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   Re: Architectural Forms and XAF

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  • From: "W. Eliot Kimber" <eliot@isogen.com>
  • To: xml-dev <xml-dev@xml.org>
  • Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2000 11:51:24 -0600

David Megginson wrote:
> David Wang <dwang@mitre.org> writes:
> > I have a few questions about said AF and XAF.
> >
> > Namely, I have been searching around the web for a while now and
> > have not seen any tool other than XAF that acknowledges the
> > existence of Architectural Forms.
> ... and the reaction to XAF was very, very small -- enough so that I
> decided not to devote any more time to it.  There are no other
> implementations because people don't tend to jump in and imitate
> also-rans (compare the proliferation of Simple API for * interfaces
> popping up).

But I think the reaction has to be the fact that most people getting
excited about XML A) don't understand AFs out of the box and B) haven't
done enough yet to appreciate the need for them.

Architectural forms solve a difficult problem that you won't normally
see until you've done a lot of work with XML. If you're just trying to
solve a narrow point problem it's difficult to see how AFs will be of
value. But, as Steve said, if you're trying to build a standards
framework that enables interchange within and across enterprises (e.g.,
financial, medical records, legal documents), then you must have
something like AFs to solve the problem [NOTE: I consider all "industry
standard DTDs" to be prove non-solutions to these problems, that is, ATA
2100, Docbook, Pinnacles, etc. The interchange problem cannot be solved
by creating monolithic document types.]

So, I don't worry that the XML world has not yet embraced XAF. They may
never. But it will eventually understand the reality of the
*requirements* that AFs attempt to address and develop the appropriate
solution. I was hoping that XML Schema would do this, but it's not quite
there yet (but it also hasn't precluded a solution in the future).
> > Thus, I wonder if there are other tools out there that are AF-aware,
> > or is there an inherent reason in the dearth of such tools?
> James clark's C++ SP SGML library is AF-aware, and it can be made to
> work with XML.

As is TechnoTeacher's GroveMinder product. We use it for doing
architectural processing every day in production systems. For the Texas
Legislature project I'm working on I applied AFs to a problem and ended
up saving an enormous amount of time (I should have used architectures
from the start in this case and didn't due to an early design policy
decision that we have since reversed).
> > On a related topic, I'm also wondering about the health of AF -
> > where does it stand now?  I see a ISO/IEC 10744 document about it, a
> > mention of XAF on Hytime.org, and a XAF site, but little else...
> It's pretty-much dead in the water for now -- almost nobody uses AFs
> or even bothers to defend them who wasn't part of the original DSSSL
> or HyTime design process.  It's a shame, because they were a nice
> idea.

I think you need to change "were" to "is". They are not dead, only
waiting for their time.

NOTE: I have no particular love of the current AF implementation
approach. It was the best we could do within the constraints of not
being able to change the SGML standard, so we had to make do with
attributes, we couldn't invent new declaration types, we couldn't change
content model syntax, etc. AFs work as is (obviously, as we've used them
to good advantage for years now), but the mechanism could be much
improved. It was (and is) my hope that XML Schema would do AFs better
than we can do them now for the very reason that XML Schema is not bound
by the same restrictions we were. 



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