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   Re: SV: SV: [xml-dev] XML=WAP? And DOA?

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At 9:39 AM -0500 1/15/02, Gavin Thomas Nicol wrote:
>On Tuesday 15 January 2002 08:26 am, Elliotte Rusty Harold wrote:
>>  At 11:15 PM -0500 1/14/02, Gavin Thomas Nicol wrote:
>>  >What happens if I don't
>>  >   a) read english
>>  1. Ask a colleague who reads English
>>  2. Hire somebody to translate it into the language of choice
>>  3. Get a dictionary
>Let's change it to Maori then. Do you have 1) or 2)? How much would 2)

If it were important to me I could get 2, though I'd probably try 3 first.

>The point is that XML can be as opaque as anything else, and that
>tags, in and of themselves, say little about overall semantics, and
>hardly anything about structure beyond encoding an attributed tree.

No, that misses point completely. The point is not whether XML *can* 
be as opaque as anything else. It whether XML *is* as opaque as 
anything else. In practice, XML *is* far less opaque than CSV and 
similar formats. That's why it's important. And in practice tag names 
do say something significant about the semantics of the document. 
It's not everything, but not everything does not equal nothing.

>An attributed tree is admittedly a useful data structure, but not
>without some means for interpreting it.... and in that regard, XML is
>no better, and perhaps somewhat worse than CSV... because the signal
>to noise ratio is higher *if* the names are not intuitive to the
>interpreting entity.

The names can always be ignored if you desire to do so; but if you 
choose to consider them, they are there. There is more information in 
an XML document with the names intact than in the same document with 
all the names stripped.

Your signal-to-noise analogy is fallacious. One of the defining 
characteristics of noise is that it cannot be perfectly separated 
from the signal. IN XML tags are very straight-forwardly separated 
from the data.

>There *are* benefits to using XML well, and defining "largely
>interoperable" tag vocabularies (HTML). Those benefits spring not from
>XML, but rather, careful use thereof.

Careful use is good. But even careless use is likely to produce 
significant benefits compared to untagged formats like CSV. For 
example, here's some CSV data for you

9964.00, 72.58, 0.73

How meaningful is that? Indeed it has some meaning. With a little 
effort, a little foreknowledge in the right domain, and a little luck 
you can probably figure out what it is. However, the following has 
more information:

  <relativeChange>0.73 </relativeChange>

No standard schema. Not a lot of thought. I just made that up 
quickly. It doesn't even use consistent naming conventions. But if I 
were faced with pages full of numbers I'd much rather have them in 
the second format than the first, especially when I know from 
experience that eventually there will be missing fields, the column 
names will fail to line up with the data, and I will have to deal 
with all the other problems that arise in CSV data. Not that these 
problems can't occur in XML, but XML, unlike CSV, is fail-fast. I can 
very easily set up my systems so they notify me immediately when 
faced with bad data, rather than sometime later when I notice my 
brokerage just blew several million dollars because some idiot 
swapped the absolute change and the relative change in the Dow.

| 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/   |
|  Read Cafe au Lait for Java News:  http://www.cafeaulait.org/      |
|  Read Cafe con Leche for XML News: http://www.ibiblio.org/xml/     |


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