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RE: Rule of Least Power

From: Bullard, Claude L \(Len\) <len.bullard@intergraph.com>
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2006 08:05:38 -0600
Message-ID: <15725CF6AFE2F34DB8A5B4770B7334EE0BB1FF3D@hq1.ingr-corp.com>
To: "Harry Halpin" <hhalpin@ibiblio.org>, <www-tag@w3.org>
Cc: "Cutler, Roger \(RogerCutler\)" <RogerCutler@chevron.com>

That's precisely backwards, Harry.  Passing an object passes 
intent (functions) with the data.  That is as expressive as 
it gets if you want a computer to respond with better 
reliability and ontological commitment.

To communicate as much as possible, one would send the 
object, not just the data.  Organic systems have to 
work hard to understand each other.  Computer systems 
don't of necessity but do because of human application. 
Well-designed BI systems get this and experienced designers 
are careful about the granularity of data collected over 
the reaction time given noisy data.  (In simple terms: 
if you overreact, you fly it into the runway.  If you 
underreact, it flies itself into the runway.  See applications 
of real time systems to the Airbus disasters.)

HTML is an SGML application language (there is no such 
thing as an SGML dialect unless you count the XML subset). 
HTML isn't a programming language.  Neither is the parent. 
ISO was scrupulous about that.    Had HTML been the most 
expressive means, we wouldn't be using XML for on the 
wire messaging and HTML for a lossy downtranslation target. 
You are confusing ubiquity of the presentation context 
with the ubiquity of the transmission context.  SGML won.

Maximum reuse comes of stripping intentions in the 
expression so that it can be interpreted in the context 
of the consumer more readily.   Least power means greatest 
number of possible interpretations.  It puts the semantic 
back into superposition requiring measurement.  This principle 
means Heisenbergian observers where the context of observation 
determines the value with the probability of distortion 
some contexts preclude others.

In a command and control system, that can be a very bad idea 
or a very good one but this comes down to context management, 
not a principle of least power. 

So in the sense of ubiquity, this is a weak principle and should 
be marked as such informatively. 


From: www-tag-request@w3.org [mailto:www-tag-request@w3.org]On Behalf Of
Harry Halpin

At least from my reading of the Rule of Least Power (and it took me a
while to finally understand what was being said), I think
the point is fundamentally on open world systems like the Web to
communicate as much as possible about your process (be that programming
language, web page design language, or whatever) upfront. It's a bit
different that Grice's maxim, since Maxim #2 is "Do not make your
contribution to the conversation more informative than necessary" - and
on the Web you never know how much might be necessary, so it's far
better to communicate as much as possible, and so restrain your choices
of languages to those that have properties that are known in advance.
And maybe I'm twisting it a bit, but I think this is a good argument
against using Java applets and for using REST architecture to deliver
information. But it could also mean mean using XHTML instead of some
more expressive SGML dialect for your web-page. Overall, the principle
seems fairly sensible and historically has been proven right again and

Bullard, Claude L (Len) wrote:

>The problem with that example is it contrives HTML to 
>be a programming language.   It isn't.
>Simple examples that do not obtain rob a principle 
>of its surface credibility. The fact that a principle 
>is easily misapplied may mean it is inadequately 
>formulated or its application context isn't common. 
>That means it begs its reason to be included among 
>general principles.
>As far as I can tell, this isn't a principle of 
>the computer science of building web applications, 
>but of politeness in a communicative context.  Again, 
>Grice's Maxims are equally applicable and better argued.
>From: www-tag-request@w3.org [mailto:www-tag-request@w3.org]On Behalf
>I think it's easy to make the case that such pages would, at least in
>senses, be less valuable than pages with similar content conveyed in
>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
>cases, the Rule of Least Power brings you to solutions that have 
>commonsense value.  I think that if one looks to such obvious examples
>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
>them toward useful decisions that they might not have made as well
Received on Wednesday, 8 March 2006 14:05:46 UTC

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