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   Re: [xml-dev] XPath/XSLT 2.0 concerns

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On Tue, 1 Oct 2002, Robin LaFontaine wrote:

> Very much agree with sentiments expressed re complexity. As a 
> gamekeeper (stds developer) turned poacher (user) it seems to be true 
> that:
> - the first standard works but has some problems
> - the second one/version solves the problems and adds 500% complexity
> - by then the original problems have work-arounds which are well 
> understood and work
> So the second one often does not get serious take-up until a long 
> time later. But somehow we should be learning how to do this better.

There is nothing new under the sun. This sounds a lot like the "Second
System Effect" described by Fred Brooks in The Mythical Man Month
(1995). From the chapter of that title:

    Adde parvum parvo magnus acervus erit.

    [Add little to little and there will be a big pile]* -- Ovid

    An architect's first work is apt to be spare and clean. He knows
    he doesn't know what he's doing, and so he does it carefully and
    with great restraint. As he designs his first work, frill after
    frill and embellishment after embellishment occur to him. These 
    get stored away to be used "next time." The general tendency 
    is to over-design the second system, using all the ideas and
    frills that were cautiously sidetracked in the first one. The
    result, as Ovid says, is a "big pile."* ... How does the project
    manager avoid the second system effect? By insisting on a senior
    architect who has at least two systems under his belt. Too, by
    staying aware of the special temptations, he can ask the right
    questions to ensure that the philosophical concepts and objectives
    are fully reflected in the final design.

Yes, it's a shame James Clark is no longer involved.... We add to this the
idea that the spec is the product of a committee, instead of "an"
architect ...

In other words, the usual "Information Rules" tendencies by vendors to
create artifical complexity as a barrier to entry don't have to be the
sole explanation for the increasing bulk of W3C specs -- there are
systemic reasons as well.

[1] The technical term, at least in the Navy, for such a pile is a
"blivet" -- "10 pounds of sh*t in a 5 pound sack."

> Robin
> At 4:45 pm +0200 1/10/02, Eric van der Vlist wrote:
> >On Tue, 2002-10-01 at 16:23, Jeni Tennison wrote:
> >>  Hi Eric,
> >>
> >>  > I don't know how representative it is, but there is also at least
> >>  > one person (me) who has started to read these specs, seen that he
> >>  > didn't agree with the requirements and didn't consider that the
> >>  > addded complexity over XPath 1.0 is not worth the pain IHO and just
> >>  > can't comment because he has no comments except "I'll stay with
> >>  > XPath 1.0 and exslt as much as I can"...
> >>
> >>  Which of the requirements don't you agree with? Do you have
> >>  requirements that aren't or can't be met using extensions to XPath 1.0
> >>  (e.g. for conditional expressions in XPath)?
> >
> >Basically the requirement I don't agree with is that it needs to be a
> >basis for XQuery and become strongly typed.
> >
> >More generally, I think that the balance of features between XPath and
> >XSLT 1.0 was pretty good (with maybe a couple of minor exceptions which
> >could be discussed such as document() and format-number() that could
> >have been part of XPath IMO) and shouldn't be radically changed. 
> >
> >>  In other words, are you
> >>  saying that you don't think that XPath 2.0 is a good idea full stop
> >>  (period), or are you saying that *this* XPath 2.0 isn't a good idea?
> >
> >I don't feel like a stone resisting any change and I must say not *this*
> >XPath 2.0 even though the XPath 2.0 I would like would be 100 times
> >closer to XPath 1.0 than to *this* XPath 2.0.
> >
> >>  If it's the latter, then I think you've got a really good comment
> >>  right there: "I was hoping that XPath 2.0 would meet my requirement to
> >>  A, B and C but the complexity of XPath 2.0 means that the pain's not
> >>  worth the gain. XPath 2.0 could be made simpler in order to satisfy my
> >>  requirements without causing me pain by X, Y and Z."
> >
> >But my requirements A, B and C are so tiny that are completely masked by
> >the level of modifications which is envisioned.
> >
> >>  I guess voting with your feet is OK, but that's what I meant about
> >>  drawing the analogy with XLink. 2 or 3 years down the line we might
> >>  realise that actually we did need some of the stuff that XPath 2.0
> >>  does, but we're not using it because it's not designed in the way we
> >>  needed it to be.
> >
> >I don't want to sound negative, but I don't remember any of the comments
> >I have ever done to a W3C WG having ever been taken into account in a
> >positive way.
> >
> >>  Another thing we could try is to have a switch that makes XSLT 2.0 use
> >>  XPath 1.0. XSLT 2.0 has some really useful stuff (multiple output
> >>  documents, grouping, result-tree-fragments out the window,
> >>  user-defined functions) so it'd be a real shame if we couldn't use
> >>  them just because we wanted to avoid XPath 2.0.
> >
> >If you say so I trust you that XSLT 2.0 must be a good thing! I'd note
> >though that the features you're mentioning are already implemented
> >through exslt. Having them as standard XSLT features would be great but
> >only if the price to pay can be lowered!
> >
> >Another concern I have is that I am not sure that it would be quickly
> >implemented and deploied in the major web browsers. Of course I can't
> >tell since I am not part of W3C, but do you have any commitment from
> >Microsoft about this?
> >
> >Thanks
> >
> >Eric
> >--
> >Rendez-vous a Paris (Forum XML).
> >                           http://www.technoforum.fr/integ2002/index.html
> >------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >Eric van der Vlist       http://xmlfr.org            http://dyomedea.com
> >(W3C) XML Schema ISBN:0-596-00252-1 http://oreilly.com/catalog/xmlschema
> >------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >
> >
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