Irritated Rant – Stanford DB-Class Course Notes

Got an old-fashioned ass-whooping this morning on my XML quiz. I despise this kind of test, though, and have always been terrible at them.

Let’s take it from the top: XML is a standard for machines to read data and so is an excellent example of something humans are crap at. To write valid XML in one swoop on a test, for example, you need to memorize a variety of rules.

Such as: make sure that when there’s a <xs: sequence> opening tag for a subelement, the actual elements need to appear IN ORDER.

Or this one: ” avalid document needs to have unique values across ID attributes. An IDREF attribute can refer to any existing ID attribute value.”

Who the #$%# cares? When you’re actually implementing XML, you are probably using some kind of developing environment that either makes these kinds of errors difficult to make or very easy to identify and fix quickly. Why are we teaching people to do something that COMPUTERS ARE A BAJILLION TIMES BETTER AT?!?

Why not make me take a test on grinding coffee beans or loading ink into a ballpoint pen? ‘Cause, you know, these are things that are important for an office to function as well. No? The division of labor means that we pay others to do these tasks for us? Well, howdy-effing-do.

Now, there MAY be a valid argument that goes like this: memorizing all this garbage really plants an understanding of what XML is good at in my head. Sometimes sequencing elements is really important for a database.

Bollocks. These things are tested because they’re easy to test*. Period.

I’m considering dropping this class.

*and by that I mean easy for machines to grade. Well, I don’t want to learn how to be an effing machine. That’s what I buy machines for.


Update: I got quite a lot of pushback on the discussion forum for posting something similar to this. Hard to say whether it’s my aggressive and off-putting personality or whether my views actually have no merit.

I was (implicitly) called lazy and one guy said that “somebody has to build the validation tools”.

Well, I certainly am lazy, but mostly I’m just a douchebag. Anyway,  here is my response:

Unpopular sentiment, it seems. Maybe it’s just my unpleasant tone. Let me try again.

I’m not sure I understand the first reply, but I like a lot of the second. Building an XML validating tool is a much more creative and effective way of learning what is and is not valid XML than the given assignment. I’d rather spend 5 hours doing that than 30 minutes wrote-memorizing tag syntax.

Is it so wrong to expect more of a university course than this?

How about testing me on these questions: 1. When should XML be used vs some other standard? (I think this is what the first response is getting at). 2. What are the limit cases for XML use and why might it break down? 3. What are some examples of instances when XML was used and it failed, or was successful?

I remain disappointed. Am I really so alone on this?

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