Re: Frames and WWW

Joe English (
Fri, 18 Nov 1994 06:22:33 +0100

(Mental note: never get involved in religious discussions
on public mailing lists.) (Phillip M. Hallam-Baker) wrote:
> |>Well, now we come to the crux of the matter. HTML was very poorly
> |>designed because it ignored the inherent structure of documents, so in
> |>fact we don't have many containers.... [...]
> By poorly designed I suppose you mean it didn't happen to conform to
> the SGML communities views on document design. Guess the ratio of HTML
> documents to other SGML documents. Guess the likely ratio in a few months
> time.

Strawman. Guess the likely ratio of Microsoft
Word for Windows documents to HTML documents
in a few month's time. Does that make RTF
a better document representation format?

> |>This is a *humanities* standard. The people found that using SGML was
> |>of great benefit, because they have *huge* data repositories,
> Ah the humanities people, well known for their ability to create technical
> standards.

Ad hominem attack. (Besides, if you had *looked* at the
TEI guidelines and DTDs, you'd see that the humanities
people are quite capable of designing good technical

> |>Well, HTML *is* SGML (which of course you know), but it is a
> |>particularly poor form of it. As I noted, these are not SGML specific
> |>(see below).
> Given the SGML spec HTML is probably the best you can do from a very poorly
> designed system. If SGML was properly designed it would not have required ove
> r
> a year to get the basic HTML DTD correct.

Misdirection. There are plenty of SGML applications that
work much better than HTML, and plenty of working SGML
applications that took far less than a year to complete,
and (I hazard a guess) the intersection of those two
sets is nonempty.

> |>This has got to be the funniest thing I have read all week! Probably
> |>all year! SGML's primary purpose is to define the structure of a document
> |>explicity by defining containers and content model.
> A circumlocuitous way of saying that SGML fails at its pricipal design purpos
> e.

Existential quantification fallacy. SGML allows
you to describe document structure and semantics
to any level of detail. The original authors of
the HTML DTD simply did not do so.

[... much text elided ... ]

> I blame SGML for having the most incomprehensible structure definition
> grammar since sendmail and still not allowing the structure to be effectively
> represented.

OK, there you have a point. It's one I don't agree with,
though: I personally don't have any trouble at all reading
or writing DTDs, and I've yet to come across a document
structure that couldn't be effectively represented in SGML.