Understanding XML in 15 Seconds (or Less!)

by M. David Peterson

I'm spending the five mnutes of "extra" time I have this morning (waiting for a response email before I can continue is what's providing me this snapshot moment :) catching up on as many of my favorite blogs as I can fit in, and stumbled upon this gem from Todd Ditchendorf,

Todd Ditchendorf's Blog � Blog Archive � XML Power

Q. I've tried reading the (XML | SGML | XSL | XPATH | DSSSL | ...)
specification, but it doesn't make any sense! There's too
much jargon!

A. Specification authors deliberately obfuscate the text of
ISO and W3C standards to ensure that normal people
(e.g., Perl programmers) can't use the technology without
assistance from the so-called "experts" who designed the

Fortunately, there is a handy translation table you can use:

ISO/W3C terminology Common name
attribute tag
attribute value tag
attribute value literal tag
attribute value specification tag
character reference tag
comment tag
comment declaration tag
declaration tag
document type declaration tag
document type definition tag
element tag
element type tag
element type name tag
entity tag
entity reference tag
general entity tag
generic identifier tag
literal tag
numeric character reference tag
parameter entity tag
parameter literal tag
processing instruction tag
tag command

With the help of this table, even Visual Basic programmers
should have no trouble deciphering ISO prose.


Thanks for the laugh, Todd!


2006-11-29 04:45:18
That's too funny. Darkly true as well.
M. David Peterson
2006-11-29 23:41:17

:D This one had me rolling for AT LEAST five minutes non-stop! :D

Bob DuCharme
2006-11-30 06:00:19
I suggest that Todd review the XML FAQ, particularly http://xml.silmaril.ie/developers/terminology/.
M. David Peterson
2006-11-30 06:33:37

Actually, it's not Todd that wrote this and instead Todd that linked to and sampled > NOT the comp.text.sgml FAQ < from Joe English > http://www.flightlab.com/~joe/sgml/faq-not.txt < which is all meant in good fun.

In other words, yes, most of us, including myself, do recognize the reasoning behind all of the terminology. OTOH, sometimes it can be fun to take a step back and realize that things do tend to get a bit overly complex, and finding ways like the above table to simplify -- though obviously its WAY TOO SIMPLIFIED -- if nothing else, it's reason to laugh which is never a bad thing (as long as the laughing is meant in good fun.)

Smile O'Land O'XML -- Life was meant to be enjoyed, right?

I'm pretty sure it was, but maybe that's just me being all smiley and stuff. ;)

Bob DuCharme
2006-11-30 08:25:42
Sorry, I didn't recognize it from the c.t.s not the SGML FAQ (which I've linked to for years; I particularly love the HyTime/lightbulb joke). I thought it was some cranky VB coder.
M. David Peterson
2006-11-30 08:39:07

That's actually my bad -- Was in a hurry and didn't provide enough clarification as to what this was and where it came from.

2007-06-12 02:09:44
LOL! Thanks, you made my day!