Feeler for SML (Simple Markup Language)

Eric Bohlman ebohlman at netcom.com
Tue Nov 16 07:20:42 GMT 1999

On Mon, 15 Nov 1999, Simon St.Laurent wrote:

> At 10:46 AM 11/15/99 -0800, Tim Bray wrote:
> >Right, that's it exactly.  Even if you happen to be using a processor
> >that might try to resolve them.  Sorry, I just don't see this as a big deal.
> Try explaining this glitch to people who don't understand XML well enough
> to understand what an 'external entity' is a few hundred times, and perhaps
> your opinion of its importance will change.  The guy who used '&mycompany;'
> may know what it means, but the lucky troubleshooter on the other end may
> well not know - and probably shouldn't have to know.
> We're probably stuck with the mess, but unfortunately it's a very big deal
> to certain classes of users, particularly those who'd like XML application
> to process XML documents without a lot of oversight about 'what XML really
> is'.

Whoa there!  This is starting to remind me of some of the flamewars on
comp.lang.perl.misc over whether it's reasonable to expect a programmer to
RTFM!  If a particular wireless protocol really does need to be usable by
script kiddies [1], then the solution, to the extent that one is possible,
is to hide all the details in an application-specific API.  If someone
doesn't want to understand what XML is, to the extent of knowing what an
external entity is, they should *not* be using an API that's expressed in
terms of XML constructs!  If the protocol can't handle external
entitities, yet needs to be usable by Web Slaves who wouldn't know a
markup language from a hole in the ground, then you need an API whose
implementation isn't capable of generating external entity references.
It's that simple.

[1] A script kiddie is someone who writes (or more likely cuts and pastes)
code without having, or desiring to have, a mental model of what the code
does; someone who thinks of code as magical incantations and asks "what do
I need to type to make this happen."  Script kiddies are to programming as
prooftexters are to theology.

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