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   how they really feel about XML

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Shelley Powers has written a piece called "The Parable of the Languages"
that I find to be a simultaneously funny and accurate description of the
ways in which XML is commonly discussed outside of this community.


Programmers of most stripes will find some entertainment about their own
environments, but it's the conclusion that troubles me most but makes me
think hardest.

[few blank lines to avoid spoilers]

It seems to me that there are a few real problems here amidst the humor.  

First, that XML was hyped up, most particularly as a solution to
programmers' problems.  I'm finding more and more over time that XML
isn't what programmers are actually looking for, once they get past
superficial examples.  Programmers are looking for communications tools
that require less work for more communications, and XML sort of covers
the "more communications" among environments but not necessarily the
"less work" angle.  We now have an ever-growing stack of Web Services
junk that claims to offer the "less work" angle, but it seems to have
become work in its own category.

Second, that people think of XML as a programming language.  I don't
think that "XML as a programming language" is a common theme on this
list, but I do get lots of naive email questions pretty much to that
effect.  I'm not sure that XML had any business at that gathering of
programming languages.

Finally, to push back on the programming languages, I'm astounded that
programmers seem to have such an impossible time wrapping their heads
around what markup is actually good for. (I think relational databases
had similar problems, but less culture clash.  Tables less alien to
computers than documents and all that.)  

I keep seeing the same old XML-as-object-serialization story that makes
XML out to be an excitingly half-baked technology for letting programs
talk to programs.  There's no question that XML can be used for that,
but it reminds me a bit of a guy who'd written Perl programs which
communicated over sockets using a very readable though simple subset of
English. It was great for debugging, admittedly.

Of course, I'm happy to admit that I'm taking a whimsical parable far
too seriously, as usual.  It does seem like a good thing to ponder in
the context of "XML development", however.

Simon St.Laurent - SSL is my TLA
http://simonstl.com may be my URI
http://monasticxml.org may be my ascetic URI
urn:oid: is another possibility altogether


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