W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-rdf-logic@w3.org > May 2001

Re: Surface vs. Abstract Syntax, was: RE: What do the ontologists want

From: David Allsopp <dallsopp@signal.dera.gov.uk>
Date: Mon, 21 May 2001 10:56:34 +0100
Message-ID: <3B08E652.55DD3583@signal.dera.gov.uk>
CC: www-rdf-logic@w3.org

pat hayes wrote:

> >The point is that successive applications on a processing chain can add
> >information and apply transformations akin to "knowledge sources".

> >yep. but these symbols are meaningful to applications that process the
> >information.
> OK, that is clearly the key point. Thanks for your example. In this
> kind of application, I can see the utility.  Never mind future
> Rosetta stones: the point is to attach labels to pieces of existing
> text to enable some engine to isolate the parts of the text that are
> useful to it and ignore the rest. This makes perfectly good sense, I
> agree, and is obviously useful and important in the Web world, but it
> doesn't live up to the hype. It does not make texts self-describing,
> and it does not make them more comprehensible in the long term. The
> thing using the markup needs to know what the markup labels indicate,
> for example. (The use of the </label> notation still seems
> mind-numbingly daft to me, but I guess it is too late to change that
> now.)

Yes - nevertheless, from a practical point of view, the use of XML will
certainly save people a lot of effort when trying to read legacy data
formats (not marked-up plain text), for example:


17.6978  40.7747
20093  6581

(A real example). This sort of thing can sometimes only be decoded by
looking at the source code - if available; and that was a easy example -
at least it's in ASCII, not packed binary, and easy to parse once you've
worked out what each field is.  If people start using XML for their data
files, in a half-sensible fashion, reading it again 10 years later is
relatively trivial, and the tools exist to easily map it into something
else. Of course, there are also some ludicrous XML encodings, but
nothing's fool-proof. And of course, people _could_ have used nice
simple formats to achieve the same effect before XML came along:

age: 99
name: John Smith
  units: feet
  x_coord: 234
  y_coord: 456
foo: bar

_But they often didn't_. At least the XML hype had the side effect of
getting some people to mark up data in a vaguely useful way.


David Allsopp.

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Received on Monday, 21 May 2001 05:57:40 UTC

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