Re: New/old pattern syntax, why can't we have both ?

Subject: Re: New/old pattern syntax, why can't we have both ?
From: Paul Prescod <papresco@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 24 Aug 1998 22:02:43 -0500
Mark_Overton@xxxxxxxxx wrote:

> Let's be practical here.  Software is already a complicated endeavor.  If
> we come up with new syntax's for every problem we will end up with a "tower
> of babel" effect.  Some people may enjoy contemplating new languages but we
> get paid to build things which work.

The amount of effort required to parse an XSL pattern is trivial compared
to the amount of effort required to implement XSL. Sure, it makes sense to
use XML to reduce the need to write new parsers: *where XML is efficient*.
But it does not make sense to use it where it is not appropriate. 

"You'd better write that CGI program in Ada, because we don't want to have
dozens of programming languages hanging around. Ada is the only language
you'll ever need."
> The main value of XML is to allow us to express information in a common
> format.  This means that with any XML parser I can read any XML document.
> If I have to have a domain specific parser for each XML application then we
> have thrown this away.

Every XML application must implement some of its own logic. Some of this
logic may occasionally need to be parsing logic. Shifting a tenth of the
programming task from interpretation to parsing is not a mortal sin.
> What is the point of this new syntax?  It is more terse and "readable" when
> looking at it raw?  Do we really expect that people will write XSL by hand.


> This may be the case now because of the lack of tools, but it absolutely
> will not be in the long run.  You will view XSL through some sort of
> abstraction.  If this doesn't happen, then XSL is dead.  

XSL has to catch on long before there are widespread GUI tools for it, in
order for it to have critical mass enough to make the GUI tools feasible.

> Normal users (and
> this is the audience) are not programmers.

Who says? Normal users use HTML. It works well for them. They haven't even
grokked CSS yet. I expect XSL to be used by trained web designers.
Ordinary users will probably use it (if at all) by downloading complex XSL
stylesheets and tweaking them.

Anyways, why should we force (or "encourage") anyone into using a GUI tool
if they don't want to?
> My apologies for sounding unappreciative of the group's work.  But I think
> this issue is of critical importance.  I have to build an XSL processor.
> This syntax makes that job at least twice as hard and really adds no
> functionality.

If parsing this language really makes your job twice as hard, then you can
contract me to do the parsing for you. It looks like less than a day's
work to me. You can either pay me a day's wages to construct the parser,
or I can pay you a day's wages to complete the rest of the XSL
implementation. Does this sound fair?


I must admit, I am bothered by the moral absolutism of the complainers. It
strikes me as the emotional absolutism of new converts to a religion. As
an old SGML curmudgeon, I can only say: "Enjoy it while it last...the
fantasy that putting everything into a single syntax makes everything easy
will only last a few months."

I didn't mind the old element-based syntax. It was nice how it reflected
the structure of the document section being matched. If someone wanted to
make usability arguments like that, I would be very receptive and might
well support the element-based syntax. But let's forget this "syntax

Syntax is only a tool. XML syntax is a hammer. Querying is a screw.

 Paul Prescod  -
 ISOGEN International: "We transcend syntax."

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