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Re: participating communities (was XML Blueberry)

At 1:21 PM -0400 7/10/01, John Cowan wrote:

>I say, and you have implicitly conceded, that *need* is an
>inappropriate standard: nobody (or almost nobody) *needs* more than
>Latin, or indeed ASCII.  It's what people *want* that counts.

I have conceded no such thing. I suppose ultimately the difference between want and need is a matter of degree and semantics. I will note that there are many characters and character sets people have wanted in Unicode, that the Unicode consortium has rejected because they aren't needed. One example is Klingon. This was rejected not because it's fictional, but because the user community had a well-established Latin transliteration for the script that they were accustomed to using. But so far I haven't even seen proof that users want Blueberry, much less need it. 

>It may be that people who wanted their native scripts encoded in
>Unicode (if they hadn't, Unicode surely wouldn't have encoded
>them) may in fact not want to use those scripts in native-language
>markup.  But the burden of persuasion for such an extraordinary claim
>is on the claimant.

I disagree completely. I think the burden of proof has to be on the claimant who wants to break the entire existing installed base of XML software and systems. After all, the mere existence of some advantage to the change is not sufficient to justify it. This cannot be decided on the basis of the hypothesized advantages alone. These must be weighed against the very real disadvantages, and that can only be done if we know how big the likely user community is and how often they will use these characters in XML names. Only if the need for these characters is great enough should the costs be incurred. 

If there are thousands of Ethiopian or Burmese or Khmer speakers clamoring to write markup in their native script, then the change would have large advantages that might be worth the cost. On the other hand, if there are a few dozen native speakers who think it might be nice to have this, but who are probably going to use Docbook and XHTML 99% of the time anyway, then I don't think the advantages are big enough. I honestly don't know where the truth lies. I do know the costs of the update will be huge. I am not willing to assume the advantages are so big they outweigh the costs until proven otherwise. 

| Elliotte Rusty Harold | elharo@metalab.unc.edu | Writer/Programmer |
|          The XML Bible, 2nd Edition (Hungry Minds, 2001)           |
|              http://www.ibiblio.org/xml/books/bible2/              |
|   http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=0764547607/cafeaulaitA/   |
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