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   Re: [xml-dev] Web Design Principles (was Re: [xml-dev] Generality ofHTTP

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"Simon St.Laurent" wrote:
> I'm constantly amazed by how different expectations for computerized
> processing of invoices or orders are from expectations for human
> processing.
> Humans processing faxed or mailed documents are quite capable of
> recognizing different fields in forms even when they arrive on different
> stationery or different languages, and can even pick up the phone and
> make an inquiry when there is a problem.

Sure. But for most companies the point of computerizing is to avoid this

> I've hoped for a while that XML's flexibility might lead to the
> development of approaches which balance or even combine human and
> computer processing of information, combining humans' extremely flexible
> interventions (aka "teaching")  with computers' highly efficient
> performance of repetitive tasks.

It does, if you look at it in a particular way. Humans "teach" computers
to recognize new XML structures by writing transformations from the new
structures to the old ones. There are many big businesses that this can
become a mainstream activity through "visual mappers".

> I can't say I've seen this notion taking hold on any large scale, though
> every now and then I hear of encouraging bits.  I don't believe this
> problem is technical, however.  It seems harshly cultural. Programmers
> are deeply loathe to admit that users might have a greater role than
> use, and that regular human intervention in the very logic of a data
> structure might have advantages rather than disadvantages.

Businesses hire programmers to automate things. Most human beings do not
want to be involved with any process that can be done by a computer. So
the businesses, the users, and the programmers all consider the system a
failure if there is a requirement to bring in a human being to clean up
a computer's mess.

Having computers and humans working together is great. But you seem to
propose that users should be required to handle the exceptional cases
that computers handle poorly. I'd suggest instead that the users would
rather work with programmers (or visual mapping tools) to automate away
those exceptional cases so that they can be freed up to do creative

Also, I notice that some people make a distinction between
well-formedness and validity when it comes to this issue. Aren't they
the same? Couldn't we say that if a purchase order comes through that is
not well-formed it should be routed to a human being who looks for the
missing angle-bracket and inserts it? It isn't a job I want to have but
if you're serious about being liberal in what you accept...

 Paul Prescod


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