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RE: merge mode for XML

From: Greg A. Woods
Subject: RE: merge mode for XML
Date: Wed, 1 May 2002 12:26:15 -0400 (EDT)

[ On Wednesday, May 1, 2002 at 11:11:32 (-0400), Gary Bisaga wrote: ]
> Subject: RE: merge mode for XML
> Sorry, this strikes me as just a little bit extreme. I agree that you ought
> to write DTDs or schemas (just yesterday I had to make one of our developers
> do so, and our own internal XML infrastructure requires them). But to call
> documents without DTDs/schemas "not XML" and unworthy of configuration
> management is certainly not supported by the XML spec or common usage. For
> one thing, as I'm sure you know, the XML spec does not seem to deprecate
> well-formed XML documents. When I was in the W3 XML working group (1999)
> there was certainly a group of us (not everybody) who believed that
> well-formed documents had a place in the world.

Just because some stupid ill-advised practice is common doesn't mean it
should be condoned.  Specification committees are, by their very nature,
political creatures.  Those of you who practice such "shady" techniques
are able to sway a political process, but that doesn't mean what you do
is "right".

In any case, what do you mean by "ought to"!?!?!?!?  SGML syntax is not
self-documenting by and of itself.  Do you build relational databases
without defining a schema?  Do you design data structures which have the
sole purpose of interchanging data between published APIs but that are
not documented?

"well formed" by definition should mean in conformance to a pre-existing DTD!

As has been mentioned already, no XML parser worth its salt can even
begin to interpret an XML document without first reading the DTD that
describes it!  What do you do, parse your XML documents by hand?

Finally let's also note that if you are using loosely defined XML-like
formats for data interchange between programs then presumably you are
careful enough only to do so in contexts where the content is highly
dynamic (i.e. not static and long lived), in which case it certainly
isn't suitable for CVS, if indeed any form of change tracking....

> And if we take this tack, what about constructs not declarable with DTDs?
> XML Schemas will certainly improve this, but many people are not using them
> yet. Are DTDs with "ANY" declarations also not XML, since they really don't
> describe the semantics of the document? Since DTDs can't describe data types
> or other restrictions (such as field length), is any DTD'ed document "not
> XML"?

What about them?   XML is no more a final all-encompassing solution than
the entire SGML framework from which it comes!  Do all your tools look
exactly like hammers?

This is yet another situation where you must learn to use the right tool
for the job!

> DTDs and schemas are good and should be used wherever possible. But there
> are realities of life.

Indeed, and in the reality you're existing in you are defining overly
complex little languages which you then mis-name as XML.

                                                                Greg A. Woods

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