Weighing in on XSL / Standards

Andy Dent dent at oofile.com.au
Tue May 25 04:54:38 BST 1999

>At 10:28 -0400 23/5/99, Joshua E. Smith wrote:
>- It is often argued by the expert systems guys that production-based rule
>systems (or "case based reasoning") is *more* intuitive than... but 
>it is an article of faith in that community, and might help
>to explain why the XSL camp seems to have a lot of "religion" about ease of

I think this is a 'straw man' argument. I have no problems with 
declarative vs procedural but I think the single biggest thing in the 
way of XSL is that its syntax is hard to use.

I've been working in and studying UI design and usability for about 6 
years and using tools on many platforms for about 15. The key factor 
in adoption is always ease of use, driven mainly by the tools.

Some people may mistake the success of VB et al as being due to their 
using a GUI. I don't think this superficially attractive argument is 
the ansewr. The answer is the very simple abstract model that allows 
users to produce solutions.

Apple's Hypercard was similarly successful for many years. In fact, 
in terms of widespread use by non-programmers I'd say it is the most 
successful tool to date (taking the percentage of people who had 
access to HC and chose to use it).

With Hypercard, Apple introduced a carefully layered model of 
abstractions - people could create real systems with a very simple 
abstract model, but more power was available under the hood.

If you accept this argument, then the future of XSL is a little 
scary. Apart from the syntactical difficulty of writing it in text 
editors (hopefully a passing phase) there is the complex abstract 

The only way I see it being a success is if the editing tools present 
an abstract model which is NOT actually that of XSL. Otherwise, it 
will remain a programming language for layout geeks (not necessarily 
a small niche!) :-)

Andy Dent BSc MACS AACM, Software Designer, A.D. Software, Western Australia
OOFILE - Database, Reports, Graphs, GUI for c++ on Mac, Unix & Windows
PP2MFC - PowerPlant->MFC portability

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