Top-down or bottom-up?

Paul Prescod paul at
Tue Jun 15 13:53:12 BST 1999

David Megginson wrote:
> 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.

Before I am further labelled a communist or Reaganomicist I want to point
out that I didn't mean to imply that the rule of thumb for all development
should always be "design everything first and then implement everything
when every detail has been figured out." You have to bring design in at
some point and Simon and I have both (separately) pointed out that the W3C
tends much more often to bring it in much later than it should. I'm not
confident about his complaint about formatting models because I seem to
remember a "joint commission" on the W3C formatting model being developed
a long time ago. The problem in that case may be more W3C secrecy instead
of W3C disorganization.

I do know what my own complaint is though:

Various Web specifications allow you to talk to "things" and to 
associate properties with "things." None of them define "thing." 
Therefore it is completely unclear what things we are talking about 
and associating properties with. It is impossible to know all of the 
properties associated with a thing or whether two properties talk about 
the same thing.

Now if there was a good reason for the definition of "thing" to be widly
varying (and not, say, based on twenty years of object oriented
programming, 10 years of HyTime practice, 30 years of file system research
and many years of distributed systems research) then I would accept that
we should arrive at bottom-up solutions to this tricky problem before
attempting a top-down one.

Put it this way: governments must manage economies whether they want to or
not. They control the cash. Similarly, the W3C controls the definitions of
what things mean on the Web. They cannot both make specifications and also
choose to leave their interpretation up to readers.

 Paul Prescod  - ISOGEN Consulting Engineer speaking for only himself

"Silence," wrote Melville, "is the only Voice of God." The assertion,
like its subject, cuts both ways, negating and affirming, implying both
absence and presence, offering us a choice; it's a line that the Society
of American Atheists could put on its letterhead and the Society of
Friends could silently endorse while waiting to be moved by the spirit
to speak. - Listening for Silence by Mark Slouka, Apr. 1999, Harper's

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