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Midgard Weekly Summary for August 24, 2000 (#44)

Aug 24, 2000, 22:33 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Ken Pooley)

Date: Thu, 24 Aug 2000 16:35:07 -0500
From: Ken Pooley kpooley@sewanee.edu
To: marty@linuxtoday.com
Subject: MWS for 24th of Aug, 2000 (#44)


Another week, another MWS! Below is an interview with Ron Parker who is working hard on the documentation efforts for Midgard. There is also the start to a discussion for the whole community on how best to get across what Midgard is and what it does. The next few weeks should bring the continued final work on Midgard 1.4 as well as much more concrete discussion about Midgard2.0 and what it will bring.

Current versions:
        Stable: 1.2.5 'Mad King'
        Devel.: 1.4beta.4
        Oracle: 1.2.5 Oracle 8i

An Interview with Ron Parker about Documentation and Midgard 2.0

Ron Parker is a writer and music expert from Wisconsin, USA. While quietly writing the MWS one day he was tapped to travel to Paris, a long way from Wisconsin, to work on the efforts to update and complete the documentation for Midgard versions both old and new. Documentation has been an ongoing process for the Midgard community and the concentrated efforts that Ron and a few others have brought to the project will make a huge difference in the long run.

It seems like there are a lot of efforts to work on the documentation for Midgard. What is the state of the documentation at this point? How much of what you are doing expands on what had been done before and how much is being done to anticipate 2.0 as it is in the works?

We don't have adequate documentation. I've compared our documentation to Zope's and modeled a strategy to avoid producing an indecipherable Hodge-podge like they have. The primary difference between them and us is they've got a bigger mess than we do. I don't mind criticizing Zope because I've recently discovered that they've got a solution. I think things are looking good in the Zope documentation camp. They've got a contract with O'Reilly and will replace the on-line documentation with the material that's being written and edited for the book.

I'm really saying, good for them and take note Midgard developers because we must have documentation that's as good or better than what they're now producing. If our product isn't as good as there's, the market will choose them over us even when if our product is more suited to more address their challenge. Remember Midgard is a Content Publishing tool while Zope is an Application Server. They're different animals. Application servers are optimized for transactions and solving business logic. Content management is about serving data.

Anyway, back to your question; almost everything we're doing now is from scratch. We're producing a combination of marketing and technical white papers. The work we're doing now is designed to accurately define Midgard for what it really is. The first document I wrote says, "Application Server." In fact, Midgard isn't an application server. Midgard 1.4 is a Content Publishing Tool. When Aurora, a Paris, France Open Source start-up, first contacted me, I was under the impression that they and I were interested in producing User documentation for 1.4. My boss, Jean-Philippe Brunnon, introduced a set of challenges which have changed the focus of the documentation effort.

The first challenge focuses the effort of the entire project on developing Midgard 2.0. This branch will be a complete rewrite. If we focus our attention full-time on 1.4, we'll release the documentation at the time that 2.0 is available. There's no better way to assess this strategy than to say it would be stupid to spend time writing extensive documentation for 1.4.

Midgard 2.0 is being designed as a Content Management system. Bruno Abitbol, Aurora employee and Midgard developer, has implemented the Midgard database in LDAP and is testing ease of feature implementation. I've seen his SiteGroups solution and it's a significant improvement over the current Midgard layer strategy. This improvement translates to ease of implementation at the user level. Of course, we've gotta run performance tests.

My personal aspirations are to produce a document for programmers and end users that third party publishers will knife fight over. The Aurora management and I have begun discussing a contract and strategy for producing Open Source Content Management (Midgard 2.0). Aurora is interested in co-publishing in order share financial investment and accelerate the production rate. The impetus is to marry the name Aurora with Midgard. Coming from the Midgard camp, I respect their investment and am beginning to learn about their interest. Developing a relationship has been a challenge but I am hopeful. I see good things and have even learned a couple French words.

KP --
How big is the core group of authors? Are they connected geographically or just electronically. How hard is it to get all of the parts to work together?

RP --
Armand Verstappen has been contracted by Aurora to produce the function reference documentation. Of course the core developers offer technical related feedback when asked and if they've got time. Simon Kerr has worked with Patrick Duplouy to create a the first draft documents for the 1.4 technical white papers. Cedric Musso has contributed mostly by managing and redesigning our docbook strategy. Many people worked to produce the material that's in the on-line manual. The current effort is not working with that material. I focus my attention on the coffee pot and my depleted cache of cigars.

KP --
1.2.5 and 1.4 are still basically based on the first versions of Midgard. How much more difficult, or less difficult, is it to document 1.4 when it is a transition from the earlier versions, which you may not had as much to do with, to an anticipated version that you are involved with.

RP --
I'm a writer who started using Midgard so I could be exposed to people that know what they're doing. I can't read mod_midgard and write a document that describes what the damned thing does. From my perspective, the challenge isn't presented by differences between 1.2 and 1.4. The real problem is in the absence of Requirements documentation that describe why something was implemented and how a relative piece of code solves the problem. This is the material that's needed to produce documentation.

I recently stole a book that was purchased for Alexander Bokovoy titled Practical Software Requirements, Manning, it'll be a cold day in a place that's consistently hot before I forward this book to its rightful owner. I desperately need to understand Software Engineering and this book is helping. My challenge is to understand the ideal process for producing software and documentation, formulate a strategy that's realistic for Midgard, call the cow into the barn and extract the milk. You can make all kinds of good stuff with milk.

Jean-Philippe Brunnon, Aurora project manager, has just handed me a first version of the Midgard 2.0 White Paper. No code has been written for 2.0 and there's some documentation. This white paper will tell our user and developer communities what to expect. This allows input during the design phase because these documents will live in CVS.

Do you have a sense yet for what 2.0 will be like from an administrators point of view?

I believe load balancing, redundancy, data syncing, user and access management will move Midgard administrators into an entirely different level of problem solving.

We're developing a 2.0 Content Management solution that is Open Source from the backend to the webserver. It'll be scalable so developers who wish to implement commercial solutions like an Oracle RDBMS will be able to. J-P's 2.0 White Paper lists ascending compatibility with 1.4 as the first requirement of 2.0. Also, comrade Bokovoy has met a developer at a database conference in Minsk, Belarus who has implemented a MySQL to LDAP interface. Jean-Philippe is looking at that code to see how the relational tables are mapped to the LDAP tree structures. This work is interesting for the Midgard efforts.

Midgard 2.0 looks like a serious problem solver. From my perspective it looks like Aspirin on steroids.

Jean-Philippe Brunon at Aurora opens discussion on promoting Midgard.

Jean-Philippe Brunon, of Aurora, has opened an important discussion about the means by which we can, essentially, market Midgard. While the benefit for Aurora may be somewhat evident, we as a community also get a great deal from the success of Midgard; better software, more development resources and someone on the other end of that desperate 2 AM email when things just won't work. Jean-Philippe had a few salient points as he walked through the means by which people find out about Midgard. From finding Midgard, to finding out about Midgard, to finally installing and implementing Midgard. As Jean-Philippe pointed out, the number of increasingly high hurdles and enduser faces at each stage along the way is daunting at best. We are all involved making those hurdles less problematic but it would be worth while to look at the way we market our efforts. Last week I called for those using Midgard for public sites to submit URLs to the Midgard-Project.org website for inclusion on the list of sites using Midgard. Other suggestions would be welcomed as well as feed-back as the development cycle for 1.4 and 2.0 continues. Jean-Philippe's e-mail, with the follow-up, can be found at: http://marc.theaimsgroup.com/?l=midgard&m=96710715105929&w=2

About Midgard

Midgard is a freely-available Web application development and publishing platform based on the popular PHP scripting language. It is an Open Source development project, giving you the freedom to create your solutions in an open environment. Midgard is the tool for creating, modifying and maintaining dynamic database-enabled web services.

- http://www.midgard-project.org

About MWS

The Midgard Weekly Summary is a newsletter for the Midgard user and developer community.

The MWS is currently being distributed in following mediums:

-The Midgard Project's Web site
- http://www.midgard-project.org

-Linux Weekly News
- http://www.lwn.net

-Linux Today
- http://www.linuxtoday.com

-Linux Developer's Network
- http://linuxdev.net

- http://www.linuxprogramming.com

-Midgard mailing list

If you would like to release it elsewhere, please contact Henri Bergius (Henri.Bergius@iki.fi).

Previous issues of Midgard Weekly Summary can be found archived at the Midgard web site.
- http://www.midgard-project.org/topic/169.html