is there an "xml-include"

Barringer, Kerry kerrybarringer at BBG.ORG
Tue Nov 20 16:36:36 CET 2001


        We disagree and I'd like to get to the reason why because I am sure
that both of us are not fully understanding what the other is saying.

        I agree that a character name is not necessarily unique across
taxa.  A character is what a person defines it to be.  But I don't
what you mean when you say that the name cannot stand for the character,
that only a
code can.  This seems absurd.  I don't see the difference between my 'name'
your 'code', especially when your code is just a compact coding that refers
to a

        In your haircolor example, I think you are misunderstanding the
nature of XML coding.  Each character is part of another, which all
eventually are
part of a 'root,' in our case probably a plant. So the character 'Plant' has
the characters
'stems.' 'leaves,' etc.  'Leaves" may contain the character 'trichomes'
which may contain
the character 'color.'

        If I understand what you wrote, your criticism applies to a
relational model where
the character of 'aircolor' might be used for leaf trichomes, fine enations
inside a fruit,
or the body covering of mammals.  It is impossible to define a character
this way
in an XML file because it is strictly hierarcical, not relational.

        If you feel that descriptive data can only be modeled with
relations, then you
can never get XML to work for you.  It is not relational, it is strictly
hierarcical. It
does not and, by design, cannot support the relational model.  Do not
confuse XML with a
database.  It is -not- designed to be a database.  The few databases that
use XML are all
hierarcical XML is designed to model the structure of
documents.  If you want to create a database, use a database language.  XML
is what you use in the report.

        My feeling is that the hierarcical nature of XML might be suitable
for plant descriptions.
I know it does a good job coding taxomomic papers and taxonomic
nomenclature.  It is
less suitable, though still workable, for specimen data, which is easier to
model with
relational tables.

        To use XML though, I think we must look outside the DELTA model of
character coding. XML
won't improve the DELTA model or fix its faults.  We must also look beyond
the database model. Plant descriptions are highly structured documents.  XML
can model that structure.

        Finally, we have to get beyond the wordiness of XML files.  They are
designed to be that
way.  we can only live with it.

        Let me know if this makes sense and be sure to correct me if you
feel I am being
too stupid.

all the best,


-----Original Message-----
From: Gregor Hagedorn [mailto:G.Hagedorn at BBA.DE]
Sent: Tuesday, November 20, 2001 10:31 AM
Subject: Re: is there an "xml-include"

Dear Kerry,

I can not see how what you propose could work. The name of a
character is not necessarily unique across different taxa, and often
not even within a taxon. Further the character concept and its names
(technical, laymen, English, German, etc.) are a 1:n relation. The
name can not stand for the character, only a code can. I do not care
whether this code is characters or numbers, but I believe it is a
mistake to think if something is <haircolor></haircolor> to take the
code at face value and assume you know what are hairs and what is
color. Hairs are quite different things in plants, animals, or fungi,
and color needs information whether it is a code from a color
comparison chart, or an undefined term like "red".

I think I am sticking less with a DELTA storage optimization model,
but with a relational information model, which is what I have been
using for all my projects. The relational model allows language
independence. How can you preserve that, without having unique codes
that lead to the definition of a character?

That does not mean, that a free text description in some language,
say Chinese, may be present, in addition to the data. That is why I
am thinking of attributes, not element data.

Gregor Hagedorn (G.Hagedorn at
Institute for Plant Virology, Microbiology, and Biosafety
Federal Research Center for Agriculture and Forestry (BBA)
Koenigin-Luise-Str. 19          Tel: +49-30-8304-2220
14195 Berlin, Germany           Fax: +49-30-8304-2203

Often wrong but never in doubt!

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