XML sucks at (almost) everything it’s used for. Google has open-sourced Protocol Buffer, a typed, backwards compatible, compact, binary data-interchange format. Combined with YAML for configuration and data-persistence files that need to be human readable, there’s even less reason to use XML for any data-serialization.
XML, in the form of (x)HTML, seems ok for markup, and the XML-based (x)HTML templating in Genshi is the best templating language I’ve ever used (and I’ve used XSLT, Mako, Mighty, PHP, and a few others). I wonder if the reason that HTML (and XML) templating is so difficult, and templating language code is often so ugly, is because XML is actually a poor solution for markup too. HTML is obviously here to stay, but it would be an interesting thought experiment to design a successor markup language that is not strictly hierarchical, more human-readable, and designed with templating in mind.
I’m always coming up with metaphors to explain to non-technical people what I do. The point of this one was to explain to people why I prefer Python:
- Programming in C is like building a four-story mansion out of 1×2 Lego bricks.
- Programming in Python is like building a house out of Lego Technic parts.
- Programming in Perl is like building a house with duct tape, a flat of cinder-blocks, some left-over lumber, pipe cleaners, crazy glue, fishing line, and chicken wire. You also get a bunch of re-bar that you can bend into whatever shape you want, and truck full of spray-on concrete.
- Programming in PHP is like building a house with just chicken wire, coat hangers, and aluminum foil. Luckily, if you use enough aluminum foil, it will shield your brain from the alien transmissions from outer space, so you don’t have to wear your aluminum foil hat while you’re at home.
- Programming in Java is like buying a one-piece, hyper-modern, injection-molded plastic house unit, and then having your lawyer write a letter to the house manufacturer asking for permission to cut a one-meter by two-meter hole in the living room wall into which you’ll install the front door, since the house doesn’t come with one. Your lawyer promises in the letter not to sue the house manufacturer for problems with the door.
- Programming in Ruby1 is like building a house out of two different brands of cheap knock-off Legos, made of flimsy, low-quality plastic, which don’t fit together quite snugly enough. You also get a handful of puke-green pipe-cleaners left over from Perl.
- Programming in XSLT is like hiring an architect who speaks only Icelandic, an engineer who speaks only Bantu, and a bunch of Nepalese sherpas as the construction team. The architect thinks you’re building a supermarket, and the engineer thinks you’re inventing a new kind of refrigerator, and the sherpas think you’re doing performance art. The engineer builds a catapult to fling 2x4s into the air while the sherpas fire high-powered nail-guns at them, and when it’s all done you’ve got an ordinary two bedroom suburban house that’s completely upside-down.
That’s all! Happy April Fools!