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   Re: Foreign Names

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  • From: Lee Anne Phillips <leeanne@leeanne.com>
  • To: XML-DEV <xml-dev@xml.org>
  • Date: Sat, 15 Apr 2000 20:58:15 -0700

At 05:20 PM 4/15/00, KenNorth wrote:
> > Hmmm... very funky stuff.  I'm not sure that using bizcodes would be fun,
> > but it's great to see the approach.
>Bizcodes were conceived by people thinking about localization and standards
>for eCommerce, but the concept has applicability across other domains. Last
>year I advocated development of vocabularies by domain experts so we'd have
>more accurate searches.

But doesn't the idea of arbitrary numeric codes violate the spirit of XML, 
which was supposed to encourage human-readable and self-explanatory markup? 
While we may all wish for some imaginary Esperanto of markup languages that 
makes it easy to facilitate understanding worldwide, Bizcodes, MeSH codes, 
UPN codes, CLAS codes, HL7 codes, Z39.50 codes, MARC codes, ISBN codes, 
ICD-10 codes, DSM-IV codes, and any of thousands of other numeric systems 
in use around the world to classify or exchange this or that only begs the 
question. If one uses ICD numbers, what about people who understand DSM 
numbers? One has to translate between those as well. Ad infinitum. Can the 
majority, or even a small minority, of those on this list say that they 
know how all of these codes are used, their areas of applicability, and 
user community? Much less what a ciphered code in any one of them actually 

If you pardon the somewhat jaundiced view, how like an engineer to imagine 
that any numeric code will be accepted universally any more than Esperanto 
was. At last count, there were hundreds of artificial "universal" languages 
(Volapuek, Loglan, Lojban, Ido, Glosa, Interlingua, etc. ad nauseum, not to 
mention Pidgin and other trade languages by the score) and thousands of 
artificial codes for classifying and exchanging data. They all have limited 
user communities in which they are commonly used and vast numbers of people 
comprising the entire rest of the world who wouldn't know what one was if 
it bit them.

In other words, every numeric code currently in existence behaves exactly 
like a language. The only advantage of a numeric code is that, within their 
quasi-linguistic community, they eliminate arguments among speakers of 
different languages about whose phonemic system and vocabulary should take 
precedence by sacrificing any pretext of mnemonic value. In use, they're 
often about as slippery and vague as any language. One of the continuing 
arguments between insurance companies and physicians is that the insurance 
companies regularly downgrade or alter diagnostic and procedural codes 
entered by doctors so that they pay less on the claim. There are classes 
one attends to learn how to code to a given purpose (dare we say rhetoric?) 
and thick books devoted to proper idioms in any given field.

Surely it's a step backward to say that in the interest of fairness we're 
going to make XML-based markup languages equally incomprehensible to all. 
While obscurity may have been an advantage to the Oracle at Delphi, don't 
we have better things to do than learn jargon cleverly disguised as precision?

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