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   Re: [xml-dev] Ted Nelson's "XML is Evil"

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  • To: XML Developers List <xml-dev@lists.xml.org>
  • Subject: Re: [xml-dev] Ted Nelson's "XML is Evil"
  • From: Gavin Thomas Nicol <gtn@rbii.com>
  • Date: Fri, 1 Oct 2004 00:41:17 -0400
  • In-reply-to: <1BC28E02-1341-11D9-8EE5-000A95A51C9E@textuality.com>
  • References: <20040930151217.BETI4745.mta04-svc.ntlworld.com@Turtle> <1BC28E02-1341-11D9-8EE5-000A95A51C9E@textuality.com>

On Sep 30, 2004, at 8:30 PM, Tim Bray wrote:

> I disagree with virtually every technical argument Ted Nelson has ever 
> made and (in most cases) the implementations are on my side, but it 
> doesn't matter; Ted's place in history is secure because he asked more 
> important questions than just about anybody.   I think he usually 
> offered the wrong answers, but questions are more important. -Tim

I think it depends on what you're trying to accomplish. It might be 
fairer to say that many of the things Ted Nelson thinks are important 
tend to fall outside the scope of things XML is very good for.  
Certainly the question of the technically correct way to do persistent 
linking, annotations etc. in XML documents (or the WWW in general, for 
that matter) is still open to debate, despite HyTime, TEI, XLink etc. 
etc. and Ted's model in Xanadu at least provided a fairly clear 
solution (which at one level or other, many of the other things 
emulate). Also, if anything, the model (both implementation and user) 
people typically have for word processors argues for something closer 
to Ted's model (though there is a trend toward more structured 
processing... a good trend too in many ways).

I personally think the node-centric processing model that almost 
everyone thinks is the *correct* processing model for XML is fairly 
limiting, and doesn't jive with a lot of the processing I have done on 
XML over the years, just as the notion of validity, and to a lesser 
degree, well-formedness don't reflect processing reality in all cases 
either. I guess I don't see the conflict between Ted's model and 
everyone else's so clearly... the fundamental model is, if anything, a 
superset of pretty much everything we've done with a heavy emphasis on 
user interpretation and reuse of information. The main disagreement I 
have is that his ideal case requires a closed system (or universal 
adoption, which is the same thing at a different level) in order to 
provide guarantees. I think we've learned that that is an unreasonable 
expectation, but you could argue that a lot of the benefit of most web 
technologies is not from the technology, but rather the network effects 
engendered by widespread adoption.

Still, I wouldn't have spent as much time as I did in standards groups, 
and I'm sure, neither would have most people, if we didn't believe 
there was a (technical) benefit in doing so. The discussion of archival 
is interesting, because that was one of core uses for XML/SGML in the 
early days... certainly, a lot of my interest stemmed from archival-ish 


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