A call for reason

Joe Lapp jlapp at webmethods.com
Tue Nov 30 10:22:12 GMT 1999

At 06:57 PM 11/29/1999 -0600, Len Bullard wrote:
>[...] SML will require 
>at least a Nokia or two to make it viable.  Got milk?

Excellent point, and I'll take that as a call to change the approach.  Instead of starting from first principles to identify the 'simple' subset, we probably ought to empirically identify the 'simple' subset predominantly now in use.

That way, when we are done specifying it, we will instantly have a huge user base and countless proponents.  The goal is merely to have a label we can attach to the subset, having defined the subset, to promote the subset as the recommended way for a particular audience to use XML.

But we would have to identify the audience, and much as it might appeal to the SML opposition, the term 'simple' doesn't seem properly descriptive of this audience.  (Its good to throw a peanut now and then.)

I still think our audience is the 'data' audience more than the 'publishing' audience, and I recognize that there is a continuum between these extremes.  And perhaps there is some majority agreement on what 'simple' means.

And what would this buy us, once we've defined the subset and given it a label?  The following rights:

- The right to label applications as conforming to the subset, and many existing applications could immediately assume this label.  Conforming would refer to XML produced rather than to XML accepted, which could be more open.

- The right to teach the subset before teaching full XML.  Users learning to use a subset-compliant application know they need learn no more than the subset.

- The right to answer questions about abstruse XML features by saying, "Oh, you don't need to know that -- just learn the well-defined subset."

- The right to decline supporting full XML, since the fact that so many applications are already subset-compliant relieves the pressure.

- The right to never learn all the abstruse features of XML.  Did you know that '<' and '<' are not identical when they occur in an entity declaration, even though they are identical when they occur in element content?

And full XML will remain in full force where it is most useful -- on the 'publishing' side, where SGML remains the more complex alternative.

Again, although XML has more baggage than many applications need, it is still an amazing feat on the part of Jon Bosak and his team that XML came to be useful for such a wide variety of applications.  Many of us are deeply in their debt.
Joe Lapp              (Looking for some good people to help design
Senior Engineer        and build the Internet's business-to-business
webMethods, Inc.       XML infrastructure.  We are 100% Java.)
jlapp at webMethods.com           http://www.webMethods.com

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