A Line in the Declarative Syntax Sand(Was: XML complexity, namespaces (was WG))

Marcus Carr mrc at allette.com.au
Tue Mar 23 22:17:10 GMT 1999

Sean Mc Grath wrote:

> SGML gives you declarative syntax that can obviate the
> need for coding around certain types of data modelling,
> content authoring problems.
> XML is light on the declarative syntax, leaving more
> in the realm of "application specific" implementation
> in a programming language.
> Ultimately, both views have their place and both
> may be "correct" for a given problem domain.

That was the topic of my presentation at the XML/SGML Asia Pacific conference last year (call
for papers soon to be issued). If the deliverable is simply documents that conform to a
certain structure, the most flexible approach would allow you to use an SGML or XML processor
depending on the task. Provided the cost of this isn't excessive (sometimes it's nothing), it
can be handy to use one processor or the other.

Perhaps this is partly due to the dynamics of our organisation; typically we have data
delivered to us in any format and we're expected to deliver back *ML. The clients usually want
this to be as "black box" as possible, so we're free to implement whatever methods and tools
we see fit. During conversion, we may use an SGML parser to aid with tag omitability, but
increasingly our clients want valid XML data, so it must finally be parsed with an XML parser,
as well as any stages that benefit from a well-formedness check. As David Megginson mentioned
the other day, this may be difficult across an organisation, but it's not difficult across a
conversion team. Although I know this won't work for everyone, I prefer to consider SGML and
XML as two arrows in a quiver, not two quivers.


Marcus Carr                      email:  mrc at allette.com.au
Allette Systems (Australia)      www:    http://www.allette.com.au
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."
       - Einstein

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