PHIL: Constraining the Discussion

Mark D. Pesce (
Thu, 16 Jun 1994 18:42:49 -0700 (PDT)

VRML List Members:

In this missive, I am not speaking as a moderator of the list; the opinions
expressed here are purely my own, but I will add that I am speaking for
others. It does mean that you can flame away at me, for this letter, if you
feel that you must.


The list discussion has gotten out of hand. At this point, per the
instruction of the moderators, we should be submitting, for later review and
approval, various geometric description languages and technologies.

So far, we've received two.

I am under the impression that the list members feel that VRML is an open
forum for all issues relating to VR. That forum is sci.virtual-worlds on
USENET, not the VRML mailing list. I have received many complaints from
individuals who should be listening to the list, but have been forced to
unsubscribe because the list was generating too much unnecssary traffic.

I am inclined to agree with these people.

The list moderators established a set of goals, and sent them to all list
members. These call for an identifiable set of stages: request for
information; advice and consent; specification drafting; implementation. For
those of you have been through the real-world process of building and shipping
a product, you'll recognize these as the stages of a design cycle,
time-tested and true, and what Brian and I believe is an appropriate model
for action.

I have maintained my silence as people have debated the merits of the CP
proposal (which is well beyond the context of this list), discussed object
registration, navigation issues, and so forth. These issues, in my opinion,
are completely immaterial to the design of the VRML 1.0 specification, the
sole goal of which is to come up with a standard to describe three things,
and three things only:

1) The geometrical descritpion (shape) of an object
2) Layout of these defined objects in scenes
3) Anchoring these objects to the Web

That's it. It's really quite modest, as we intended it to be. But the
other issues being discussed on this list are huge issues, which have been
vexing professional simulator designers for years, and are unlikely to be
solved by this mailing list, at least in the next few months.

I am not saying that these other issues are unimportant; just that in the
context of developing an initial VRML specification, they are not relevant.
In fact, before level-of-detail or object registration in a shared
environment can be discussed cogently, we will need some real-world
experience with VRML, understanding its drawbacks and strengths, before we
can go and revise the specification. VRML must be allowed to evolve; to
expect it to emerge, full-grown, Athena-like, from the mind of this list,
smacks of self-indulgence. We haven't even begun to use VRML yet, what
makes anyone think they have the answers when we can't even formulate the

So please, I ask you all, can we stick to the topic for which this list was
developed? There is time to think through all the issues; both Brian and I
view VRML as a long-term project, with some very important and powerful
short-term goals. I would hate to see these goals be hamstrung at so early
a stage, while there is clearly so much promise of success.

Thank you.

Mark Pesce
Labyrinth Group

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