Can you mark up prose with XML? : LUSENET : Robot Wisdom : One Thread

Bill Humphries has suggested a new way to use XML for weblogs. I don't understand it, but if it requires writers to modify their prose style to satisfy XML's rules, then it simply has to be wrong.

-- Jorn (, November 12, 1999


Painters always describe the exhilariting fugue-state they achieve as they paint-- XML is never going to allow that!

I don't get Bill's glossary connection, still. I use my Frontier glossary for weblog sources that I reference regularly, so I can type "NYRB" and it substitutes the full name and link. Are you saying you want to use it for special-case correspondences?

I also don't get the headlines/main-links analogy. I'm saving lots of 'keeper' headlines lately, because I'm trying to put more time into other projects and less into the weblog (ie, laziness). The older, better distinction was (approximately) that if it's worth saving, it's worth pullquoting, and if it's got a good pullquote, it's worth saving (even if the url is doomed to expire).

-- Jorn (, November 16, 1999.

Actually, I'm trying to go at it from the reverse, you alter the XML to accomadate the prose style: there are two tracks (borrowing Ted Nelson's analogy.) One is the HTML track which contains pointers into a link database. The other is the RSS/Scripting News/RDF XML track that contains the syndicatable list of links.

As I mention in the essay, this is not new, but just an application of Dave Winer's concept of a glossary.

Jorn's also doing this in a way on Robot Wisdom, you have a list of links at the top, some of which you elaborate on in the narrative section.

I'm trying to figure out how to make it automatable.

-- Bill Humphries (, November 12, 1999.

re Picasso, I think you may have a naive view of painting, Jorn. Artists have always had to master difficult technical aspects of their media. Until fairly recently, painters were expected to mix their own paints and support materials. Understanding the chemistry of pigment and knowing how to make rabbit-skin glue has no more (or less) to do with painting light and form than understanding structural markup has to do with writing

-- Avram Grumer (, November 14, 1999.

I agree with Avram here. Many of the greatest artists also had detailed technical knowledge, e.g. the physics of light and color. I was advised during my cursory art education that an encyclopedic knowledge of human anatomy would be salutory. Sculptors know the fragility of marble, or the cantilever strength of an iron bar.

Nevertheless, I tend to side a little closer to you on the XML issue. IMHO, there is so much flexibility in the use of language that XML or its imitators and successors will have to become themselves more flexible. That said, it's clear that the technology of any given period has influenced how writers write. When you write for a particular medium such as a syndicated news service, you're required to use a specific 'top-down' style allowing the paper that runs your piece to lop off as much as they want from the end in order to fit. If you write in approved AP style, you get the major facts through in the first paragraph or two, then illuminate later with prose or a quote. This can lead to an odd repetitive "deja vu" effect for the reader, but it serves them well in terms of technology and logistics. Similarly, the headline writers exhibit strong preference for short, forceful words, sometimes eliminating all verbs: "US Warships To Gulf", "Microsoft Bilks Consumers, Justice Attorney Says". If a weblogger is writing for content syndication, they will probably want to make similar adjustments.

-- Dan Hartung (, November 15, 1999.

And I was going to say the same thing as everybody else. Damn. Painting is hard and you have to master a lot more techniques to do it properly than for writing a webpage! (And even then you can still be rubbish at it - I know, I paint.....)


-- Lindsay Marshall (, November 16, 1999.

I am new here, and really not able to use or grasp XML (yet?) However I have a *fantasy* of a program that enables me to wrap anything in an XML wrapper, a URL, a picture, an essay.

The wrapper should then make it possible for people to identify it by some criteria: Eg philosophy essays on written in the last ten years, reflecting on the meaning of soul in the age of the interent, not bigger than 50k.

Then I'd like to have a napster type program, that fills my screen with files. Then I can form links with people who like the stuff I like, and look at the other files they are sharing.


-- Walter Logeman (, March 23, 2000.

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