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From "Berin Loritsch" <>
Subject RE: [RT] Alternatives to sitemap
Date Tue, 10 Jul 2001 13:57:12 GMT
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Stefano Mazzocchi []
> Sent: Sunday, July 08, 2001 6:30 AM
> To: Berin Loritsch
> Cc: Cocoon
> Subject: Re: [RT] Alternatives to sitemap
> > What is wrong with the Sitemap
> > ------------------------------
> > I have already voiced the opinion that the sitemap mixes too many 
> > concerns (component type declarations, etc.).  
> Here I totally agree.
> SoC is a pretty hard thing to do, expecially when you are pioneering new
> ground.


> > There is also a problem with it being a single point of failure.  
> Here, I disagree.
> You are calling a contract a "single point of failure". Is it? Of
> course, it must be. A solid contract allows two separate entities to
> work together.

No.  I call the Compiled Sitemap a single point of failure.  If the
sitemap doesn't compile, the site doesn't work.  It's that simple.
Sometimes the sitemap won't compile for some seemingly mysterious
reason.  It is my personal opinion that transforming an XML file into
a Java class is inherently bad, and is nearly impossible to debug without
intimate knowledge of the transformation process.

> The serious issue here (besides implementation problems I already
> explained) is who is in control of the sitemap: just like you wouldn't
> allow servlet users to change the servlet API as they need, the sitemap
> should be handled by a special team which is responsible to design the
> site and manage it.

I agree with this statement.  I am merely stating that the Sitemap as
it now stands does not correctly or neatly meet this requirement.

> The three original concern islands (content, logic, style) become four
>               design
>            /    |    \
>       content logic style
> and there must be no contracts (so no direct interation) between the
> three underlying groups, but all should pass thru the design area that
> is in charge of controlling and managing the contracts (thus the maps).

I am trying to outline methods to achieve this separation, yet be
friendly to developers.  The Sitemap as it stands mixes things together
that IMO don't belong together.

> > Just look at all the messages on Cocoon Users with the 
> > "The sitemap handler's sitemap is not available" errors.  
> > If the sitemap does not compile correctly, the whole site is dead.
> This is an implementation issue. With interpretation, you would be able
> to isolate mistakes and avoid performing a single URI mapping, perhaps,
> but without killing the entire site.
> Compilation is the point of failure here, not the sitemap design.

As stated before, the sitemap as it stands mixes too many concerns.  I am
trying to propose a way that satisfies the original intent of the sitemap,
yet expose functionality to those who need it.  Actions need to be specified
somewhere, but relying on an administrator to know what actions need to be
handled by what URL is asking an Administrator to take on a Developer's concern.

> > Also there is little security enforced, and the ability to extend 
> > the file mapping outside the Servlet's Context.  These are bad things.
> Careful, you are misinterpreting design limitations for design faults.
> Jon is against mapping. It reminds me of my early choices that lead to
> Cocoon1 reactor pattern and PI chains. Do you want to go back to that
> spaghetti mess?

No.  I want an enforceable contract that behaves predictably.  Many times,
URIs are specified in groups--so I don't have a problem here.

> > It should _never_ be Cocoon's responsibility to mimic all the things 
> > that Apache HTTPD can do.
> Sure, but sometimes you can't avoid that, expecially if Apache
> architecture is not even close to be powerful enough to support our
> technological requirements (think of SAX pipelining between Apache
> modules, it will take decades to happen).

That's why I wanted to specify pipelines, and a URL mapping facility
that referenced those pipelines.

> > Allowing any kind of access outside of the Servlet spec approved areas
> > (the context directory and the repository) is a violation of security 
> > constraints and portability requirements in the servlet spec.
> I agree, this is why we need a CMS, unfortunately none is powerful
> enough for our needs.

The sitemap allows this BTW.  This is part of the security I was
talking about earlier.

> > The sitemap is the most complex piece in the entire Cocoon system, 
> > and as a result, it is difficult for new users to comprehend it.  
> True, but when they do, they understand the entire thing, unlike
> previously with Cocoon1 which was "magic art" all the way to the metal,
> even for expert users.
> > They spend too much time trying to understand the Sitemap, 
> > and not enough time trying to solve problems.  
> > In a development environment, this is not acceptable. 
> You blame the sitemap for this. I would rather blame your enviornment's
> organization.

I understand your point, but if we can come up with a solution that
reduces the size of the learning curve, it will only help in Cocoon's

> If you people wanted to take your existing organization, place Cocoon in
> the middle, and see all the problems magically disappear, well, sorry
> but I still have to see a software architecture that allows this.

Problems change--but if I can reduce the ramp up time, I can increase
my company's support for Cocoon, which in turn increases knowledge of
how to use it.  It is a circle that really serves to help everyone because
I *know* I am not alone in it.

> > It is very frustrating because any time I tell them "I have set up 
> > the Sitemap for you, ignore it for now", I find that they are 
> > still obsessing with it.  
> Yes, I experienced this myself. But this "obsession" was created by the
> lack of confidence in the work organization, lack of "concern coverage".
> A sort of mismanagement that is percieved as bad by people who feel they
> lack solidity in their contracts with their environment.

I agree.

> > The Sitemap as it stands is *too* powerful, and my developers 
> > are tempted to try to use it to solve their problems.
> Correct. Just like they'd rather write code into markup even if this
> makes it a pain in the butt to manage later on.
> Programmers are lazy butts. We all are. But we know from experience (we
> wouldn't be using Java after all, nor be Avalon lovers, in fact) that
> thinking first saves you time later.
> Developers should *NOT* be granted access to the sitemap.
> Period.

When they are set up with a test system on their own machine, they see it.
They want to play with it.  Our development environment requires that each
developer work independantly so that when one developer breaks something,
it does not affect anyone else.  We have been burned with that before.

> > It is my belief that anything simply read from a filesystem should 
> > be handled by HTTP daemons like Apache, TUX, or whatever you use.  
> > They are better optimized for it, and it reduces the load on the JVM.  
> Agreed. In fact, as soon as Apache 2.0 is final (and a JVM can be placed
> inside the server process, being multithreaded) I'd plan to consider
> making a more apache-specific interface to Apache's internal machinery
> to improve performance.
> But again, this is an implementation detail and doesn't impact the
> design of the sitemap.
> > We still need Readers for resources that cannot be reached via the 
> > filesystem (i.e. the DatabaseReader).
> yes, but again, apache is better suited for this as well.
> > What should we do?
> > ------------------
> > We should persue Stefano's FlowMap idea, as well as use more 
> > formalized definitions of a pipeline.  
> Interesting.
> > Now, let's talk about how this all works together.  We have a 
> > default URL-MAP that handles URI mapping, and takes care of 
> > mounting the flow maps.  The filters and pipelines are simply 
> > resources that are used in the map files--they can and should
> > be contained in separate files.  
> I like this concept of separating pipelines definitions in different
> files, sounds like a better componentization approach and for sure
> improves SoC in the design area as well, since pipeline componentization
> is more programming oriented than creating a flow.
> Hmmmm, sounds very promising.

Aha!  Now you see where I am going with this.

> > The Flow Map is a bit different.  It configures the pipeline and 
> > filters for all the resources--this is a development speed savings.
> >  After all, all the resources in a form are going to remain the same. 
> > You will also notice the attributes of the Flowmap.
> > Many forms are only allowed to people with the proper roles.  
> > That is why the "protected" attribute and the "permit-roles" are 
> > present.  When a flow map is protected, we check the Request 
> > "isUserInRole" method to find out if a user can access the resource.  
> > After the resources are defined, we see the <flow/> entry.  
> > The "start" attribute determines where normal flow starts, and the 
> > "access-denied" attribute gives determines the resource to use to 
> > handle when a user is not in the proper role.  Lastly, we have the 
> > entries that determine where flow moves.  There are three ways of 
> > determining the next action in a flow:
> * The "next" attribute
> * The "exit" attribute
> * The "choice" element
> What about "back"?

We can add this.

> > The "next" and "exit" attributes function similarly, as they specify a 
> > static destination. They differ in that the "next" attribute specifies 
> > a resource and the "exit" attribute specifies a URL.
> Why so? (just curious)

It could be possible to specify a special next="exit" so that we return to
the point where the flowmap was added.  The reason I specified the exit
attribute as a URL is that it references something outside the concern
space of the FlowMap.  It will reference a resource that is not declared
in the FlowMap, and that was the safest way I could come up with.

> > The "choice" element allows you to specify a Request parameter to 
> > inspect for a selection of destinations.  You must provide a default 
> > value so that the flow is never broken.  The default is chosen if the 
> > parameter specified does not exist or does not contain any of the
> > specified values.
> Great ideas, Berin. Great thinkgs to work on. I'll digest them a little,
> play with it and try to come up with some comments in the near future.


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