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Re: [xsl] XSLT Hello World - outreach

Subject: Re: [xsl] XSLT Hello World - outreach
From: Wendell Piez <wapiez@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 28 Mar 2014 13:28:00 -0400


I have been wondering how to introduce what Rich has just mentioned
... XSLT's accessibility to (so-called) "non-programmers".

I have had similar success. Indeed, I have gone (considerably) beyond
what he describes -- I give them templates. They usually say "how
curious", and then start using them -- training their brains in tree
traversals and learning about context while doing so.

A big part of the reason why the question of promoting XSLT is complex
is that one of our natural constituencies may not be in the places
where "experts" in computing or programming are to be found.

To be sure, they tend to be active and inquisitive people, and not
inclined to think of their machines (or the priests who attend their
needs) as masters to be humored. And they may not be as interested in
programming as in their data and what they want to do with it.

These people can often do very well with XSLT, and not only on a
casual basis, especially if they have an accessible expert and/or
community to help when they get stuck. Then they become "experts" and
everyone thinks they are "programmers".

Organizational culture may make this difficult, however, Putting these
people in a position where they can help themselves doesn't seem to be
something that can be done from outside -- organizations have immune
systems to prevent this sort of thing, which can be disruptive.

Cheers, Wendell

On Fri, Mar 28, 2014 at 12:31 PM, Richard Fozzard - NOAA Affiliate
<richard.fozzard@xxxxxxxx> wrote:
> Graydon said the following on 03/27/2014 12:18 PM:
>> I've never got anybody to believe XSLT was easy; I have got people to
>> believe it was powerful, and I suspect the best way to evangelize for
>> XSLT is along that axis. "Here are things we can do reliably that are
>> much harder any other way".
> Remarkably, I *have* gotten people to believe XSLT is easy -- and those have
almost always been people who are not traditional programmers!
> Of course, these folks aren't doing complex transformations. But they are
people, who for one reason or another, have been given XML to deal with, and
just want to produce a nice HTML page or convert to a different XML format.
I've shown these folks just three elements, wrapped in a single <xsl:template
> 1. xsl:value-of
> 2. xsl:choose
> 3. xsl:for-each
> and only enough XPath to understand something like "//book[@author='Bob']".
> This is not "Hello World" -- which I have always considered a useless
exercise for anything other than testing a compile/build environment. But it
is what I call an 80-20 solution: 80% of what you want, for 20% of the
> The people I've shown this to have done a lot of great things with just
these three elements, and some have gone on to learn a lot more of XSLT. Funny
that the non-programmers have been easier to convert than the hot-shot
hackers. ;-)
> --Rich
> --
> Richard Fozzard, Computer Scientist
>   Geospatial Metadata at NGDC: http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/metadata
> Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)
> Univ. Colorado & NOAA National Geophysical Data Center, Enterprise Data
> 325 S. Broadway, Skaggs 1B-305, Boulder, CO 80305
> Office: 303-497-6487, Cell: 303-579-5615, Email: richard.fozzard@xxxxxxxx

Wendell Piez | http://www.wendellpiez.com
XML | XSLT | electronic publishing
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