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   Bits vs APIS - was Excellent Insight on Standards Development vs Inventi

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  • To: xml-dev@lists.xml.org
  • Subject: Bits vs APIS - was Excellent Insight on Standards Development vs Invention
  • From: Michael Champion <michaelc.champion@gmail.com>
  • Date: Sat, 13 Nov 2004 09:05:25 -0500
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  • In-reply-to: <4195FE5C.2020707@propylon.com>
  • References: <4195FE5C.2020707@propylon.com>
  • Reply-to: Michael Champion <michaelc.champion@gmail.com>

On Sat, 13 Nov 2004 12:30:20 +0000, Sean McGrath
<sean.mcgrath@propylon.com> wrote:

> My take is that Atom is about sorting out the "bits on the wire". Sorting out the "bits on the wire" is, to my mind, infinitely better than hiding everything under an API.

I don't know much about the RSS/Atom controversies, and regret it
every time I get involved, but what Mark Pilgrim says in
http://www.xml.com/pub/a/2003/10/15/dive.html about the weblog APIs
makes sense to me.  The conclusion that they have moved from an
XML-RPC orientation  "back to a document-centric, REST-inspired
service again"  would resonate with RESTifarian docheads, I would
think :-)

> A lot depends on ones attitude to APIs. 

Yes.   I think the bits on the wire vs APIs permathread has a similar
theme to the XSLT vs SQL/XML or XQuery thread a few days ago.  Again
it's clear that there is a certain group of people, generally
docheads, often those who have lived with SGML and friends for at
least a decade now, who are very comfortable with thinking of XML as
bits on the wire:  They have a mindset and elegant set of tools that
lets them do what they do quite efficiently and effectively.  For
better or worse, however, they are out of the mainstream of the
current IT industry, where people are *generally* (again, I think by a
10:1 or so margin) more comfortable thinking in terms of abstract data
structures, algorithms that operate on them, and APIs that encapsulate
this and hide the raw data.

For example a quote from Pilgrim's article: "There are XML-RPC
libraries for very many programming languages, so you'll never have to
see or think about the raw wire format. Until you need to debug it, of
course."  The downside of encapsulation is definitely that you can't
get in and fix it if it goes wrong (sortof like modern automobiles
that virtually no 'shade tree mechanic' can fix).  The upside is that
this creates higher expectations:  the big company that wrote the
library, or the army of geeks who wrote the open source tool are the
ones expected to get it right the first time.

There really is room for all in our little ecosystem:  Architecture
Astronauts who think great thoughts, design high-level interfaces,and
write whitepapers are useful to have around to talk to the Gartner
Group ... Hard-Rock Bit Miners are useful to have around when things
go wrong in the cellars of the ivory tower, but there is a great bulk
of people in the middle who just want to get their job done and go
home.  I'm sure that this list has a disproportionate percentage of
people at both ends of the distribution, but at the end of the day its
the folks in the middle who pay us.


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