OASIS Mailing List ArchivesView the OASIS mailing list archive below
or browse/search using MarkMail.


Help: OASIS Mailing Lists Help | MarkMail Help



   Re: [xml-dev] "Smart ASCII" -> XML for authoring?

[ Lists Home | Date Index | Thread Index ]

Mike Champion wrote:

> I'm of two minds on this ... on one hand it sounds like a return to
> the Bad Old Days and will require continuing human intervention to
> cleanup the inevitable not-so-smart ASCII before it can be converted
> to XML rather than one-time human intervention to teach markup skills
> to the authors.  On the other, it leverages what humans do best --
> deal with patterns, templates, informal conventions -- and lets
> computers do what they do best -- generate and parse formal syntaxes,
> putting XML further behind the scenes, perhaps where it belongs.

As several others have pointed out, SGML's shortref works very well for
this sort of thing. The beauty is in the fact that to the user, it's
smart ASCII, but to an SGML processor, it's clean markup. Given the right
DTD, a CSV file is also an SGML document, with modifying a character.
There's no such thing as bad days, only bad processes...;-)

> I'd be interested in hearing others' reactions to this IBM
> DeveloperWorks article and about actual experiences in the field.  My
> guess is that is makes a LOT of sense for simple documents (memos,
> weblogs, simple articles) and virtually no sense for serious
> technical documents where the whole point of SGML/XML is to catch the
> structural errors as early and automatically as possible even if this
> requires some pain on the part of the authors.

If you're able to validate your smart ASCII, it certainly makes sense for
complex documents, in fact, some markup projects succeeded only because
markup was able to be replaced with something more natural. According to
Exoterica (nee OmniMark), The Microsoft Cinemania CD was marked up
largely automatically, but then they had a team of about 15 editors work
through it by hand. The whole structure had to be shortreffed, as the
overall ratio of data characters to occurrences of elements was less than
10, with some specific sections being less than 1. Had they required the
editors to understand that structure, they would still be tagging -
instead they put paper maps of patterns on the walls and the editors
quickly got the hang of inserting characters to make the patterns look
the same.

> But how big is the
> middle ground, and when does it pay to make authors switch over to
> XML? In other words, should XML stay in the background, or is it time
> for the end-users to add basic markup knowledge to their repertoire
> of skills?

The ground is big and fertile, but the toolmakers haven't managed to get
the tractor started. Then might be the time that we can start to rely on
users more.


Marcus Carr                      email:  mrc@allette.com.au
Allette Systems (Australia)      www:    http://www.allette.com.au
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."
       - Einstein


News | XML in Industry | Calendar | XML Registry
Marketplace | Resources | MyXML.org | Sponsors | Privacy Statement

Copyright 2001 XML.org. This site is hosted by OASIS