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From Mike Ash <>
Subject RE: Giving up! Cocoon too big, slow and confusing
Date Thu, 27 Jun 2002 17:39:06 GMT
Out of all of the posts in this thread I haven't heard anyone say that no
matter what 3rd party software you use you will have to "figure it out".  At
least with Cocoon you can get good support and fixes quickly for free!  Buy
someone else's stuff and they may or may not be willing to include your
needs and if they do you'll have to pay to upgrade.  

As far as the help goes all of my problems have been solved without the
lovely common tech support answer of "1st reboot the machine, then
reinstall.... :)

-----Original Message-----
From: daniel robinson []
Sent: Thursday, June 27, 2002 11:23 AM
Subject: Re: Giving up! Cocoon too big, slow and confusing

My .02,

Thanks to Eric, Argyn and John for their honesty.  And thanks to all of 
the Cocoon developers for their hard work and vision.  I would like to 
add my comments to the reality check that is going on.

I have over 17 years experience in the industry and have led developer 
teams working on commercial software projects.  I am an expert Java 
programmer as well as C/C++ and others.  I have worked on multiple 
operating systems.  I love a challenge.  I'm not bragging (believe me I 
don't think any of this stuff is anything to brag about in the REAL 
world :) ), but I want to do a level-set as to who is doing the talking.

I embraced this project because:

1) It had the Apache "stamp of approval"
2) It said it was > version 2.0
3) The technological vision and approach seemed (and still seem) to be 
the correct one.

What I wanted:

1) To get a simple web site up fast and lay the groundwork for 
subsequent versions (see
2) To use open source for all the right reasons.

What I experienced:

1) An incredibly steep learning curve that has no end in sight.  I have 
NEVER worked on a project where I spent a hard 6 weeks slogging through 
a technology and had NO IDEA when it was going to end.
2) Documentation is not usefull - sorry.  I've tried and tried.  The 
closest it has come to being useful is that after I've spent hours on 
something and asked questions on the mail lists I have been able to go 
back to it and say "oh.. that's what they meant"
3) Serious problems (hours lost) upgrading from 2.0 to 2.0.2 - looking 
at the change logs for potential hints at what was necessary was a 
4) Generally helpful but inconsistant responses from the mail lists. 
 You should seriously consider joining the two lists as all it is doing 
right now is making me have to search both lists for everything that i'm 
looking for.  Many of the questions were answered in a way which built 
character but were much too cryptic to be helpful to anyone who comes 
later.  (I'm sure this is because the really knowledgeable people are 
spending too much time answering e-mails).

My conclusions:

1) Almost by definition this should not be a released product - sorry 
but true.  Someone should define what is meant by alpha, beta and 
released software - also the meaning of point releases.
2) I don't have time to read the source code - not because I can't or 
won't from some misplaced belief that it shouldn't be necessary - 
because I don't believe it would be time well spent - too much of a lack 
of basic doco to make it worth the time.
3) I will continue to maintain the current web site in Cocoon while I 
research alternatives.  I am going to keep an open mind and hope that 
the forthcoming books will be of assistance - however I don't see how 
this will be since there have been significant changes (forms and 
authentication system to just name a few at the feature level) since 
those books have gone to publishing.

Also - please see my comments inline below -

Eric Sheffer wrote:

>I completely agree with Argyn's and John's comments here.
>But, I don't think the sentiments expressed are unique to 
>the cocoon project.
>I'm a big proponent of open source software.  I try to use it
>and recommend it whenever I can.  However, I can't spend two 
>weeks just getting up to speed on something.  I have to be 
>productive quite soon after picking it up. I'm busying 50 to 
>60 hours a week doing what my job demands of me, so I don't 
>have a lot of extra time to devote to learning how to use a 
>product, much less debugging or coding one.
Big agreement - I see my involvement as learning what I can, writing the 
occasional FAQ and helping out on the mailing lists.

>I still want to stay ahead of the curve, and learn new things
>and use new technologies.  But, many open source projects
>make this very difficult.  So if I could be presumptuous, here 
>are some suggestions I'll offer to make life a little easier
>on us early adopters:
>(1) Don't create a new nomenclature, language or jargon to 
>describe your project.  The world has enough acronyms, 
>marketing-speak and inpenetrable software descriptions.  Don't 
>add to it.  When describing your project, compare and 
>contrast it with other products the reader may be familiar
Most developers believe that they are doing something new.  You 
generally are not.  When you think you are you need to very carefully 
explain the motivations for what you are doing, define your terms and 
describe, in detail, your approach.

>(2) Don't assume the people who use a product or ask
>questions on a mailing list are the second coming of James
>Gosling or Bill Joy.  If you answer a question posed on the
>list, go a little bit more in depth so that others who may
>be reading the threads might be able to learn something.
Ditto - see my comments above - I'm pretty sure that the terseness of 
the responses is due to the overwhelming number of basic questions that 
are getting asked over and over - this is an indicator of a real lack of 

>(3) Don't skimp on documentation, and in doing so, be mindful
>of (1) and (2).  When providing examples, do something a bit
>more useful than yet another "Hello, World" example. Provide
>more than one example, and make them progessively more complex,
>building on previous examples as you go.

Examples are great - I'm much more interested in good, complete 
developer's doc.

>(4) Don't get overly defensive when responding to criticism.
>And, don't respond with the typical open source developer
>knee-jerk reaction of "Why don't you help out?"  Not everyone
>is in a position to provide the time and effort necessary for
>a meaningful contribution.  Don't dismiss the concerns of 
>those who don't or can't participate.
You should listen to what is being said here.  Your responses are 
alienating people.  If you are feeling defensive then you should figure 
out how not to feel defensive since that attitude will not get you anywhere.

>(5) Beware of the warning signs, like those expressed in John's
>message.  He obviously isn't an idiot, and has invested some
>time and effort trying to learn and use cocoon.  Yet, he's 
>having trouble making cocoon useful.  That should be a wake
>up call.

This is why I'm speaking up.  I want Cocoon to succeed - that is why I'm 
taking the time to say all this.

>(6) Don't assume that everyone should use a product because 
>it's open source, and that it's better than closed source or 
>commercial products because it's open.  If a product doesn't 
>perform well or is difficult to learn, use or implement, what
>good does being open source?  Before answering, refer to (4).
>These points are based on observations of the Apache project 
>I've made over the last several years.  I applaud the efforts
>of those who've invested the time and effort on the various 
>subprojects.  Many are among the most useful pieces of software
>in my arsenal, like ant, log4j and struts.  Others have finally
>come around, like tomcat which I found unusable until v3.
>Cocoon is an intriguing product.  But, who will use it if 
>they can't understand how?
Hopefully you folks will take this in the spirit it is intended - a 
nice, hot, bitter cup of coffee.  If I were you guys at this point I 
would stop developing new features, solidify the code base, and write, 
write, write, write.  

I hope that I will still get questions answered on the mail list :)

Good luck,


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