Why informal specs usually win

david at megginson.com david at megginson.com
Fri Jan 22 13:37:36 GMT 1999

Paul Prescod writes:

 > That is not true. There were many bugs found in XML months after it
 > was available on a public mailing list. Characterizing bugs in
 > specifications is much, much harder than characterizing them in
 > code. It wouldn't be so hard if the specs were more formal, but
 > that isn't the way things are going.

Informal specs fit into the Worse-is-Better pattern [1]: a less formal
spec that many people can understand easily will generally be adopted
and implemented much more successfully than a more formal spec that
fewer people can understand, despite the disadvantage that the less
formal spec probably contains ambiguities, inconsistencies and

Paul and I are among the five or six (I exaggerate -- 10 or 20) people
who ever bothered to figure out SGML groves, from one of the more
obfuscated formal specs, so we're not a good sample.

All the best,


[1] http://www.naggum.no/worse-is-better.html

David Megginson                 david at megginson.com

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