14.0466 hypertext, XML and the WWW

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: 11/03/00

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 466.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
       [1]   From:    Wendell Piez <wapiez@mulberrytech.com>              (81)
             Subject: Re: 14.0449 XML and the Web
       [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>         (40)
             Subject: hypertext and open hypertext
             Date: Fri, 03 Nov 2000 07:57:15 +0000
             From: Wendell Piez <wapiez@mulberrytech.com>
             Subject: Re: 14.0449 XML and the Web
    You asked whether XML would be able to expand the accessible
    functionalities  of the web to include the kinds of high-powered hypertext
    that are the subject of hypertext research, some of which have existed
    off-line for years.
    I essentially agree with the assessment of Fotis Jannidis. I'd add
    [non-technical readers stop here!] --
    * Until we have real XML/XSLT/scripting functionality in the client
    (preferably with direct support for XLink/XPointer), we are locked into
    (X)HTML/Javascript/Java. (What Fotis said.)
    * As Fotis indicates, this means that the real data model is held on the
    server, which from the point of view of requirements common in the academic
    Humanities community, is a poor architecture for a number of reasons. We
    need XML-based processing on the client -- not just for linking but for all
    kinds of processing. Ironically, the best platform for this currently is in
    Internet Explorer/MSXML3. But we need something platform-independent to
    assure longevity of our projects and resources (both the data and its
    * W3C XPointer/XPath semantics (specifications still in draft), which
    should be able to express most or all of the kinds of complex linking
    structures the hypertext community has developed, can in theory be bound to
    Javascript/Jscript/ECMAscript and run in today's browsers. But it may be
    clunky, difficult to implement, and brittle.  On the other hand, this
    should be enough to serve as a *demonstration* of what is possible to
    achieve cleanly.
    * Much depends on the ways the browser vendors approach this problem.
    Microsoft, we are seeing, likes XML, but is not above wanting to own it; we
    can assume the same will be true of complex linking. Netscape is a very odd
    case at present; we could be lucky and see this stuff emerge in
    Mozilla/Netscape, but it's hard to know when or how. There are also
    third-party approaches, pure XML browsers and others (such as Adobe Acrobat).
    * Much also depends on how specifications that are currently in late stages
    of revision, but not yet completed, materialize. The relevant ones are
    XLink and XPointer themselves, and (I'd add) XSL formatting objects. Oh,
    and XSLT 1.1, whose Requirements document addresses some scripting issues
    related to all this.
    Bottom line is, yes XML can and should help deliver advanced hypertext
    capabilities, but it's hard to know whether it will be over the medium or
    only long term. At the moment, it is all very much "in play" -- like the
    U.S. elections this year.
    Fotis is also correct that a framework -- a specification of a range of
    linking semantics we need, along with the markup/modeling infrastructures
    to support it, ideally with at least one reference implementation -- would
    be a huge step forward. XLink/XPointer/XSL on their own might be enough to
    start the bottom-up work even without XML on the client; developing a
    framework would approach the problem top-down (sometimes a very good idea).
    Such a specification would also be a good proactive step to head off any
    proprietary developments that emerge.
    Christian Wittern suggests we consider ISO Topic Maps in this context.
    Whatever we do, it is fair to say that it should be able to take advantage
    of a Topic Maps framework. But we also need to be able to describe
    functional requirements for the kinds of links we want (links with
    fallbacks, links with pop-up notes etc. etc.), and how their components map
    to an information set such as TEI with or without Topic Maps.
    XLink/XPointer/XPath will give us a start on this.
    This is a tough one partly because hypertext linking doesn't just mean
    linking; it gets us directly into issues about *how* a text is searched,
    made accessible, and represented -- the kinds of thing that a purist
    Generic Encoding is designed to avoid....
    At 07:08 AM 10/30/00 +0000, Fotis wrote:
     >It seems to that for now and for some time to come XML won't
     >change the visible side of the net, because most xml users use xml
     >on the server but serve html files to the clients. They may switch to
     >serving xhtml, the xml conform version of html, but this won't change
     >the rather sad state of affairs concerning interoperability of open
     >accessible scholarly edition on the net. As long as one cannot
     >access the xml structure of an edition from the outside, but has only
     >the data chunks, which fit into a browser window, the whole power of
     >XPointer, XLink and XPath can't be used.
    Wendell Piez                            mailto:wapiez@mulberrytech.com
    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
             Date: Fri, 03 Nov 2000 07:57:32 +0000
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: hypertext and open hypertext
    Thanks to a note from David Durand I've discovered that access to the
    Hypertext conference proceedings is possible at a much lower rate than the
    ACM Digital Library main gate seems to enforce -- via the SIGWEB group, for
    which see <http://www.acm.org/sigweb>.  There seem to be some problems with
    the ACM Web site at the moment, however; these are under investigation.
    Back to my rather broad-brush and probably naive questioning. Let me ask
    this: are the goals of the Open Hypertext movement realistic for the WWW?
    As I understand it, the goal of the movement, principally instantiated in
    the Open Hypermedia Systems Working Group <http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/ohs/>,
    is to make accessible the layer of hypermedia software in which links and
    nodes are defined and their actions specified. This seems to this scholarly
    outsider to be exactly what one needs. I don't see how hypermedia can be
    *fully adequately* deployed in the service of scholarly resource
    construction without the direct involvement of active scholars in the
    disciplines of application. One reason for this is that at least for some
    time to come we will be inventing new ways of realising our scholarly forms
    -- not by thinking them up abstractly, as so often seems to happen at the
    CS end of tool-building, but as Jerome McGann says discovering what we do
    not know by making it. Which, I'd guess, means that we've got to get our
    hands on the definitions of links and nodes.
    I'm sure there are loads of problems here, however. One surely is, as John
    Bradley pointed out to me in conversation the other day, the problem of
    communicating what one is doing. If I build a commentary, say, and in the
    process of doing this invent a bunch of link-types and node-actions, the
    scholarly overhead in learning how to use my new gizmo will be
    discouraging. Yet I don't see how we can arrive at a good working set of
    fully adequate types and actions without a lot of experimenting -- by
    working scholars. (Ah, it seems I'm in a vicus of recirculation, back to
    the question of primitives....)
    I have just run across the paper by Gary Hill et al., "Applying Open
    Hypertext Principles to the WWW", at
    <http://www.bib.ecs.soton.ac.uk/records/1304>; perhaps this will tell me
    whether to hope.
    Dr Willard McCarty / Senior Lecturer /
    Centre for Computing in the Humanities / King's College London /
    Strand / London WC2R 2LS / U.K. /
    +44 (0)20 7848-2784 / ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/

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