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Re: controlled use of language

From: Sean B. Palmer <sean@mysterylights.com>
Date: Thu, 16 May 2002 17:01:29 +0100
Message-ID: <02e701c1fcf2$f6020fe0$a1540150@localhost>
To: "lisa Seeman" <seeman@netvision.net.il>, "William Loughborough" <love26@gorge.net>
Cc: <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
[Snipping WAI PF since, IMO, language is neither a protocol nor a format
:-)]

From: "William Loughborough" <love26@gorge.net>

> So to "Be prepared for it to be a long process." is a
> matter of *forever* because it ain't gonna happen.

Whilst I agree with the "who's going to police the police? The coastguard?"
sentiment, I think that Lisa is not (just?) hinting towards a controlled
language (which, like Orwell's Newspeak, is absurd), but rather/also
towards regularized interfaces for creating Web content.

Sidenote: whilst this is at a tangent to any useful discussion, there have
of course been numerous studies conducted on simplifying languages. A good
starting point is the AECMA's "Simplified English":-

http://www.userlab.com/Downloads/SE.pdf (PDF only; sorry)
also: http://www.aecma.org/Publications/SEnglish/sengbrc.htm

which is all well and good, but is aimed towards people who have a
relatively high understanding of English in the first place, and can spend
the time and effort working on a simplified vocabulary; i.e. applies to a
minute fraction of the population.

But onto more promising avenues of discussion. I like the DAML
(http://www.daml.org/tools/) approach of having content forms, where people
can create homepage metadata by searching and/or selecting (Prof. Jim
Hendler has talked about this). It was also one of the aims of UWIMP, which
is the service that William and I planned many months ago.

If we are to create William's much prophecized ambient information space,
it must be possible for the people with the information to publish what
they know with minimal costs and maximum benefits to them. This is only
going to be possible through small incremental changes, although if some
organization like Google or Alexa gave over their already vast data stores
to the Web community, that would help a lot (why pay for a server when
Google and Alexa index it for free anyway?).

It's an ongoing battle. Metadata formats such as RDF are there to help too,
and a standardized deployment of RDF-in/from-HTML is long overdue
(hopefully not another manifestation of the six month phenomenon). RDF is
good because the Semantic part of the Semantic Web is there to satisfy the
(much ballyhooed) "semantic pragmatic" nature of machines.

But marking up text itself to be "unambiguous" is rather HumanMLish in
character... the waste of time criticisms are justifiable for corollaries
of "the language moves faster than the editor". Not only that, but language
is art - if you move towards unambiguity, you may lose the essence of many
of the great works. One's mind may drift back to Jefferson's famous "we
hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable", and wonder what he thought of
Adams' and Franklin's (if their) modifications.

--
Kindest Regards,
Sean B. Palmer
@prefix : <http://purl.org/net/swn#> .
:Sean :homepage <http://purl.org/net/sbp/> .
Received on Thursday, 16 May 2002 12:01:41 GMT

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