Re: [xsl] <quote>XSL is NOT easy</quote>

Subject: Re: [xsl] <quote>XSL is NOT easy</quote>
From: Wendell Piez <wapiez@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2007 11:58:25 -0400
At 05:37 AM 6/26/2007, Nic wrote:
Andreas Peter <info@xxxxxxxxxx> writes:

> Quoting Nic James Ferrier <nferrier@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>:
>> Yes. Not just programming languages but CSS, HTML and Word documents
>> too.
> Unfortunately I am one of those "self-taught amateur programmers". But
> the point is that those poeple have to start somewhere, too.
> And I agree XSL programming looked very easy at the first sight but if
> you want to get deeper into this programming language it is of course
> very difficult, particularly if you do not have any programming
> experience. But Thank God this list exists :-)

Hey! I'm a self taught amateur too! (Actually, I'm not sure who

I think XSLT is quite good for non-programmers, it's programmers with
some experience of other things that find it really difficult I've

If I had 10pence for the number of times I've seen a programmer try to
do something imperative in XSLT and get really, really, cross with it.

I agree with this too -- and have said as much on other occasions when this permathread has come around -- but I also now wonder whether the categories we're using aren't a bit superficial.

What's a "programmer"? Is it:

* Someone with an advanced degree in "programming"? (CS? "IT"?)
* Someone with a good head for logic, a facility with sign systems, and an intuitive understanding of what sorts of things can be automated?
* Someone who's written a large quantity of code?
* Someone who's been hired to be a "programmer" professionally and whose day-to-day work involves responsibility for writing and maintaining code for others?
* Someone with deep experience of a single application domain and its problems, dominant tools and programming strategies?
* Someone with broad experience of many application domains, their problems, tools and strategies?
* Someone with an open mind, curious and eager to learn new things and improve their problem-solving skills?

Of course, none of these categories are mutually exclusive. Nor do any of them in themselves make it difficult for a person to learn XSLT easily or deeply. Successful users of XSLT, I dare say, include some who fit into all these categories and some who fit into only a few.

On the contrary, in my experience, what makes it hard for people to learn XSLT are the same things that make it hard to learn anything. Misplaced assumptions, including assumptions about computers, computer languages, the problems being solved, or themselves. Lack of curiosity or flexibility. A judgemental attitude that interferes with clarity of mind or purpose.

Of course, it's also possible that someone might learn XSLT well, and then have trouble learning other things due to the same sorts of stuck-in-the-muddity.

W.H. Auden, a great twentieth-century poet, wrote that one is only a "poet" when one has just completed a poem. Otherwise, the best you can hope to be is an aspiring poet and perhaps a former poet.

Similarly, I'm not a programmer, although there have occasionally been brief moments when I was.


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