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When XML first hit my radar, it sounded great. There were rumors (quite a while back) that Microsoft Office would save its documents in XML as a native format. How cool would that be? Need to write something that can read a Word document? No problem! Just crack open the file with your favorite text editor and learn the format in minutes.

Never happened. Nevertheless, everyone has decided that XML is the way to go. It's popping up everywhere. Just what every killer app needs. a flagrantly abused technology to defile anything resembling geek pride. I've heard that if you want to get a good job these days, your resume has to be a "well formed XML document."

In the late 1830's, there was a marketing fad for blatant misspellings in acronyms. For example, OK was introduced as a substitute for 'Oll Korrect'. Now, we have a misspelled TLA (Three Letter Acronym). What really gets me is that we allow the geniuses to pollute our products with this silliness.

As a result, I have been boycotting the absurdity of it all for quite some time; Staying just current enough to beat a salesperson over the head with what I know. Recently, it has gotten out of control, though. XML, XSLT, XDR, XPath. C'mon, XThis!

While at the most recent VBITS in New York, I grew tired of Microsoft telling all the VB programmers that .NET is just an upgrade wizard away, so I resigned to several XML seminars. The most notable one was titled "Implement a Web-based Reporting System with XSLT" by Yasser Shohoud. The premise was that he had a relatively simple HTML report to generate, and a lot of time on his hands. He went step-by-step through the different pieces, showing how the formatting was done. I sat there, quite impressed with it all; In the same way that witnessing someone drive nails with their forehead is impressive. He had literally taken a report could have been produced with 20 lines of ASP and implemented it with around 1500 lines of XSLT and a quad processor box. All in the name of 'X'.

Enough already. Of the programmers that I have spoken with who actually know XML and own hammers, most agree that most of the current uses for it are moronic.

an observation
With the advent of HTML, the wwweb took off at a ridiculous pace. Once developers tried to make use of the wwweb they developed gobs and gobs of creative and overly complex systems designed to generate HTML dynamically. Why? Because HTML combines the acts of storing and displaying data in a single blow. Why is this bad? Because data changes, and the way you want to display that data changes. There is no reason why you should need to take the display into account when you are changing the data. (and vice versa)

Along comes XML and XSL. XML is designed as a language that stores data in structures that represent the relationships between those data. XSL is designed as a means of defining a way to display data stored in XML. Now developers can modify the display or modify the data, but they aren't obligated to worry about both at the same time.

In essence, XML and XSL are the cure for the plague introduced through HTML.

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