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Re: [xml-dev] Using the concepts of Category Theory to create better XML data models

Elliote, hello.

On 2012 Aug 5, at 13:50, Elliotte Rusty Harold wrote:

> One night five developers, all of whom wore very thick glasses and
> had recently been hired by Elephants, Inc., 
> XML is something truly new that has not been seen before in the world
> of computing. There have been precursors to it, and there are always
> fanatics who insist on seeing XML through database (or object, or
> functional, or S-expression) colored glasses. But XML is none of these
> things. It is something genuinely unique and new in the world of
> computing; and it can only be understood when you’re willing to accept
> it on its own terms, rather than forcing it into yesterday’s pigeon
> holes.

I like your parable, but I draw exactly the opposite lesson from it.

What your parable tells me is that there is nothing new about XML apart from its tasteful synthesis of pre-existing technologies.  The designers of XML (all hail!) built on the lessons of object orientation without the baggage, the lessons of s-expressions, of formal languages, of structured markup, without the baggage.  Seeing that that baggage was just baggage -- no more than the apparatus initially needed to get those ideas into the wider technical consciousness -- is a substantial intellectual achievement, but what it is not, is new.

Understanding and distilling the fundamentals of something that exists can sometimes be harder than starting half-cock from scratch.

What we have in XML is something which, thanks to most of the undergraduate computer science curriculum (so _that's_ what it was for!), is very thoroughly understood, and which manages to be applicable to a startlingly broad range of problems.  We don't have to say XML is magic (you can't hammer in screws with it, though heaven knows some people try), in order to say it's a lovely bit of engineering.

Best wishes,


Norman Gray  :  http://nxg.me.uk
SUPA School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow, UK

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