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   Re: [xml-dev] The XML 500 word Challenge

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In a message dated 26/10/2002 23:11:25 GMT Standard Time, mc@xegesis.org writes:

I tried such a thing early this year in response to a (similar?) challenge
to product a "No Silver Bullet Manifesto."  See


Let's, for purposes of illustration, take the first couple of lines of your second paragraph.

"At the most basic level, XML is simply a standardized syntax, or metalanguage for builging languages, for describing labelled trees."

Leaving aside the possibility that some bright spark may choke on your neologism of "builging" :) ... Well, if they don't understand a "metalanguage" (likely for many) then they may well think a builging language is some abstract concept named after Samuel Builging. :)

I would suggest that many Web developers would choke (terminally?) on the term "labelled tree". A (caricature) response might go like this: "What the !*"!)? is a labelled tree? I remember seeing a tree with yellow ribbons on it in that old film but labels? What's this guy talking about? Is he a computer whiz kid or the curator of an arboretum?"

Many will genuinely choke on the term metalanguage too.

So, in my view, you will have lost/bamboozled a significant number of potential readers in the first substantive sentence of your essay.

It wouldn't surprise me if a thought along the lines of "Well, if these guys don't understand such fundamental concepts how the /?!(* can you communicate with them?".

Which is precisely the difficulty I am trying to draw attention to.

XML geeks and the (notional) average Web developer inhabit distinct conceptual and linguistic worlds. It is a major task to try to ease a "typical" Web developer into XML geekdom, in my view. To do that I suggest we have to help the typical Web developer to expand the tiny area of overlap of conceptual worlds.

Communicating effectively is no sinecure.

Andrew Watt


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