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Re: [xml-dev] costs of bureaucracy (was Re: [xml-dev] Not using mixedcontent? Then don't use XML)

I can't help but pitch in. These arguments have come up so many
times in my own experience over the years.
If Simon is really serious about his reasoning, how does it apply to
date formats, name and address formats, etc? If forms are so evil
(and so many 'professionals' I've worked with seem to think so)
then are they not a necessary evil, or is there an alternative to a
personal contact details form on a website, or is there an alternative
to using the subject line, 'to' and 'cc' fields, etc in my chosen online
email app when I want to send an email?
Taking this even further, even considering the 'big data' alternatives
to relational databases, is there a real alternative to a set of tables
in a database conforming to a database 'schema' when it comes to
persisting structured data? Or is there current technological progress
away from structuring data altogether?
On another aspect of the XML/schema versus JSON/no schema
development of technological preference, I notice just this week
that the W3C TAG minutes for the last conference have minuted
the following from TimBL

"Tim: Henry did a lot more work on that. I don't feel we need to

   put a whole lot of energy into XML at all. JSON is the new way

   for me. It's much more straightforward."

So it seems to me that this debate is getting quite serious and
perhaps at least warrants some more quality academic studies
and citations.
Best regards
Stephen D Green

On 8 April 2013 21:05, Simon St.Laurent <simonstl@simonstl.com> wrote:
On 4/8/13 3:30 PM, David Lee wrote:
.. Taxes are the classic "There Is No Alternative" argument here.
Are you really sure you want to use it?

I am in no way referring to the tax *code* ... those are purely
insane and have nothing to do with schema. But as Michael mentions, I
am referring to , however insane the tax laws are, that I would much
rather that the mechanism Of reporting be extremely constrained and
not open to any old kind of data I, as an individual, wish to send
in. This provides benefit to me as a user because it is more clear
what is expected. This provides benefit to the bureaucracy as it
reduces errors trying to fit the multi-shaped peg into what is
inevitably *their* square box. And it reduces "creative
interpretation" on both ends.

I don't think you've spent nearly enough time with tax forms or with businesses trying to decide how to make decisions and categorize those decisions to fit into specific boxes and their rather deep schemas.

Remember, I'm not calling for the abolition of tax forms.  I'm saying that you picked an example that I could have easily chosen had I wanted to make explicit the damage that schemas do.

Seriously, are you proposing that every person should send in a tax
report on a form of their choosing ? Or to be able to send
electronically a filing in any data format they want ? How much money
are you willing to donate to the human staff required to individually
interpret all these ?   And do you trust them more then computers ?
Like it or not, the whole *point* of bureaucracy is to produce a
system that functions identically reguardless of whom is running it.
In its day that was a very novel concept and provides a great deal of
value to today's society, along with of course the inefficiencies of
it. If you are seriously proposing that, then I will stop here as we
live in non-intersecting universes. If you are *not* proposing that
then what *are* you talking about ?

I'm saying that using the existence and enforcement of tax forms as some kind of proof that schemas are harmless is a really really bad idea. You brought it up.

Bureaucracies can impose forms on us because they have the power to do so.  There are memorable if occasional penalties for not complying.  Do you really want to put as many conversations as possible under the same constraints the IRS (for example) applies to its 'customers'?

I quite certainly support tax collection and general notions of fairness in such things.  I can also see that:

We depend on those mammoth bureaucracies to make things work, but despite frequent bursts of frustration about their many costs, the situation generally improves only marginally, and the number of data structures grows rapidly.

Now on the other side of the fence, I work for a company which sells
a "XML Database" (quoted because that's slightly not technically
accurate, but close).  It is "schema free" in the sense that schemas
are not required, and even if present don't trigger automatic
validation. It is extremely useful to put "whatever you want" into
the DB without any schemas.  Really nice.   But you can add schemas.
Its also useful to either early on or later add schemas and make use
of them where you wish. Not only does it support the type
safety/coercions of XSLT and XQuery but some interesting things
magically appear. For example if you just happen to have a schema for
a document, even an incomplete one, then the XML to JSON
transformations make use of that and apply the right type to say
<weight>3</weight> and convert it to  "weight":3  instead of
"weight": "3" If you decide later that "weight" should really be a
string then you can make that change in one place (the schema) and
the system adopts. I happen to like that.   And calling that a
byproduct of a sick community is not really a useful statement.

Perhaps that statement is not useful to you, now.  I'm reasonably certain that over the long run, however, this conversation will be useful to the overall health of the markup community.

Simon St.Laurent


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