Seeking a Dao of Groves

Paul Prescod paul at
Mon Jan 31 09:24:12 GMT 2000

There are may ideas that the W3C could borrow from the "grove world"
(or even just from computer science) without learning about groves:

 * the syntax of a language, notation, convention, etc. should not be
finalized until the data model is worked out. (we violated this rule
when we invented XML) The syntax should reflect the data model.

 * an API for a language should not be finalized until the language's
data model is worked out. The API should reflect the data model.

 * addressing and query languages should not be finalized until the
language's data model is worked out. The query languages should reflect
the data model.

 * data models should be in a syntax that computers can "grok" so that
the computers can help you write software like query engines and API

The first three are more important than the last.

The latest XLink specs show that we have made a little progress on these
issues in the last two years. The XLink does not normatively describe a
data model but it at least references RDF in an informal, non-normative
way. Consider it an exercise for the reader: "you can complete this
specification if you feel like." I wonder if we'll have a normative data
model before XPath, the Infoset and the DOM all go in different
directions as they did for XML?

Here's more evidence of progress (you'll notice that unlike Steve I tend
to see the glass as half-full):

> Since in practice specialized processors of various kinds (XML 
> Schema processors or link processors, to name two) will need to 
> provide information not included in the maximal info set defined 
> here, it is highly desirable that the Infoset spec be supplemented by 
> a specification describing explicitly how to define new packages or 
> modules of information items which must, may, or should be provided to 
> downstream apps by specialized processors of various types. Such an 
> explicit description would allow the task of elaborating the info 
> set for various specialized purposes to be distributed, and avoid 
> a continuous stream of requests that the infoset be extended to 
> handle this or that specialized form of information. My 
> personal view is that such a description should be made part 
> of the Infoset spec itself. Others have said they fear it would 
> delay the Infoset spec, and that the meta-description should be 
> in a separate document.

A formalism for defining data models of markup-based system? Sounds
familiar! It may be a year or two late to be defining a foundational
formalism for information sets but it seems to me that it is better late
than never.
 Paul Prescod  - ISOGEN Consulting Engineer speaking for himself
"The calculus and the rich body of mathematical analysis to which it
gave rise made modern science possible, but it was the algorithm that
made possible the modern world." 
        - from "Advent of the Algorithm" David Berlinski

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