Programmes vs Data [was: Re: [plug] Community Seminars]

Arie Hol arie99 at
Sun Jun 20 01:23:28 WST 2004

On 19 Jun 2004 at 15:25, James Devenish wrote:

8<---------------snip ----------------------->8
> Arie: I was attracted to your above definition of data, yet it still
> doesn't resolve the question of what is "programme" and what is "data".
> E.g. how do you draw the line between "instructions" and "data"? To take
> Cameron's example of XSL: it sounds like it matches your definition of
> "interpretted programme" because it contains instructions. Yet, those
> instructions are not presented procedurally and must be interpreted
> (e.g. syntax checking) before being "used". (XSL programmes are
> basically never stored on disk in a "compiled" form.) So, is an XSL file
> called "programme" or "data"? Sounds like both, which is a position with
> which I am comfortable. However, I suspect this does not sit well with
> Bernd's idea that programmes and data are distinct.

My view - in general terms :

A program consists of instructions - which tell the computer how to handle the data and what to do 
with it.

Data is that which is read in by a program, processed, manipulated or otherwise, stored or sent to 
output of some type.

I am not an expert and do not have a great depth of knowledge about XSL - but I do know that XSL 
consists mainly of (for lack of better words) a set of extended instructions which are consigned 
along with the data that they apply to (as in metadata) be be processed by a designated target  
program to achieve the desired output.

Similar to HTML but further extended and more flexible as a result of the evolution of HTML ----> 
DHTML -----> XHTML ----> XML -----> XSL

On 19 Jun 2004 at 17:09, johnmorcos wrote:

> all this discussion about the difference between data and programs 
> it seems like a great techincal debate but its slightly out of
> context. As i remember the original question was about topics for a
> community lecture or something of the sort. I dont think most end
> users need to know, or want to know about whether source code is data
> or not.

Sorry John,

You were correct about the topic as above but I addressed certain side issues that I considered 
relevant - hence I only included in my post the comments which I tried to address - I did not 
intend to detract from the discussion about "topics for a community lecture or something of the 
sort." But perhaps we could have a community lecture about the difference between 'programs' and 
'data' and XSL. 

Would you be willing to give a talk on the subject and help enlighten me further ?
I may have taken a simplistic view of the conversation that I interupted, but in my point of view 
the discussion I witnessed prior to my input was just a little too obscure and inaccurate - if we 
can't get the basics right - then what do we do when things get complex ?

How to we lead the newcomers to the correct understanding of what computing is all about ?

If the experts and gurus on this list think this area of discussion is too far below them - well I 
can only apologise - but I won't waste my time trading insults. As happens too often on this list.

I am not the most intelligent person on this earth but I am also not the most stupid. I often look 
up to the experts and gurus for advice and leadership - I am sometimes disappointed by what I see 
and hear. These are also the sentiments of many of the newbies I have referred to this list - who 
simply respond to me after subscribing to this list for a period of time - and then give up because 
of the insult trading and sarcasm and "flaming" that happens every now and then.

Each time a newbie turns away because of unpleasantness on this list - the cause for "Linux" loses 
another convert. Many of the participants on this list have my respect and admiration for their 
skills and dedication - but a lot of people I know are "scared" by Linux and its complexity and 
tend to go straight back to "Microsoft Windows" because it doesn't intimidate them as much.

Unfortunately for me - my ability to absorb, understand and remember is overwhelmed by the wealth 
of information that comes to me through this list - and the many references that are pointed to by 
the discussions that take place - I like using Linux and I appreciate the sense of community and 
the common cause that Linux and PLUG are all about.

No insults intended, if any offence to any person has been implied by me - then please accept my 
unreserved apology.

Have a nice day.

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