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   Re: Various presentations, schema concepts, etc.

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  • From: Wendell Piez <wapiez@mulberrytech.com>
  • To: XML-Dev Mailing list <xml-dev@xml.org>, Matt Sergeant <matt@sergeant.org>
  • Date: Tue, 04 Jul 2000 23:01:33 +0100

Matt Sergeant writes:

>Declarative programming really isn't that new a concept, although the
>development of declarative techniques is getting better (I suppose you
>could have said the same about OO when it was becoming the "next big
>thing" too). I'm not convinced its really the next wave though - like
>functional programming its just too hard to grok for non comp sci people
>(and there are a lot of them in this field who are going to need to be
>able to work with us).

Yet whenever this thread is picked up on XSL-List (remember XSL is said to
be a declarative language -- not that I would know, I'm not a "comp sci"
person), as soon as some CS person says XSLT is hard, some layout designer
or other steps forward and says, "I'm using XSL and I think it's easy."

The whole virtue of a declarative language is that once you understand the
formal data model(s) and processing semantics, you don't need to know what
goes on under the surface: if the processor operates in conformance to
spec, and the spec is properly designed to provide for clean
implementations, it doesn't matter. It is then shocking and surprising what
a naive user, who has never been programmed by counters and for-loops, can
do, even torturing the language when necessary (in XSLT, writing recursive
named templates for user-defined functions, adapting cunning uses of
built-in functions, etc. etc.) to achieve unanticipated ends.

Rick Jelliffe writes:
>I remember [Dr John Reekie's]
>suggestion, after working with functional programming techiques (and
>liking them very much) was that  perhaps they require a too high level
>of abstraction for typical programmer (typically trained programmers?),
>compared to procedural code (we are used to assignment): he thought that
>mediating the functions through a GUI might make FP more attractive.

Mmhm: which may help explain the XSLT-for-humanists phenomenon. Personally
I don't think the GUI is the answer, at least not GUIs we have now, which
are pretty pathetic at representing either the data models or the
processing. But training and experience in thinking about information at a
high level of abstraction might be just the ticket.

Possibly an education studying textual forms, their applications and
transformations over the history of media technologies for the last, say,
6000 years? My dream XML education would include some Greek or Latin or
Classical Chinese. Plenty of Rhetoric, some Prosody and theory of narrative
form. When Shelley said the poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the
world, he was referring to the schema designers responsible for your
wetware architecture. But then, that's my side of the camel.

Wendell Piez

Wendell Piez                            mailto:wapiez@mulberrytech.com
Mulberry Technologies, Inc.                http://www.mulberrytech.com
17 West Jefferson Street                    Direct Phone: 301/315-9635
Suite 207                                          Phone: 301/315-9631
Rockville, MD  20850                                 Fax: 301/315-8285
  Mulberry Technologies: A Consultancy Specializing in SGML and XML

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