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Since Gradle does not use XML but it uses it's own DSL based on Groovy, Gradle scripts tend to be shorter than other build tools that use XML. Boilerplate code is also considerably small because it's DSL is designed to solve a specific problem: moving the software through its lifecycle starting from compilation into static analysis and testing, packaging and finally deployment. See More
"Recursive make" is a common makefile coding pattern which is used to invoke another session of make. Since a session of make only read in one top-level makefile, this is an easy and natural way to build makefiles for projects made of several submodules. But this pattern causes a lot of problems mainly that you need to partition the dependency tree into several smaller trees. This prevents dependencies from being expressed correctly between instances. This also causes parts of the dependency tree to be calculated multiple times which makes performance suffer. This and many other problems related to recursive make are explained very well in a classic article called Recursive Make Considered Harmful. See More