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Re: [xml-dev] seduced by markup

Brave try, but I will never learn to love DTD syntax. It's just bloody awful. It's worse than JCL, which means it is off the bottom of the scale of awfulness. There is no hidden beauty waiting to emerge if you spend a lifetime studying it. The longer you are exposed to it, the worse it gets.

Michael Kay

On 16 Nov 2013, at 16:38, Steve Newcomb <srn@coolheads.com> wrote:

> On 11/15/2013 10:10 PM, John Cowan wrote:
>> On Fri, Nov 15, 2013 at 4:32 PM, Steve Newcomb <srn@coolheads.com
>> <mailto:srn@coolheads.com>> wrote:
>>    The DTD syntax was never about machines.  It was about human beings, and
>>    it is still, even today, and as crummy as it is, the most humane way
>>    available for human beings to communicate about data design in a diverse
>>    collaborative environment that inevitably must include non-programmers.
>> In my opinion, RELAX NG compact syntax is far more humane than DTDs.  It
>> is as readable, if not more so; it has greater power; it has far fewer
>> arbitrary restrictions.
> It is *more* readable for you and for me.  It is *less* readable for
> those who haven't yet fully internalized that XML schemas are all about
> element types.  For us,
> "<!ELEMENT..."
> is absurdly large and redundant, and
> "<!ATTLIST..."
> is even worse.  Why on earth is it separate from its corresponding
> element type declaration, with its own enormous, 50% redundant billboard?
> The answer, in both cases, is that it's more humane.  Let's first
> remember that the design was done not by a computer scientist or other
> academic who was trying to demonstrate his awesome command of his field
> of expertise and/or his artistic/poetic gifts, but instead by a lawyer
> who was trying to improve the ease with which ordinary people could make
> useful and enforceable agreements among themselves about their
> communications.
> Now, here's a rule of thumb that works for spoken, written, and musical
> communications:
> The most effective communication streams have about 15% information and
> 85% redundancy.
> More redundancy is bad because people get bored and lose interest.  Less
> redundancy is bad because people lose track, and loss of attention
> follows very soon thereafter.
> I studied music for a long time, and many of my views are informed by
> that study.  Please let me explain about this in terms that are familiar
> and compelling for me.
> In their heyday, 12-tone rows made perfect sense as the Next Big Thing
> That Would Influence Everything That Will Ever Happen From Now On.  So
> why did tonal music survive, while the 12-tone row is, in retrospect, a
> bizarre blip in the history of music?  I think it's because tonal music
> tends to be around 85% redundant, while the 12-tone row technique packs
> more information into the stream.  The 12-tone row music sails too close
> to the chasm of entropy.  For most people, the music is simply
> inaccessible.
> If you want a demonstration of what I'm talking about, let me recommend
> some of the most potent music I know, the expressionist opera *Wozzeck*
> by Alban Berg.  In it, the level of redundancy is significantly lower
> than the norm for operas.  You'll start to love it only after you've
> heard it a several times.  Ten times, maybe.  Prior to that, you'll have
> trouble resisting the temptation to turn off those repellently
> incomprehensible orchestral squonks, biggles, and portentous blaring
> crashes, not to mention the off-putting, semi-tuneless sprechstimme of
> the singers.  Another ten times and you'll be whistling pieces of it for
> your own amusement, but at that point I'd advise you not to whistle too
> loudly around other people.  Nobody else will enjoy the tunes, and you
> may see some eye-rolling in your vicinity.
> Most of us cannot afford to listen to an opera 20 times before we can
> appreciate it.  We find it easy and enjoyable to absorb songs with
> beginnings, middles, and endings, larded up with familiar tonal
> formulas, and with all manner of redundant signposts everywhere.  Those
> features help us to "get" it, and most importantly to be *confident*
> that we're getting it.  We humans need that stuff.  The redundant
> features facilitate the drama's spirit-purifying power, which of course
> is the whole point of the artform.
> DTD syntax is like that.  It's as boring as Bellini's *Norma* for the
> pit musicians and the singers, but the audience goes home whistling the
> tunes, having heard every one of them several times, and each time with
> plenty of what might, in another field, be called "Cyclic Redundancy
> Checks".
> I claim that the best music is the most-whistled music, and I think XML
> isn't being whistled nearly enough.  It should be facilitating the
> purification of our public and private institutions, as those
> institutions move through their dramas of revelation and adaptation.
> Instead, our efforts have been far too focused on machine-to-machine,
> system-to-system communications.  Machines do not whistle.
>>    If the purpose of a programmer's task is to make machines facilitate
>>    human communication, nobody should care how hard that task is, least of
>>    all the programmers
>> Perhaps not the programmers, but definitely the people who pay the
>> bills, because
>> hard = expensive.
>> -- 
>> GMail doesn't have rotating .sigs, but you can see mine at
>> http://www.ccil.org/~cowan/signatures
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