"Clean Specs"

Simon St.Laurent simonstl at simonstl.com
Sun Feb 7 19:23:16 GMT 1999

At 11:05 AM 2/7/99 -0800, you wrote:
>At 12:01 PM 2/7/99 -0500, Simon St.Laurent wrote:
>>To a considerable extent this demands that spec writers see themselves as
>>implementors - and probably that they include implementors in the process,
>>especially implementors who don't have prior experience in whatever
>>standards provided the foundation of the current project.  The story for
>>XML 1.0 of using Peter Murray-Rust as a canary is a good one, though I'd
>>like to see more of that in the actual group of people writing the specs,
>>not just the surrounding groups.
>There's an interesting lesson lurking in there.  The original XML WG
>included implementors of Author/Editor, HoTMetaL, groff, SP, Jade, 
>Pat/Lector, IBMIDDOC, Dynatext, Mosaic, and Grif.  So Simon's (implied)
>theory that the specs would have been better, had the authoring group
>included implementors, stands on shaky ground.  A couple of hypotheses
>that might explain this:

I think you missed a key point I made in the above paragraph - that the
inclusion of implementors _without_ prior experience in the material being
worked on is important.  I'd argue quite heartily that the many years of
implementation experience the WG brought to the table put them at a
_disadvantage_ in writing specs that might be read by an audience without
that level of prior experience: the non-SGML audience XML was supposedly to

>the one premise that seems to get
>consensus, in this group at least, is "more examples".  (Hmm, the
>namespace spec has tons).  

Make them normative, document them heavily, and build on them in layers
(step 1, then step 2 - same example, growing more complex), and you'll hear
loud cheers from this corner.

>- [namespaces] might be easier to understand for people coming
>   in from outside who aren't carrying around a bunch of SGML-derived 
>   expectations. 

I wish, but I think a lot of people are getting stuck figuring out what
XML's SGML-derived expectations are and then piling namespaces on top of it.

>And as regards the namespace spec, I think that some people on this
>list are substantially full of shit, and are wilfully refusing to see
>how simple it is because it does not meet their own design prejudices.
>I think that spec is *way* better than the XML spec.

I don't think that's going to get you a lot of positive feedback from
anyone, on this spec or future specs.  Namespaces better than XML 1.0?
Maybe if it didn't have to layer on top of XML 1.0.  I'm looking forward to
a future revision of XML where this can get cleanly integrated, and maybe
that'll be the one worth judging.

Simon St.Laurent
XML: A Primer / Building XML Applications (March)
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