Genii Weblog

Zealotry annoys me

Wed 6 Apr 2011, 06:10 PM

by Ben Langhinrichs
Look, plenty of people think XPages may be the savior riding in on a camel to rescue Lotus Domino, and maybe it is and maybe it isn't. All I know for certain is that anytime somebody gets up an excess of zeal, I get nervous. Java will solve all problems, except the pile it introduces. Ruby on Rails will change the world, except when it can't.

I've got a question for those who think we're ready to throw out every non-XPages app and replace all the "crap" written before.  I have a website running on Domino. It may be awful, because I am a color blind inept web developer, but when I need to run it on a test 8.0 server, it runs fine.  When I had an occasion to test it on a 6.5 server, most things worked and the few that didn't degraded nicely.  Similarly, apps I wrote in 6.5 run beautifully on 8.5.2.

How's that XPages app working with forward and backward compatibilty? From what I hear, XPages created in 8.5.1 failed in 8.5.2. I have experienced XPages created in 8.5.2 that failed in 8.5.1. There's worry about the Java version and Eclipse version dictating what you can do. It remains to be seen whether 8.5.3 (or 9) will make things better or worse or simply force every last XPages app to upgrade. If that happens, I'm not going to feel too badly about my classic web development, which I expect will putter along just fine... even if it is a Model T to some.

Copyright 2011 Genii Software Ltd.

What has been said:

987.1. Doug Finner
(04/07/2011 12:53 AM)

So it's not just me with the whole Java thing? Every time I start into that mess, it's a different tool kit. I thought I'd take a whack at an Android app. Bought a book that was 6 months old, started in and the entire tool set listed in the book was now different. Maintaining compatibility across versions looks like a real headache.

Notes spoils a person.

987.2. Thomas Duff
(04/07/2011 01:23 AM)

Well said, Mr. Langhinrichs...

987.3. David leedy
(04/07/2011 05:37 AM)

I so totally don't get this school of thought I think I must be missing something.

For good and bad, XPages is the future of notes and domino app dev. End of story. Is IBM enhancing the classic design elements? No. We have embedded views right? but you know what? They kinda stink. they could be so much better but they're not and IBM doesn't seem to have any interest in making them better. The future is XPages. I didnt choose the future but I'm glad it's here.

When you talk about classic domino development which is something I've never done much with, but when you talk about it you talk about all the hacks and tricks that you just need to know to accomplish your task. HIding HTML in a view column? $$ViewTemplates? When does that get fun? how approachable is that to someone new? What's involved in creating a pager in classic domino? I know in Xpages it's drag and drop.

And backwards compatibility? That's been our greatest strength and also our greatest weakness. While we've been backwards compatible, other environments have ripped out the old and replaced with the new language and new standards. this fabled backwards compitbilty has handcuffed the platform. It's weakened at least SOME of the developers that stopped learning new things. they could do what they needed to do and now it seems to me that the thought of learning something NEW is almost out of the question. other platforms that have gone through rip and replace dont have that fear of the new.. Because theyre used to it.

Don't get me wrong. I love the backwards compatibility. BUT, theres no future in classic development simply because IBM is no longer enhancing the classic development. Sure if you cant get your servers upgraded to Xpages compatible and classic domino dev is all you can do then it will work and it will work well. and theres a new book out talking about it which is great! BUT if you had a choice between classic domino development and XPages development I think it's crazy to NOT choose Xpages. Some things are just so much easier. Standard languages are used. it runs in the CLIENT. So we FINALLY have for the most part the holy grail of write once, run in web and client.

Is the client implementation great yet? no. but each point release brings us a better XPages environment. Has there been issues going from one version to another? Absolutely. and that's a weird feeling for us. It's something the other guys have had to deal with but not us. I say... It sucks.. But if the other guys can deal with it so can we. XPages has moved very fast. they've not gotten everything right in the first pass which has caused some issues but it's getting better and better.

I love the notes and domino platform. that's the whole reason

I do NotesIn9. That platform is evolving. If it didn't then it would truly become "legacy". We as developers need to evolve as well. We are either going to evolve with Domino or will evolve but going to a different platform. I personally like what I have with Domino.

is domino the best platform in the world? who knows. but I think it can hold its own with the best of them.

987.4. Nathan T. Freeman
(04/07/2011 06:13 AM)

Umm... then avoid zealots?

The implication of your last sentence is that my reply was zealotry. Which is, honestly, a totally absurd assumption. You said "I found a book on classic Domino development!" and I replied "I found a book on Model T restoration." Whatever you think is implied by that is built by you, not me.

There's nothing inherently stupid or evil or incompetent about yesterday's technology. It can be very good. The Model T defined an industrial era. Observing the fact that it's old is a statement of fact (in terms relative to the market rather than, say, the Pyramids.) If you imply normative judgment from that, it's pure projection.

This is like walking down the street in New York with someone...

A: Hey, that guy is wearing a yarmulke!

B: Oh, he must be an orthodox Jew.


Is this community really so defensive that the factual observation that the platform pre-dates the web is an attack? If so, that's truly sad.

987.5. Ben Poole
(07/04/2011 07:54)

Is argument for arguments sakea normative judgement I wonder?

987.6. Martin JInoch
(07.04.2011 10:30)

I think David is right. You can do it the old way (and I was doing it since Notes 3.0), it will work even in 8.5.x and 9. But it is no fun! By bringing XPages to Domino IBM/Lotus made me happy developer again. Yeah, there are bugs, problems and stuff. But still: it is fun to find a solution! It feels good! It helps you develop yourself, stay competitive... Staying on old known paths doesn't get you any new knowledge, any new challenge.

987.7. Henning Heinz
(07.04.2011 11:20)

The platform that predates the web was everything Domino had until 2008. If I leave out the first tries (8.X) then the end of 2009 (with 8.5.1).

And for client side development I am still waiting.

If this platform wants to stay relevant it needs all existing developers and probably a few new ones. A deep split between "old" and "new" developers is not what I'd like to see.

987.8. Ben Langhinrichs
(04/07/2011 11:59 AM)

@Doug - It is the one thing I don't get about Java. I like plenty of other things, but the finicky nature of the linking to specific Java versions is a huge headache.

@Tom - Thanks.

@David - I could devote a whole post to answering, but let me just say that the lack of new development going forward does not instantly invalidate a working product. I have built a variety of products that have made millions of dollars over the past decade primarily on C, which hasn't been developed in years, C++, primarily with an IDE released in 1998 and an LSX toolkit released in 1998. Something can be valuable even if it is not currently being enhanced.

Also, I am not arguing against XPages, which I am working with every day. I am arguing against a zealotry for something new and shiny, when it is part of the future, not the whole future.

@Nathan - So you go around introducing books on antique cars on all the technical blogs, and it is other people's problem if they misinterpret?

@Ben - I wonder as well.

@Martin - Fun may be a driving force, but in a hard economic environment, I hope it isn't the only driving force.

@Henning - I applaud IBM for introducing new, relevant technologies. I am working with many of them. I don't think that precludes working with the older, still-useful technologies.

987.9. Mark Hughes
(04/07/2011 01:31 PM)

In the settings of an application, on the xpages tab, you have the

"compile this application to run on" with the options of

1. "Minimum release required by the xpages features used" the default

2. "8.5.2"

3. "8.5.1"

4. "8.5"

So it does work backwards, but you may loose some features just like normal domino dev.

I am not too sure how many people know these options are there, but they do address the backwards compat issues you are talking about.

987.10. Ben Langhinrichs
(04/07/2011 01:38 PM)

@Mark - Excellent tip. I was not aware of that. Do you happen to know how well that works with the standard 8.5.2 discussion database if you set it to a minimum release of 8.5.1? I'll test, but wondered if you had already tried.

987.11. Mark t Hughes
(04/07/2011 01:42 PM)

Haven't tried with that one, but i do have a product that uses 8.5.2 features only, so i do feel your pain in some re-guards. And my 8.5.1 version wont work well on 8.5.2 because of the new rich text renderer(ios hates it), so when people upgraded it broke it.

With the beta program though i was ahead of the issue, and was able to make point release versions quite easily.

987.12. David M Taylor
(04/07/2011 01:47 PM)

Firstly, I think it's ultimately more important to focus on the UX, functionality, and the changing ways that people use the technologies - they don't care at the end of the day if you "hacked" three embedded views into a dashboard using (evil) iFrames, or for that matter, if it's a WAS portal. There is value in understanding the tools you work with, I may get the book just to see what I missed :)

And I mentioned this because I believe that it's important to consider all the tools in your toolbox, and we all already know this. New patterns of development evolve - we don't build apps like I did in Notes 3, or even 4.6, and I think these sorts of discussions are just a result of those growing pains... There was a time when I was told that the Internet would completely replace and obsolete Lotus Notes, that was 15 years ago. To quote something I read recently, "There's a lot more to Domino web development than XPages, and a well prepared developer will be prepared for both kinds."

That all being said, I must admit that I literally LOL'ed at Nathan's joke. Sure, it was a dig too, but hilarious none the less, and look what it started!

p.s. The 1969 Z28 Camaro makes a better analogy here anyway :)

987.13. Ben Langhinrichs
(04/07/2011 02:10 PM)

@Mark - Thanks.

@David - Absolutely correct. The user/customer doesn't and shouldn't care much what underlies the user interface. I want to be clear that I am not a "classic Notes zealot" either. I am doing some cool things with XPages, and will soon release a new version of CoexEdit that could enhance the XPage experience even more.

I am sure I overreacted a bit to Nathan's joke simply due to being an author myself. I'd hate to think anybody would think twice about buying such a book due to a joke, but peer pressure is a potent force in the IT world. I know a guy (from my church) who turned down a job working with Notes a few years ago because a fellow worker made a joke (not even knowing about the offer) about Notes being obsolete. He worried he was going in the wrong direction with his career if people were openly joking about the product.

987.14. Nathan T. Freeman
(04/07/2011 02:27 PM)

@Ben if I find any technical blogs bragging about the release of "Developing websites with VB6" or "Mastering COBOL" then sure, I will.

"He worried he was going in the wrong direction with his career if people were openly joking about the product."

I'm trying to figure out what's supposed to be bad about this story. Did he end up taking a job at Lehman Brothers instead? Or if he had taken the Notes job, he would have met the woman in the next cubicle and fallen madly in love and run off with her to an Anguilan paradise? Or instead of Lotusscript, he worked with early versions of Erlang, and accidentally wrote a program that became self-aware and built a small army of robot warriors with lasers on their heads and a covert team of elite government operatives had to fight a covert war against them and the real reason people get groped at airports by the TSA is because they're looking for killer cyborgs?

If the goal is to not have people make fun of Notes, then the obvious path is for there to be nothing to make fun of about Notes. And that means making it better; better according to the values of the market, not the values we wish the market had.

987.15. Ben Langhinrichs
(04/07/2011 02:49 PM)

@Nathan - Your contention being that everything about Domino web development outside of XPages is as antiquated as VB6? Perhaps you ought to get the book yourself and see if maybe you've missed a few changes since 1998.

987.16. Nathan T. Freeman
(04/07/2011 03:28 PM)

Yes. That is my contention, Ben. And your contention seems to be that I am ignorant regarding Domino web development techniques. Which is pretty astounding.

Do you have an example of a "modern classic" development technique that I don't know about? Apart from deploying a Genii Software product as part of the classic technique, of course.

987.17. Ben Langhinrichs
(04/07/2011 03:39 PM)

OK, so you agree with the contention. VB6 was released in 1998. Notes R5 was released in 1999, which is later. According to your agreement, you do not think there are any Domino web development techniques worth knowing since R4. I would suggest that virtually all Domino web techniques have been developed since R5, since that is when Domino as we know it was released. Every single damn web app you personally created with Domino since R5 before XPages used techniques more modern than VB6. If you've never used any techniques developed in R5/ND6/ND6.5/ND7/ND8 for a Domino web app, you've missed something.

Beware of your own hyperbole.

987.18. David Leedy
(04/07/2011 04:14 PM)


What other application development future do we have for the NSF platform other then XPages? I'm just not seeing it. Sure we can keep doing the client and classic domino stuff for a long time. And there's NOTHING wrong with that. But if IBM doesn't continue to improve it then there is no "Future" is there? you have in the future what you have today.

XPages seems to be what their enhancing and is the future of the development platform.

I don't know that anyone is saying that XPages means you should rip everything out. I think my second video of NotesIn9 was specifically about how you DON'T need to rip and replace your apps. It was about how you can start to add functionality without messing with the existing application. BUT you might want to do a bigger replace to take advantage of data modeling improvements.

XPages still needs forms and views. It still uses Lotuscript in scheduled agents and can still take advantage of things like ReadViewEntries and some other Classic techniques. That's pretty cool.

I feel I'm missing the point here. I'm just a dumb customer who is mostly a client guy trying to be an XPages guy. Why? Because XPages is new and shiny? Not at all. I just think that it's the best toolkit in our environment that I can use to provide solutions to my internal customers.

987.19. Ben Langhinrichs
(04/07/2011 04:33 PM)

@David - Don't ask me. I'm just the dumb guy who thought pointing out a newly released book on Domino Development was worth doing. I guess you'd better ask Nathan, because he seems to think it is laughable that you might use those forms and views and Lotuscript agents and file resources and style sheets and so forth, and might want to learn from a book released since 2006.

Mind you, I like XPages. They add a lot of value, and I think there are plenty of great uses for them. I like the Dojo integration and the CKeditor integration and the custom controls offering repeated use (unlike subforms). I like the better separation of UI and content and the drag and drop properties.

It's only the zealotry I don't like.

987.20. Nathan T. Freeman
(04/07/2011 05:17 PM)

"So you do not think there are any Domino web development techniques worth knowing since R4"

Only the ones I invented, Ben. *eye roll*

The fact that a given version of Domino had a later release date than some other software does not make it inherently more advanced.

I'll grant that CSS is more advanced technology than the styling options available in VB6. However the classic web implementation of CSS is pretty much tangential to the platform. It's not like there's a WYSIWYG editor for content that uses the CSS. Until Designer 8.5, there wasn't even a native editor for CSS in the IDE.

987.21. Ben Langhinrichs
(04/07/2011 05:25 PM)

I'm certainly glad you got the last word in there, Nathan.

Oh, oops!

987.22. Paul Mooney
(04/07/2011 06:28 PM)

This post is a perfect example of why I blog less and less about Domino.

Christ almighty. Its a fucking book.

987.23. Andrew Pollack
(04/07/2011 06:33 PM)

How can I resist joining in the fun here?

xpages -- great idea, useful for some new things, but STILL not ready for prime time. I sure as hell wouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater on my old applications.

If xpages is the only thing the designer focuses on going forward, in two years I won't be working with it.

987.24. Mark Hughes
(04/07/2011 07:07 PM)

Andrew what about XPages is not ready for prime time? Curious, i have been building what i thought were nice apps with it, maybe i was worng

987.25. Dan Soares
(04/07/2011 07:11 PM)

My 2c:

This has been blown way out of proportion.

If you're a consultant who supports web apps or if you are still on 6.x, 7.x and developing web apps, get the book to see if there's tips to pick up and also to support authors who write Lotus related books.

If your servers are on 8.5.x, start learning XPages and figure out how best to leverage it in your organization.

We're still at the place where both kinds of web apps have to coexist together.


987.26. Andrew Pollack
(04/07/2011 08:27 PM)

Mark - you can build great stuff with them, or not. I find them extremely hard to debug, tricky to build with options hidden everywhere, higher cost of ownership due to changes being made with each server release, heavy on resource usage, and above all the designer is incredibly freaking ugly to use.

987.27. Jan Potocki jr.
(04/07/2011 10:19 PM)

Friends! How you fight! How you cajole amongst yourselves when the real issue that stands before you is the percentage of hair loss amongst your core programming set! That's right, everyone at LotusSphere was able to tell me where they were when the first Apple came out! They all knew what I was talking about when I said "album." You guys need to realize that the current argument is as compelling as some I've seen cricizing the 'new' AS/400 GUI's. It's over. It's just beginning. Hop in and make it better!

Thank you.

P.S. Chris Touhy is pretty in person.

987.28. Charles Robinson
(04/08/2011 07:49 PM)

Now that I'm out of popcorn, could someone please refer me to whatever started this tempest in a teacup? One of the more annoying things about the Notes community are some of these intensely personal rebuttals that work hard to make it seem like they aren't.

987.29. Ben Langhinrichs
(04/08/2011 08:04 PM)

@Charles - In my earlier post, I wrote about a just-released book, IBM Lotus Domino: Classic Web Application Development Techniques. Nathan Freeman responded right away that he had found a book on Amazon with the name Model T Restoration Handbook, and I chided him about it. Things pretty much spiraled down from there. (Of course, there are two sides to every argument, so feel free to buy some more popcorn and re-read the comments for yourself and draw your own conclusions.)