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

HI Stephen,

couple of points;  Sharepoint and it's ilk aren't really  in competition with "XML".  However, I guess your question is are there applications specific to XML that can't be as done as well some other way?  I do think that XSLT is perhaps the crown jewel in this regard, I too use it for AI type applications.  However, it also seems to be a perfect example of a powerful but hard to use  XML tool...

As for Cocoon, well I'm a Cocoon commiter and PMC member, so I obviously see some good points in it's favor, but... That project pretty much ran out of steam when it's founder took a position at MIT and went on to other things.  Cocoon 2 is a huge and complex beast that makes some things easy but at a cost of a high initial learning curve.  Cocoon 3 is a lot simpler but the ability to use XML to configure all aspects of it are forgone in favor of (very simple) Java  code which locks it away from the non Java coders.  If you need need XSLT pipelines with complex run time decisions on input, couping and serialization it's still a good solution and as a result it makes the AI type XSLT solutions a lot easier to build, but overall it's powerful but really hard to use!

Peter Hunsberger

On Tue, Dec 10, 2013 at 5:51 PM, Stephen Cameron <steve.cameron.62@gmail.com> wrote:
Hi All,

"It seems clear to me that XML et al is not going to win the middle ground of powerful _and_ easy to use.  It's not clear any tool is going to do that any time soon."

In terms of easy tools nw XML lies between a dominating incumbent in the form of Microsoft (in particular Sharepoint with its backwards compatibility to Word and also Infopath) and on the other side, the *free* tools (IDEs) and libraries (some easy, some not) of the object-oriented (inc. _javascript_) development world. It seems to me that is actually an opportunity for XML, to combine the user-focus of Sharepoint with free "_and_ easy to use" tools and frameworks.
The Silicon Valley approach, via venture-capital, is pretty well catered for in the form of MarkLogic, but where is the equivalent from the free and open-source world? I suggest the 'powerful' aspect is well and truly there, its just a matter of adding the 'easy to use' part. XSLT is the perfect example, how can we make it easier to use via free tools? Maybe even easy to use?

My interest, coming from data-management, is in XForms - see my attempt at such a thing in Forms-Wizard.

The powerful part of XML is really good (I think of XSLT as like Artificial Intelligence), we all recognise that, it now seems to be an issue of making that power available. You may think that the browser is a lost cause, and yet there are still folk working hard to make an impact (e.g. Saxon-CE, Frameless, XSLTForms). The possibilities with XForms and SVG combined are so-far totally unexploited, but that definitely needs good tools IMO. No-one can tell me that D3 is easy to learn.

Maybe a big issue (an elephant in the room even) is that XML was so promising that it became a field of competition between the rich and powerful. Meanwhile, in the browser at least, the free and easier alternatives quietly stole the show.

As another example Apache Cocoon is a really great and powerful project, and yet its use in the mainstream seems minimal, PHP based web-publishing frameworks just stole the show. Why? Perhaps because Cocoon was never user friendly enough? It has inspired some commercial offerings though and so maybe it was just the mighty dollar.

My suspicion now is that in this "powerful _and_ easy to use" area that RDF based things are a more likely winners. Maybe merely as they have the benefit of hindsight perhaps? But the two aren't incompatible and, I am starting to see, might be a powerful team (how many XML luminaries of the past have swapped camps I wonder?).

For example, I get the Apache SF email announcements. Today there is one that the Apache Marmotta linked-data 'platform' has become a top-level project. Having no experience with such things I cannot say if its good or not, but it does seem to be  focused on making things easier to use, hiding the technicalities "under the hood" somewhat.  Recognising that I am less than well-educated as a computer scientist, I am very interested, at the least as a less painful introduction.

Now, how should we build that Sharepoint alternative?

Steve Cameron

On Wed, Dec 11, 2013 at 2:24 AM, Peter Hunsberger <peter.hunsberger@gmail.com> wrote:

We need to stop wondering why people don't want to use 'our' tools and start figuring out how to reach them.  Or, if we prefer, we can spend our time on endless iterations of this thread, stewing in our own greatness and wondering why it is that people from cut-and-paste coders to well-respected consultants don't grasp the power and beauty that is the XML family of specifications.

Um, why?  I'm only being partly rhetorical here, so bear with me....   It seems clear to me that XML et al is not going to win the middle ground of powerful _and_ easy to use.  It's not clear any tool is going to do that any time soon.  Scala is the new beloved in Silicon Valley but you pretty much have to have a solid CS background to know how to use it properly.  The designers make no apologies for that and in fact embrace it; powerful tools for people that know what they are doing isn't a horrible place to aim at.  Powerful tools for the masses results in missing fingers and trips to the emergency room.
That last is unfortunately a permathread here.  I should stop poking at it - the battle seems pretty much lost to me in any case, at least as far as the XML moniker goes.

Exactly; embrace the Dark side.... ;-) 

Seriously, it's good to know how a community is presenting itself and how it's perceived.  The XML world has so much history that most people here know well that it's easy to forget that most of the world has no idea about the details and doesn't care.  It won't hurt if you keep prodding us with that stick, but if you expect that to produce something revolutionary I suspect you're prodding in the wrong community.  At best it can result in incremental improvements (ie. micro XML) and that's still a good thing...

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