W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-qt-comments@w3.org > January 2003

RE: changing final output while writing temporary tree

From: Andre Cusson <ac@hyperbase.com>
Date: Tue, 28 Jan 2003 00:56:43 -0500
To: "Kay, Michael" <Michael.Kay@softwareag.com>, public-qt-comments@w3.org
Cc: michael.h.kay@ntlworld.com, saxon-help@lists.sourceforge.net
Message-id: <>


Thank you again for your time and interest.

I would like to sit down with you and show you what we are doing but since 
that is not really possible now and since the code base is relatively large 
(and complex), I will try to describe some typical problems we are trying 
to solve, using result-document.  In essence, it is quite simple:

1. The principle : a possibly large and complex source xml document that 
needs to be traversed recursively and from which pages (ex: web pages) are 
to be published.

2.. A publishing use case : I have a source XML document of , lets say 50 
to 100K lines, describing the structured content of a scientific 
information web site, organized in volumes, sections, chapters, and pages 
(which are of course also organized into sections, sub-sections, 
paragraphs, etc).  Further, the page contents, gathered from the source 
document have to be merged with XML defined layouts that describe the page 
layout.  Every time a page is to be published, the page-publish template is 
called and passed the corresponding contents.  It then merges the contents 
into specified layout(s) and then serializes the page to html.  Note: this 
is again a simplified model of a section of the application, the publishing 

As the publishing module is traversing the source document, it figures out 
what needs to be done and calls the page-publish template as 
required.  Many cases happen.  A typical one could be, for example, a test 
page, a page that offers a test to the user:  so we start building the page 
tree and doing all kinds of calculations for the page,  on this page we 
also find information to build the answer page which uses a lot of the same 
data so we build the answer page, publish it and go on with the publishing 
of the test page, building hyperlinks and navigation between the pages, and 
so on.  The only issue is that since we are traversing down a tree, the 
leaves get output first and the root, last.

3. O-R mapping use case: Another example could come from our O-R mapping 
tool where we take a tree, any tree and map its contents to a series of 
hyperlinked editing forms, each with a table with the children (or a group 
of them) of a node and where each child that has children will require 
additional sub-pages, and so on recursively. So, as I am building page 1, I 
find that I also need to do pages 1a, 1b and 1c (all with bidirectional 
links (xpointers) between them).  Since everything is recursive, as I start 
building page 1a, but now I find that I also have to build sub-pages 1a1, 
1a2 and 1a3 and so on.

Every time that I have a page ready, I publish it but, because of 
recursion, bottom pages (tree leaves) get publish first and the root node 
is still being build at that time so the result-document instruction bombs out.

The way I see this, we are not using a side-effect, we are doing plain 
recursive processing, with no tricks or anything twisted.  The fact that 
there is a tree (final) in a tree (temporary) can hardly (or maybe 
academically) be called a side-effect.  In my view and for the uses we have 
of this, a tree in a tree is recursion.  Is recursion a side effect ?

Now, I don't doubt that some people may want to abuse recursion or the 
result-document instruction and I believe that we should do everything 
reasonable to prevent these abuses, short of preventing the development of 
useful applications.  Personally, the price to pay for side-effects is to 
high for me to toy with.  On the other hand, blocking recursion kills my 

I am surprised that something so natural to (streaming) XSLT like 
traversing a tree structure and building web pages as you go has not 
brought up this issue before and I start to wonder, what are others doing 
with XSLT?

Theoretically, I could process the structure iteratively but I would loose 
performance, maintainability and I would get sick looking at the code 
because of its ugliness and illogical structure.  Comparatively, 
(academical) side-effects are almost nice.

Ever since we found out about the new restriction, a few weeks ago, I have 
been trying to find a viable alternative but I have not yet.
If you can think or suggest me one, I will be happy to try it.
If we can't, XSLT 2.0 might run into a problem when people start using it 
to generate web pages as opposed to simply rendering them or building them 
from flat structures.

For now, and until a viable solution is found, the only way we can advance 
and deliver a product to our users is to stick to Saxon v6.5.2 and forget 
about XSLT 2.0.
It is a very high price to pay in the long run but it may be better than 
loosing everything.

I hope that the case is getting clearer and I will be happy to provide you 
with additional information, try things out, talk on the phone or anything 
that will help resolve this.
I also hope that the mix of my passion and my frustration does not blur the 

I thank you for everything and especially for your interest.
Please take care.

Andre Cusson
01 Communications Inc.

PS: Whether I invoke result-document while building a with-param tree or I 
do it in a variable and then pass the variable as a parameter does not 
improve the problem because now I have additional variables (which are 
temporary trees also) and more "non streamable" steps, but I still need to 
recursively generate pages (from temporary trees).

Recursion is designed to handle problems that are cannot (easily) be solved 
otherwise and it seems to me that generating html pages from traversing a 
hierarchical structure is one of them.

I am very sorry that the committee might already have spent serious 
resources debating (complex) output tree issues and that I am trying to 
stir things up again but the way I see it, either I am wrong and there is a 
better way to do this and I will be happy and I will grow as a programmer 
if I can find/learn it, or I am right and it is in XSLT's best interest to 
revisit the issue.  Consequently, If I have not been clear enough in my 
description of the problem, or anything else, please advise me and I will 
quickly try to fix up or provide more info.

PSS: we have a small test portal with some static html pages generated like 
described above, currently on the web.  One of the sites there is a complex 
document of close to 1000 web pages, dedicated to a generative approach to 
music theory.  This site can be accessed through 
www.musicnovatory.com.  Please keep in mind that both the sites and the 
tools to generate them are still in construction.  Please also note that 
everything, including all portals, sites, pages, navigation, sitemaps, etc 
are automatically generated from pure content XML source documents (and XML 
layouts), all with XSLT.

At 02:42 AM 1/28/2003 +0100, Kay, Michael wrote:
>I think that the mental model we have used for multiple result trees is that
>there is conceptually one combined tree, and that the actual result trees
>all have to be subtrees of this combined tree. The stylesheet logic for
>writing multiple result documents is therefore exactly the same as you would
>write if you were generating the combined tree. If you can write the logic
>to produce the combined tree, then it is trivial to modify it to produce
>multiple trees. What the facility for multiple result trees does not do is
>to free you from the need to produce output in "result tree order" - that
>is, the order of instructions in the stylesheet reflects the order of nodes
>written to the result.
>Its true that the restriction on when xsl:result-document can be used
>appears somewhat draconian, and the problem it is solving seems rather small
>in comparison. Arguably, we are applying the "no-side-effects" philosophy of
>the language rather strictly in this case. I'm sure we could relax the rules
>by leaving some edge cases implementation defined, but on the whole we have
>been reluctant to do that.
>We did have a different solution to this problem in earlier drafts, but it
>required extra information in the data model and was very hard to
>understand. It still imposed substantial restrictions. The model was that a
>result document was effectively a child node attached to some other tree,
>invisible to XPath expressions, but still linked in the sense that the tree
>was written out only if and when the parent node was written to a result
>We spent some time debating this and I'm reluctant to re-open it. Rather,
>I'd like to see whether we can use your problem as a test case to see
>whether the existing language is up to solving the problem. In the example
>you show, I find it very hard to understand why you are trying to produce a
>result document as a side-effect of calculating a parameter to a named
>template. It seems a very odd way to do things, though I'm sure it makes
>sense to you.
>Michael Kay
Received on Tuesday, 28 January 2003 00:43:09 UTC

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