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Re: [xml-dev] [OT] Re: [xml-dev] Lessons learned from the XML experiment

I have read a few introductory books on XML and dabbled with XSLT for a long time, for me an XML document is a tree of nodes that I can navigate via XPath, or which can be parsed and turned into a stream of events. XML Technologies are built on top of either of these two powerful approaches.

My interpretation of what I obtain at the end of such an XPath, or with such a generated event  is a different issue, though obviously of major importance too.

I have been interested for some years in the idea of an XML technologies based infrastructure that is very cost-efficient for data management in science. For me Hans-Juergen's papers at Balisage have expressed very well this general idea and a detailed analysis of what might be done to further it.

However. in the IT circles I've move in there has been a major 'perspective' related barrier to achieving anything significant towards this vision, which is the OO programmers 'every thing is an object' perspective vs the XML 'every thing is parseable and navigable data' perspective. There is a related difference of perspective in the database world between the set (relation)  and the navigable graph based approaches it seems.

I think that the recent posts by Kurt Cagle on the ACA implementation problems and his diagnosis of the causes have implicated this contrasting perspective, hence its importance as a topic for discussion [The OO perpective leading to the notion that objects can massage any parsed data into something useful, well possibly yes, but at what cost?]

I think that such differences in perspective relate very much to tools (technologies), the tendancy for all of use to like/want/need to use the tools that we are familar with and as a result not question the assumptions on which the tools are based (If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail), or, to be that interested in learning about alternative tools in any great depth, particularly when your boss is asking for a time estimate for task completion.

Hans-Juergen seems to me to be mainly interested to tease appart this specific difference of perspective and I admire his efforts in this.

Now. in his efforts there might be a deeper truth about markup missed (in a 'technological rush' maybe? ;) ), one that I too have missed and which I am happy to learn more of. But I am VERY interested to focus in on the ACA issue and what lessons the "XML Experiment" might hold, given that my analysis of its origin is valid.

Many thanks for your insights.
Steve Cameron

On Sun, Nov 17, 2013 at 6:19 PM, Hans-Juergen Rennau <hrennau@yahoo.de> wrote:
John, Michael, Simon,

please let us get to this perspective: the possible *benefits* of regarding XML as syntax in the first place. I think you have not yet explained them.

Simon and John dwell on a person's right to see somthing as he likes; Michael says that XML *is* syntax, and I suppose this is meant in the historical sense. I ask you to change the plain, abandon the social, psychological and historical, and focus on the technological. Let us investigate the various benefits of the alternative approaches. So you think I oversimplify things? My view, in a nutshell, once more: XML technology is based on nodes, not syntax. Seeing syntax, I cannot deal with technology; dealing with technology, I cannot see (or should not see) syntax. And I take it for granted that we want to deal with technology. But it seems that things are not that simple and the "syntax view" offers something that has eluded me so far.

Counting on your help,


John Cowan <johnwcowan@gmail.com> schrieb am 1:32 Sonntag, 17.November 2013:

On Sat, Nov 16, 2013 at 6:05 PM, Hans-Juergen Rennau <hrennau@yahoo.de> wrote:

The wording „designed for nodes“ is perhaps unfortunate, as this may not be the case in the historical sense. However, I am at a loss why one should see anything in XML but nodes.

I apologize for the inherently ad hominem nature of the following remarks, but I don't see how to avoid it.

In my interactions with you both face to face at Balisage and on this mailing list, you appear to be simply unable to comprehend that anyone could see things other than the way you do.  Our conversations tend to consist of you saying "It's like this" and me saying "Or perhaps it isn't" and you saying "But don't you see that it's like this?"  I, in turn, am unable to comprehend how anyone could fail to see that there are people in this world who see things differently from one another.  That makes it very difficult to impossible for anyone whose world-view is different from yours to communicate with you.
XML is an expression, nodes are the value. I think this is the essence of understanding XML.

So you do, but others think otherwise.  What is more, many people (including myself) reject the whole notion of "essences" as philosophically ill-founded.
What people thought 15 years ago when finishing the XML spec is irrelevant. To dwell on that appears to me pure pedantry. People thought, once, that the earth is a disk, but we have passed on in the mean time.

The "we" who adopt the node model are not to be identified with the "we" who adopt the spherical-earth model.  The Earth is not a human artifact, and the flat-earth model fails to describe it accurately (though it does have its uses!)  But XML is a human artifact, and it means, like Humpty Dumpty, what we intend it to mean.  As Northrop Frye says:

The principle of manifold or "polysemous" meaning, as Dante calls it, is not a theory any more, still less an exploded superstition, but an established fact. The thing that has established it is the simultaneous development of several different schools of modern criticism, each making a distinctive choice of symbols in its analysis. The modern student of critical theory is faced with a body of rhetoricians who speak of texture and frontal assaults, with students of history who deal with traditions and sources, with critics using material from psychology and anthropology, with Aristotelians, Coleridgians, Thomists, Freudians, Jungians, Marxists, with students of myths, rituals, archetypes, metaphors, ambiguities, and significant forms. The student must either admit the principle of polysemous meaning, or choose one of these groups and then try to prove that all the others are less legitimate. The former is the way of scholarship, and leads to the advancement of learning; the latter is the way of pedantry, and gives us a wide choice of goals, the most conspicuous today being fantastical learning, or myth criticism, contentious learning, or historical criticism, and delicate learning, or "new" criticism.
In my opinion, XML is not syntax backed by a data model. It is a data model, augmented by a syntax.

"[You're\ certainly entitled to think that, and [you're] entitled to full respect for [your] opinions."  —Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird

GMail doesn't have rotating .sigs, but you can see mine at http://www.ccil.org/~cowan/signatures

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