compressed-transfer world.

<!ENTITY crism PUBLIC "-//O'Reilly//NONSGML Christopher R. Maden//EN"
"<URL>http://www.oreilly.com/people/staff/crism/ <TEL>+1.617.499.7487
<USMAIL>90 Sherman Street, Cambridge, MA 02140 USA" NDATA SGML.Geek>

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