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RE: [xml-dev] Too much power? was RE: [xml-dev] 2007 Predictions

Mike Champion writes:

> (I can't remember why the TAG changed "Principle" to "Rule" in the
> title).  "The Rule of Least Power" sounds a lot more awesome than
> the actual advice being offered really is.

I don't think it's been discussed here, and I don't think the change merits more discussion.  In short:  TimBL originally called it the Principle of Least Power, which I liked a lot.  Years went by, and in other work such as the Archticture of the World Wide Web [1] the TAG decided there was value in making fairly careful use of certain terminology [2]:

An architectural principle is a fundamental rule that applies to a large number of situations and variables. Architectural principles include "separation of concerns", "generic interface", "self-descriptive syntax," "visible semantics," "network effect" (Metcalfe's Law), and Amdahl's Law: "The speed of a system is limited by its slowest component."
In the design of the Web, some choices, like the names of the p and li elements in HTML, the choice of the colon (:) character in URIs, or grouping bits into eight-bit units (octets), are somewhat arbitrary; if paragraph had been chosen instead of p or asterisk (*) instead of colon, the large-scale result would, most likely, have been the same. This document focuses on more fundamental design choices: design choices that lead to constraints, i.e., restrictions in behavior or interaction within the system. Constraints may be imposed for technical, policy, or other reasons to achieve desirable properties in the system, such as accessibility, global scope, relative ease of evolution, efficiency, and dynamic extensibility.
Good practice
Good practice—by software developers, content authors, site managers, users, and specification designers—increases the value of the Web.

So, somebody made the case that the XXX of Least Power was in not quite a Principle but was really more of a Good Practice.  Then again, calling a TAG finding the "Good Practice of Least Power" didn't have a real catchy ring to it.  So, for better or worse, as a compromise, we renamed the finding itself the "Rule of Least Power".  I don't love it.  Probably nobody loves it, but there you go.  FWIW, the finding does have in it the following [3]:

        Principle: Powerful languages inhibit information reuse.
...because that did seem closer to being a principle, and a Good Practice Note [4]:

        Good Practice: Use the least powerful language suitable for expressing information, constraints or programs on the World Wide Web.

Since you asked, that's how it came to be.  I don't think the particular question of Rule vs. Principle, etc. is worth further discussion on this list.


[1] http://www.w3.org/TR/webarch/
[2] http://www.w3.org/TR/webarch/#app-principles
[3] http://www.w3.org/2001/tag/doc/leastPower.html#plp
[4] http://www.w3.org/2001/tag/doc/leastPower.html#ruleOfLeastPower

Noah Mendelsohn
IBM Corporation
One Rogers Street
Cambridge, MA 02142

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