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


Help: OASIS Mailing Lists Help | MarkMail Help



   Two Perspectives (was Re: [xml-dev] URIs are simply names R)

[ Lists Home | Date Index | Thread Index ]

"Jonathan Borden" <jborden@attbi.com> writes:

> It would be helpful to read the relevent documents
> because there is really no point in arguing what is
> "logical" when we are defining our basic terms in a
> different fashion.

It all depends on which documents you regard as
relevant.  In SGML, for example, an "entity" is a very
different thing.  And so is a "resource".

It is very useful and revealing to see the whole
history of our field as a conflict between two

  (1) The perspective of those who provide bandwidth
      and processing, and

  (2) the perspective of those who provide and maintain

From Perspective 2, which is the perspective on which
SGML is based, it is nonsensical to define what
information is (or to think of information in terms of)
what a process produces, or in terms of a
communications protocol.  For Perspective 2,
information just sits somewhere, occupying real space.
Its "location" can be addressed in countless ways, in
terms of other information -- other information that
also "just sits there".  For Perspective 2, information
really, really exists, it has real value (in that
access to it can improve human productivity), its
maintenance absorbs real human effort, and it does
absolutely nothing.

From Perspective 1, which is the perspective on which
the Web and all other communications and computing
systems are based, it is nonsensical to think of
information in any terms than other "information in
motion", either being copied from one place to another,
or being transformed in various ways.  Perspective 1
has little reverence for the value of the information
itself, or for the effort involved in maintaining it.
Perspective 1 frequently (and, to my way of thinking,
ignorantly and self-defeatingly) tramples on,
diminishes, and destroys the value of information in
many ways.  But the Perspective 1 guys have nearly all
of the money and virtually all of the power.  This is
because Perspective 1 is in a much stronger position to
set up the toll booths and collect tolls.

Perspective 1 is so unconcerned with the value of
information that it doesn't bother to distinguish
between the Eiffel Tower and addressable information
that serves as a surrogate for the Eiffel Tower;
they're both just a "resource".  Perspective 1 is so
blithely unconcerned with the problem of information
management that there doesn't even have to be anything
at the addresses that are used to uniquely identify
individual XML Namespaces.

The predominance of Perspective 1 is the reason why the
Web is such an appallingly bad place to *manage*
information, even while it's a great place to *publish*

Of course, the two perspectives need each other
desperately.  It has been my hope that the XML
phenomenon would be a bridge-builder between them.  The
jury's still out on that.  For the last few years,
things haven't been looking very promising.

Things began badly for Perspective 2, when the
Perspective 1 people overlooked the primary benefit of
SGML, and decided to make it unnecessary to provide a
model for XML information.  Except for the enablement
of some tricky hacks that were made possible by this
end-run -- hacks whose goals could have been
accomplished by other, less destructive means -- this
was a fruitless thing to have done.  It has had the
unfortunate side-effect of keeping millions of people
from discovering the vital importance of Perspective 2.
XML Namespaces was another major blow to Perspective 2:
names were seen as a solution to a communications
problem, rather than as handles for specific semantics.
(The two sides have consistently talked right past each
other on XML Namespaces; the spectacle would be comical
if it weren't so incredibly expensive for everyone.)

I see the confusing welter of confused, non-modular XML
specifications as a hopeful sign.  The Babel effect is
slowing the pendulum down, and it may soon reverse its
course, and move toward Perspective 2.  I hope it does.
If enhancing human productivity is truly the shared
goal, balance must someday prevail.  At the moment,
most people are on one side or the other, but few
realize that there is even a dialectic tension here,
much less what the lack of balance between the two
perspectives is costing everyone on this planet.  When
we all appreciate the value of the other side's
perspective, things will improve a lot.

It looks to me as though the W3C, having sinned
grievously against Perspective 2, is now starting to
move toward it.  I nourish the hope that this is the
real meaning of the "Semantic Web" initiative.  If so,
it's going to be a tough and divisive path for the W3C
to follow, and I wish them well.  I find many of their
efforts to describe the goals of the Semantic Web as
Delphic as others do.  It would be a lot clearer if
they could be seen to embrace Perspective 2, but it may
not be possible to do that, in view of the overwhelming
quantity of their Perspective 1 baggage.

OASIS has long been much more sensitive to Perspective
2 than the W3C has.  I applaud them for their longtime
efforts to achieve a better balance.

But I'm willing to support anybody who appreciates the
importance and necessity of supporting Perspective 2.
Perspective 2 is the underdog, and *balance* is what is

I'm an ISO guy, myself.  ISO, the source of SGML, is a
Perspective 2 stronghold.  It's a source of ideas that
Perspective 1 people have been extremely unwilling to
support, like HyTime, architectural forms, and groves,
and things that tend to make Perspective 1 people
pretty nervous, like Topic Maps.

What will .NET turn out to be?  I'm no insider, but I'm
willing to bet that Microsoft is preparing to be where
the pendulum is going to be -- which is a lot closer to
Perspective 2 than it is now.

-- Steve

Steven R. Newcomb, Consultant

voice: +1 972 359 8160
fax:   +1 972 359 0270

1527 Northaven Drive
Allen, Texas 75002-1648 USA


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

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