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

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Michael Smith wrote:

> I guess that's because there are only so many non-presentational,
> logical distinctions that be represented unambiguously in simple
> plain-text markup. Because of that, I think many authors would find
> that once they tried to mark up anything but the most basic documents,
> the set of logical distinctions they can make is just too limited.

It seems that you're saying that if you provide a limited vocabulary to
authors, they will only be able to mark up documents to a certain level.
That's not the fault of the authors or a problem inherent to smart ASCII
systems, it's the fault of the person who provided the vocabulary. Don't
you consider a smart ASCII markup character to be the equivalent of a GI?

> I guess XML should rightly be behind the scenes, but if the goal is to
> author structured documents, it seems like the structure and logical
> distinctions ought to be up front and umambiguous where the author can
> clearly see them, regardless of whether the actual XML markup is.

I agree that the authors of structured documents need to understand the
structures that they're applying, but I don't feel that the replacement of
tags with something more intuitive and/or succinct necessarily hides the
structure - it may just make it easier to apply. Authors make an
association between a GI and a concept (the name of a person is
<personName>) - making an association with a character rather than the GI
is no more difficult.

> To put it another way, I think it might be that you can _only_ produce
> simple documents with "smart ASCII"/plain text markup (if it's truly
> kept simple). It can't practically provide real structure or the
> variety of logical distinctions you need in technical documents.

Why not? If the smart ASCII markup characters are recognised in the context
of the currently open elements, a very clean markup language can be
designed. It's true that the simplicity of the scheme would depend on the
complexity of the structure and is more suited to SGML where you can
combine shortref markup with omitted start and end tags, but it is fair to
say that documents may be far more complex than just presentation data.

> And I don't see how a vocabulary with any real richness or complexity
> could be represented in simple "smart ASCII".

You really should have a look at SGML shortrefs if you have a need for
complex smart ASCII - I strongly suspect that there is no structure that
couldn't be represented with a well-conceived vocabulary. Whether the
obscurity of the syntax outweighs the simplicity of the markup task would
depend on the skill of the designer, the nature of the structures and the
authoring team involved, but none of these expose a weakness in smart ASCII
systems as a concept.


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


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