W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-tag@w3.org > February 2007

Re: Very rough draft of TAG finding on self-describing documents

From: Elliotte Harold <elharo@metalab.unc.edu>
Date: Mon, 26 Feb 2007 07:28:21 -0500
Message-ID: <45E2D265.7020904@metalab.unc.edu>
To: noah_mendelsohn@us.ibm.com
CC: www-tag@w3.org

Some initial thoughts:

"If you have a printed copy, then you and the author have implicitly 
agreed to communicate in English. You have agreed that the English is 
set down using traditional typographical conventions, with the usual 26 
letter alphabet and other symbols used to represent the words, 
punctuation, and so on."

I challenge the use of the verb "agree" here. Reading does not imply 

How would you handle the case where a Chinese reader is reading a 
Japanese document in Chinese or vice versa? These languages are somewhat 
though imperfectly mutually intelligible in written form, though 
completely different in spoken form?

"it is essential that consumers of such documents be able to 
unambiguously and correctly interpret them, or failing that, to reliably 
determine that the document is one that cannot in fact be understood."

Well, no. Most documents are ambiguous to greater or lesser degrees. 
They are still useful and interesting.

convenentions -- > conventions

application/xhtml --> application/xhtml+xml

In general, I think this draft takes a somewhat traditional and naive 
approach to communication. In particular, I don't think "shared 
understanding" is nearly as necessary as this claims. I don't think 
understandings usually are shared 100% between author and reader, and I 
question whether any machine or software can be said to understand 
anything at all. Indeed a large purpose of XML, MIME types, and other 
Web specs is precisely how to handle the problem that machines don't 
understand anything by replacing understanding with blind algorithmic 
processing. Even the semantic Web really isn't about understanding. It's 
about faking the appearance of understanding through graph traversal.

There's the hint of a valid principle here, but I think it needs to be 
fleshed out more and not grounded in the notion of understanding.

´╗┐Elliotte Rusty Harold  elharo@metalab.unc.edu
Java I/O 2nd Edition Just Published!
Received on Monday, 26 February 2007 12:28:37 UTC

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