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   RTFM for XML

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  • From: "Simon St.Laurent" <simonstl@simonstl.com>
  • To: xml-dev@ic.ac.uk
  • Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1999 09:03:25 -0500

At 11:15 PM 11/15/99 -0800, Eric Bohlman wrote:
>Whoa there!  This is starting to remind me of some of the flamewars on
>comp.lang.perl.misc over whether it's reasonable to expect a programmer to
>RTFM!  If a particular wireless protocol really does need to be usable by
>script kiddies [1], then the solution, to the extent that one is possible,
>is to hide all the details in an application-specific API.  If someone
>doesn't want to understand what XML is, to the extent of knowing what an
>external entity is, they should *not* be using an API that's expressed in
>terms of XML constructs!  If the protocol can't handle external
>entitities, yet needs to be usable by Web Slaves who wouldn't know a
>markup language from a hole in the ground, then you need an API whose
>implementation isn't capable of generating external entity references.
>It's that simple.

If the point of XML was just to make life easier for programmers who knew
all about XML to start with, I'd have no problem with this point of view.

However, since XML is still moving out into the world from a _tiny_ base of
users, all of whom are far too busy, I often find it depressing that its
creators find its oddities and inconsistencies barely worth a note.  

I've heard "but there's nothing wrong with it!" in regard to both XML 1.0's
stranger complexities and in namespaces, and in both cases I think we've
lost key opportunities that go well beyond RTFM.  (Especially since the
Desperate Perl Hacker, DPH, a 'script kiddie' was supposedly key in XML's
early development.)

Since I seem to keep writing manuals, I suppose this is a profit-center for
me, but I'd be a lot happier writing about how to build funkier XML-based
applications rather than warning people again and again that mixing MSXML
or Aelfred with Expat is often a bad idea.

Simon St.Laurent
XML: A Primer, 2nd Ed.
Building XML Applications
Inside XML DTDs: Scientific and Technical
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