documenting schemas/DTDs

Reynolds, Gregg greynolds at
Fri Nov 19 15:52:29 GMT 1999

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Tim Bray [mailto:tbray at]
> Sent: Wednesday, November 17, 1999 10:46 PM
> At 09:45 PM 11/17/99 -0600, W. Eliot Kimber wrote:
> rewards repeated reading.  DTD's and XML Schemas both are 
> *just syntax* 
> dammit, and syntax is not interesting.  XML, at the end of 
> the day, is not 
> interesting.  Messages that convey meaning are interesting.  
> Meaning is 
> only conveyed by
>  (a) running code, or
>  (b) human-readable prose.
> To generate (a), you have to have (b) first.
> End of the story. -Tim

Oh no, stories never end.  Syntax is extraordinarily interesting, provided
you can map it to structures in some semantic domain.  That mapping is
what's missing (or rather, left implicit) in XML (and SGML).  And you forgot
option (c) formal specifications.  After all real engineers - the ones who
build things that don't break, i.e. not SW engineers - get along fine with
communication techniques that are neither computer programs nor informal
prose.  Formal specs ( Z is the most developed and widespread) are both
quite readable for humans and logically rigorous (and thus subject to
machine manipulation, e.g. typechecking).  Or can be; anything can be
misused.  For a good example take a look at "Object-Z Specification of the
CORBA Repository Server" at

If XML etc. were expressed in a language like Z, much of the confusion and
misunderstanding about various aspects of it would just disappear.  IMHO.


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