When to use attributes vs. elements

Dan Brickley Daniel.Brickley at bristol.ac.uk
Fri Feb 5 17:52:45 GMT 1999

On Fri, 5 Feb 1999, Andrew Layman wrote:

> Peter asked whether there are rules or guidelines in XML for when to use
> attributes versus elements.
> You will find a wealth of opinions on this topic.  Partly this reflects the
> wealth of options that XML gives you and the fact that XML can be employed
> for many purposes.
> You may want to take a look at "XML Syntax Recommendation for Serializing
> Graphs of Data"
> (http://www.w3.org/TandS/QL/QL98/pp/microsoft-serializing.html) for a
> suggestion on how to use XML for serializing programming objects and data
> from databases.
> -Andrew Layman

Is this paper suggesting that the entire XML (and SGML?) community
might be persuaded to serialise directed labelled graphs into XML always using
this proposed canonicalised serialisation algorithm? 

If not, how can we tell from looking at a chunk of XML data whether
they've followed this approach or followed one of the other various
(explicit or implicit) graph serialisation patterns? Should we be able
to tell whether this algorithm has been used without
consulting/dereferencing schema declarations, ie. is there a need to
propose an enclosing 'GraphSerialisation' tag of some sort so we can
tell whether these rules have been used? Or some other sort of aid to

If not, doesn't this amount to assuming (a) the we _know_ what others
were thinking when they designed their serialisation algorithms, or (b)
that the world can be persuaded to adopt this approach for 100% of data 
and document interchange. Neither fits well with the "wealth of opinions
on this topic"...


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