Outer Web Thought Log
November 29, 2002
Blogroll leaking

Great ex-colleague and young dad Tom followed my suggestion to try freeroller when looking for some free blogging space, and already he is in a vivid blogcussion with Marc about IDEs. Luckily, Bruno already said he prefers coding instead of blogging, so we still might get some work done :-)

During the Friday-idleing-away moment, I started to fantasize with Bruno about novell Cocoon applications, more as a sort of EAI server, which might require the creation of another context environment (which we were thinking off already for a prospect we will be visiting within a week or so... talk about wishfull thinking: we are already technically tackling the problem before we paid him a first F2F visit). Maybe I'll do some RT about it - about a switching layer between synchronous and asynchronous request handling, message routing, mail handling, etc etc...

Frankfurter Cocoon Stammtish

I'll be attending the Cocoon Stammtish on Monday 9/Dec in Frankfurt (Germany). Trying to preserve the buzz stirred up by the Cocoon GetTogether, and also an opportunity to meet Nicola & the guys from Luminas IRL.

November 23, 2002
WiFi addiction

For some strange reason, my WiFi card died the day after the GetTogether. So that left me with the necessity to use wired internet access again at home. I could live with this for 3 days. This afternoon, however, I was sick of not being able to sneak my laptop around the house, and also not being able to lay in the coach while reading mail. So I went out and bought a USR 22 Mbps WiFi card. It came in at only 89 euro, which is a huge difference with the 225 euro I paid for my previous 11Mbps Orinoco card. Installation on W2K went flawlessly, and the USR card happily connects (at 11 Mbps however) to my Compaq/Orinoco base station.

November 22, 2002
Yucky update

I got some more info on the yucky stuff. It is clear one can only base his perceptions on the reality being made apparent, and much of the yucky stuff has been background battles. That being said, maybe I have to change my opinion. OTOH, it is clear that background battles are the worst thing which can happen to a community, especially if its sole means of communication is based on email lists. There was a vote recently whether the 'townhall'-type of list for the Apache in-crowd (committers, members, and 'invited experts') should be publicly archived and open for subscription of non-Apachians. I'm still pretty confident that doing stuff in the open helps to create an atmosphere where the community handles 'issues' as an entity, rather than through policies and policy-enforcers. But maybe this veto-vote thing has to move away then and be replaced by a majority vote.

I'll quit rambling about this and get back to work now. On the Ouverture side, we are having a lively discussion on scope and goals. I've been publicly appreciated for my pragmatism and self-confronting critique. Maybe each community needs to go through a catharsis once in a while.

Freeroller woes

I got rid of all Freeroller-based newsfeeds from my aggregator, since they kept on being regarded as 'new' by Radio. Not sure whether this is Radio's or Freeroller's fault. Sorry, Andy and Rickard.

Yucky Avalon stuff

I've just been reading up on the current troubles of the Avalon community, and all I can say is "yucky stuff". I hope each and every person who participated in this battle, before or behind the frontline, is now able to stand in front of the mirror and feel absolutely cool about himself.

At the risk of being impopular, I sense the same change of management style as with the US gouvernment currently. Many beautiful words are now being spent to explain the reasoning behind some actions, but from what I see, a lot of the people who have been doing the work on a day-to-day basis remain awfully silent. And this is what scares me. For a community based on code instead of politics, we should try to be vocal only as a means of communicating our reasoning, but not to play politics.

Furthermore, I'm not sure whether the silent majority agrees with the vocal minority.

Disclaimer I'm only a clueless lurker on the Avalon list.

November 20, 2002

So here I'm back at my normal desk again. I set up a common photo gallery for the numerous pics that were taken by various people during the GetTogether, and Matthew already agreed to transfer the nice ones (pretty sightseeing pics!) from his temporary archive to there. I've marked up a group pic (late at night) with some names so that might be fun to look at.

If you have digital pics and want to move them here, just tell me, I'll give you a user account. Now, I have evaluation forms to be processed, an attendee list to be sent to all attendees, and a proper write-up on the event to do. And maybe I can already start dreaming about next year :-)

November 19, 2002
Nearing the blogging end of today

Marc is now on, showcasing our work on xReporter. Being a friend and a colleague, it still gives me that fuzzy feeling of proudness when I hear him speaking. He is one hell of a speaker if he's allowed to speak geek.

We will need to create a prerelease version of xReporter soonish now rather than later. The code is there, there is incredible Dutch documentation already, so if anyone is reading this and knows about a cheap translation service, get back to us.

That was basically it for today. It has been fun all the way, preparing stuff and living through the day. It was effectively a landmark event for us, and we hope it has been similar for the Cocoon community.

Updated the conference website

WiFi is great at conferences. While listening to Torsten's presentation, I did some blogging, arranged a meeting with a customer, and updated the conference website.


Torsten now has the floor - starting of with the quote that 'developing webapps with Cocoon was a PITA' - at least when he encountered Cocoon a long time ago. He is now going through the hard job enumerating and explaining the different approaches to webapp development inside Cocoon. At least one of them is completely new to me.

I think this kind of proves what I have been saying some times during this day: the challenge for the Cocoon year to come will be to (re?)define 'Cocoon-core', and make sure people understand and love that: pipelines, a sitemap, matchers, etc... Around this core, we could have a number of (possibly competing) solutions for particular problems, like authentication, webapp development, forms... And then Software Darwinism kicks in and the most healthy solution lives happily ever after. We (the Cocoon-community) should make clear to our end-users what is inside the core and whatnot.

Coming up next, there will be a break. After that, Marc will present xReporter and we'll close the day with a reception. Then, I'll have a nervous breakdown for the evening to come :-)

Can't make any sense?

If you are reading this log and Matthew's, and feeling like you should have been here, maybe this can help. The PDF renditions of the presentations - sources will be posted later on some comprehensive post-event website. Stay tuned.

Our favourite HP employee

Ovidiu is now enlightening us about Cocoon control flow, his recent effort to make sure Cocoon is not only the best platform for XML/XSLT-based web publishing, but also a robust foundation for building 'real' webapps.

I think a lot of people have great expectations about what he is going to tell us. So far, he's living up to it.

Update: Ovidiu is - ahum - King. Lots of hard questions, and Sylvain jumping into the discussion. Electricity.

Morning break finished

Now, Carsten is explaining us about the Cocoon portal and authentication framework - the last presentation before lunch (yes - we Belgians are very food-driven). During the break, Marc managed to gather quite some people for an xReporter demo - he was looking sad when I announced break would be over in 5 minutes. I'm basically too busy to really talk with people, but it seems like everyone is enjoying this first opportunity to meet and greet. Lots of techie talk also between Torsten and Ovidiu, so it seems. Maybe we'll find the results of these real-life conversations back in CVS some day.

Since a number of people didn't show up (that's what you have when doing a free event) - there will be plenty of sandwiches for anyone during lunch :-)

GetTogether lift-off

Sylvain Wallez is currently explaining to us some unusual devices to run Cocoon on. Yesterday evening, we went to a sparerib restaurant with some 20-ish GetTogether attendees, and much fun was had by all. I was sitting at a table together with the Aussie-Germans Marcus and Michael and our Italian attendee Luca Morandini. Afterwards, I've been introducing them and Ovidiu to the wonderful world of Belgian beers. Suffice to say it was quite late and we all feel a bit shaky this morning. Luckily Matthew gave us an inspiring intro to start the day, so now we're all gradually reviving and enjoying the presentations.

And Matthew just managed to get his WiFi card reset, so I expect him to be blogging too ;-)

Plenty of people are carrying geeky stuff like digital cameras, so expect a lot of pictures being posted on the Web in the next few days.

November 18, 2002
Testing WiFi

We're doing better than WJAX & BeJug, at least we have WiFi at our Cocoon GetTogether - see you all tomorrow!

(this blog blogged from the venue - no strings attached)

November 17, 2002
YAJP - Yet Another Jira Plug

Been messing around installing Jira on the cocoondev.org machine, since (a) we'll need such a thing, (b) Bugzilla seems quite outdated now, and (c) Scarab basically gave me the creeps being overly generic and apparently also quite slow on high-end hardware, so a no-go'er for the modestly scaled cocoondev.org server.

Installing went quite easily, it also creates the correct database tables upon initialisation, and apart from some problems when running it on top of an outdated Tomcat version, hitting the 64K barrier when compiling JSPs, I'm pretty happy with it.

For sure somebody is going to flame me for not choosing an Apache-endorsed issue tracking system, but the Atlassian guys are cluefull enough to hand out free licenses to genuine open source efforts, and I don't feel like becoming a Scarab or Bugzilla guru anyhow.

Now if I could find a decent web mailing list archiver that doesn't require too much hackage to install, I would be very happy. Eyebrowse is one of the prime candidates, of course, but apparently it requires some manual massaging as well (it runs on top of mboxes, and I'm running ezmlm-idx/qmail on cocoondev.org).

November 13, 2002

Yep... 104 attendees for the Cocoon GetTogether so far... closing down registrations tomorrow. 'Landmark event' comes to mind. Big grin:


This is what happens when all the ingredients are there to mix a great cocktail: a thriving community, speakers eager to share their knowledge, some kind sponsors, and one big stupid guy who felt like he was able to do this all by himself (kudos to Marc & Bruno of course for emotional support). Sure it will cost us some money, but I consider this to be the greatest company birthday party I could ever wish for. More than 100 attendees, more than one third coming from abroad, all united around a cool open source community project: Apache Cocoon.

Leaky abstractions

Currently, here in the Benelux, a number of high-profile IT illuminaries are advocating the use of code generation tools, and shifting away from Java to .Net because of perceived increased productivity.

I was very glad I was able to forward them Joel's latest pearl of wisdom.

November 10, 2002
Perception is reality

Since I'm sent back to the living room bench again for the weekend, there's plenty enough time for philosophical ranting. Due to my back condition, I won't speak at the Dutch XML UG conference after all, but provided the conference organisators with some possible alternatives - I hope it will work out for them. That means I won't be able to meet Dirk-Willem Van Gulik, too :-(

Of course, wireless networking does help in this situation. I'm uptodate with most of the my preferred information channels, and have been browsing a good deal of the weblogs out there.

Unfortunately, this has led me to someone publicly making rather bad allegations about my genuineness and trustworthiness because of a series of events some months ago. He didn't reveal my name "to protect the innocent", but it was clear he was aiming at me. So I got back to him, asking him about his motivations to do so, and he was kind enough to iterate over those. Anyway, this stuff is really only relevant to the two of us (or that's at least what I'm hoping for), but it brings me back to the proverb I have been using and discussing quite often during the past few weeks: perception is reality.

On the Internet, no-one knows if you are a dog was one of these quotes people were often referring to during the early years of the web, and the funny thing is, with all these weblogs and personal homepages, with people seemingly exposing their most intimate thoughts to the larger community, this expression still stands. Even worse: I suspect people are actively making use of it. They know they can post their perception of the reality and influence the common perception that way.

Clearly this open source stuff is not only about community, project, documentation and code (hopefully in decreasing order of importance ;-) - it has also much to do with people's egos. Things happen because someone has an itch to scratch. The catalyst for this itch can be a common technical problem, but it can also be the need to position oneself within a community. To get public appraisal. To get your point across... Either way, vanity is only one of the human virtues, something which differentiates us from animals. So it's very human behaviour after all.

So when you read weblogs or posts on a mailing list, do not take anything you see and read for granted. Just as in normal life, people sometimes model their behaviour to gain community appraisal. Perception is reality: please make sure your perception isn't the product of a designed reality.


After posting the above, I saw a posting of James Duncan Davidson on community at apache.org, the new chit-chat mailinglist for Apache in-crowd. Since it has been voted upon that archives of that list will become publicly available, I guess I can quote here:

[...] Most of all at the current moment I believe that open source is driven by individuals who choose to come together or not depending on situation. Group dynamics take away from the business of getting on with code. By playing group games, we set into play a situation where neither the software, nor (more importantly) the group of users of that software are well served. [...]

Right on, James.

November 08, 2002
Clueful people

Bruno started contributing some interesting developer documentation to the Cocoon Documentation Wiki.

While this isn't a landmark event on itself, it somehow shows what can happen if clueful people have idle time. It also shows how simple life can be in a small company like ours. Marc is preparing the xReporter presentation for the GetTogether, my time is fully consumed with frantically (over-)organizing the event and some other somehow-open-source-thus-outerthought-strategy-related activities, and the project (xReporter) Bruno has been working on since he joined us is now in the hands of our customer for beta-testing. Which means there is idle time. And a well-deserved holiday-on-the-workplace for Bruno: basically fooling around and no deadlines to meet. And no real bosses around that become nervous when someone is fooling around, having no clue what to do with the evident existence of idle time.

Fair enough. During the past few very busy months, we were often argueing about the dangerous behaviour of new Cocoon users which are trying to avoid writing any Java code at all, sticking business logic, presentation stuff, and whatelse in complicated pipelines, XSPs-without-logicsheets and (god forgives) XSLT. We on the other hand tend to be Java-purists, and most of the times, we prefer to simply implement some custom Cocoon components (mostly Generators and Actions) instead of trying to use the existing embryonal webapp development components available throughout Cocoon that claim they will not require you to write any Java code. The SourceWritingTransformer for instance is a running gag in our offices - especially if we hear of people using it and believing they are building an industrial-strength content management system with it. Yup - we have evil egos, sitting there and pretending we could do a better job, in our copious free time (tm).

Now when I have idle time, I'm very good at doing nothing. Sitting hours behind my screen reading weblogs and mailing lists, goofing around, but basically doing nothing. Bruno however just pops up a screen and starts doing something about those running gags. Now that is clueful.

But maybe, this is exactly Marc's and mine idea about Outerthought as a business model: providing clueful people with the challenges of interesting work, which motivate them to do even more clueful work when there isn't anything else to do. Or am I dreaming? I always think of the way we do business and do the yada-yada-strategy-thing as something I learned in highschool, but forgot the exact term: it's when the act of quantifying a certain system's state is already a trigger to change that state, so that it becomes impossible to effectively define that system's state: it just doesn't tolerate to be made explicit. Maybe that is the clue about what we do: we better do it than talk about it, since we're much better at doing it than trying to explain it to the outside world.

Mmmmm. I'd better prepare those binders for the GetTogether then, I assume :-)

Nice weekend to you all!

November 06, 2002

I'm back at work today - the doc have me enough pills on Monday so that my back isn't hurting too much, and I have an appointment scheduled on Friday for an in-depth examination. Thanks to all who sent me tips and advice or words of encouragement. Hopefully, on Friday, the results won't be too bad and some physical treatment or osteopathy will suffice - don't want another hernia operation. It seems the weekly swim training, which has been irregular if not postponed since starting up Outerthought, is really something I should do. Oh well - enough complaining for today - let's get to work.

The Cocoon GetTogether is getting close now, 83 attendees so far, and Ovidiu already sent in a draft version of his lecture... jummy stuff! Given the number of attendees and the quality speaker's list, some press attention would be great. Ideas?

Tomorrow, there is a kick-off meeting for Ouverture - I'm curious how that will go.

November 02, 2002
Mon, 11 Feb 2002 14:34:26 GMT

Restarted weblogging, but using Radio Userland instead. Radio supports categorization and XML output, which means re-using the weblog on our own website should be possible.

November 01, 2002
Peace. Unity. Love. And Having Fun.

Oh my. These days are hectic at best. Cocoon is being proposed as a toplevel project at apache.org, and I made the proposition of its website and hopefully other community resources being supported by cocoondev.org. It felt like the right thing to do. I had some arguments over it with Stefano, but those were based on mutual misunderstandings, and I'm now gentleman-fighting my little battle with the powers-that-be of the Apache Foundation to find the optimal technical solution. A very good and interesting exercise in both community, email writing, and technical skills :-)

But the truly great thing about all this are the various little emails cropping up in my inbox from various fine people, providing me with the courage and energy to continue my mission. People offering advice, nice words, even the intention to join me on that mission. If I would not have been part of this wonderful Cocoon community, I'd never meet such great cluefull people. Thank you all - you know who you are.