OOPSLA '08: DSL Panel – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

DSL: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Panel DSL: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Panel
The panelists: (from left to right) Marjan Mernik, Juha-Pekka Tolvanen, Gabor Karsai, Charles Consel and Kathleen Fisher.

DSLs seem to be a rather popular topic at OOPSLA this year. There was a workshop on it and several tutorials as well. And there was also the DSL panel which I attended this morning. Most of the talks and tutorials on DSLs assume that the audience is using specialized modeling tools to create them. Basically those tools provide a specialized environment for creating the meta-model for your DSL, specifying the grammar of your DSL and helping you specify templates for code generation (which actually makes your DSL useful). Such tools aren't meant to help you create a full-fledged programming language. Instead they help you quickly create a small language that can be refined in an agile and iterative process. One of the panelists commented that this might be more productive (and less intimidating) than using lex and yacc.

So, as a summary of the panel, let me present to you the good, the bad and the ugly about DSLs:

The Good

The Bad and The Ugly (we can just merge them)

The interesting part of the panel only happened during the second half when the audience was given the opportunity to ask questions. The first half was wasted (pardon the word) on having each panelists spend 10-15 minutes talking about their work and their position on DSLs. In my opinion, that was a serious mistake since it only gave the audience about 30-45 minutes for the interesting questions.

Coincidentally, I just found out that Martin Fowler actually has a work-in-progress about DSLs. It might be better to read about DSLs from him rather than other DSL enthusiasts since his approach might be a more unbiased view toward how to do DSLs; instead of a DSL-enthusiast who is already too enamored by the very idea.

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