XSL Debate, Leventhal responds to Stephen Deach

Simon St.Laurent simonstl at simonstl.com
Tue Jun 22 18:20:53 BST 1999

At 12:56 AM 6/23/99 +1000, Rick Jelliffe wrote:
>Transforming <person style="bold"> to <xsl:fo variation="bold"
>(that is not the correct syntax, dont flame me, it is just an example)
>not convert the data away from being usable on the semantic web: if
>is nothing to tie "person" into some controlled vocabulary, you didn't
>"semantic markup" anyway.

_If_ people included the class attribute you've added above, this isn't
destructive markup anyway, at least not in the strong sense we've been

In the larger case, however, I think this argument obscures the difference

Semantics have been removed
Semantics we can't understand

I can send out documents using CSS and any DTD I want, and you can see them
in a browser.  Machine-readability may be difficult if the program hasn't
been trained for the semantics, but at least the semantic markup is there.
Humans can still figure out 'lastname' and 'firstname' (cultural issues can
cause mixups, of course) and provide the necessary interpolation.  It's not
as good as a standardized DTD we all know, love, and come to expect, but at
least we can still provide mapping for it by hand.

Even in harder cases, say where the semantics are in another language,
there's still hope through traditional dictionary approaches and other
interesting possibilities, without having to analyze the entire document
and make guesses based on formatting and further guesses about what the
labels are.  

Yes, we need controlled vocabularies.  Their absence, however, does not
suggest that we need to rush our data to a controlled vocabulary that only
describes formatting.
Simon St.Laurent
XML: A Primer / Building XML Applications
Inside XML DTDs: Scientific and Technical (July)
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