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TEI-L  July 2000

TEI-L July 2000

Subject:

Re: Personae in theatre

From:

Wendell Piez <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Wendell Piez <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 7 Jul 2000 12:41:39 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (97 lines)

Hello all [longish meta-post follows],

I am in basic agreement with Syd and Espen (and hear Espen's caveat about
his purism), and yet...

At 09:14 PM 7/6/00 +0200, Espen wrote:
>TEI-lite is a bad thing if it is used for anything apart from simple texts
>and for teaching.

This raises the question of what constitutes "simple" and what constitutes
"teaching". For example, is publishing a demo text on the net, teaching? Is
*any* text simple? The lines are very broad and well-shaded (even dappled).

> It is especially bad because it makes people believe that there
>is a simple way of doing TEI and a difficult way and that the simple way is
>acceptable.

More questions raised. Acceptable to whom? I would submit that expressing
that something is "unacceptable" to a new user (perhaps one without benefit
of the same learning resources as so many of us have had) by flaming them
on a public list, is a cure worse than the disease. The TEI will die if it
comes to be perceived as a bastion of intolerance. People will simply say,
"why bother with that," especially in those numerous cases where it is
frankly easier to design a (lean, finely-tuned) markup semantics from
scratch than it is to undertake the considerable labor of researching the
green books, fathoming the layers of parameter entities in TEI P3 (some
parsers out there even break on it), and learning how to pull the TEI
levers. (I simply don't accept the contention that it is easier to learn to
pull those levers than it is to write DTD syntax, which really isn't all
that hard. In fact, if you can't parse a DTD by eye, learning to pull the
levers properly without expert assistance, is dang near impossible.
Plumbers might tell me that plumbing is easy, but I don't even know what
most of their tools are called.) And they simply won't be troubled if we
consider what they do (whether pseudo-TEI or not) unacceptable, since the
feeling will be mutual (although they'll be less grudging about it). As a
consequence, the goals of the TEI -- encouraging people to use a shared,
theoretically interoperable tag set for applications sharing the same
requirements domain ("scholarly publishing," broadly or narrowly construed)
-- will suffer.

> I would have found it easier to explain and teach the TEI if the
>TEI-Lite had not existed because it confuses the people who have not had the
>time to go into the TEI and it generates a lot of tag-abuse.

No doubt. Maybe the TEI should be a little Taoist about it and deploy a
non-TEI tag set (but documented and semi-supported, like the TEI itself)
for "simple" applications. Along with a clearly mapped out migration
pathway to the Real Thing (including public stylesheets for transformation
and some consideration of how to handle ad-hoc semantic mapping of tags),
and perhaps some attention to making the full TEI easier to learn and use
(particularly in this world of lightweight document types), this might
mitigate the confusion. Maybe. (We could publicly deprecate TEI-Lite in
favor of a translation of it into Norwegian? I'd kind of like that.)

As for tag abuse, it will always be a problem in a diffused, disparate
application domain. Good design can minimize, but not eliminate it.
(Whether the TEI is so designed, I leave aside, saying only that good
design in this case includes both the size and scope of the tag set, and
the completeness, availability and ease of use of the documentation.) It is
not a problem that will be solved by an Academic Realist position about the
Platonic TEI which fails to take into account that other people's worlds
are often, simply, different from what we know and expect. We need, like
NASA engineers, to be able to deal creatively with the unknown unknown.

So while I think we should certainly indulge ourselves in any amount of
ascetic strictness where our own work is concerned, I think we should be
willing to be much more forgiving with others -- especially newbies. This
is because I remain convinced that the TEI is served better over the long
term by people learning how to use, maintain, and develop markup systems
than it is by any amount of literalism about element type names, with its
associated defensiveness. TEI needs to be perceived as the best, easiest
way to go for a certain well-defined class of applications, not just what
somebody else thinks is the Right Way (a position that will always attract
its negation).

I thought Perry's answer to the inquiry, and for that matter Syd's answer
with the exception of the <soapbox> passage (which I gather wasn't really
aimed at the original poster -- I hope he was able to see that) were very
helpful. The meta-issue, what to do (how to help) when people have gone the
"easy route" and used TEI-Lite in a way we think inappropriate (whether
they have done so knowingly or not), is bound to come up again and we need
a considerate approach to it.

Respectfully,
Wendell


======================================================================
Wendell Piez                            mailto:[log in to unmask]
Mulberry Technologies, Inc.                http://www.mulberrytech.com
17 West Jefferson Street                    Direct Phone: 301/315-9635
Suite 207                                          Phone: 301/315-9631
Rockville, MD  20850                                 Fax: 301/315-8285
----------------------------------------------------------------------
  Mulberry Technologies: A Consultancy Specializing in SGML and XML
======================================================================

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