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XML library for validating MathML
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Date: 2008-09-19 (11:31)
From: Matt Gushee <matt@g...>
Subject: Re: [Caml-list] XML library for validating MathML
If you'll forgive the slight off-topic-ness ... I spent a couple of 
years as an XML consultant. Got out of the business partly for the kinds 
of reasons Gerd cites. Anyway, just a couple of quick comments:

Gerd Stolpmann wrote:

> Thanks. Initially, I thought XML is an easy format - because it looks
> easy. But the specs are really challenging - full of bad compromises,
> and I would expect that a widely adopted standard has to undergo some
> evaluation of its practicability before it is published.

Well, yes, one would expect that. Two factors to consider are that:

  1) XML is descended from SGML--which was horribly difficult to
     implement (hey, it was invented at IBM and used by the US Dept of
     Defense, so what do you expect?). Compared to full SGML, XML is very

  2) The process of developing W3C specs (technically they're not
     "standards," though I'm not sure that really matters to anyone)
     is vendor-driven, hence highly politicized. I mean, put Microsoft,
     Sun, IBM, etc. together in the same room--need I say more? Whereas
     the IETF groups that develop RFCs, for example, are more of a
     technical meritocracy, something like the Open Source software
     community. So it should be no surprise that RFCs tend to have
     fairly good technical foundations (HTTP, anyone?) while many of
     the W3C specs are just hideous.

  3) Regarding the white-space problem, I think the design may have been
     influenced (rightly or wrongly) by notions about white space being
     helpful for human readers ... somewhat like Python with its
     indentation-based code blocks.

> There is much more to say about shortcomings in XML, or the XML
> standardization process. It is now an unnecessary complicated
> technology. I would advise everybody to use it only when there is no way
> around it, e.g. for exchange of structured data between organizations.

And it's really not optimal for that, it's just a widely-adopted lowest 
common denominator. But bear in mind that XML was originally intended 
for structured *documents*; it got hijacked for other purposes amid all 
the e-commerce hype around the turn of the century. Some of the 
XML-based document formats (DocBook? SVG?) are, IMHO, not such bad 
compromises if you consider the known alternatives.

Matt Gushee
: Bantam - lightweight file manager : matt.gushee.net/software/bantam/ :
: RASCL's A Simple Configuration Language :     matt.gushee.net/rascl/ :