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From Michael Westbay <>
Subject Re: The documentation, xml, and stylesheets
Date Tue, 19 Jun 2001 00:27:30 GMT
Asbell-san wrote:

> Mike, I am forced to work with xslt every day, [...]

It sounds to me like you're one of those many people who majored in something 
that had nothing to do with computers, then found yourself in the IT field.  
I was a Computer Science major.  I taught myself HTML, XML, SGML, XSL, and 
the rest of the alphabet soup in my own time after work simply because I 
found them fascinating.

> [...] and each day I find a new
> reason to say "what in the WORLD do people see in this?!".  It has its
> place in changing from schema to schema, but who want to get so deep into a
> technology which is very hard to control, and in complex schemas consumes
> more effort than it is worth to get what you want out of it.

Let me venture another guess.  You're working primarily with poorly 
documented and or thought out DTDs that are ever changing as more 
functionality is desired, leaving you to constantly update the style sheet 
transforms to satisfy the whims of your boss.

First of all, getting in deep with the technology gives one a better 
understanding of it.  I started learning HTML in 1995 armed with Mosaic and 
my trusty vi editor.  GUIs are nice, but IMHO, they separate the creator from 
the underlying technologies too much.  I'd rather know what's going on under 
the hood.  Why does a page render the way it does.  Getting a good 
fundamental knowledge of the low level technologies allows me to spot and fix 
problems quickly.  It also allows for better efficiency when using the 

With a better understanding, the technologies are not hard to control.  A 
well written schema, even a very complex one (like DocBook) is well worth the 
effort of getting a good understanding of the underlying technologies.

As Winterfeldt-san pointed out, the whole XML/XSL bit it may be overkill for 
a few scattered unrelated documents.  But when the documentation starts 
increasing, a well thought out schema for allowing flexible access to what 
would be a mountian load of dead trees saves a great deal in the long run.

I don't know if my evengilism of a technology can change your mind.  We 
obviously have very different backgrounds (I was the only one in my English 
classes to turn in papers written in LaTeX [edited in vi, of course] - 
everyone else used WordPerfect or [gasp!] a typewriter).  And our jobs seem 
to give different levels of satisfaction:  I'd study this stuff on my own if 
I didn't get to work with it anyway, whereas you're "forced to work with xslt 
every day."

I think it's great that you're volunteering to help with the documentation.  
But I also think it's strange that you hadn't gone through what is there and 
seen how it is generated from XML via XSLT.  I would have expected some sort 
of professional curiosity as to how others deal with documentation issues, 
since that seems to be your line of work.  But then, maybe it's me applying 
my own drive to learn more ways of doing things to improve my own skills and 
the way I do my job.  (Sorry, I forget sometimes that not everyone takes a 
job in the tech field by choice.)

Michael Westbay
Work: Beacon-IT

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