an unfilled need

David Megginson david at
Mon Sep 6 12:59:13 BST 1999

David LeBlanc writes:

 > David, I think your example is a bit strained here. Recognition of
 > a citation doesn't seem to me to be materially different from
 > recognition of <toollist>.

They're meant to show that there is an infinite variety of meanings
available.  I deliberately picked a couple of examples from outside
HTML to show that meaning was more than structural rules (a <p> can
contain a <cite>) or a tiny set of presentational rules (this is block
text, this is a link).

 > As in all human communication (which includes XML or HTML no matter
 > it's bias towards easy computer recognition of content), I think
 > there's an assumed common referent for things like pliars and
 > citations and such. Any marked departure from such common referents
 > reduces the ability to communicate imho.

Absolutely correct, but how can we capture those referents for
automatic discovery?

 > I don't think any markup language is, or has the potential to be, a
 > universal language. It does offer the opportunity, within a
 > community of interest, for people to agree on the meaning and
 > structure of information that's relevant to that domain and for
 > people who become interested in that domain to rapidly become
 > fluent in the vocabulary of that domain.

Yes, this is my original point.  Any given group of users can agree on
a severly restricted universe of meanings, but we're dealing with the
problem of blind exchange, where the receiver does not necessariily
belong to the same group as the sender: if I send you an arbitrary
chunk of XML, how do you figure out what to do with it?  My claim is
that the problem is not solvable in the general case.

 > I don't think it's appropriate for any single organization to attempt to
 > set definitions (i.e. specify namespaces) for particular domains of
 > interest. I see that as an exercise best left to those who know whatever
 > particular domain they are creating a tagset/namespaces for.

That was my point, more or less.

All the best,


David Megginson                 david at

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