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   Revisiting the original XML deliberations - was Re: [xml-dev] Postel's l

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On Jan 16, 2004, at 5:17 PM, jcowan@reutershealth.com wrote:

>> 	Given the desperate need to ensure that documents that
>> describe potentially high-priced financial instruments are correct in
>> their content, why doesn't it make more sense for you to kick back the
>> badly formed documents to their source and ask for clean versions?
> One reason is the existence of a settlement process.  It's cheaper, 
> quite
> often, to assume all is well, watch for exceptions further down, and 
> correct
> them by hand.

A recent nuke in the Atomic war :-) over  this issue in the Atom 
community linked to the W3C SGML WG thread where this issue was 
apparently aired for the first time back in early 1997.
http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/w3c-sgml-wg/1997Apr/0164.html began 
it all, apparently.

One post I found particularly intriguing in hindsight was from Paul 

"Browsers do not just need a well-formed
XML document. They need a well-formed XML document with a stylesheet
in a known location that is syntactically correct and *semantically
correct* (actually applies reasonable styles to the elements so that
the document can be read). They need valid hyperlinks to valid targets
.... There is still so much room for a document author to screw up that
well-formedness is a very minor step down the path. The idea that
well-formedness-or-die will create a "culture of quality" on the Web
is totally bogus. People will become extremely anal about their
well-formedness and transfer their laziness to some other part of the

I' m not at all sure that the 2004 edition of Paul Prescod would agree, 
but the idea that well-formedness is a particularly useful indication 
that a document is "correct in content" seems a bit, well "bogus".  
There's a lot to more "validity" in the real-world sense of the word 
than well-formedness or even validity against an XML schema, even in 
something as simple as a typical Web document let alone a business 
document with legal and financial ramifications. Most likely, some 
"settlement process" is needed for a wide range of errors, and 
well-formedness is just the most easily detected.

I do think we in the XML world need to be careful not to overstate the 
benefits of well-formedness even if we do insist that it is intrinsic 
to the formal definition of what "XML" means.  One could of course 
argue that it is an indicator of non-"laziness".  Is there much 
evidence to support this?  Does a working knowledge of the corner cases 
in the XML spec (or the ability to choose software that handles them 
properly) really correlate with overall document quality/validity, in 
people's experience?



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