Re: Formatting Objects considered harmful

Subject: Re: Formatting Objects considered harmful
From: Stephen Deach <sdeach@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 22 Apr 1999 12:31:49 -0700
This whole debate seems to miss several key points:
 1.) Stripping the original semantics is NOT ALWAYS harmful:
     a.) Storing any derived form of original content
         that strips the semantic meaning MAY be harmful. If one
         actually needs the original semantics, it probably is harmful.
     b.) Conversely, almost all books contain significant derived information.
         The editing and filtering (authoring) process often ADDS value,
         yet it clearly strips all the original semantics.
 I can't unconditionally side with a) or with b), it depends on what I am
looking for in producing or in using the document.

 2.) You can't determine the semantics from a DTD alone, you can only
derive the syntax and the allowed organization (of both elements (records,
fields, objects) and attributes (properties, qualifiers, modifiers,
constraints, values).
  Many of the original document components are stored in proprietary
tagsets (even if encoded in XML syntax), I defy you to determine the
semantics given just the tags and the DTD. (In many DB applications, even
knowing the full DB schema is inadeguate to derive the semantics of the
underlying information. One is forced to guess them from record NAMES and
field NAMES, which often evolve overtime. Fields are often overloaded with
alternate uses, making the actual semantics purely a guess.)

 3.) A tagset (such as XSL's FOs) which is public, stable, and well
understood (with published semantics) is FAR better than a proprietary
encoding or a proprietary tagset (without published semantics).

 4.) XML allows the definition of application specific tagsets. XSL's FO
tagset is designed solely for describing paginated and non-paginated
presentations, it is no more dangerous than any other tagset. If you misuse
it, you are just as foolish as if you misuse any other tagset or file format.

  Stephen Deach                            |  Sr Computer Scientist
  408-536-6521 (office)                    |  Adobe Systems Inc.
  408-537-4214 (fax)                       |  Mail Stop E15-420
  sdeach@xxxxxxxxx                         |  345 Park Ave
                                           |  San Jose, CA 95110-2704
                                           |  USA

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