Re: AW: AW: AW: [xsl] commenting and documenting XSLT (small survey)

Subject: Re: AW: AW: AW: [xsl] commenting and documenting XSLT (small survey)
From: Wendell Piez <wapiez@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 08 Jul 2004 15:51:13 -0400

At 08:01 AM 7/8/2004, you wrote:
a list
* item 1
* item 2

with some *emphasized* or ``tt`` text

is very readable and quite "writable" as well. it is just a nice way to write comments and it quite easy to process into XHTML afterwards.

It is readable, and writable, but:

Is it learnable? (how do I know that * delimits emphasis, except when it doesn't? what if I want bold not italics? what if I do ~this~, what comes out?)

What happens when it contains glitches?

How does an author know whether it is properly formed, without concepts analogous to XML "well-formedness" and "valid", and tools to implement their specifications? Is there any way to know the correctness of the input besides running the process and inspecting the output? If so, what is it and how is it specified? If not, who owns, controls, and maintains the ur-process that controls everything?

Also, I question how easy it is to process into XHTML afterwards. It may be easy to do the first 80% but I submit that the last 20% -- and all the subsequent desiderata like "how do I make a list item with more than one line in it?" -- will probably drive you crazy.

Part of what makes XML so powerful -- for those that have eyes to see -- is that it handles these questions in such a robust way. No, XML syntax is not perfect. But the syntax is just the beginning of a markup application, not the end. XML has not only got a syntax, it has a very sophisticated processing model as well, which can be used to address questions such as those I've asked above. Part of XML's sophistication is evident in how simple it appears to be, and basically is, while it can likewise scale in complexity to address very difficult, and various, problems.

But that simplicity took years -- decades -- of experimenting with markup languages before anything solidified (it happened to be SGML) to the point that it could be reinvented as "XML".

I like WikiML and the whole notion of reduced, learnable, plain-text markup conventions, and I'll take it as a sign of real progress when one emerges with a design compelling enough, and a processing model robust enough (it'll have to go beyond "check correctness by eyeballing output"), to unseat the currently-dominant paradigm. Anything not as dead-simple as <tag>this</tag> is going to be a pain to learn, teach, maintain.

And it would be ironic if a utility you developed to help you maintain stylesheets became a maintenance headache of its own.

You asked for opinions ... I agree with David and DaveP on this one.


Wendell Piez                            mailto:wapiez@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Mulberry Technologies, Inc.      
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