[XML-SIG] Re: PyDoc/XML?

Fred Yankowski fcy@acm.org
Wed, 29 Sep 1999 12:30:44 -0500

On Wed, Sep 29, 1999 at 11:20:45AM -0400, John Day wrote:
> Going back to my insight that a marked-up document is a union of two
> languages.

You're in good company with that insight:  Don Knuth's "Web" system
and literate-programming approach have the same basis.

> I am trying to learn XML by developing my own tools. This has introduced
> me to some of the more subtle aspects of XML and has caused me to revise
> my opinion of what XML is. (Actually, I think my XML 'evangelists' don't
> really know exactly what XML is and are abusing it by proposing it for
> object databases and other somewhat mis-appropriate uses). I see XML
> strictly as a way of marking up a 'document' to expose its structure and
> semantics. Sure, documents are trees, like databases, but doesn't necessarily
> imply XML is a good way to implement a database. (Basic necessities such
> as query languages don't exist, yet).

In my experience it's really awkward to author material using
XML/SGML-based notations.  And even with the best XML-authoring tool
that I can conceive, there's still the problem of reading and revising
the content later.  To me, even the best of XML documents are just
plain *ugly*.  XML makes sense as a data interchange format, but *not*
as an authoring format or as a database format.  In the case of
software documentation, XML could play a role in providing a basis for
a family of DTDs used in sharing useful information about programs,
such as consolidating reference material from multiple sources (and
source languages) into a common catalog or repository.  The actual
documentation source would be designed to be convenient to the authors
and maintainers of the programs, and translated to the common XML DTDs
as necessary.

One related example is the "RSS" format being promulgated by
UserLand.com and Netscape [1].  It's an XML DTD for publishing short
news items and weblogs with links to extended material.  Getting to my
point... one of the first things RSS authors did is write scripts to
generate the RSS/XML code from source written in a simple
structured-text format [2].  This is likely to be typical:  frequent
users will create their own mini-language tailored to their tasks, and
will use scripts to generate the XML from that source.

[1] <http://my.netscape.com/publish/help/mnn20/quickstart.html>
[2] <http://my.userland.com/stories/storyReader$14>

Fred Yankowski    fred@OntoSys.com      tel: +1.630.879.1312
President         OntoSys.com/fred      fax: +1.630.879.1370
OntoSys, Inc      38W242 Deerpath Rd, Batavia, IL 60510, USA