[ERH:X-Rant] How To Kill An XML Standard 101

by M. David Peterson

Mokka mit Schlag � Chameleon schemas considered harmful

This is not how namespaces are designed to work, and it's going to cause massive problems for anyone writing any sort of software to process XForms, whether it's DOM, SAX. XSLT, XPath, or almost anything else. XForms elements should be able to be recognized by their namespace alone. You should not have to care about the host language in which they're embedded. If we're going to start changing the namespace for every host language that comes along, we might as well not have namespaces in the first place.


If you believe there is a single, more important, absolute requirement in the land of XML than that of the proper usage of XML namespaces: You obviously don't understand XML.

That said, there's got to be at least some sort of reasonable explanation to the mentioned madness quoted above, doesn't there?

Somebody care to clue me in, cuz' I have to admit, at first sight it very much seems like a few loose screws have rattled off the W3C XHTML2/XForms working groups wagon wheel, placing some serious doubt upon the ability of these same mentioned groups to produce a quality specification that even closely resembles any of their 1.0 counterparts.

Anybody?

8 Comments

Micah Dubinko
2006-10-27 18:15:55
The problem is with the original assumption: that XML namespaces itself isn't horribly broken, resulting in attempts to route around the damage. -m
len
2006-10-28 14:58:55
The learning curve for SGML was cited as the reason for making HTML so flexible and easy that to this day, even it's inventors can't control the mess that it makes. When I asked on the XML-Dev list for the five biggest problems with XML, Namespaces consistently ranked number one. Pick any two:


2. Namespaces are too hard.


2. Namespaces don't work reliably.


2. Namespaces are badly designed.


2. Namespaces should be replaced with something better.


2. Namespaces are as good as it will get in a polyglot document.


2. The accretion of markup designs for web systems that began by discarding SGML in favor of simpler systems to achieve the most rapid expansion possible on networks of W3C-controlled systems was witless and made by people who technically did not understand what they were proposing nor did the companies that supported it.


2. The problem of doing the simplest thing possible is that it is the simplest thing possible at the moment and once it is fielded you can't take it back even after the moment is past.


I'd like to say I feel badly about that. I don't. I accept that simpleminded solutions to complex problems get the same results in technology and politics. Slow and steady design with incremental small changes are the best approach to both but that wise approach seldom wins one a Nobel Prize, a MacArthur Grant, or a world of praise from the companies that profit selling the solutions for the discards of the last simple solution.


Get used to it.


len

dorian taylor
2006-10-29 12:08:53
I'm surprised there hasn't been more activity on this issue yet. I can understand a rationale for a reply like this, but I'm not entirely sure that lowering the bar for the adoption of XForms by what I would consider to be a trivial amount merits the implementation of chameleon schemas - especially since other vocabularies that could be embedded in a composite XHTML document (like RDF, SVG, XLink, XInclude and RDDL, just off the top of my head) require the acknowledgment of namespaces as well.
M. David Peterson
2006-10-30 16:12:58
@Micah,


>> that XML namespaces itself isn't horribly broken, resulting in attempts to route around the damage. <<


I'm not sure I follow, though I'm not sure I disagree either. Care to extend or point me to a reference or two?


Thanks for the follow-up comment!

M. David Peterson
2006-10-30 16:15:35
@dorian,


>> especially since other vocabularies that could be embedded in a composite XHTML document (like RDF, SVG, XLink, XInclude and RDDL, just off the top of my head) require the acknowledgment of namespaces as well. <<


Absolutely agree! To me its a matter of consistency, as well as a matter of ensuring that this same mentioned consistency doesn't encourage the "well we've gone this far, why not just go a little further?" mentality.


It seems to me that the further you push away against the standard, the less value the standards themselves have. In other words, if standards can justifiably be routed around, then wheres the value in a standards body creating the standard in the first place?


Extending the standard is one thing -- as long as it doesn't break the base upon which it is built (or at very least hold potential of breaking), then there shouldn't be any cause for concern.


And with all of this said, Micah is obviously a pretty bright guy who just so happens to know a thing or two about XML, and in particular, XForms (given the fact that he was one of the original editors of the XForms 1.0 spec), so I am intrigued at the moment by his comment.


Maybe what this is isn't what it seems to be?

M. David Peterson
2006-11-02 18:25:46
@len,


I'm guessing one of the O'Reilly internal folks must have snatched it from the bitter clutches of the junk comment system, as this is the first time I am seeing this. My apologies for the late reply!


So I am beginning to get a sense of what you have suggested in various other comments over the past year. I must say that it seems to be I have simply taken too much for granted as to who are the hero's and who are the villains in all of this.


It's eye opening to say the least.


Thanks for your help in bringing to this to the surface!

len
2006-11-03 05:49:01
A junk comment system? When the machines get to rate opinions we are hobbled in ways too numerous to consider. I understand the reasons for them but I'll never learn to like them. It is why I prefer email technical lists over annotated blogs. If sharing in a conversation is the goal, there can be no 'more equal pigs'. The web meritocracy quickly comes to resemble the American two party system that way.
M. David Peterson
2006-11-03 06:53:22
@len,


Oh how we think alike > http://groups.google.com/group/llup/browse_thread/thread/c9b8ccee7f4e4dee :D