Top-down or bottom-up?

David Megginson david at
Mon Jun 14 15:08:55 BST 1999

Paul Prescod writes:

 > It is true that the W3C process encourages bottom up development
 > where a spec. is developed and then integrated with the rest
 > later. Of course the IETF and ISO have the same problem. The only
 > way to do better would be to SLOW DOWN and map out the data and
 > processing models before developing syntax. But who has time to
 > figure out where we are going before we start driving?

In principle, I know that Paul is right; in practice, I've lost much
of the faith that I once had in top-down approaches to anything, from
system design to macroeconomics.  

More specifically, top-down can work only with very, very good models,
and even I (who am known to shoot my mouth off) would not go so far as
to claim that I can produce a sufficiently accurate and complete model
of the Web over the next five years; in the absence of such a model,
bottom-up development and the free market of ideas is the only
reasonable choice, messy as it may be.

Remember the big experiments in top-down, centralized economic
planning in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s?  Our grandchildren may still be
paying off the debts from that one.

All the best,


David Megginson                 david at

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