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Re: Rule of Least Power

From: <noah_mendelsohn@us.ibm.com>
Date: Tue, 7 Mar 2006 13:57:39 -0500
To: "Cutler, Roger (RogerCutler)" <RogerCutler@chevron.com>
Cc: www-tag@w3.org
Message-ID: <OF8A6F996B.FF5A8E6B-ON8525712A.0066C8C0-8525712A.006827D4@lotus.com>

Speaking for myself, and not necessarily for my co-editor Tim or the rest 
of the TAG:

Roger Cutler wrote:

> Last month a reference to the "Rule of Least Power" appeared in
> some AC-Member emailing and, since I found it pretty 
> interesting, I gave it some exposure in Chevron.  I regret to 
> tell you that what response it got was of a sort that you would
> probably consider "unintended consequences".  That is, the 
> principle was applied to support positions that were probably 
> not really what you had in mind when you formulated it.  In 
> particular, not a single comment that it provoked had anything 
> whatsoever to do with declarative languages.

[...]

> Frankly, I used to try to follow the Rule of Least Power and I gave up. 

Obviously, there are many ways for a given audience to misinterpret a 
finding like this, and I'm sorry it isn't proving more immediately 
effective for you.  It occurs to me, though, that one might make headway 
by starting with examples that are in some sense obvious and 
noncontroversial.   Let's say that someone at Chevron came up with a plan 
to do all of their Web pages completely in JavaScript.  I.e., even a 
completely static page would contain the minimal HTML framework to launch 
the JavaScript, and the script in turn would use the DOM to prepare and 
display the intended content.   To a browsing user, the pages would 
probably look fine.  If this were done with publicly accessible pages, 
however, search engines like Google and Yahoo would presumably not be able 
to find the pages very well.  That can't be good for your business. 
Similarly, internal search engines would not be able to index pages that 
you prepare for use on your Intranet.   It's also unlikely that you could 
effectively import such pages into popular word processors, something you 
can do with quite good fidelity if the content is in HTML.  So, I think 
it's easy to make the case that such pages would, at least in those 
senses, be less valuable than pages with similar content conveyed in HTML. 
 

This is a somewhat contrived example, in that few of us are tempted to 
build static pages entirely in JavaScript, but that's the point.  In many 
cases, the Rule of Least Power brings you to solutions that have 
commonsense value.  I think that if one looks to such obvious examples one 
may convince people that they are already acting on the Rule of Least 
Power.  If so, maybe they can start to understand how the Rule might guide 
them toward useful decisions that they might not have made as well without 
it. 

Thank you in any case for the feedback!

--------------------------------------
Noah Mendelsohn 
IBM Corporation
One Rogers Street
Cambridge, MA 02142
1-617-693-4036
--------------------------------------








"Cutler, Roger (RogerCutler)" <RogerCutler@chevron.com>
Sent by: www-tag-request@w3.org
03/07/2006 10:36 AM
 
        To:     www-tag@w3.org
        cc:     (bcc: Noah Mendelsohn/Cambridge/IBM)
        Subject:        Rule of Least Power


Last month a reference to the "Rule of Least Power" appeared in some 
AC-Member emailing and, since I found it pretty interesting, I gave it 
some exposure in Chevron.  I regret to tell you that what response it got 
was of a sort that you would probably consider "unintended consequences". 
That is, the principle was applied to support positions that were probably 
not really what you had in mind when you formulated it.  In particular, 
not a single comment that it provoked had anything whatsoever to do with 
declarative languages.
In general, it seems to me that the thrust of your intention is to 
encourage the use of declarative languages.  My personal experience with 
this, for what it is worth, has not been positive -- in the sense that I 
have not been able to get any substantial uptake among my user community 
other than a few isolated enthusiasts.  It seems that, in practice, the 
learning curve tends to be too high.  In addition, there is a tendency for 
the scope of what is being done to creep, and then you either start using 
some extremely obscure constructions into the declarative language or you 
give up and re-do it using a complete, procedural language.
Frankly, I used to try to follow the Rule of Least Power and I gave up. 
Received on Tuesday, 7 March 2006 18:58:01 GMT

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