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RE: [xml-dev] Four fine text-based data formats ... liberateyourself from one (silo) data format

Thanks Tim, Shaun, and Ihe for your excellent comments.

Below I try to address some of your comments.

Ihe wrote:

    If you wanted all such software programs to behave 
    uniformly with respect to the same syntax (please tell 
    me why you wouldn't) what do you think you'd end up with.

If I wanted every software program to behave uniformly upon receiving, say, some geolocation data (and be agnostic to its data format), then I would do this:

    I would have a layer that converts the particular data format
    into an abstract representation (perhaps as a list of values or
    perhaps as a tree data structure) and then I would have a software
    module (that is distributed to everyone) to process the geolocation

It's the fact that everyone is using the same software module that ensures common semantic interpretation. Common semantic interpretation is not achieved via a common syntax.

Shaun wrote:

    What do you mean by "plain text"?

Open up emacs and start typing. Save as UTF-8. Close the file.

That's a plain text file. 

XML, JSON, and CSV are plain text files - they are special cases of a more general data format.

So "plain text" is the most general data format. And it is the most widely supported.

Shaun also wrote:

    syntax absolutely informs the semantics. For example, 
    you can't nest things in CSV or INI files.

I'm not sure that I understand the subtleties of your statement. Are you saying that knowing some stuff is syntactically within some other stuff (e.g., A is embedded in B) is providing useful semantic information? How so? If a software module receives some completely unknown data and it finds that some stuff is nested within some other stuff, and the software has zero understanding of any of the stuff, then how has the nesting structure enlightened the software regarding the semantics of the data?

Tim wrote:

    Can you possibly explain "how" this is true?

Since Simon was the originator of the statement, I defer to him.


-----Original Message-----
From: Ihe Onwuka [mailto:ihe.onwuka@gmail.com] 
Sent: Sunday, March 24, 2013 12:33 PM
To: xml-dev@lists.xml.org
Subject: Re: [xml-dev] Four fine text-based data formats ... liberate yourself from one (silo) data format

> What about semantics; is one data format semantically richer than another? No! All of the data formats are just syntax. Semantics must be applied to the syntax. How are semantics applied to syntax? Easy, write a software program that does something when it sees certain syntax. The software gives life to the syntax - it gives semantics to the syntax.

If you wanted all such software programs to behave uniformly with
respect to the same syntax (please tell me why you wouldn't) what do
you think you'd end up with.


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