xml:id RE: [sc34wg3] Compact syntax requirement question

Mason, James David (MXM) sc34wg3@isotopicmaps.org
Wed, 20 Jul 2005 09:30:09 -0400

LMG wrote, speaking of BNF: The one exception I'm aware of is SGML, and =
really is an anomaly that took a lot of flak for being an anomaly.=20

I think that had we had, a quarter of a century ago, a decent =
of BNF across the committee and an agreed syntax, we would have used it. =
that point, BNF was known in theoretical circles, and some of us =
across it, but SGML was largely written by people not in contact with =
the hot
theories. So we created our own formalism over the course of several =
(If we'd been into fashionable theories of the day, we'd have done ODA =
than SGML. ODA did eventually attempt a kind of BNF in their =
but only after I ridiculed them for not having even so much formalism as =
homemade production grammar from 8879.) At this point, all I can say is =
we won both the battles and the war, even with anomalous techniques.

What is most anomalous in 8879, however, is not its production grammar =
the separate lanugage for DTDs. We looked at doing it in SGML, but by =
time we got to that, we were at such a late stage in ISO processing that =
would have meant major delays (and we were in a race with ODA to get a
standard approved).

I think many of the evils of the present XML world stem from our not =
gone back and recast DTDs into SGML. That became one of the first open =
opposed to covert) excuses for creating W3 Schema. And so we have
proliferating schema languages, with this committee in the midst of the =

Just as some of the proponents of CTM say they can write LTM or AsTMa=3D =
whole lot faster than they can write XTM, I can say I write DTDs a whole =
faster than I can write W3 Schema. (Indeed, I don't write W3 Schema at =
If I find I need one of those things, I write a DTD and translate it.)

But I don't think that's an ideal state. I'd rather be using an XML =
for my schemas. That isn't likely to happen soon because (1) I'd have to
become more proficient in something else (like ISO/IEC 19757-2), (2) I'd =
to change a lot of software that's written for DTDs, and (3) I'd have to
change the user community in which I work, because they're DTD centered. =
of those three, I'd say the last would be the most difficult.)

I'm generally opposed to standardizing new syntaxes unless there are
technical reasons why it is unavoidable. Verbosity is not a technical =
For this reason, I have very little enthusiasm for CTM. I likewise have
little enthusiasm for a TMQL that is not in XML syntax. If you can't =
it in XML, is it even in the scope of SC34?

Verbosity is not in general an excuse for not using XML. I will readily =
that XSLT is hideously verbose, and I paid good money for an editor that
speeds up creation of the stuff. But I'll put up with that. (I didn't =
DSSSL because I didn't want to branch out into Scheme, and I learned =
enough OmniMark to make small changes in others' code. But I learned =

So I wonder whether CTM is really worth SC34's time.

Jim Mason