XSL Debate, Leventhal responds to Stephen Deach

Simon St.Laurent simonstl at simonstl.com
Tue Jun 22 19:14:13 BST 1999

At 01:49 AM 6/23/99 +1000, Rick Jelliffe wrote:
>But removing a label does not remove semantics unless that label has
>semantics (available through markup or hardcoded into the application.)
>There is nothing more semantic about <name> than <font>.

If you can figure out the meaning and do something with it, machine or
otherwise, I'd be happy to argue that semantics are present.  Perhaps not
universal, perhaps not convenient enough, but they are indeed present,
unless you're using a much more restrictive definition of semantics than
I've ever encountered.

>In XSL you can generate linking attributes which point to a controlled
>vocabulary or which which point to the original document anyway.
>So your argument here is not about XSL at all, but about one particular
>use of XSL.

Er... isn't generating formatting objects what _XSL_ is all about? (Yes,
I'm aware that XSLT will let you generate other vocabularies.)

>But XSL has a transformation language, so presumably it is transforming
>from a more abstract kind of markup.  Are you saying that is it always
>to make data available in formatting markup? 

I'm saying that it is wrong to create a formatting tool that encourages
developers to make data available _only_ in formatting markup, without
providing the original semantics.  This approach takes us away from the
intelligent Web that the seemed to be the goal of the original XML
development, and puts us in a hell perhaps worse than that already created
by HTML's limited semantics.

Imagine a table of developers who want to create agents.  After years of
battling HTML (and mostly losing), they're writing their resumes, leaving
the field.  While digging around for the latest buzzwords, they find the
XML spec.  Cheers go up, and the developers are ready to go out again and
build new tools for collecting and using information.  Then the XSL spec
arrives, and rumors of 'semantic firewalls' come in from XSL-List.  The
agent designers sit down again and work on their resumes, hoping to finally
get out of a field that the W3C encourages with their public statements and
discourages with concrete proposals.  The goodwill of information providers
isn't strong enough encouragement to bank a career on.

>That would be a strange
>thing for the developer of FOP.

I'm not the developer of FOP - that's James Tauber. It would indeed be
strange for him to be saying such things.

Simon St.Laurent
XML: A Primer / Building XML Applications
Inside XML DTDs: Scientific and Technical (July)
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