Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Seminal Granularity: I <3 the </>

It's no secret, I love me some XML, whether as an exchange format like XBRL, a messaging standard like HL7 or NIEM, or a document framework like DITA or DocBook. I am not sure what appeals to me so much about data-enrichment using tags, but it has something to do with reducing entropy by adding structure and meaning. In addition, I would rather model something using the sort of extension and restriction available in NIEM than the classical inheritance strategies presented by OOP. I have heard from several sources recently that the seachange from an object-oriented to declarative paradigm is underway, and I am pleased.

But more than this, I just love the angle brackets in a way I could never feel about dot-notation, and I am not alone in this.

I am attempting to develop a notion I am calling "Seminal Granularity." This notion appeals to my background in structuralist literary theory - "seminal" and "granular" are both agricultural references, both seeds, but whereas "seminal" has patriarchal overtones, granular is more mercurial. Between the two axes there lies a tension, bringing to mind a transclusive dilemma.

Simply stated, the transclusive dilemma is this: when faced with modifying an object, do you create a reference to the object for modification, a seminal approach which binds the new object to the original; or do you create a clone of the object, a granular approach which results in modification to the new object becoming estranged from the original, releasing the object through mimesis.

A viral licensed open-source project, for instance, is by design both seminal and granular. The project itself exists as a single seed, and it allows granular modification with the caveat that modifications are returned to the original seed.

Edit: there is also an odd kind of tie in with this short story, The Ice Box.

The transclusive dilemma is a real phenomenon; you cannot do both. Seminal granularity should be about finding ways to negotiate this problem. A wave can't be a particle either, right?

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