Re: Heresy? Re: DSSSL WWW Enhancements

Subject: Re: Heresy? Re: DSSSL WWW Enhancements
From: Paul Prescod <papresco@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 18 May 1997 18:53:34 -0400 (EDT)
> I don't see how you will be able to fit all of the Scheme functional style
> into "some other syntax".  

That's easy. There are several functional languages with infix syntax. The
three most popular are Haskell, ML and Dylan. Note that in the early days,
Lisp had two syntaxes, parenthesized and more traditional.

>It would seem to me that the goal for any
> DSSSL-oriented developer for the mass market should be a good front-end.

I don't think we'll get to that point unless it catches on with the Dirty
Perl Hackers. Anyhow, there is a very large constituency between GUI-centric
end users and open-minded "connoisseurs" of functional languages. Most 
ordinary programmers and webmasters fall into that large middle ground. I
am not content to cede them to incompatible technologies, nor to try to 
convert them. The Lisp-people have been trying to persuade them with superior
technology for *decades*.

> Technically, I don't see what we gain by changing the syntax.  A complex
> style-sheet or transformation will not cease to be complex.  Hence, what is
> the point?

Nothing technically. That's why I said that it is a good choice for the
core constituency of DSSSL, dedicated SGML-philes who are already used to
using "different" technologies (otherwise why aren't we using HTML and TeX
like everyone else). But to move the DSSSL model into the mainstream, we
may have to provide an alternative DSSSL syntax.

> The fact that perl succeed with a rather cryptic language syntax suggests that
> it is not the syntax but what the language can do that makes something
> succeed.  

Perl's syntax uses idioms familiar to Unix hackers. It is only cryptic to the
uninformed. If I were Perl's core audience you can bet it would be 
substantially less popular. The syntax and semantics are both gross!
But to Unix hackers, Perl is just like coming home. =)

There is a very heavy anti-parenthesis bias out there. Its unfortunate and
ignorant, but there it is.

Another way to think of it, though, is the DSSSL vs. Scheme conundrum. DSSSL
is not Scheme with SGML facilities. It is a declarative stylesheet language
that has a Scheme-like expression language for programmatic extension. The
syntax emphasizes the former which scares off people who really don't want
any more functionality than CSS. 

Let me repeat that until the day I die I will use fully-parenthesized Lisp-
style DSSSL. I believe this to be the best syntax for those who are open-
minded enough to try it. I just want the DSSSL model, the flow objects,
the construction rules, modes, areas, ..., to be adopted beyond that 
(unfortunately small) audience.

 Paul Prescod

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