A Plea for Schemas

Simon St.Laurent simonstl at simonstl.com
Tue Nov 2 01:00:27 GMT 1999

At 07:35 PM 11/1/99 -0500, David Megginson wrote:
>Paul Prescod <paul at prescod.net> writes:
>> Tim Bray wrote:
>> > 
>> > Note "machine-readable" in the sentence above.  At this point in history,
>> > it's the human-readable part of schemas that seem to me to have the
>> > biggest payoffs, because that's what the programmers read before they
>> > write the code that actually does something useful. -Tim
>> Any programmer that reads the prose but doesn't read the schema is bound
>> to make many avoidable assumptions and mistakes.
>Et vice-versa.  The only reason that formal languages are less
>ambiguous than natural ones is that they're not capable of saying much
>in the first place.

That last bit is a beautiful statement that sums it all up, though the
pieces above it both have merit.  

We need a standard way to get to all of that information, both machine- and
human- readable. Right now, all we have is a way to get a formal
description and a bunch of comments, if we're very lucky.

I'm strongly hoping that both the XML Schemas and XML Packaging efforts
give very high priority to human-readable documentation.  I just finished
(yet another) XML book in which I felt every other sentence was "make sure
you document it for _people_, because if you don't, it's just more crap".

Simon St.Laurent
XML: A Primer, 2nd Ed.
Building XML Applications
Inside XML DTDs: Scientific and Technical
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