W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > xproc-dev@w3.org > March 2011

Re: State of XProc: language and community

From: Nic Gibson <nicg@corbas.net>
Date: Sun, 6 Mar 2011 21:30:57 +0000
Cc: "Tony R." <tony@gonk.net>, XProc Dev <xproc-dev@w3.org>
Message-Id: <76F8C31A-B496-4983-9BB7-38A1B0341195@corbas.net>
To: James Fuller <james.fuller.2007@gmail.com>

On 6 Mar 2011, at 06:00, James Fuller wrote:

> many good thoughts in this post ... though I would make a few remarks
> * expath is far from frozen and being actively developed/discussed
> (check out my latest article on EXPATH http-request element on
> developerworks) ... in fact most of the 'EX' style specs tend to after
> a certain point sink into the basic toolbox versus anything too
> revolutionary
> * the wikis/sites you mentioned are all maintained by Norm ... perhaps
> if you contact him with what you would like to contribute then he may
> or may not give you access
> I have been tinkering for some time on the idea of setting up an XProc
> user group ... or plan some face to face meeting as these tend to work
> well in unifying a community at the beginning.
> Let me take a poll ... if anyone is interested in an XProc meetup
> sometime soon say so ... at the moment my target dates/location for
> this would be for one (or more) of the following;
> Late March, before/after XML Prague in Prague, Czech Republic
> Early April - London, UK

That sounds good to me. I'd definitely be up for that. 


> Late April - San Francisco, US
> Jim Fuller
> On Sat, Mar 5, 2011 at 8:38 PM, Tony R. <tony@gonk.net> wrote:
>> I compiled a few thoughts I have had over and over again recently.  I’m
>> sharing them with the list as feedback for the entire XProc ecosystem.
>> Do with the feedback what you will.  Flame me.  Delete it.  Respond.  Pass
>> it onto others.  If nobody ever reads this message, at least I wrote it down
>> so that I can get it out of my head.  ☺
>> In any case, I welcome feedback and discussion on any of this.  Don't be
>> shy!  ;-D
>> Needs better separation.
>> There's a striking lack of separation between the plethora of things
>> that (may or may not) appear at the beginning of a step—such as ports,
>> options, and so on—and sub-pipelines and contained steps.
>> Maybe I'm just used to the head/body pattern from HTML.  But I can't help
>> but imagine that something similar might be beneficial for XProc.
>> Needlessly redundant steps.
>> Many separate p:validate-with-* steps exist when a single
>> p:validate step with something like @with="relax-ng"  would suffice.
>> This needlessly adds to language bloat IMO.
>> Lack of syntactic sugar.
>> There are so many times when the most common use case has to be written and
>> re-written over and over again.  This drives me absolutely crazy and
>> significantly increases the size of my code. The XProc wiki
>> (http://wiki.XProc.org/XProcVNext) outlines this—and a number of other
>> syntactic sugar enhancements—that would make XProc so much more pleasant.
>> Data types.
>> XProc’s lack of built-in data types can be unbelievably frustrating.  And
>> XML is designed for modular reuse—including plenty of data types that have
>> been battle-tested for years.  If XProc supported even just a tiny subset of
>> these, it would make life so much easier.
>> At the very least, I think XProc should know the difference between a
>> document, a URI, and a string.
>> While we're at it, it would be extra awesome if data types were usable
>> directly inside attributes instead of  having to nest like <p:with-option …
>> />. This could easily be accomplished without ambiguity for processors by
>> making use of XPath's built in functions, e.g. string(‘aaa’),
>> base-uri(‘http://weee/subdir/‘), and so on.  (Constructor Functions for XML
>> Schema Built-In Types seems worth a quick review here.)
>> Documentation.
>> I love Calabash!, …but the lack of documentation is a real downer.  It even
>> resulted in quite a shock for me when I discovered there was a mechanism for
>> providing Calabash with custom settings.  I’d been using Calabash for months
>> at the time, and had no idea this was even possible.
>> It would also be great if there was something with the same role as Javadoc
>> for XProc.  (I.E., Parse XProc files and output human-friendly documentation
>> in XHTML [or whatever]).
>> Documentation—that is, good documentation—unites people and fosters
>> collaboration.  We need more of it.
>> Un-unified community efforts.
>> One of my favorite things about XML community is how active it is.  Members
>> are very supportive each other.  And there seems to be a delightful absence
>> of the “elitist jerk programmer” stereotype mindset.  If I didn’t know any
>> better, I might think most of us really love this stuff, and enjoy that
>> others love it, too!  ;-)
>> However, although the discussion lists are quite healthy, solutions are
>> scattered. People come up with great solutions…and they might tell the
>> mailing list about them.  They might even post them on the web.  But there
>> is no central place to share solutions.
>> Common recurring problems may have a dozen independently-created solutions
>> to them, all created by different people.  At the same time, other
>> programmers may not be as skilled, and become frustrated in searching for a
>> solution and give up.
>> For example:
>> Norm’s online XProc Book has a fully-functional
>> ex:recursive-directory-list step.  It’s written in XProc itself, so it’s
>> even processor-independent.  Cool!
>> …So, why isn’t this brilliance on EXProc.org?
>> The closest thing to a central place for this stuff is the XProc wiki…but
>> activity remains almost nonexistent here.
>> The EXPath Project also aims to be a central space for collaboration.  It
>> embodies my vision of what the XML community needs most.  …But although it’s
>> slightly more populated with content than the XProc wiki, it appears to have
>> been on hiatus for at least a couple of years.  (I’m trying to begin
>> contributing to this project in the hopes of getting some momentum going
>> again.  Fingers crossed!)
>> Seriously, everybody: we have an amazing, brilliant, inventive, helpful, and
>> (on mailing lists at least) active community.  We just need to focus all
>> that talent on pooling our resources!
>> It would be so very, very glorious.
>> Norm.
>> I love you Norm!  (strictly professionally of course! ☺)  I think that if
>> anyone else attempted to do as much as you, their head would probably
>> explode.
>> However, there are have been many occasions—far too numerous to recall—where
>> I wanted to contribute something to the websites for XProc, Calabash, and
>> EXProc…but I wasn't able to.
>> Aside to Norm:
>> I did try writing you personally, writing the mailing list, and even leaving
>> a note for you on the XProc wiki hoping you might notice.  Alas, no such
>> luck.  I figured it would take more than that for little ol’ me to register
>> on your very busy radar, but I had to try.
>> No hard feelings!  Just a disclaimer. ☺
>> …Meanwhile, the wiki goes pretty much untouched.  So there’s a wiki with
>> maybe one page of useful info that is dead in terms of activity, and there’s
>> plenty of useful pages on the xproc.org / xmlcalabash.org /
>> exproc.org sites, but they are pretty much dead in terms of activity (with
>> the exception of Calabash releases).
>> I really wish there was a way this stuff into the hands of our awesome
>> community…but right now there is no such space.  ☹
>> —Tony

Nic Gibson
Corbas Consulting
Digital Publishing Consultancy and Training
http://www.corbas.co.uk, +44 (0)7718 906817	
Received on Sunday, 6 March 2011 21:31:32 UTC

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