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From David Casal <>
Subject Re: Block builder and deployer
Date Sat, 28 May 2005 14:49:09 GMT

On 27 May 2005, at 17:52, Stefano Mazzocchi wrote:

>> That's what I'm after. So you see a roadmap whereby first you work on
>> easy kernel installation -then- play semantics.
> Correct. The other way around would make the goal even harder to
> bootstrap. No advancement in an open source software happens if you
> don't capture some development momentum that is greater than just one
> guy wanting it, especially for such deep and complex architectural 
> issues.

Understood, of course.

> The issues right now are not with semantics, but with the actual
> operativity of a block design. (see the excellent various RTs on the 
> matter)

/me goes read some more.

>> Where do you think the struggle to achieve automatic block deployment
>> resides? (again, please take this question as journalistic vs. 
>> informed)
> in dependency maintenance. see debian, gentoo, bsd ports... the hard
> thing is to keep up with the dependency graph, but luckily this is a
> very parallizable tasks (in terms of people that can work on it without
> stepping on each other toes)

I see. That of course makes a lot of sense, and it -is- something I can 
write about, since my remit is not necessarily to get people's hopes 
up, but to try to gauge the state of development and report accurately 
on it.

>> My remit for this report is to answer as clearly as I can as to 
>> whether
>> that is very far in the future or perhaps not as far as they think.
> I honestly doubt something like that can happen out of cocoon in a 
> short
> time... because this community is not interested in it and that
> community doesn't have the skills to make it happen technologically (or
> even phrase what they want in a way that developers could understand).

Of course; that's partly why JISC are skeptical of it, at a senior 

>> Can you see piggy banks being used by applications other than Firefox?
>> (I assume because it relies on RDF, Firefox is simple the tool you're
>> using for its -present- form, and that anything people write that can
>> speak and interact with RDF stores will be able to talk to it).
> Yes, PB is the firefox plugin, but the engine is called Longwell
> (, that's the RDF presentation 
> framework
> (you can think of it as a cocoon for RDF) and it's usable (today) 
> already

Ahh. The picture clears (I'd forgotten you mentioned Longwell some time 

>> Its a bit like asking a football manager 'so do you think you'll win 
>> the
>> League this year?'.
> yeah, that's how it sounded. :-)

Heh. My bad.

> I honestly don't know and it feels to me that the question might be
> bogus already. M$ office contains access and it's very easy to use tool
> to create a personal database. But how many of the milions of office
> users use it? not a lot.

Indeed. And more than likely, it -is- the wrong question to ask.

> Do we want cocoon to become the ultimate RAD tool? a visual basic for
> the web? I don't. It's a lot of pain and no fun at all (content
> management systems show you that pain, just allowing them to write
> content is such a painful environment to be in)

Agree; one of the things JISC is eager to find out is whether their 
scepticism about general humanists building webapps outta thin air is 
well-founded. Hearing this, I would say so. Perhaps though, this topic 
deserves to be clarified, so that the ongoing UK discussion focuses 
more on concrete issues (block deployment, etc) and less on pipe 

>> This isn't a commercial, VC-led, vampiric question, Stefano.
> Oh, I know, don't worry.

Huh phew. You never know, these days.

>> I don't
>> have any intention of packaging Cocoon or making nice little shiny 
>> toys
>> with it.
> And if you did, I wouldn't have a problem with it... because *you* were
> going to pay the price for supporting those users, not us ;-)

ROFL. Quite. Which is why when VCs talk to us, we now say 'Get a real 

>> I'll leave people with more time and money and less worries
>> than me to do that. Its a question from researchers just like you, but
>> from different disciplines (mainly the Humanities), who are hoping the
>> tools you guys build will get easier to use with time, and would love 
>> to
>> now when, how, etc.
> Take the pain of content management and multiply by a thousand. that's
> what it feels like to me.

Gotcha. And of course, I imagine most people share that sentiment.

> Would we get closer? yes. How? I have no clue. For now, I focus on data
> interoperability and that's a hard enough problem to solve, and we just
> add a little tiny layer of declerative reasoning and it already has
> severe problems.

Excellent point. One that I can use, too. The problem being that 
co-operation (The Evolution of Co-Operation, Axelrod, 1980) is possible 
because it emerges out of working communities, but the inference behind 
declarative reasoning, when attempting to pre-empt that communities 
movements, if charged with pre-empting order within chaos, which is 
neigh to impossible.

> I told you privately to buy Lego mindstorms. Do it. Then play with it.
> It's probably the simplest to use programming language ever invented
> (and visual!). Do you see a humanity professor using it? I don't.

/me looks at mindstorms kit on amazon and wonders whether his wife will 
castrate him for spending £160

hey wait, I have a child on the way, maybe I can justify "i'm just 
getting READY for it, alright?"

Thanks for your time, Stefano, it was really helpful.



David Plans Casal, Director of Research, Luminas Internet Applications
Tel:  +44 (0)870 741 6658    	Fax:  +44 (0)700 598 1135
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