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Re: [xml-dev] Parsing XML with anything but

On 12/9/13 3:41 PM, Gareth Oakes wrote:
I have seen this pattern of behaviour goodness knows how many times.
I present my grand theory for this, in the form of a story…

Imagine you are not an A-grade software developer. You probably
haven’t completed a formal Software Engineering or Computer Science
degree. You have meddled with computers enough to be dangerous. You
got a job as a web developer or “programmer” (using PHP, Visual
Basic, maybe even .NET).
I hate to interrupt this episode of "other programmers are so stupid,"
but this story does its best to shove blame in a lot of unwarranted directions without recognizing that the rest of the world may have a point.

The "Desperate Perl Hacker" was apparently invented by Tim Bray (per

The narrative was something like this: A Vice President with his hair
on fire runs into a hacker’s cubicle saying “We have to change all
appearances of ‘Soviet Union’ to ‘Russian Federation’ in the whole
legal-publications suite and support system and there’s no time and
no head-count! We’re doomed!” But the Desperate Perl Hacker triumphs,
because the data is in transparent text files. The D.P.H. was
repeatedly invoked during the XML design process to support this or
that simplifying feature.
Text files? Wow!

While yes, it's true that XML didn't end up supporting the DPH fully - see <http://www.xml.com/pub/a/w3j/s3.perl.html> - the behavior you complain about was (and often is) seen as a feature, not a bug.

I don't find too many programmers who've written their own XML parsers out of stacks of custom regexes. I do find a lot of people who use regexes to extract information from XML documents for tasks that don't seem worth the trouble of writing a SAX app or building a DOM tree.

(I manipulate markup with regular expressions pretty frequently, though in contexts unlikely to create explosions.)

Yes, it's true that writing applications that apply regular expressions or other text processing to "complete" XML can be dangerous. That doesn't mean that people doing that are stupid or poorly trained, however, and neither does it mean that they haven't tried their local XML toolsets first and found them wanting.

RTFM is not the answer to XML's problems. Neither is demanding smarter programmers.

Simon St.Laurent

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