[SML] Whether to support Attribute or not?

Sean McGrath digitome at iol.ie
Tue Nov 30 10:11:41 GMT 1999

[Sean McGrath]
>> Turn it around for a moment. Think of it this way:
>> 	1) elements are elements
>> 	2) attribute values are kinda-sort elements except that they
>> 	are constrained in various ways.
>Beggin the question.  2 points deducted.  ;)
>> Simplification:
>> 	1) Make all attributes elements
>> Expressive power lost = 0
[Greg Reynolds]
>Hm.  By my calculation, ExPow lossage = 50%.  I had a syntactic means of
>expressing two different notions; now everything is one stew of elements.
>I've lost the syntactic analog of what goes on in my itty bitty grey cell.

Its down to the percieved fundamental different in types of
information. I don't believe it is real. Others do.
I understand what Clark Evans means about the importance
of context in framing the element/attribute "distinction"
and I think you are coming from a similar angle.

But hey, contexts change with each script I write to process
XML right? For example:-
	<dog type = "Alsatian">
		<p>This one is a real puppy.</p>

Lets say I want to sort dogs by breed. The above XML suits
my purpose well. If my authors think primarily in terms of
dog types, perhaps this suits them too.[1]

Lets say I want to harvest descriptions of dogs. For authoring and
script writing purposes I would prefer this:
	<dog desc = "This one is a real puppy" type = "Alsation"/>

So the ideal element/attribute carve-up of information depends
on the processing task. If the distinction is so ephemeral that
it changes with each of an infinity of different possible
processing tasks then is it really there at all?
Attributes are a convenience - not an epistomological

>Most of the debate seems centered on what might make life easier for
>software.  If that's the criterion, then no-atts wins by a mile.  But if the
>criterion is making life easier for the writer/reader/designer of texts
>(i.e. xml docs), then attributes are definitely in.
Woa! Firstly, I am focused 100% on easy software in SML-Land. At
this level of an information architecture I don't give a flying
fig-roll about writers/readers/designers! If us software
types are worthy of the air we breath, they will never see this
stuff! SML (IMO) is unashamedly about making things drop-dead
easy for *software*. All the user convenience stuff gets
layered on top.

Secondly, I have *never* come across a writer who likes
attributes:-) I have just finished a book on XML processing
with Python that I wrote in XML using a combination
of Emacs and Wordperfect/XML. Total attribute count = 0.
Am I a freak?


<Sean uri="http://www.digitome.com/sean.html">
Developers Day co-Chair WWW9, April 2000, Amsterdam

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