Ratholes and training wheels

Tim Bray speaks bluntly about "what over in the W3C TAG we refer to as a 'rat-hole'":

At the end of the day, markup is just a bunch of labels. We should be grateful that XML makes them (somewhat) human-readable and internationalized, and try to write down what we want them to mean as clearly as and cleanly as we can, with a view to the needs of the downstream implementors and users.

But we shouldn't try to kid ourselves that meaning is inherent in those pointy brackets, and we really shouldn't pretend that namespaces make a damn bit of difference. [ongoing]

Well, that's my gut feeling too. But when the W3C director writes an article in Scientific American suggesting otherwise, it calls for a bit of due diligence. I'm satisfied for now, though, on two key points. People say what the labels mean, and the tools we have for processing the labels are not too shabby.

Speaking of tools, Bob DuCharme has done a handy namespace visualizer. Here's how it parses Tim Bray's example, and here's how it parses my RSS feed (Firebird users: do View Source in this case). Thanks, Bob! That's just the kind of training wheel I had in mind.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2003/08/12.html#a776