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Re: Type-safe iteration over the DOM in DOM 2 & 3?

From: Peter Meyer <petermeyer99@hotmail.com>
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2001 21:14:01 -0000
To: keshlam@us.ibm.com, www-dom@w3.org
Message-ID: <F1427WD84jBtwuieeh500006516@hotmail.com>
See below, as always :-)

> >I am not sure I agree with that. As soon as an application uses a class
> >factory to create subclasses at runtime, I do not necessarily know the
> >classes that I need to react on.
>Same problem exists with Visitor, though. A Visitor requires a callback
>method for every different response that accept() might want to issue. This
>means that every time you add a new response you must update all your
>Visitors to be able to handle it -- or do runtime type matching on the
>Visitor to determine whether or not it can support this case, and figure
>out what to do if it doesn't. To me that's much the same coding problem,
>merely redistributed somewhat.

Somewhat... Of course the visitors need new action routines for classes that 
have specific activities, although many operations on a composite pattern 
are actually the same for many classes in the composite, and therefore do 
not require specific methods in each visitor.
Encapsulation of model and behavior to me seems easier in the visitor model. 
Generally, in the object models we are using, it is much easier to group the 
class factories that generate classes in the composite and their associated 
visitors together. The class-dependent changes are therefore very well 

> >The main advantage, as I see it, of the visitor pattern is to use
> >actual object type at runtime
>Note that object _type_ may not be the right thing to test -- see past
>discussion of why RTTI is not reliable/portable for distinguishing node

Agreed with respect to type. ALthough the language polymorphism tends to 
work quite fine :-)

>Note too that if you start adding your own nodeTypes to the DOM you've
>stepped out of the space defined by the spec and all bets are off. So this
>set of constants is, in fact, well defined at compile time for a compliant

I see... the ability to use a class factory to subclass DOM node classes is 
not part of the spec?

>Visitor does allow you to use the "actual object role", admittedly. If
>which callback you were making depended not only on the nodetype but also
>the namespace and localname, subclassing the node and defining the visitor
>pattern's accept() method appropriate might indeed yield faster code than
>testing all of these each time. But see the first point above; you now need
>a visitor which knows about additional callbacks, which means you aren't
>interoperable with visitors which know only about the basic DOM, which in
>turn seems to me to defeat much of the purpose of abstract Visitors in the
>first place.

I am actually much less interested in speed of execution (I don't think the 
difference is so significant in the two cases we discussed) then in the 
safeness and maintainability of the design. If you for example have an MVC 
architecture, you generally want to avoid that the Model has to know about 
the view details, so you create visitors as a sort of bridge classes that 
are sent to traverse the model and then operate on a view. As a result, 
cross-dependencies are very well isolated in one spot, which is a huge 
advantage, once you have a really large app. I concede entirely that the 
visitors you have have to match the classes of your model up to a certain 
point. This, in my view, is a small evil compared to the advantages of 
encapsulation in a large scale design.

>I can see doing this as an implementation-specific optimization; I'm not
>sure I see it as something which is really general enough that it belongs
>in the standard DOM spec.

Pleeeeease :-) Actually, I think it would add a lot of power to the DOM with 
respect of reusability for other than the originally anticipated use with 
very little cost - nobody who prefers the other use has to use it, and it's 
just one little function definition in the Node class :-) Note that I do not 
advocate the definition and implementation of a whole zoo of visitors in the 
DOM. All I ask for is the addition of the accept method to the node 
interface and a corresponding basic visitor interface. Applications 
developers then have the hooks to do as they please, even crazy ones like me 

>[Re Visitor versus Traverse-and-dispatch:]
> >I am not sure I understand you here. Do you refer to dispatch in node
> >classes with children to be pre- or postorder traversal?
>Traversal abstracts what group of nodes should examined, in what order,
>which we agree is half the role of Visitor. My point is that by having the
>loop doing the traversal also do the dispatching, you have the ability to
>do very different dispatching off the same object tree - whereas if you
>build the dispatch into the objects via accept(), you have to do a
>significant amount of kluging if the distribution of responses desired for
>this particular task doesn't match the distribution hard-coded into the

As I argued before, the GoF book proposes two ways to implement the actual 
In the node class, where a node would pass the visitor to its children 
before or after calling its execute method on itself, or in the visitor. 
Both methods are equally valid, and I believe that the flexibility you 
desire could easily be achieved by handing the responsibility for traversal 
to the visitor and only implement accept(Visitor v) as follows in the first 
concrete subclass of node:
accept(Visitor v)

These would be all changes required to the DOM spec and implementation.

Application developers that decide to use the visitor hook now can write 
visitors that do iterate over the children of node subclasses visited. This 
can be done in a base class, so without adding load on programming of all 
the visitors an app needs.

Footnote: Furthermore, if an app really desires to subclass the DOM heavily, 
it could actually override the accept method in the subclasses, so that such 
classes would take care of their own traversal. Not that this adds a lot of 
value, but still, it showa that there is a lot of flexibility in this 
approach, with minimal changes to both DOM spec and implementation.

> >The main use case I am interested is DOM-based applications where the DOM
> >classes are subclassed heavily to provide application-specific
> >functionality. In this case, I believe, the case for visitors is very
>I think I really need something specific to look at, to compare with the
>Traverse-and-dispatch case; the examples I've come up with so far seem
>pretty evenly matched between the two.
> >This is aggravated in situations where the DOM engine in my application
> >not know about the classes it might encounter at runtime, because they 
> >generated by a class factory, and they may even be supplied by plugin
>That seems to be in the Embedded DOM space rather than Core DOM behavior.
>But your milage may vary.

Is the embedded DOM spec up on the site? I must have overlooked that one, 

Thanks again for your extensive answers.

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Received on Tuesday, 20 March 2001 16:14:33 UTC

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