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Never mind the damned little boxes

On Thu, Aug 29, 2013 at 6:09 AM, Simon St.Laurent <simonstl@simonstl.com> wrote:
On 8/29/13 8:03 AM, Bill Kearney wrote:
I mean, really, what's the POV being espoused here?  What argument is
being made, but being hidden behind a seemingly 'easy to digest' analogy?

Since I just expressed it in a form that you may find easier to digest:


The "essence of the creativity", however, is about working with a minimal set of standards and tools to include as much creativity from as many different people as possible by valuing context over standardization.

That's not at all about breaking standards.  It's about working with the smallest set of standards that will support the conversation (with the people actually having the conversation in their live contexts) and building appropriately from there.

Markup syntax is a convenient minimal standard for supporting electronic communication.  There are useful tools for manipulating it.  Standardize and improve the tools for manipulating markup, rather than trying to lock down what is said with markup.

Yeah, to be fair this entire subthread has been doing my head until just now. I had no idea what this neighborhoods/houses analogy was trying to get at so thanks for refocusing, Simon.

John Cowan made an excellent point about how this conversation is only possible with the RFCs and W3C specs and even standard natural language, but I don't think SImon intends to say those are not useful. RFCs are an excellent example of a standard process that approximates the method Simon is espousing. Rough consensus and running code is king. The town jester is as free to have his proposal advanced into standards track as the local superstar architect. It's not driven by dues-paying memberships and "invited experts". The result has been a hodge-podge of RFCs with varying utility, adoption and even coherence, and as such the IETF is probably the most successful "standards" organization in modern software technology.

The W3C does indeed have its structure of dues-paying memberships and "invited experts," but there was a time, before the Dot-Bomb era raised the stakes to the sky, when its culture was far more IETF-like, and its must useful standards still date from that era.

As for standard natural language, it's hard to imagine a more gothic "standardization" process.

This also helps me understand why Simon has such a keen eye on the JSON side of things. While appreciating Simon's basic arguments, I still find JSON to be an eyesore that's tolerable for machine-machine communication (which is the only way in which I can use it without ruining my day). As such for me it's almost completely disjoint from XML, and I don't bother comparing or trying to set up a competition between the two (in other words: "meh!")  That said, the JavaScript world, including JSON, does have a very healthy culture of "rough consensus and running code" and "pave the cowpaths" and I do think the XML world can learn a lot from that (or I should say re-learn).

Bottom line is that standards are not a bad thing. What's bad is first of all how in XML first of all the mechanism of developing standards became a matter of worshipping in the cathedral ("Oh the W3C is endorsing XSD, so don't pay attention to any other schema approaches", even when XSD had not proved itself in practice, and was easily demonstrated to have gigantic flaws). And then once we had a "These be thy gods, Oh Israel!" approach to how schemas are expressed, everyone seemed to think that you can't really be doing XML if you didn't have one. Schema infiltrated its way into every subsequent standard, complicating the entire ecosystem.  It's down to what I warned of as "XML class warfare" back in 2002.


When a need for an XML schema comes about, it will show itself apparent in the context of practice, often long practice, and ideally it will be minimal and as flexible as possible given the need.  That's the point with regard to markup, folks. Never mind the bollocks analogies (including my own).

Uche Ogbuji                       http://uche.ogbuji.net
Founding Partner, Zepheira        http://zepheira.com

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