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   Re: Toward the self-describing web [was: Irony heaped on irony]

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  • From: "Simon St.Laurent" <simonstl@simonstl.com>
  • To: Dan Connolly <connolly@w3.org>
  • Date: Thu, 18 May 2000 10:34:55 -0400

[apologies for the cross-post - trying to follow Dan...]

>Change? From what? The best-practice for Web resource identifiers
>has always been that you can use them to access some representation of
>state of the resource they identify, no? And namespaces are
>resources just like tech reports, images, and other sorts of
>documents and services and such, no?

No, actually, calling namespaces pointing at schemas a best practice is an
invitation to mudslinging on XML-Dev.  Something to do with a long-ago
overdose of Cheetos and a never-ending cycle of violence. (which continues
today, of course.)

>Disambiguation of names is a critical feature of XML Namespaces,
>but what really makes it powerful and useful is that it makes the
>web of XML documents self-describing: whenever you get a document,
>you should be able to use the namespace identifiers to figure
>out what the author of the document meant by the vocabulary
>of tags and attributes used in the document.

It doesn't make XML documents self-describing, sorry.  The rest of the
infrastructure is missing.  At best, it gives an application a better
chance of sorting out what kind of markup it has and what structure it
should have, but meaning is still out there in the wind.

>We have documented this since Feb '98, when XML 1.0 became
>a recommendation despite the lack of namespace support:
>	"Therefore it is essential that when a document is written to
>	refer to a namespace, the name space definition should be a 
>	generic resource whose instances may include schemas in various
>	languages at various levels of sophistication.  This is an
>	essential growth point for the web. "
>	-- http://www.w3.org/TR/1998/NOTE-webarch-extlang-19980210#Evolving

This is a note, one of a series of documents that claim no official
endorsement from the W3C, and one whose claims are contentious.

>Surely the fact that Namespace URIs are identifiers is not exclusive
>with using those identifiers to access definitions of those identifiers,
>is it?

Not exclusive, no.  But the recent trend toward creating documents
dependent on such practices and the schemas at those namespace URIs is
disturbing, especially without discussion of what is widely considered a
controversial issue, perhaps the most controversial area in XML's core today.

>Packaging isn't gone; it's still on the TODO list

It's been listed since September, with no public activity whatsoever.
Apart from being a focus for alternating impatience and depression, its
listing on 'TODO' isn't doing very much.

>But I don't see how it's a necessary predecessor
>to making an XML Schema available as "definitive material" about
>http://www.w3.org/XML/1998/namespace .

It's a necessary predecessor to describing XML Schemas' interaction with
namespaces to be a best practice, because it seems quite likely that many
people either:
a) won't be using schemas at all
b) will be using DTDs, XDR, RELAX, or some other schema approach in
addition to or in place of XML Schema.

Managing that requires more than pointing to a schema.

Simon St.Laurent
XML Elements of Style / XML: A Primer, 2nd Ed.
Building XML Applications
Inside XML DTDs: Scientific and Technical
Cookies / Sharing Bandwidth

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