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Subject: Potential errata for Core

I got asked today about something that appears to be ambiguous in Core's
description of <AttributeValue>.

I was asked how an attribute specified with no <AttributeValue> element
specified in an assertion should be interpreted. For example:

  <saml:Attribute FriendlyName="closure" Name="closure"

This is, of course, schema-valid.  The question is whether the absence
of the <AttributeValue> element means that the value of that attribute
is empty or whether it means it is nil (since these are two different
states), or should it be disallowed (through normative language, not a
schema change)?

IMO, based on the current wording in Core, the assumption is that the
<AttributeValue> element should be present in both of these cases and it
has to follow the specified rules.  That is, it either has an empty
value (e.g. <AttributeValue/>) OR it has an empty value AND the XML
attribute xsi:nil is specified and set to "true".  

In these 2 items, we don't state that an <AttributeValue> element MUST
be present.  We state that "the corresponding <AttribtueValue> element
MUST be empty...".   To me, that implies it has to be present, but
doesn't say so.  It doesn't address how to interpret it if it is not

There are a couple of options:
1)	In both cases, we change the text to say that the
"<AttributeValue> element MUST be specified and MUST be empty..."
2)	We define how to interpret the case of it not being present and
amend the text to account for that.

In the case of 2), do folks think that the absence of the
<AttributeValue> should mean that the attribute has a null value?  In
this case, we have to supplement the language to not just allow using
xsi:nil="true", but also allow no <AttributeValue> at all (as per the
example).Or do folks interpret 2) to mean the attribute has an empty
value.  I think the former case makes more sense to me.


Rob Philpott 
RSA, the Security Division of EMC
Senior Technologist | e-Mail: robert.philpott@rsa.com
<rphilpott@rsa.com>  | Office: (781) 515-7115 | Mobile: (617) 510-0893

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