[sc34wg3] Almost arbitrary markup in resourceData

Steven R. Newcomb sc34wg3@isotopicmaps.org
17 Nov 2003 13:09:47 -0600

"Mason, James David (MXM)" <masonjd@y12.doe.gov> writes:

> I'd like to hear more from Martin and the other two original editors
> on what they thought their goals were for TM interchange.

I can only speak for myself.  My goal was to interchange only the
information that we thought was Topic Map information.  For me, the
decision to exclude non-TM markup was a matter of controlling the
scope of the project, as well as the scope of any project involving
the implementation of a Topic Map processor.  As everybody knows,
rigorous scope control is at the heart of creating a successful

I will not oppose the idea of foreign markup in <resourceData>, but,
personally, I'll never willingly include foreign markup in a topic
map.  The interpretive context of such markup will probably become
ambiguous, once it has been stored inside what can only be a Topic Map
engine, at least if the name of our standard has any meaning, and if
Topic Map engines aren't going to be required to duplicate and
special-case at least some of what really and exclusively belongs in
an XML engine.  In other words, this whole idea violates modularity
for me.  (Of course, many XML "helper" standards violate modularity at
least as egregiously; those horses escaped the barn long ago, which
makes me wonder why I still give a hoot, actually.)

I find the inclusion of markup in <baseNameString> hard to swallow.
Maybe that's because I'm an unreconstructed believer in the name-based
merging rule.  I'm not comfortable with the idea that name-based
merging should always be relegated to the realm of URIs -- which is
now the only place left where the name-based merging rule is still
globally in effect.

  (When we wrote the XTM DTD, I hadn't yet understood REST, or even
  the fact that a W3C "resource" is in fact exactly the same thing we
  mean when we say "subject".  For me, the reason we used a URI for
  subject identity was to point at a piece of information in some
  particular storage context (an "anchor", in HyTime parlance), and it
  was that piece of information, and not its name/address (its URI)
  that would serve as the binding point for the subject.  

  Well, that is the HyTime/GROVE way, but it's not the Web way.  And
  XTM is supposed to be Webby, so anchor-based merging is gone, and
  all that's left is name-based merging.  That history is the reason
  why name-based merging now occurs in two wildly different places in
  the syntax.  And it's why people sometimes excitedly "discover" that
  if they turn their topic names into URIs, they can get the
  name-based merging they want.  

  But I still don't think it's a good thing to confuse knowledge
  management power with Webbiness.  They're not the same thing.  Not
  at all.  I see no advantage to the public in making XTM into a tool
  for implicitly convincing people that URIs should always be used as
  the names of subjects that are used for name-based merging purposes.
  It does nothing but add overhead to applications, and, of course, it
  hypes the Web.  Nobody gains anything from the overhead, and the Web
  doesn't need hyping.)

So, if there's markup in a <baseNameString>, and name-based merging is
switched on, on what basis will name matching be done?  What about the
nonsignificant whitespace in such markup, and what about the order of
the attribute value specifications in the start tags?  Suddenly we
have to have a whole bunch of complicated rules, or to invoke a
parser-output standard like RAST, where a simple, application-neutral
string match used to be sufficient.  I don't like it when things get
more complex.  There's gotta be a damn good reason.  Jim says he has
one, and I take him at his word, but I'd be happier if he would
explain why <variantName> won't meet his needs, and/or what he's doing
about name-based merging of names that contain markup.

I take Eric's point, which is why I can reluctantly accept foreign
(but not XTM) markup in <resourceData>.  But I think it's a serious
mistake to allow markup in <baseNameString>, at least if non-URI-based
name-based merging is switched on.

Steven R. Newcomb, Consultant

Coolheads Consulting

direct: +1 540 951 9773
main:   +1 540 951 9774
fax:    +1 540 951 9775

208 Highview Drive
Blacksburg, Virginia 24060 USA

Fear, Courage, Freedom, and the Next U.S. Presidential Election

When fear of economic doom had paralyzed the United States, President
Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had overcome the chronic paralysis of his
own body to become the world's most powerful executive, announced,
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."  From personal and
public experience, he knew that fear is a contagious, chronic, and
deadly disease.  By contrast, President Bush's administration sows
fear in the public mind at every opportunity, and constantly seeks to
use those implanted fears to manipulate the public into surrendering
more and more freedoms (viz. the Patriot Act and the proposed Patriot
Act II).

The unprecedented secrecy of the Bush Administration's operations is a
telltale sign of its acute disease: our rulers are themselves ruled by
fear.  Transparency is a president's acknowledgement that the
republic's health is more important than its president's standing in
the polls.  Each president's *personal* courage to operate a
transparent Executive Branch indicates America's courage and
willingness to overcome anything, including any foolishness that its
current administration may occasionally suffer from.  Bush lacks this
kind of courage.

Here's another kind of courage Bush lacks.  Bush is so worried about
the possibility that America's geopolitical interests will undergo
losses "during [his] watch" that he sacrifices America's ability to
win the main event: the struggle to win the hearts of individuals
worldwide for the cause of freedom.  Bush's America ignores that
struggle, and instead it inspires those who seek superior financial
and military power, so they can impose their will on others while
remaining safe and secure themselves.  Bush's infamous threat against
those who might withhold their total cooperation from America, "You're
either with us or against us," required no courage, because he had the
whole American military apparatus, and most of America's financial,
legal, and political apparatus, at his disposal.  To make this threat
required no interest in freedom, either; on the contrary, this threat
was designed to suppress questions about America's wisdom and
authority, and to *deny* freedom to any who would go their own way.
America is now behaving as an enemy of freedom.

Today, America is in a worse jam than any terrorist organization could
possibly dream of arranging: we have a president who consistently
sacrifices freedom on the altar of his fears.  As a result, terrorists
who understand Bush's fears are manipulating American power and
destroying American freedoms.

In 2004, I expect to vote for whomever looks likeliest to defeat Bush.
I'm interested in candidates who both demand and demonstrate courage
-- the kind that serves the cause of freedom, and that is demonstrably
personally costly.  There must be some Republicans, some Democrats,
and some who are neither Republicans nor Democrats, who meet this
criterion.  But George W. Bush does not meet it.

Steven R. Newcomb