If You Don't Need XML, Then Don't Use It!

by Kurt Cagle

As an editor, it's all to easy to spend a lot of time reading (and responding to) blogs and articles on the web, and as the editor for xml.com, I find my time is disproportionately allocated to trying to correct misperceptions and even hostile snipings about XML. One such post came yesterday, in Jeff Atwood's excellent Coding Horrors blog, one that (my comments in this article not withstanding) is a must read for anyone who programs for a living.

In The Angle Bracket Tax , Jeff lays out what he perceives as the flaws of XML, and why they detract from the language. I could attempt to refute him point by point, but in the main, he's pretty much spot on with regards to his particular complaints - XML is a verbose, complex, oft-misused language that has been pushed into areas where it has no business belonging (more or less) and there are far better formats for doing everything from describing data structures to writing processes to sending messages. Yet he also misses a major, perhaps even a fundamental, point -XML is not a programming language.


2008-05-21 16:06:07
>>> Now, write a script for a screen play in JSON. Go on, I dare you.

Classic! It seems to me that the schismatrix of XML v. JSON, XQuery v. XSLT, XSD v. Relax NG etc, is resolving itself every time somebody says "well, this will work in for this situation" and gets on with development, leaving a big question that becomes more and more of a concern: relational-data or document-content: SQL v. XPath. I think now would be a really good time for anyone who doesn't "get" XPath to start getting it.

2008-05-22 06:31:57
You put your finger on the critical source of twisted thinking: training. XML isn't the only place one sees this. The web is fast producing a generation of shallow analysts. The ease of finding information and quickly building a network of support over a superstitious assertion is the problem. This has been a problem from the inception and it isn't staying put in the web. As predicted, it is rippling fast across other social institutions like a virus: mindless and purposeless except to acquire new links.

There is a sci-fi story about a contest and a school for advanced thinking. In the contest, the people trained to win lost when conditions were introduced that they could not use their kit of tools to handle. The winner was the self-trained investigator who did not have tools but recognized from experience where the solution could be found. In the end of the story, the self-trained investigator discovered he was not in the remedial school; he was in the school for advanced thinkers.

Why was Socrates so successful and so necessary to be rid of?

2008-05-23 04:08:19
are you embarrassed that this site is mucked up with these ridiculous CNET Network banners telling me to "Please be patient.. your widget may take a few minutes to load"? I've been a faithful reader in the past and keep seeing interesting blog entries from you , Rick, and the others but get so frustrated about the whole intro being munged that I just close it out and go back to my next google reader subscription. Pls tell the site developers to have some sort of fallback so that the pages are readable when these widgets fail to load.

In the event you have no clue what I'm talking about, let me know and I'll send a screenshot...

Kurt Cagle
2008-05-23 06:41:18

The advertising is provided through a third party agency the contract of whom is currently being re-evaluated. I would ask that you "bear with us" a little longer as well, as some fairly significant changes are coming in a number of different areas quite soon.

-- Kurt