Weighing in on XSL / Standards
Well, I read the articles on XML.com, and I've read all the arguments here. I'm still pretty much an outsider on all this, and I've *never* programmed in any language who's name ends in "SL" so take this for what it's worth: - Declarative programming languages, and by this I mean rule-based, production-based, then-if, backward chaining, expert-system, like that, take a *LOT* of getting used to. That does not mean they are *bad*. One you have the epiphanal ah-ha moment, they can be a remarkably expressive and easy thing to use. I have seen some amazing work done in very few lines of code in the AI field (I'm thinking, specifically, of the Soar system out of CMU, UofM [Laird], and ISI [Rosenbloom]). - To those of us who have thought forward-chaining, procedurally since our epoch as programmers, it is hard to see production systems as anything but black magic. I used to have this bias myself, until a really smart guy showed me how forward and backward chaining systems can actually be transformed into one another, and therefore, it's really just a matter of taste. - A big part of the reason why you don't find tools like debuggers, packages, modules, etc., in production systems is because you don't need them. Production systems naturally solve big problems with small amounts of code. The lack of such tools is thus a specious argument. It's like saying it's hard to adjust the fuel/air mixture with a screw driver on an engine with no carburator. Yes, I suppose it is. And why would you need to do that, exactly? - It is often argued by the expert systems guys that production-based rule systems (or "case based reasoning") is *more* intuitive than forward-chaining, procedural, algol-derivative programming. The theory is that ordinary experts can write rules, but only programmers can write algorithms. I have no idea if this is true, I've never seen any evidence that it is, but it is an article of faith in that community, and might help to explain why the XSL camp seems to have a lot of "religion" about ease of use. - The argument that a new standard is not needed because existing standards can do the same job is specious. Is TCP unnecessary because you could have written your own windowing and framing code on plain old IP? (Yeah, I know I'm doing historical revision here, and TCP actually came before IP, but pretend you don't know that, so you can see my point.) [I'm basically making the same argument someone else did earlier about SQL vs assembly language.] - The W3C seems a little schizophrenic in their treatment of what is worthy of standardization. There is the IETF model: take a collection of working solutions, resolve the differences, and standardize the results. There is the US Dept of Defense model: invent a brand new thing, declare it a standard, mandate it's use, then implement it. XML is an example of the IETF model: they took a good, working, thing (SGML) and tidied it up. ECMA-Script is another good example of the IETF model. From my viewpoint, XSL looks like an example of the USDoD approach. Am I missing some history here? When a detractor can say, with a straight face, that he doubts the standard can actually be implemented, that's usually a sign that the standard is *way* out in front of the community, and needs more baking. I lived in the USDoD standards world for a long, long time, and I know that their process is completely incapable of producing anything with any value whatsoever. I have also dabbled in the IETF standards world, and have been uniformly impressed at how their process lets the cream rise to the top. Since the W3C is all about the Internet, why does it have a process separate from that of the IETF? I dont' get that. Can someone explain that to me? Does it have to do with paper documents or something? So my take on the argument, in a nutshell: Somebody needs to go implement XSL, develop some great apps using it, in the process fix everything which is wrong with it, and then offer it up as a standard. Standards bodies should be editors, not authors. -Joshua Smith xml-dev: A list for W3C XML Developers. To post, mailto:xml-dev@i... Archived as: http://www.lists.ic.ac.uk/hypermail/xml-dev/ and on CD-ROM/ISBN 981-02-3594-1 To (un)subscribe, mailto:majordomo@i... the following message; (un)subscribe xml-dev To subscribe to the digests, mailto:majordomo@i... the following message; subscribe xml-dev-digest List coordinator, Henry Rzepa (mailto:rzepa@i...)
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