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Re: XSL is difficult to...?

Subject: Re: XSL is difficult to...?
From: James Clark <jjc@xxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1999 12:21:04 +0700

Don Park wrote:
> XSL is coming along nicely and I feel that it is time to re-examine the
> learnability and readability issues, which are often overlooked when
> functionality is the main focus.

The XSL WG spends huge amounts of time and effort trying to make the
language learnable and readable.  You may not like the way we've
designed things, but it's certainly not the case that we are overlooking
these issues.

> Here they are:
> 1. There are just too many names to remember.
> Seemingly, there are zillions of tag names, attribute names, and endless
> supply of function names to remember.  To worsen the situation, many of
> those names are similar in concept but different in effect (i.e. import vs.
> include).  Couldn't some of the tag names and function names be combined
> using attributes and function parameters as variations?

At this stage, specific suggestions are necessary; general complaints
that the language is hard to read or learn or remember are not helpful.

> 2. Unfamiliar use of words.
> I am not used to seeing words like 'choose' and 'when' instead of 'switch'
> and 'case'.  I keep looking at one thing or another and constantly map the
> words into words I am familar with.  Maybe those words are familar to the
> authors of the spec but I can't help wishing for more familar words.

Firstly xsl:choose/xsl:when in XSLT does not work like switch/case in C
or Java; calling it switch/case when it does not work like switch/case
would be misleading. Secondly, remember that you are not typical of the
target audience for XSL; the primary target audience for XSL is not
programmers; things that may be familiar to you may not be familiar to
the XSL target audience.

> 3. Verbosity
> I feel that XSL is too verbose in terms of names (tags, attributes, and
> function names).  Basically, names are too long and hard to remember because
> they are composite words such as do-this or apply-something.  I tend to like
> short names even if it is not precise.  xsl:apply is clear enough for me
> without having to type the remaining '-templates'.

Do you actually have any hard evidence that short abbreviated names are
easier to remember? It can be equally argued that long, non-abbreviated
names are easier to remember and more readable.


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