[jdom-interest] API Inertia

Brett McLaughlin brett at newInstance.com
Sun Apr 29 19:54:05 PDT 2001


  I want to make a sort of "State of the Union" in regards to what I'm
seeing in JDOM and the discussions going on right now. I want to couch this
in reminding people that I was one of the original JDOM authors, so any
problems I identify in JDOM today are at least partially my fault ;-)
  I also want to preface this with saying that it's absolutely true that
Jason has more or less taken over coding JDOM the last 6 months or so. I've
been swamped with work, and he's done the lion's share with help from folks
like Elliotte, Alex, Philip, et. al. However, I'm seeing some alarming
  What I see right now is a lot of API inertia. The idea that if things work
well for the user class you are in, or that you forecast, things are OK. The
first assumption here that is bad is that you are pre-supposing that you can
project what a large group of people want. "Most users would find this..."
"This is too complex..." "Nobody would..." I really don't think that these
statements have much place here; we have a community. If we, the community,
all want or don't want something, that's really it. The idea that there is a
group of users outside this community that we can project wants and needs
for is, IMO, false. It's certainly true that early on we had to do that,
because the community was so small. But now, we've got a decent sampling.
  The second assumption is that even in the case of good solutions based on
the current status, we need to maintain the current status. As a corrollary,
I'd say that it seems with the JSR starting, there is a sort of "we're
getting to the last of the needed changes, and they are probably minor." I
think this is completely wrong. I think it should be "This is our last
chance to make this API what it should be, so big or small, let's change now
while we can." I'm not suggesting that we change for the sake of change; I'm
saying that we make the API as right as we can now. Suffer the short-term
problems for the long term win. Once it goes 1.0, we have to live with it.
And right now, we're not ready to go 1.0, for more than just small issues,
  So, things like the common interface/base class thing. After over two
years of being a Java and XML guy, I think we NEED a commonality in JDOM.
This idea that it isn't any better is not valid; I'm not saying it's better
or worse than the current API. I'm saying if I could go back and do JDOM
again, there's no way in the world I'd do it without this. It makes too many
things a pain. Traversing a tree, which is a 50 line example in DOM (weird
structures and all) becomes a tremendous pain in JDOM; I know, because I'm
writing the chapters on it. Additionally, with SOAP and things like that, I
really am annoyed in having to get an "Object" back over the wire. I can't
count on it being something that I can feed to, say, XMLOutputter. How nice
would it be to pass a Node, or Item, or whatever, to the print() method of
XMLOutputter? Pretty darn sweet. Gets rid of all that serialized form crap,
for one thing.
  Things like detach(). This would have never made it into the original API,
because we looked at it and said "Oh, here's how you remove content:
removeContent()." Now I know we didn't see that problem, but I just don't
see how detach() would have made it in anyway; esp. when 2 of the 3 original
brains (James Davidson and I) both look at that and go "That's backwards."
It really feels like a band-aid, not a real fix.
  So I simply want to encourage everyone, myself included, to stop assuming
that we are so close that big changes (like namespace handling and
entities?!?) are bad. I also think that because Jason has done so much work
on the API, it has lost some of the XML balance that I think was once there;
that's not because Jason doesn't know XML (hardly... he clues me in from
time to time!), but because he's a completely Java guy. Elliotte, for
example though, is much more in the XML side... and that balance helps. For
things like Item/Node/whatever. For things like namespaces. I don't want to
lose the XML-sense that we have, any more than I would want to go the DOM
way and lose, IMO, the Java-sense of things. Hope that makes sense, and I
haven't offended or hacked off anyone... but I thought a breath of fresh air
might clear the air and kickstart some lurkers who have good ideas.


Brett McLaughlin

Enhydra Strategist
  * http://www.enhydra.org
  * http://www.lutris.com
O'Reilly Author - Java and XML
  * http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/javaxml
  * http://www1.fatbrain.com/asp/bookinfo/bookinfo.asp?theisbn=0596000162

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