[LINK] XML is evil

Craig Sanders cas at taz.net.au
Thu Nov 20 10:04:33 AEDT 2008

On Tue, Nov 18, 2008 at 04:34:05PM +1100, Rick Welykochy wrote:
> Apple is doing exactly the same thing in Darwin on OS X. They've moved
> away from, as you say, easy to edit and contemplate (and automate)
> plain text config files and scripts to a complex mess of XML, GUI
> tools for the XML, a viewer for the XML, etc.etc. (see: plists)

yeah, and Jobs did something very similar with NextStep too. one of the
things i hated about working with Next boxes was that plain text config
was, at best, a second-class method. everything, even basic things like
setting the hostname, had to be done in a clumsy netinfo GUI or with
almost-as-clumsy netinfo command line tools.

> Then without notification or any fanfare, they removed this ability and
> replaced it with a plist file. You must create a new XML file containing
> all sorts of crud in it, run a system utility to load that file and cross
> your fingers that it worked. If it doesn't, dive into the GUI tools and
> try to fix it. It's a real crock of snakes now.

yes, XML is often misused.  

as usual, such misuse is often because the decision makers are ignorant
fools who care only about buzzword-compliance and have no understanding
of the task that they're making decisions about.

i.e. your average middle-manager flunkie who's managed to bullshit his
way into a tech manager job that they're not able to understand, let
alone perform adequately. to people like this, XML is just another
buzzword that sounds good because hardly anyone (anyone "important",
that is) understands it, and it can go onto his CV to help bullshit his
way further up the hierarchy.

> The few plists (XML) that I have looked at could trivially be
> translated to a flat file by a child. The only useful information they
> contain labels and simple text variables that are numeric, text or
> URLs. The rest is XML crud to make life for sysadmins miserable.

by similar logic, some people misuse spreadsheets as if they are
databases, so that "proves" that spreadsheets are entirely worthless and
should never be used for anything.

> It's a good example of over-engineering for its own sake.

no, it's a good example of using the wrong tool for the wrong job.

it doesn't mean that there aren't jobs for which XML is exactly the
right tool.


craig sanders <cas at taz.net.au>

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