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Re: [Xsltforms-support] Is XForms a failure to learn from?

From: Mark Lawson <tingenek@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 17 Oct 2014 13:00:09 +0100
Cc: Ihe Onwuka <ihe.onwuka@gmail.com>, Paul Vanderveen <pvanderveen@terraxml.com>, Manuel Lautenschlager <Manuel.Lautenschlager@ascio.com>, Forms WG <public-forms@w3.org>, "public-xformsusers@w3.org" <public-xformsusers@w3.org>, Stephen Cameron <steve.cameron.62@gmail.com>
Message-Id: <82D30EDB-9696-4298-A33A-7BEA62CAEA2E@gmail.com>
To: "xsltforms-support@lists.sourceforge.net" <Xsltforms-support@lists.sourceforge.net>
Hi,

It’s been interesting reading the various options over the last few days and mirrors what I’ve heard in XML conferences over the last few years (along with much chest beating over JSON). 

My two cents, for what it’s worth, is that there are two very different needs/tools in play. The first is very much document-based, and here where I am in the public sector is a good example.  There are large numbers of, often very complex, forms that used to be paper: are now web-based but still essentially *transactional*. Fill, validate, search, retrieve, modify, print etc. Fill out an application for a drivers licence, a passport or an income tax form and you’re looking into that world - and it’s not going away any time soon. XForms is an efficient, cost-effective solution here, and one of the reasons we use it pretty much exclusively, in the xsltforms variant, for our interfaces. The backend data is XML for exactly the same reasons; it supports the document paradigm the best. 

The other world is a Stephen describes it; the browser as application container, perhaps using our old friend Angular, with a steady stream of bi-directional data to/from the backend via JSON (Node.js+MongoDb perhaps). It’s a perfect fit for modern browser ‘apps’, and wildly, feverishly popular. I do worry that no matter how fast my browser, a bigger, fatter JS ‘framework’ will appear with a clang, promising even more illusive ‘productivity’ to the hard-pressed web development team. 

To be honest, I don’t think there’s a conversation to be had between the two. XForms is a W3C standard, it moves slowly, but it’s consistent and reliable. The JS/App world is a roiling Darwinian sea of competitive and incompatible libraries. The world of the document is a niche market, unremarked and likely to stay that way, to the rest of the web-site creating portion of humanity. Does it matter if it stays a niche? I don’t think so as long as there is a healthy mix of commercial and open-source solutions available and it remains a good way of solving the problem. It’s going to be more of an issue in the future if a lack of X-skills, lead to good solutions being replaced with just adequate ones.

Rgds,

Mark Lawson
Senior Technical Architect
Staffordshire and West Midlands 
Community Rehabilitation Company
[sent from home email]


On 17 Oct 2014, at 01:00, Stephen Cameron <steve.cameron.62@gmail.com> wrote:

> My point is this: for something to be a success it needs to serve a need, so that need has to exist or you have to create it via marketing. AngularJS does both. 
> 
> The current need is to be able to create 'apps' in browsers.  To take the cross-platform low-cost browser approach and create app levels of functionality. The browser as something for browsing has been extended, the 'write once, run anywhere' and 'network programming' concepts that Java introduced have been taken up by browsers as HTML5.
> 
> I think simply that the XForms standard is of the old browsing paradigm and AngularJS is of the new app paradigm. This is why I've argued that its not helpful to think of XForms as MVC, which is an OO concept, whereas browsers without Javascript are a data-driven approach.
> 
> So the testable hypotheses IMHO, are: (1) is there still a market niche for XForms as it stands? and (2) can be XForms evolve to serve this new need (and if so can anyone be bothered, given the head start of others). 
> 
> On top of these questions you have to ask also if free and open-source is now being challenged by Software as a Service (SaaS). The browser as app platform is key to SaaS, and the economics of it are so compelling for consumers that it challenges everything, in much the same way that Mobile apps did for browsers. Forms are just one part of that. The key driver of SaaS is not functionality but convenience I believe, so the software is essentially free and you pay for the fact your data is managed and easily accessible.
> 
> Steve
> 
> On Fri, Oct 17, 2014 at 6:55 AM, Ihe Onwuka <ihe.onwuka@gmail.com> wrote:
> So that begs the question.... why reinvent the wheel and when I ask that why I mean why totally throw out everything (like they did with XML) and start from scratch. 
> 
> It seems to be a very arrogant way of doing things . to say there was nothing good in what the other bloke did.....especially when it is the case that when you listen and scrutinize what they say carefully (I mean the JSON crowd) it doesn't hold water.
> 
> 
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> On Thu, Oct 16, 2014 at 7:21 PM, Paul Vanderveen <pvanderveen@terraxml.com> wrote:
> FYI.  AngularJS is a declarative framework as well – conceptually very similar to XForms
> 
>  
> 
> From: William Velasquez [mailto:wvelasquez@visiontecnologica.com] 
> Sent: Thursday, October 16, 2014 10:21 AM
> To: ihe.onwuka@gmail.com; Manuel Lautenschlager
> Cc: Paul Vanderveen; xsltforms-support@lists.sourceforge.net; Forms WG; public-xformsusers@w3.org
> Subject: RE: [Xsltforms-support] Is XForms a failure to learn from?
> 
>  
> 
> Ihe Onwuka wrote:
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> 
> > To me XForms's biggest crime is that it is a declarative technology (yes it can be  complex but so are lot's of over things) and alot of programmers are not comfortable with something that is not inherently procedural. Heck they even created languages to proceduralize SQL the only declarative language that managed to slip under the cover.
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> Excellent point!
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> And most of the XML tools are declarative too (XSLT, XProc, Schema languages) so the “XML-phobia”  can be explained as “declarative-phobia”.
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> De: Ihe Onwuka [mailto:ihe.onwuka@gmail.com] 
> Enviado el: jueves, 16 de octubre de 2014 10:51 a. m.
> Para: Manuel Lautenschlager
> CC: Paul Vanderveen; xsltforms-support@lists.sourceforge.net; Forms WG; public-xformsusers@w3.org
> Asunto: Re: [Xsltforms-support] Is XForms a failure to learn from?
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> On Thu, Oct 16, 2014 at 3:46 PM, Manuel Lautenschlager <Manuel.Lautenschlager@ascio.com> wrote:
> 
> What is lightweight?
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> For me lightweight is: Parsing takes only little resources.
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> I'm not sure why we are bothering about how much work the machine does unless we have a specific performance problem so I smell a red herring here ....but ..... doesn't that depend to extent on what you are running in your environment.
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> If you are running Python or R or anything other than javascript in addition to your interpreter you also have to load a JSON library.
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> Implementation is easy with a few lines of code. Only necessary functionality.
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> Well that depends on whether one believes that transformation's are necessary functionality because (discounting the efforts of the XML community i.e xslt3 json doesn't have a proper transformation language).
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> It also depends on whether one believes that a query language is necessary because (discounting the efforts of the XML community i.e jsoniq) json doesn't have a proper query language.
> 
> So what is left of that argument..... that being able to do sod-all is a virtue. Nah! Rather you have to write an application program for everything - we've known for 35 years (at least) that's a bad idea. For one thing it destroys data independence because people will tend to tightly couple their code to the extant data model (if for no other reason then the obsession with "efficiency").
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> Not lightweight is: Very complex framework that tries to cover everything.
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> The fallacy in there is that because the framework allows you to "cover everything" you have to. That's not true. There is no rule that says your XML must have a schema. There is nothing stopping you from writing a transformation to create a simpler XML subset if it will do the job.
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> I’m sure XML needs a few more lines to implement than JSON.
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> It's a semantically  richer data format, that's not unreasonable.
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> But what really is heavyweight are many standards. Like SOAP and XFORMS.
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> The JSON world doesn’t have this problem, they don’t have  standards like XForms. (And no alternative)
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> The heavyweight lightweight thing is because  JSON  world is probably occupied with comparatively trivial data models. Murex, XBRL, Biztalk, UBL are not suddenly going to become lightweight if they were converted to JSON. But the real fallacy is that something implemented in XML is necessarily complex or heavyweight. Suppose you don't need schemas for a particular JSON implementation. Chances are you wouldn't need them for an XML implementation either but if ever you did in the future you won't find that you have taken a long journey up s**t creek and thrown away your paddle.
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> XForms is a ambitious . It's complexity is not a function of the data model and one is  not compelled to use every facility in the standard.
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> You don’t need to learn how to use XForms. You need a form, you can start right on with a language you know (Javasript)
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> People use other libraries to create forms, like AngularJS, and have a handmade component for each control. 
> Actually every developer/company has its own UI-Style, and so they can create the Framework they need. 
> Often it’s only small things that XForms can’t do. Like working with Websockets. Interactive status for an order form.
> 
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> With XForms the standard tells you how to work. With that you always have limitations.
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> I accepted these limitations with the benefit that I am working with a standard.
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> That “should” mean: sustainability, better support and documentation, many different applications you can run your code on.
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> Unfortunately the reality is, that people are talking about dead standards, just when I am happy with them.
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> I must say it took a while until I got used to XForms. For me that was investing lots of time.
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> I used Betterform, which is the opposite of lightweight. But it is cool. The disadvantage is: When you work with the XForms language,
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> It’s a big step adding new components and scripts. This is much easier when you build up your UI from scratch.
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> Are you sure that's a problem caused by the XForm standard. I recall that when I built an XForm I was able to modularize much of the code and the ability to deploy XSLT transformations was a key part of that.
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> That is the problem with standards that cover almost everything. You get used to it, and try to do everything with the standard.
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> Otherwise you can’t port it to another platform.
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> BTW. Just because somebody of W3C says it’s dead, it doesn’t need to be dead or a failure. But except of the XML-Community, nobody knows XForms.
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> I like XForms and I hope that it’s not dead!
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> Manuel
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> Ps.: When tools can do less, you need to learn less. That why people use JSON 
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> Being able to do sod-all is only a virtue if you actually need to do sod-all.
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> I think most of the claims emanating from the JSON community do not withstand scrutiny or like for like comparisons. To me XForms's biggest crime is that it is a declarative technology (yes it can be  complex but so are lot's of over things) and alot of programmers are not comfortable with something that is not inherently procedural. Heck they even created languages to proceduralize SQL the only declarative language that managed to slip under the cover.
> 
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Received on Friday, 17 October 2014 15:33:53 UTC

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