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   Re: [xml-dev] XML Technologies: Progress via Simplification or Complexif

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On Jun 24, 2004, at 9:50 AM, Roger L. Costello wrote:

> Perhaps for some things progress must come about by adding more 
> complexity.  I don't know.  What do you think?  /Roger

There's a couple of complicating factors.  First, "simplicity" is not a 
simple concept.  There are at least two dimensions: minimalism (how 
many simple concepts are there) and easiness (is it simple use by the 
target audience).  In some ways, they are related, since if you only 
have to understand a few basic things, something should be simple to 
use.  The trouble is that elegant theories/technologies usually require 
one to operate with abstractions rather than day-to-day ideas.

For example, consider the relational model of data.  It is simple in 
the elegant sense, but requires implementers and users of DBMS systems 
to deal with abstractions such as "normalization" that stand between 
ordinary reality and the theory. It is (provably?) true that any data 
management problem can be cast into the terms of the relational model 
and addressed with a "true" relational DBMS (if any exist), but it is 
obvious that this is not "simple" to do in practice.  I guess a Turing 
machine is an even more stark example: it is extremely simple and 
completely general, but more or less useless as practical programming 

So, I don't necessarily see "progress" in one direction or another.  
There's  dynamic tension between technologies that are simple to 
understand and implement but require a lot of abstract thinking or pure 
tedium to work with in the real world (think XML 1.0 without schemas, 
stylesheets, query languages, semantic mapping, etc.) and those that 
have all sorts of prefabricated tools for addressing real world 
problems, but provide this at the cost of much complexity (think modern 
object-relational-XML-text DBMS, or the entire corpus of XML 

Eternal refactoring is the price of sanity.


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