W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-qa@w3.org > October 2001

RE: [www-qa] Re: Conformance and Implementations

From: Alex Rousskov <rousskov@measurement-factory.com>
Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2001 13:13:36 -0600 (MDT)
To: Mark Skall <mark.skall@nist.gov>
cc: www-qa@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.BSF.4.10.10110231248270.80211-100000@measurement-factory.com>
On Tue, 23 Oct 2001, Mark Skall wrote:

> We may be better at reading human language that XML or RDF, but
> are we better at interpreting what was meant by the language?

IMO, we are no worse at interpreting human language than interpreting
[large pieces of] XML or RDF. Is there any reason to believe
otherwise? We are not machines. XML and RDF are designed to make
machine's tasks easier. It always puzzles (not to say annoys) me that
more and more interfaces designed for _human_ interaction are
switching to XML because of the "everything should be in XML!" crap.

> Standards need to be read and interpreted by implementers.  Any
> language that more precisely defines requirements is better than
> one that doesn't.

Not necessarily. Assembly language defines requirements better than C
language. C language is better when it comes to reading and
interpreting a program.

> Also, any language that allows implementers to automatically
> generate test assertions (like XML) is a useful specification
> language.

Only if assertion generation is the primary goal of writing the specs.
I do not think it is. Besides, it is often possible to automatically
generate test assertions without using XML. If assertion generation is
the primary goal, we should use Prolog or other logic-based systems to
write specifications. Again, to me it seems like we are trying to make
machines' work easier at the expense of human effort required to write
and understand the specs.

> I've always believed that standards are read by implementers and
> standards committee members, not users.  Thus, readability is an
> issue only as far as it can lead to precise and correct
> implementations.

So far, implementers and standards committee members have been humans.
I see no proof that, in general, good specs in XML lead to more
precise and correct implementations than good specs in English. If
nothing else, an XML-based specs are likely to solicit fewer comments
from non-gurus outside of the WG that do not speak XML freely.

Also, in general, specs are read and interpreted by many humans that
are not committee members or implementors. For example, thousands of
network administrators have to interpret HTTP specs to troubleshoot
their problems and assign blames.

There are always simple edge-cases, of course, but QA WG should be
concerned with the "big picture" issues only.

Alex.
Received on Tuesday, 23 October 2001 15:13:42 UTC

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