Re: [Json] Nudging the English-language vs. formalisms discussion forward

Tim Bray <tbray@textuality.com> Wed, 19 February 2014 17:30 UTC

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Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2014 09:30:20 -0800
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From: Tim Bray <tbray@textuality.com>
To: Nico Williams <nico@cryptonector.com>
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Cc: Phillip Hallam-Baker <hallam@gmail.com>, Paul Hoffman <paul.hoffman@vpnc.org>, JSON WG <json@ietf.org>
Subject: Re: [Json] Nudging the English-language vs. formalisms discussion forward
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On Wed, Feb 19, 2014 at 9:20 AM, Nico Williams <nico@cryptonector.com>wrote;wrote:

My proposal is that the WG take all comers for JSON schema languages
> as Informational and leave it at that (well, all proposals for which
> there's enough authors and reviewers, enough interest).  That can't
> even be an irritant for you: you can ignore them...
>

No harm in that, although I also perceive little benefit.


> ...unless you think that formal languages used by others will impair
> your ability to understand their specs, unless you really prefer
> English prose to the max.  That'd be an argument I'd want to hear, if
> you were making it.


I think schemas can be useful (but designing good schema languages is
horribly hard, and so easy to get wrong).

I think clear English prose is *essential*, the one thing a specification
must have. Thus, schemas can be actively harmful if arguing over them
distracts attention from crafting the prose properly.  This is particularly
the case when the schema language is a flawed tool, which so many of them
are.

I also think that for most protocols, an open-source validator is immensely
more useful than a schema. Validators can check semantic constraints that
are in principle inaccessible to schema languages, especially simple ones.