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Re: Rule of Least Power

From: Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2006 12:18:54 -0800
Message-Id: <p06230906c034eb7fe8c1@[]>
To: Harry Halpin <hhalpin@ibiblio.org>
Cc: www-tag@w3.org

>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.

Yes, but the key issue is what exactly counts as 
'up front' here. This hasnt been made clear, and 
I think it will need some new foundational 
thinking to make it clear. Referring to the 
degree of computability doesn't seem like the 
right way to say it, anyway.

>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"

Well, on the Web, "necessary" apparently means 
rather more than in human conversation. Or maybe 
not, since that phrase expands into the idea that 
you should contribute only what cannot be 
inferred from the conversational context, and on 
the open web you don't know what the context is 
when you publish. So, Grice would presumably say, 
you should supply anything that could be relevant 
to any such context.


>- 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 Of
>>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

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Received on Wednesday, 8 March 2006 20:19:06 UTC

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