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Please jump in here - A debate question about an XPages concern

By Andrew Pollack on 01/30/2008 at 08:03 AM EST

Please chime in on this one, as I know it’s a heavy topic in Westford as well. A very smart friend of mine has a concern about XPages. I think he’s wrong. More specifically, I think he’s making an origami mountain out of a map around a molehill. Even if you normally just ‘lurk’ here, I’d like to see as many people chime in here as possible.

Here’s the issue as my friend sees it:

There is not any 1:1 relationship of an XPage to a specific document. There may be zero, one, or many data notes or other kinds of data sources associated with any given XPage. In fact, that’s a good portion of what makes an XPage different. To me, that’s the most important distinction. The XPage is a layout definition which references data. It can also be used to create new data on submit.

Because XPages are web only for now – at least initially (Maureen has now stated that they’ll work in the client, just maybe not in 8.5) – if you were to click submit on an XPage in the web browser, then go look for “IT” in the Notes client, you’d have nothing to see. The XPage may show up in some views depending how your bindings are set to store data (particularly if you are able to set the XPage itself as the place to store data), but there wouldn’t be any way to just click on it in the Notes client and see the content. Indeed, there may not be any content if all your data bindings are to other documents.

If you did store your data on the XPage itself (for now, I don’t see that as a good idea most of the time, but there may be uses for it if it ends up being allowed by the designer) you would need to set up a field called “Form” and give it the name of a form, then also define a form to show those data elements. Failing to do that, or failing to define a “default” form with the data element names you would want to see, would produce an error in the UI like “Cannot locate default database form” or some such.

My answer to this was twofold. My first answer was “Duh?!?” as in “Yeah, that’s what I’d expect. It would be just as if an agent created a document without a form field on it. We deal with that all the time.” My second answer is “So, what is your big issue?”

My friend seems to think that this will confuse the Notes developer community and is a very bad thing. I just frankly don’t agree. It may confuse a few people at first, but it just isn’t that big a leap to understand and it isn’t far from things we are already dealing with all the time.

So what do you think?

A) You think this is a real problem, and XPages should be held until they work exactly the same in the Notes client as in the Web browser, even if it meant delaying a major release of the product. That’s not going to happen, by the way, but it would be interesting to know if you think that.

B) You think it’s a big enough problem that Lotus should work around it by creating an automatic default form which simply shows the contents and field names of all the data items on a Note if no form can be found to match that note.

C) You think it’s a problem that will significantly hinder adoption of XPages, but that no workaround should be provided and people will have to get over it.

D) You just don’t see how this is that big a deal, and you want XPages as soon as possible.

Personally, I’m fully in the “D – Not a real concern, give me XPages as soon as possible” camp.


There are  - loading -  comments....

re: Please jump in here - A debate question about an XPages concernBy Ben Langhinrichs on 01/30/2008 at 08:51 AM EST
E) I think itu2019s a big enough problem that Lotus should work around it by
doing exactly what it does now with a document without a form, either use the
default form for the database or give an error.

In other words, if I have an XPage, it should have a name, and if that name is
"Foo", the Notes client should look for a form named "Foo". If it exists,
display the Xpage with the data on that form. If not, look for a default form,
and use that. If there isn't a default form, use the same error that exists
now if there is no default form. Part of the advantage here is that it
degrades to exactly the behavior we would expect when viewed in a previous
version of Notes, such as Notes 7. In Notes 7, the item in the view will be
assumed to refer to a note which will act as above.
re: Please jump in here - A debate question about an XPages concernBy Ben Langhinrichs on 01/30/2008 at 10:33 AM EST
As a brief follow up, I should point out that if you don't put data on the
XPage itself, this isn't a problem as it shouldn't show up in a view, just like
a regular page.
re: Please jump in here - A debate question about an XPages concernBy Matt White on 01/30/2008 at 09:17 AM EST
What you described is the way I would expect XPages to work, not a problem at
all.

I'd never push Lotus to release something until it is ready, too many scars
from the R5 timeframe to want that again, but I don't see this being a problem
and can't wait to get going with XPages.

Matt
re: Please jump in here - A debate question about an XPages concernBy Dan King on 01/30/2008 at 09:35 AM EST
I reckon a workaround should be in place (what Ben suggests sounds good to me).

However for anyone doing client development it appears that we'll have to
ignore XPages completely, so the workaround shouldn't be needed. That's
frustrating of course as XPages sound great.

But, for those people that develop exclusively for the web this will be a big
thing immediately so I can't blame Lotus for releasing as is. Hopefully
developers will realise that if you need things to work in the Notes Client
then don't use XPages.

Whether the frustrations caused by a large percentage of Notes developers not
being able to use this become negative publicity is, of course, something
that's hard to tell.

re: Please jump in here - A debate question about an XPages concernBy Craig Wiseman on 01/30/2008 at 09:37 AM EST
I understand that the way that xPages was working (not having data tied to a
form at all) is consistent with other development packages, but is VERY
different from the way that Notes development has typically worked.

And we already have so many little catches to keep track of. "This works great,
except when it doesn't here so you have to do it differently.", etc.

In general, my preference would be to have it mesh as nicely with 'traditional'
notes dev as possible.

I'd vote for A, but that would significantly delay things, so I'm opting for B.
I think folks will understand that it takes a while for radical new features to
be fully and consistenly implemented.
re: Please jump in here - A debate question about an XPages concernBy Craig Wiseman on 01/30/2008 at 09:39 AM EST
OK, having thought (slightly) more, I might be persuaded by Mr. Langhinrichs'
point.
re: Please jump in here - A debate question about an XPages concernBy John Mackey on 01/30/2008 at 09:49 AM EST
D! I want this functionality and as soon as possible.

I agree with you Andrew that it is not that different from using an agent or
another package to create a Notes document. XPages will provide a whole new
set of tools for creating Web based applications using the Notes datastore.
I've worked extensively with LCD and enjoyed the tools functionality and
toolset.
re: Please jump in here - A debate question about an XPages concernBy Peter von St■ckel on 01/30/2008 at 10:00 AM EST
I'm definately for D! I can't see the problem in this at all, and the
functionality is sorely needed, so I want it now!

The problems that you friend sees are simply the same things as we always solve
during development.
re: Please jump in here - A debate question about an XPages concernBy Andy Broyles on 01/30/2008 at 10:36 AM EST
I dont see it as being a problem at all. I use computed text on regular
pages/or nonsubmitable forms in this fashion all the time that submit the html
form I produce to an agent that handles the parsing of the data out to the
appropriate documents/other datastores.

From what I have heard of XPages is that it takes what I have been doing since
R5 or 6 and decreases the effort I have to expend to get the same result...I am
all for it!
re: Please jump in here - A debate question about an XPages concernBy Kerr on 01/30/2008 at 10:42 AM EST
D. But more so. I don't think it's a problem at all.

If I may paraphrase you, I'm reading "This is a problem because it doesn't work
like a form"

Doh! It's not a form. This is a brand spanking new paradigm (bonus marketing
speak points) in Domino development. Don't cruft it up with legacy ideas from
Notes.

Otherwise, what's the point? Just enhance the existing model. But I don't
think this is what Xpages are all about. At least I hope not.
re: Please jump in here - A debate question about an XPages concernBy Nathan T. Freeman on 01/30/2008 at 12:17 PM EST
We're a bit of a self-selecting group evaluating this matter here. We should
bear in mind that there's clearly a large population of Domino developers who
still think FORM == DOCUMENT.

But even so, so what? People have to learn somehow. My only gripe with XPages
is the name. It's stupid. It doesn't describe them at all. In fact, it
specifically eschews describing them by substituting the mystery term "X" in
front of "Page."

As far as Domino developers getting confused? So what? Developers get
confused all the time. It's called a "learning curve." And the only way to
prevent it is: don't introduce anything new. We've seen how successful THAT
strategy has been for the Domino platform, right? :-D
re: Please jump in here - A debate question about an XPages concernBy Kerr on 01/30/2008 at 12:21 PM EST
Isn't XPages an interim code name till they can come up with something better?
Having said that, lets hope they haven't got the muppets that came up with the
other names for Samtime and QuickPlace on the job ;)
re: Please jump in here - A debate question about an XPages concernBy Devin Olson on 01/30/2008 at 01:22 PM EST
D:

I just don't see it as that big of a deal. Going back to the analogy of
creating a document on the back end without setting a form (or setting a form
that doesn't exist), and no default form for the database; we deal with this
kind of thing all the time.

Yes, it would be nice to have a magic solution provided for us by Domino
itself; but I'd really prefer to have XPages in the product (with detailed
release notes on the potential pitfalls caused by mis-use or poor coding
practices) rather than wait for it to be fully cross-functional in the product
itself.

-Devin.
re: Please jump in here - A debate question about an XPages concernBy Maureen Leland on 01/30/2008 at 01:41 PM EST
A couple things...

First, when you create a document through an xpage, it does have a
corresponding form, and the form item is placed in the document, so you can see
those documents just fine in the client :-)

If someone later deletes that form, and the default form is also deleted, then
you'd be in exactly the same position as if you had created a document through
a "normal" form.

As for the name XPages... We debated names long enough we decided we just had
to pick something so we could get on with our work. We are hoping for
inspiration, but we haven't heard the right name yet. I really wish we could
call them Page, but that's taken.... I was even thinking of renaming the
existing pages to do that, but then sanity did strike and we rejected that
thought :-)

- m
XPages != FormsBy Ken Yee on 01/30/2008 at 04:45 PM EST
I thnk of XPages as really a custom Dialog form in Notes where the backend
agent for the form is being done for you by Maureen's Designer IDE.
That's how posted web pages in other systems act and that's how XPages act when
run from the web.

If a Notes developers starts thinking XPages = Notes form, they'll have mental
blocks w/ how it can be used...
re: Please jump in here - A debate question about an XPages concernBy John Vaughan on 01/30/2008 at 04:53 PM EST
D!!

it seems to me we need a dev paradigm exactly like this one that is built as a
highly useful abstract layer between the data and the user. we need to get away
from the model where the data is tied too closely with the ui. this is the sort
of thing lotus needs to be doing. they need to think MORE like this and not
keep going back to the old way of doing things. i've always hated those damn
form tags that always appear on every single document. they're just wrong.
think about steve castledine's blog engine, where you can create documents that
only have the html in them that you wanted to see and none of the ugly stuff
that domino kicks out. he had to do that with agents! so this is a great thing.
keep it up, i say, keep thinking outside the box. the nsf is waiting to be
properly exploited and xpages are a good start.
re: Please jump in here - A debate question about an XPages concernBy Richard Schwartz on 01/31/2008 at 12:13 AM EST
The only issue I have with this is the double work.

You have an XPage that saves one or more data notes containing a variety of
items. You've defined a nice data layout on your XPage. But if you do want to
look at your data in the Notes client...?


Other systems would auto-generate a form from the schema of the record that you
are creating. Domino is schema-less, so it's not going to do this for you.

So, you have to create a form and define a data layout. You've already done a
layout, but you have to do it again.

Even if you have no intention of actually having users work directly with the
documents in the Notes client, you probably still have to do this just for
debugging purposes. Unless you're satisfied with the fields tab of the
document properties box or NotesPeek.
re: Please jump in here - A debate question about an XPages concernBy Charles Robinson on 02/18/2008 at 04:11 PM EST
Richard, re-read Maureen's comment. She addresses your concern completely.
:-)
re: Please jump in here - A debate question about an XPages concernBy Charles Robinson on 02/18/2008 at 04:13 PM EST
I'm all for D. Since the use case of someone looking at an XPage-generated
document from the Notes client is already covered I don't see how anyone could
object.


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