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Re: [xml-dev] Re: The real world doesn't have an "other xyz", neithershould your XML


I'd still quibble on this. "Other" is a dialog between the modeler or curator and the user. It's a dialog that asks "your model does not reflect my reality, but by incorporating this, you will meet that reality. Will you incorporate it?"

As was indicated in several comments on this thread - this is deeper than XML, and has to do with the nature of modeling itself. No model will ever be completely accurate, because it reflects the needs of the customers of the data, and that both changes over time and is domain dependent. In a way, one of the big changes in the last decade+ has been the shift away from the application developer determining the needs for that model and toward the consumer determining those needs, and that has profound implications for how applications are written. "Other" is simply one manifestation of that - do you have a mechanism in place to add a new resource to the data environment (because it is increasingly more than just a single text label), and who is responsible for curating that resource through the interface? It's one reason why so many UIs are so incredibly bad - they reflect on ease of development rather than reflection about the role of Other and how that plays out wiithin the data context.

Kurt Cagle
Invited Expert, XForms Working Group, W3C
Managing Editor, XMLToday.org

On Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 1:04 PM, Costello, Roger L. <costello@mitre.org> wrote:
Hi Folks,

This has been an outstanding discussion - thank you very much!

Below is a summary of the points that were made. If I missed a key point, please let me know. I plan to formally write up this discussion and post it online; so I want to be sure that I have captured all your points.

Issue: Should XML documents contain an "other" catchall element?

Reasons for using an <Other> element in your XML
A.1 Human limitations: there typically isn't enough time or money to perform an exhaustive investigation to create a list of all possible types of data.

A.2. Some lists cannot be enumerated; sometimes the world changes; sometimes categories change; some things are one way in one part of the world but a different way elsewhere; some things requested should not be disclosed.

A.3 If you don't offer an "other" option, you are asking people to tell lies.

A.4 "Other" can be used as a mechanism to grow your knowledge: every time you receive an XML document containing an <Other> element, add its value to the list of known values.

Reasons for not using an <Other> element in your XML
B.1 It represents unexpected, unanticipated data.

B.2 It is an admission that you have failed to identify all the possible types of data.

B.3 It may be an indication that your business process is ill defined or your analysis is incomplete.

B.4 It may be an indication that your level of abstraction is incorrect. Stated another way, you may have picked the wrong level of granularity.

        Example: if the XML Schema needs to change
        every time a country appears or disappears,
        that is going involve a lot of work keeping up
        with the real world. Instead of modeling the
        real world by actual country name:


        It may be better to have a <Country> element
        with a @name attribute:

                <Country name="...">

B.5 There is little, if anything, that a machine/program can do with unexpected, unanticipated data (i.e., with "other" data).


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