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   RE: XSet, an XML Property Set, was: re: Why the Infoset?

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  • From: "Bullard, Claude L (Len)" <clbullar@ingr.com>
  • To: Jonathan Borden <jborden@mediaone.net>, Sean McGrath <sean@digitome.com>,"Simon St.Laurent" <simonstl@simonstl.com>, xml-dev@lists.xml.org
  • Date: Wed, 02 Aug 2000 11:00:52 -0500

Not aimed at you, Jonathan or anyone in particular. 
The quote is a phrase I've seen repeated so many 
times in so many media over the last fifteen or 
so years of working with markup, it has almost 
become the national battlecry of the entitled 

If we really need something beyond the infoset for a 
full description, and the authoritative references 
for the parent standard uses the grove property set 
techniques, why should we adopt a different means 
for a proper subset of the parent standard to define 
its properties?  Right now, because namespaces imply 
and should normatively require the infoset but the 
XML parent doesn't, we have a bizarre record of 
authority and a gaping hole for mischief.

1. "I don't understand groves."  Asserted many times 
and may be the fault of the authors.  On the other 
hand, explained many times on the list and apparently 
not that difficult to grasp.  Per Eliot Kimber's examples 
presented in threads here, not that hard to apply either. 
I've asked for and gotten that explanation from Eliot 
and Prescod and frankly, it looks easy to me once 
one gets past the initial concept of node/property 
sets and the awful names they chose for the abstractions. 

2. "Groves and property sets are overbuilt."  Possibly 
but I don't have a good feel for this.  It seems to me 
the same thing said about SGML lead to HTML and XML.  
Half a decade later some slowly realize that HTML 
was too underbuilt and XML is slowly reacquiring most 
of the concepts of SGML.  My intuition is that simple 
requirements everyone can understand tend to be less 
robust than the problems a few can.  It sounds elitist but 
the reality is one of experience over expectation.

3. "We can do a better job now."  Can we?  Will we? 
Or will it be another long tedious committee experience 
that in the long run comes down to the requirements 
and meanwhile, John Cowan's work becomes both de rigeur 
and de facto by dint of being done and meeting a 
subset of the requirements.

If the grove definitions can be made workable, decide 
on that first.  Get Newcomb, Kimber, Adler, Clark, 
Goldfarb and the other usual suspects to offer an 
opinion.  Solicit as many of these as possible 
before setting a course of action.  Again, the rush 
to code is usually a mistake even if the prototypes 

First, why does Simon consider these a red herring 
when there is a body of experience that after years 
of wrestling with the problems of complete and rigorous 
definitions of markup languages that suggests the opposite 

Second, if it is just the politics and reputations 
of the W3C versus ISO, tell them both to screw off 
and get what you need done.  Tell me we are past 
the insanity of that period of hero worship and 
mindless obedience to MIT or San Jose. 

Third, if the groves really are too hard, then do 
with them what was done with XML, make that subset 
a high priority and get the folks who wrote the 
originals to help you do it.

John Cowan and others sweated blood for the InfoSet 
and a lot of the rest of us depend on it.  Let's be 
sure it isn't sufficient.  If it isn't, explore 
alternatives with the greatest care and don't reinvent 
something that might work just because the description 
is obscure or the *right important people* didn't 
author it.  If that is all the problem is, demand 
and get a clearer description.  I think these already 
exist (see Prescod, Kimber, et al).

Then put everybody's names on it and announce to the 
world a consensus from the foremost experts in the 
world willing to work on it.  It is the adult thing 
to do.

Len Bullard


Ekam sat.h, Vipraah bahudhaa vadanti.
Daamyata. Datta. Dayadhvam.h

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Borden [mailto:jborden@mediaone.net]

From this last quote (who are you quoting here? not me.) I take it to mean
that you are implying that others have argued against groves and property
sets because "This is too hard"?

The bottom line issue is not whether groves are too hard, but that, for
example, Simon sees a discussion of "grove plans and property sets" a "red
herring" in the context of a full fidelity XML information model and a
mechanism to subset such into, e.g. Common XML.

Whose fault is this? are groves really a red herring? In which case we
really really need a way to specify a full fidelity XML model and subsets.
Are 99.99% of people just unable to understand? (is this what you are
implying by the above?) If this is the case I fault the description, not the


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