Updated: 7/08/2003; 9:59:59 p.m..
Read/Write Web
Richard MacManus' weblog about the Two-Way Web.

Thursday, 7 August 2003

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12:43:06 AM    comment []

Dave Winer says there are 2 ways to approach XML:

"...people who think of XML as a programming space, and people who think of it as a literary space."

The first group "love XML for its technical intricacy". The literary people however "use XML because it is a convenient way to move info between apps".

XML-as-literature is a romantic notion. While most programming languages (C++, Java, etc) are incomprehensible to the average person, XML is written in plain english. Both humans and computers can 'read' it. Actually XML, if we treat it as a form of literature, is less difficult to read than James Joyce! If you don't believe me, check out this sample from Joyce's Ulysses:

"Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot. Snotgreen, bluesilver, rust: coloured signs. Limits of the diaphane. But he adds: in bodies."

People in the "programming space" would probably love James Joyce. Consider RDF, probably the most popular XML syntax for people inclined to technical intricacy. RDF syntax is similar to James Joyce's writing, except it's way more difficult to read! It's so hard to read that people have to draw diagrams in order to write it. I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing, because RDF has many attributes (pardon the bad XML pun). As Shelley Powers wrote at xml.com:

"...the RDF model, and its associated syntax, brings with it the ability to define statements about data, rather than to just record pieces of data."

But the trade-off between using RDF or simple data-recording XML, is similar to the trade-off between reading James Joyce's Ulysses or Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. RDF/Joyce is complex and hard to get your head around. But potentially they both offer great semantic rewards. Straight XML/Hemingway is simple to understand, but capable of sublime poetry too.

In case you hadn't guessed, I'm in the literary group of XML people. I happen to like Hemingway's novels and I never did finish Ulysses :-) Maybe one day I may pick up Ulysses again, as one day I may tackle RDF. But right now I think Hemingway said it best:

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don't know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use."

1:11:42 AM    comment [] - See Also:  Dave Winer | literature | RDF | Semantic Web | Two-Way Web | XML 

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