Saturday, October 11, 2003

Yesterday someone asked me about XSLT and since it has been some time since I have used it I decided it was time to refresh my memory.

First, I gave C#Builder a test drive and built a small graphical app that let's me enter XML and XSLT code and have it tranformed visually. It is only slightly easier than using the command-line tools but it provided a nice excuse to explore the C#Builder IDE and the .NET XML/XSLT/XPath class libraries.

It turned out to be quite simple except for a multitude of obsolete methods in the transformation library. It would be nice to have the IDE exclude these or mark them obsolete in the "Intellisense" view. C#Builder, however, does not do this.

After building the tool I started experimenting. I revisited the article The Functional Programming Language XSLT - A proof through examples which shows how XSLT is in fact a functional programming language - albeit a very clumsy one.

In fact, the verbosity of the FP code developed in that article reminded me why we stopped using XSLT on my prior projects.

For anything but the simplest transformations it is often much easier to write the XML massaging code in another language - and it saves on training costs since a lot of people don't know enough XSLT to be really productive outside of applying a bit of formatting to XML data to be presented in web pages.

However, if that is all you need to do is a few simple transformations and you can live with writing code inside angle brackets, XSLT is no bad choice. Think of it as the sed and awk of XML processing.

At the end of the day, an extra language in the toolbox is never bad - after all, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Joel Spolsky has posted another excellent essay on his blog about Unicode.

Well worth a read - if only to avoid the harsh punishment for not knowing Unicode that he threatens to apply if he catches you ignorant of Unicode :-)

The Absolute Minimum Every Software Developer Absolutely, Positively Must Know About Unicode and Character Sets (No Excuses!): "if you are a programmer working in 2003 and you don't know the basics of characters, character sets, encodings, and Unicode, and I catch you, I'm going to punish you by making you peel onions for 6 months in a submarine. I swear I will.
And one more thing:
Seth Godin of permission marketing fame and known for his position at Yahoo! has a blog. As alway he provides excellent insight into the CRM/marketing world.

Seth's Blog: Helping Jack with web design:

"Here's what I think about a web page:
You only have four paths:
1. get someone to buy something right now
2. get someone to give you their email address so you can build a relationship
3. get someone to tell a friend
4. get someone to go to another page on your site."

Friday, October 10, 2003

Here's another Neal Stephenson interview (one of my favourite contemporary authors): TCS: Tech Central Station - The Source of the Modern World.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Ingo Rammer has added a new section to his site concerning application architecture. Highly recommended reading: Architecture Briefings.

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