Nick Hadlee's Blog on SharePoint and Other Occasional Rants…

Is it Code? – A Rant, Response and Example of Social Media’s Reach
June 5, 2010, 1:08 pm
Filed under: Cutomisation, Rant

First up a warning! This will appear to be post that has no purpose, meanders a little, and probably has no actual conclusion (also I use all sorts of weird colloquialisms). Appearances are often correct! I didn’t plan to write it but felt compelled to in response to some effort put in Jim (@dullroar) and Raymond (@iwkid). Honourable mentions to Marc (@sympmarc) for his championing of the ‘middle-tier’ (oh brother flames and brimstone await me for the use of that term) and Mark (@mrackley) for tackling a similar question previously. Ok, ok enough with the setup; let’s get on with the show…er post.

I asked what I thought was a fairly innocent question on twitter the other day but is anything ever innocent or innocuous when “thrown” out onto twitterverse or the interwebs? I was trying to validate the use of “codeless” when describing certain types of SharePoint solutions.

nickhadlee Poll: Is #XSL code? In the context of a ‘codeless’ solution 🙂 [Feel free to RT]

Why? Was I trying to deliberately rile people and get into some sort of tit-for-tat twitter banter going? No – absolutely not. The context of the question was aimed at what an end-user might consider code. A typical end-user might not even know what XSL is so the point is possibly moot. Really at the heart of my question was to define what we can call a “no code” SharePoint solution. I am a big fan of using the “no code” moniker and to quote Jim it is "probably more related to business politics rather than technical reality".

So what sort of response did I get? It started off pretty tame.

iwkid RT @nickhadlee: Poll: Is #XSL code? In the context of a ‘codeless’ solution <– I consider it "no-code" in that it is not managed/deployed

kennethprice @nickhadlee I think xsl is within boundaries of codeless solution.

Off I went to bed thinking that was that. 3-0 to the “it’s not code” camp and the “codeless” term can be applied liberally. Hmm that’s what I thought. Overnight Jim and Raymond decided to put pen-to-paper and expand their thoughts on the topic past the 140 character limitations of twitter:

dullroar @nickhadlee @iwkid @sympmarc My (long) answer to the poll:

iwkid @dullroar @nickhadlee @sympmarc @EUSP My response 🙂

Not to mention I irked Marc a little. Marc and I chat a bit on the interwebs so I knew the responses were all in good humour (I think…Marc we still talking???):

sympmarc RT @nickhadlee: Poll: Is #XSL code? -> You know my answer to this one. Is English not a language because lots of people speak it?

sympmarc @nickhadlee Is Druidism not a religion because it contains little spiritual duality?

sympmarc @nickhadlee Ok, that’s enough for me. Goodnight, Gracie.

For me Jim’s post pretty clearly sums up why XSL is indeed code. Based on Raymond’s response I think we both now admit our initial NOs were really a bit premature! If you’re still reading then I do congratulate you on persistence…now would be a good time to pull out some high-school-essay-style argument backed up with evidence. Not quite yet – I am quickly going to mention that there were other RTs (that’s a retweet for the twitter uninitiated. Twitter…what you mean that twitter-the-complete waste of time social-media-thing-ma-bob? No I don’t mean that. I mean twitter-the-extended-SharePoint-community-reach-out-tool. Sorry got a little preachy there!). One that I think is worth a mention was from Mark Miller (@EUSP) over at Why? Because if you work in the “no code” world then please check out the site as its one of the better resources for that kind of stuff:

EUSP RT @sympmarc @dullroar: @nickhadlee @iwkid @sympmarc -> Is XSL code? <- Critical discussion for EUSP authors.

Ok so I think I need to wrap this baby up so here is where I stand on the matter.

Do we need a label like “no code” or “codeless”? Does this all really matter or is it just semantics? No I don’t think it matters, not really. It seems easier to brand something ”no code” to make it easier to sell the idea to people that we are using the SharePoint platform more extensively instead of needing to deploy some heavy code-based customisations (By the way I like code – I even write some occasionally!). Are “no code” solutions any less risky or a lower impact option than deployed DLLs?…..NO! That would be a massive half-truth/un-truth/fallacy/plain-old-lie. I have seen Data Views, JavaScript and other “codeless” options bring pages and sites to their knees just as well as any dodgy code can.

Answer the question Nick! Is XSL code? I’d have to say (now) yes it is, thanks again Jim! Do we need a name for this so called “codeless” middle tier? Hmm, probably not but the debate will rage on for a bit yet…bet you a fiver! I think Marc Anderson said it best (not exactly like this but close enough).

“Does it really matter how we get to the solution? It’s satisfying the business requirement that matters most!”

Now I think I have come to the end of my diatribe. I’m not sure if I went anywhere but I at least feel I spent as much time as Jim and Raymond on a response. It has made me think I need to do a post on why I prefer using “codeless” techniques whenever possible but that is definitely a post for another time. Feel free to hit me up on twitter or leave a comment if you find any of this contentious/a further pollution of the internet or whatever. It’s really just the ramblings of a confused and simple mind!

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