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Can we be more concrete?

From: Tim Bray <tbray@textuality.com>
Date: Sun, 29 Dec 1996 15:47:51 -0800
Message-Id: <>
To: w3c-sgml-wg@www10.w3.org
All this discussion has been quite educational, but the proportion of it 
that I can relate to the problems that I as co-editor will soon be facing 
is kind of low.

I think it's time for a strawman.  If nobody else advances one I will,
but others may find this disturbing coming from one who frankly admits 
failure to understand the relevancy of any number of the issues in

To make it concrete (and I apologize to those who are reading
this particular example for the second time, I sent it to someone, but
not *I think* the SGML-WG):  At SGML'96 this outfit had a multimedia
authoring system called "Nereus".  They had some circuit board photos 
and you could click on the parts and a little menu would pop up saying

 Locate Part
 Show Measurements
 Describe Part

and they all did the obvious things.  

This was nothing more than a multi-ended link, accessible from some,
not all, of its ends, each link having a defined role and label,
and a defined behavior.

I can imagine a syntax to describe this level of functionality, with
a handy basket of boiler-plate roles and behaviors, and simple rules
for rolling your own.  I can imagine documenting this with a little
DTD with elements & attributes beginning "-XML-".  I can imagine 
defining some architectural meta-DTD stuff to allow you to do this in 
any old SGML document.  I can imagine not writing any addressing 
mechanisms in beyond URL and ID attribute.  I think this could all be 
written down in a dozen pages.  I think it could be implemented by the 
XML's nominal CS grad in XML's nominal week.

I think this could be awfully useful, and it would be substantially 
better than what our web brethren live with today.  But it wouldn't say 
anything about object orientation or anchor awareness or pseudo-nodes or 
grove plans or stylesheets.

To conclude, and I apologize for bluntness: I *suspect* that
some of this discussion consists of handwaving, and I *know* that
some of it is vitally important, and I can't tell the difference, and
I think we need to enrich our diet with healthy servings of examples 
and draft spec language.

Happy New Year, Tim
Received on Sunday, 29 December 1996 19:16:59 UTC

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