A little wish for short end tags

Jon Bosak Jon.Bosak at eng.Sun.COM
Sat May 16 18:52:05 BST 1998

[Gregg Reynolds:]

| Given: 
| 	1. Short tags
| 	2. Some non-trivial number of docs marked up with short-tags
| 	3. Some non-trivial number of DPH's desperate to hack at these docs;
| Isn't it likely that some non-trivial number of XML normalizers will
| become at least as widespread as perl?  Thereby relieving our lonely
| hackers of some non-trivial measure of their desperation?

Nothing can match the brute simplicity of a one-line perl regexp
operating over unlimited amounts of data within a ksh or bash
command-line loop.  People with a programming background tend to find
this hard to understand, but there are a lot of folks out there in
publishing and everyday business management who know exactly what I'm
talking about.

A perl regexp is the *upper bound* of sophistication for this
constituency.  Please try, if you can, to imagine being faced with the
job of doing an element-specific mass search-and-replace over two
years' worth of company reports when all you know about XML is what
you can see by looking at the source, you've never heard of the
concept of a normalizer, and the only scripting tool you know how to
use is the Word or WordPerfect macro language.  You may never find
yourself in this position, but there are hundreds of thousands of
ordinary users who aren't going to be so lucky.

This is one of the reasons that many corporate SGML users made it a
policy years ago to normalize all SGML documents to expand the end
tags and why most SGML editors do this automatically every time a file
is saved.  SGML gives you the option of using empty end tags, and the
historical fact is that most large users, given this option and a
sufficient amount of experience with it, choose not to use it.  XML
simply enforces what many people faced with the management of large
amounts of tagged text adopted as good practice a long time ago and
provides the same guarantee of safe tagging across organizations that
has generally existed within them.

If you really like using shortcuts, then go all the way: get a genuine
SGML tool and define a DTD that allows not just end-tag minimization
but full omission of both start-tags *and* end-tags.  Knock yourself
out.  Just make sure to normalize the result before you call it XML
and ship it out to the rest of us to work with.


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