comment: XML as ASCII data format

Tanya Maria Riseman tmr at
Thu Apr 5 19:38:10 BST 2001

>XML offers a well-structured basis for an ASCII data format
>XML, extensible markup language, has all the components of data element >definitions and attributes;
>this would offer a future-proof standard for defining SAS data. (John >Barnes) 

	Based on my very limited experience with HTML: 

 1. It is a pain to type in the commands <longwindedname>

 2. It is easy to leave things dangling. i.e. forget </longwindedname>.
  Then it might or might not work depending on the application.
  I don't care with ASCII html files, but data is more important.
  It is also a waste of time to fix.

 3. I spend far longer making up an HTML page than I expect to,
  but that is acceptible because I reference the page more
  often than I add to it or edit it. This is the opposite pattern 
  to how I create "reduced" data files: I keep adding to them, 
  and view less often.  

 4. Making tables in HTML is a nightmare of <this> and <that> between
  every entry. Is it like that in XML for data sets? Blechhhh.
  That will be enough to make me advoid it.

 5. HMTL/XML encourages people to make the files "nicer" by using
  browser composers, which automatically do things, not always 
  the most sensible way. Then you might as well use the NeXus 
  editor and keep your data in binary.

 6. Does anybody real (i.e. nomadic scientists) actually use 
  XML directly? Can you use it as easy as typing a few numbers 
  into a spreadsheet to do a magnet calibration? 
 7. Remember: postscript is ASCII and sort of intended to be
  human readable but no one dares to edit it directly. 

	On the other hand, I do not expect to get all the
 goodies of "data element definitions and attributes" without
 some overhead of complexity or typing. I just wonder if XML
 is being pushed by the IT gurus as THE "future-proof standard"
 while not actually being taken up by the intended users.

	I do really want something that is ASCII-editable. 

	- Tanya 

  Dr. Tanya Riseman
  School of Physics and Astronomy	phone 44-121-414-7322
  University of Birmingham		fax   44-121-414-4719
  Birmingham B15 2TT, United Kingdom	email: tmr at

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