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   Re: XML Schemas: Needs Marketing?

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  • From: Edd Dumbill <edd@usefulinc.com>
  • To: "cbullard@hiwaay.net" <"Len Bullard"@mail.HiWAAY.net>
  • Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000 16:47:13 +0000

On Tue, Feb 15, 2000 at 08:32:49AM -0600, Len Bullard wrote:
> At 09:29 PM 2/12/00 -0500, Bill la Forge wrote:
> > >Anyway, I strongly believe that as XML grows, we will be dealing with a
> > >larger and larger audience. And the W3C specs aren't going to make life
> > >easy. Perhaps, in the long run, much of that work will be (largely) ignored.
> Simon St.Laurent wrote:
> > I hope for and expect to see subsets of functionality - XML 80/20'd the
> > complexity of SGML, and the XML family of specs will probably get 80/20'd
> > in real use.  Hopefully the W3C will write specs that accomodate such
> > subsetting.
> If history is the guide, it will be simplified by the authors of
> articles 
> and books on the subject.  The example code gets cobbled in the context 
> of the implementations vendors provide.  IOW, on any given day, I learn 
> more about web application building from trolling the MSDN and knowledge 
> base than I do the specs.  Certainly, that may not be the most in depth 
> way, but it gets the work done.  That is one level of the food chain.

And it's also the place that 99% of developers stay. The "consumer" of
W3C specs isn't, in general, J Random Developer. It's the book author,
and to a much greater extent, the API developer.

Experience indicates that vendors may well implement as much of a
specification as their customers insist upon. It is therefore in
the interests of W3C et al. to make as much as possible of their
specifications implementable. If they don't provide for 80/20 -- and
in doing so preserve some sympathy with the "100%" aims of the specs
-- then API vendors will probably make the 80/20 cut themselves, not
necessarily with the same sympathy for the integrity of the specification.

> We really do need a universal framework of definitions.  I don't 
> think the consortia will provide this.  We may have to do it ourselves.  
> Given that, it could be a good thing to ask ourselves if groves are
> the place to begin given that it was designed precisely because 
> the pre-XML community in markup faced exactly the same problems 
> and were forced to create a solution.  OASIS can be a force for 
> progress here if it can adapt to the open list free for all.  
> If it requires a membership to post, while I understand the 
> need for income, I don't think it a good plan.  See Cluetrain.

This is all a rather worrying question.  "Internet-time" is catching up
with us, fast.  For this reason I agree with your analysis that it is
dubious whether the W3C would return to this question.  They plainly
face the pressures transmitted by their vendor members.  No marketplace
stops and waits a year while we go back to first principles.  The W3C,
for one, doesn't really appear to have the resources and time to attack
even things which are less abstract than the topic in hand.

I occasionally wonder whether the current model of standards development
is sustainable given the growth in the XML marketplace.  There is a real
prospect of a "proprietary standard" achieving sufficient mindshare before the
W3C finishes the process of a developing the "official" one.  Perhaps
different models of development are required that are more responsive to
the commercial environment. Layers, as Simon suggested, are one
alternative. Don Park also suggested multiple, smaller, groups and
previously, if I remember correctly, small "atomic" specs.  Food for
thought, anyway. I wonder if there have been parallel examples in other
areas we might learn from here?

[And then again, I also think that I might be being a little too
worried. We've seen with the web that once the user base swells,
adoption of new technology (browsers in the case of the web) slows.
Perhaps the pressure will be on until there are enough tools in
the XML toolbox for users to do 80% of what they need to do].

> Otherwise, back to the MSDN.

Where most people never left :) As you say, "getting the work done" is
practically everybody's priority. We can come up with a sound universe
in which to place all our specifications, but if we don't come up with
(a) something that will get the job done and, (b) a few example
job-doings, then I fear the labor could be in vain.

Like it or not, there's significance in the fact that most of us don't
know or need (or recognise the need for) groves.

-- Edd

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