ANN: XML and Databases article

Steven R. Newcomb srn at
Thu Sep 9 01:39:25 BST 1999

[David Megginson:]

> There aren't many people alive who actually know Groves (we couldn't
> all fit in a Cessna, but we probably could squeeze into a Dash-8
> with a few empty seats), so it had no real familiarity advantage.

<rant type=grove-paradigm-promoting>

Groves are going to turn out to be like Linux, which began with a very
few people who had a vision that turned out to work.  As was the case
with Linux in those early days, there is nobody doing big media
advertising about it, and even the trade press, whose income is
derived from such advertising, hasn't heard of groves very much.  That
will change.  Linux has risen on the strength of the idea that people
can and should be in direct control of their operating system, and
that the result of such control will be increased human productivity.
Similarly, groves will rise on the strength of the idea that people
should be in direct control of their information.  The
product-differentiation barriers that vendors have set up around their
customers' data must come down.  There is no information that
civilization can afford to leave out of the mainstream of information
processing.  XML is a step toward this goal, but it requires that the
data be converted into XML; it will never happen that all data will be
stored (or even interchanged) as XML.  The grove paradigm brings the
barriers down without necessitating data conversion.  The grove
paradigm lets the markup be elsewhere than inside the data.

Even though groves are the technical foundation of the SGML, DSSSL,
and HyTime international standards (respectively the proud,
heavier-duty forerunners of XML, XSL, and XLink, among other W3C
Recommendations), there is no money for groves precisely because
system vendors have *less than no reason* to popularize this dangerous
idea.  As with Linux, however, that is the very reason why the grove
paradigm will become commonplace: it will wring massive inefficiencies
out of the software systems marketplace, and out of software systems.

As everybody who attended Metastructures in Montreal last month knows,
people who are into solving tough real-world information management
problems, like DataChannel / ISOGEN, are selling and developing the
grove paradigm as a core strategy, because they know that there is
nothing else out there that compares to the power it brings to solving
tough business problems, both technically and politically.  Other
system vendors cannot ignore this situation forever.  It won't be too
long before groves are a mass-market phenomenon (even if they're not
called "groves" by then).  The opportunities are almost unbelievably


But don't worry, David: if you don't provide a property set for XML as
part of the work of the XML infoset group, we'll take what you do
produce and turn it into a property set.  That way, it'll be machine
processable as just another notation, by engine software that is just
another plug-in to the wider world that includes all other notations,
and all other database schemas.  That will be a good thing, and we
can't let a little matter of syntax stand in the way of progress.


Steven R. Newcomb, President, TechnoTeacher, Inc.
srn at

voice: +1 972 231 4098
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