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   Re: Feeling good about SML

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  • From: "Rick Jelliffe" <ricko@allette.com.au>
  • To: <xml-dev@ic.ac.uk>
  • Date: Wed, 17 Nov 1999 04:20:41 +0800

>At 06:37 AM 11/16/99 -0800, Eric Bohlman wrote:
>>To sum it up, before we can decide *how* to simplify XML, we need to
>>decide *why* we need to, and *if* simplifying the language itself is
>>solution.  Otherwise we run the risk of premature closure,
constructing a
>>problem definition based on the characteristics of the perceived

I note Steve DeRose from "XML: Principles, Tools, and Techniques"
10/2/97 p6
"Most computer scientists who have worked with SGML have proposed
simplifications; specifically, keeping all the structural flexibility
while losing many syntax options. I have heard of about a dozen
proposals over the years."

Language design is fun; SGML and flex/yacc are great for that.

But I sincerely believe that simplifications to XML to remove the
PI and xml:language are morally wrong.

The West has, as a benefit of the simplicity of English, good laws, good
education, capital and because of being first, created a position for
where it locked out non-alphabetic countries from technological
for a large part of this half-century.

C and UNIX were prime agents of this. (There was no intent to do so, and
indeed the Bell people then made good by inventing UTF-8. I am not
saying they were remotely imoral: they did not have the benefit of
what impact they would had.)

It has taken years of hard work by faceless and selfless  members of
standards comittees to reach the stage where there is a glimmer of hope.
Even now the fundamentals of the internet (e.g. DNS) are tied to
ASCII: domain names in meaningless foreign languages for much
of the world. But basing things on Unicode and allowing the
current encodings (as I think Tim Bray points out, these are not

Internationalization is good for many reasons: justice, fairness,
anti-colonialism perhaps, assistance, positive discrimination (actually,
it does not get anywhere near as far as that in XML: UTF-8 which
is only convenient for Western language and Bahasa
{+ some minority languages} is required). Plus it is prudent:
economic domination promotes ideological and nationalistic

So, even though it might be fun, I think people who want to
standardize non-internationlized technology should ask themselves
what kind of world they are creating by doing so.   And we perhaps
should ask, rather than what we are creating, what we might be
destroying by derailing XML.  Is the "convenience" of something
like SML actually just selfishness?   That may sound harsh, but
we need to think about what kind animal we are creating on the

At university, we are trained to create languages, if we are lucky
to be somewhere that teaches it right. But are we taught about
localization and/versus internationalization and its
impacts?  Without the moral/political
dimension, our education is nothing.

I think it would be a sad mistake for people to think that XML's
internationalization is there merely to provide extra markets for
bloated monopolies, though with luck it may.  For some of us,
the major benefit in XML is that provides a clear toolkit by which
much of the mess of the 70s and 80s can be cleaned up; removing
internationalization from XML does not give Simple Markup
Language, but Uncle Sam Markup Language.

This is why I feel bad about SML. Please don't derail XML.

Rick Jelliffe

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