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   PHIL: Why The Web is Mediocre (WAS RE: [xml-dev] Re: XML CMM and ISO9000

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When dealing with cultural phenomena, it is best to 
understand it as an analogical system.  When I was 
writing the paper on Information Ecosystems in 95, 
I was attempting to get to some of the issues that 
would confront us and are confronting us now.  Using 
the ecological metaphor may have been a bad choice 
because it was seized on and spread without much 
understanding.  XML has become 'memish' that way. 
Nonetheless, as metaphor, it has proven by experience 
to be a good predictive model.

I believe that a primary problem of the web and 
computer science at this time is that it is becoming 
more religion than science.  Given the information 
wealth morphing into infoglut, personalities dominate 
and where that occurs, the personal problems of the 
sources often become institutional problems.  The 
web is an amplifier, feeds back on itself, and the 
lie can become the truth at light speed.  It takes  
maturity and experience to sort this out, and the 
press is often incapable of the depth of analysis 
required.  Blogging isn't a solution unless the 
bloggers themselves are able to distance themselves 
from the desire to be the most linked.  GIGO still rules.

This was a danger some saw coming but 
few wanted to acknowledge in the rush to deification 
of web technology.  As with television, the result may 
be that the web will become, is becoming, an untrustworthy 
source of extreme inbred mediocrity.

The web itself, culturally, is quite immature.  There 
is a lack of responsibility, even a cultural imperative 
to toss away any sense of responsibility and that is 
very much the opposite of the so-called 'community ethic' 
the culture pretends to embrace.  As a result, yes, some 
will claim XML to be a much better solution than say 
relational systems and will fight for that until it is 
inconvenient.  Note I didn't say disproven.  I don't 
think you will find too many experienced XMLers who 
make that claim at this time and for reasons that have 
been debated here now and in threads that are some years 
older.  That was what surprised me in this thread.  I 
assumed most here know that XML is not an all embracing solution.

The academic proofs (and I don't mean that pejoratively 
but to point to where the time and resources usually are 
to pursue these to the level of excellence needed), are 
useful.  The claim 'it can be whatever you want it to 
be' does not solve the problems of Boltzman entropy and 
that is the central problem of information sciences. To 
be meaningful, some choices are more probable than others. 
Proofs lead to the selectors that enable intelligent choices 
in a noisy environment.  Intelligence does not emerge from 
the fringes, but from the overlaps.  The problem of the 
web is that its culture still embraces the fringe the 
way a teen ager does to make his or her parents notice 
him.  That is the dilemma of anonymity and ever since 
the XMLers took out the parent language and became 
wildly successful, a return to anonymity is the greatest 
unspoken fear of the community.

See Clockwork Orange.  It is very possible to be both 
practical and deviant and to be rewarded for it.  That 
is the essential problem of desire as the maker and destroyer. 
This is not philosophical; it is observable.  If proof is 
required, it will be analogical and historical.  It will 
only be testable in specific cases, and then, dangerous 
to generalize.  Nonetheless, with prudent application, 
it is useful to know.


From: pop3 [mailto:lbradshaw@dbex.com]

I have nothing to disagree with in your response. I often work from the 
practical result back to the theory, to derive useful theorems that I can 
later apply to other problems. But my experience is that this is not the 
best way to develop applications for production use in the wild as several 
round trips may be necessary (as has been seen, and will continue to be 
seen, I think, in the XML community).

I will call, again, for specific proofs people already have, or for 
requests for very specific proofs, that people need right now, or expect to 
need in the near term.

Perhaps if we take this discussion up to a higher level of academic 
achievement, it can progress and be fruitful.

Personally, I would like to see XML proofs in line with Knuth's work and 
Codd's. Proofs that justify its existence, and define its scope and 

Something other than what I often hear... "but the XML document can be 
__anything__ you want it to be !!!!!!"  as if that was proof enuf. When I 
respond that a Word doc (using Microsoft's word document markup language 
and symbol interpreter) can be anything you want it to be, the XML advocate 
usually just looks at me in total amazement.

Thank you.

At 12:32 PM 8/25/2003 -0500, Bullard, Claude L (Len) wrote:
>Yes, once one has a good idea of what needs proving.
>Otherwise, like proving that a bumblebee can't fly,
>one is modeling from axioms, and the bee just goes
>about its business doing what it will. Abduct, induct,
>then deduct.
>Markup scales where it needs to first, in the applications
>which its inventors had in mind.  Note, DTDs were added
>later.  Formalization was done later.  This is historical
>even if not necessary.  In short, don't wait on proofs
>nor ignore them when available.  Just be sure of what is
>being proved and that it is relevant to the task.
>To the point:  is a wall-to-wall XML database the right
>solution for any problem?  No.  Can we define in advance
>all of the problems it is or is not applicable to?  Not
>all.  I agree with you 100% on that.
>As noted elsewhere, when looking for the proofs, it is
>not XML that needs to be compared, but the data models.
>As others have noted, there is lots of work being done
>on these.  Meanwhile, hybrids rule the niche today.
>I do note that the environment for which XML, (not markup)
>was designed or adopted from SGML, is one of decentralized
>and loosely coupled sources, not one where normalization
>is the norm.  Will that create update problems?  You bet.
>Like 404, it is a cost of using the system.  The only
>proof 404 needed was 50 years of trying to get around
>it.  Progress in fielding very large distributed hypermedia
>systems was made only when that constraint was relaxed.
>The way around the update problems so far is hybridization
>and tightening the coupling.  The ideal of full decoupling
>is not just risky, it is unworkable to date.
>You're right about Curie.  One shouldn't bet the farm
>for a prize in husbandry, or die of the experiment,
>but there would be no Wright Brothers without Lilienthal.
>From: lbradshaw@dbex.com [mailto:lbradshaw@dbex.com]
>Awww, now, gee whiz..... doing a math proof can be as exciting and
>exhilarating as any other form of discovery, and doing so first can save
>one many stubbed toes, later.
>After all, Codd's proofs led the way, as did Knuth's, and were not derived
>from  existing advanced art but from theory and science. While it probably
>goes both ways, some proofs coming from experience and others derived
>purely from theory. saying that waiting on proofs makes me a cave man who
>is frightened of tomorrow is just personal.
>Which is something I will not respond to, :), other than to say that if
>Curie had done the math, used the full scientific method, waited for
>results and included advancements from other scientists, maybe she would
>not have died of radiation poisoning.
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