Is DSSSL-O dead?

Frank Boumphrey bckman at
Fri Mar 27 15:01:19 GMT 1998

    In part XSL was proposed because of DSSSL's fearsome reputation for
difficulty, a reputation that in part has been fostered by the proponents of
DSSSL themselves. It seems that when 'disselites' speak only the elite
'disselites' can understand.(I will make a disclaimer right now that there
are exceptions, for example Paul Prescods tutorial is a model of clarity).

    Having just finished teaching a course on style-sheets, I wonder if that
fearsome reputation is not a little over-rated.

    I identified the following four areas
that I thought the students would have difficulty with.

    1. The concept of flow objects.
    2. The concept of pre-fix operands
    3. The lack of suitable tools for experimentation
    4. The lack of suitable documentation for teaching at an entry level.
(And even experienced programmers learning a new language benefit from entry
level materials)

    Much to my surprise

1. presented absolutely no difficulty at all provided the concept was
presented right up front.

2. presented much less difficulty than I thought, the students treated the
pre-fix operands as rather a game, competing with one another to create the
most outlandish and non-readable expression.

3. I wrote a very simple little teaching application that enabled the
students to play with the rules and output HTML. This more than anything
else conquers the "boredom" factor and turns an abstract discussion into a
concrete one. XSL may have taken off because a parser was provided right
from the beginning.

4. This remains a problem Paul Prescod and David Germain's tutorials are
excellent, but they are not aimed at the lite version, and Jade requires a
DTD to operate, and is non exactly user-friendly. A tool for XS should
operate without a DTD.

    DSSSL is an incredibly powerful language, in fact all the other
languages evince a "I want to be like Mike" attitude (for non US readers
this refers to a Nike Ad starring Michael Jordan), and I for one would hate
to see it relegated again to the marginalia of document authoring.

    It strikes me that all the perceived problems are eminently "fixable"

Frank Boumphrey

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