After reading through all the responses to my "aolserver focus" post, it seems to me Thorpe's comments below are the most realistic and actionable, i.e., it's the documentation / getting started stuff that's insufficient.

Otherwise, technically there are a few things that could be fixed to solve some pain points:

-- Close the gap between AOLserver's init framework and Tcl's package framework so tcllib, ActiveState Tcl, etc. can be used easily (needs those things to be verified, compiled, and available thread-safe)

-- Figure out some AOLserver-as-an-Apache extension thing -- perhaps a more convenient proxy (seems possible) or a direct Apache module (possible but perhaps too incompatible and goofy to be useful).

-- Close some API's gaps, e.g., Url2File (aka mod_rewrite) only available in C and goofy to use.

It seems if we got those things done we could then consider other cool ideas, e.g., new language support (js, php) which shares the adp output buffer so you could mix-match, better integration with memcached, etc.

Is it time to bucket these ideas and vote on what, if anything, to do?


On Aug 8, 2007, at 4:19 AM, Thorpe Mayes wrote:

I predict that AOLServer will be gone within 10 years. Maybe 5 years. People will say: "It was really good software. I do not know what happened."

It does not have to turn out that way.

This is the second time in a year or so that I have seen this discussion on this list. It always generates a lot of activity and emotion. I believe that this is an indication that AOLServer is in its death throes.

My friends, it does not have to turn out that way.

The problem with AOLServer is not technical. It is not related to the people who work hard and unselfishly to develop the software. It is not because it is lacking in features. Instead, the problem is that it is not accessible.

Consider this:

"Junior Programmer, the IT guy at a non-profit, has been given the task of setting up a web site that is easy to update, has a calendar and event function, has a restricted area for board members to access meeting reports, and allows users to register to receive a newsletter delivered by email. Junior has installed the latest version of Linux on his server. The installation software guided him through the process and he bought a book that served as a reference. (You will be shocked to learn that most people who manage servers are not programming geniuses.). He installed qMail by downloading the software and following the guidance in the qMail book he bought and by going to the qMail web site where there are detailed instructions covering the installation of the software. He installed D. J. Bernstein's daemntools software by following the detailed instructions on the web site.

Now, he wants to run a web server. He knows about Apache and has heard about AOLServer. So, he Googles "Installing Apache" and "Installing AOLServer." "

Guess which server software Junior decides to use. It is not AOLServer.

I think most people will agree that the popular and influential religions all have a written document that explains themselves to potential clients. The same is true for open source server software.

Several years ago there was talk about an AOLServer book. It never materialized.

If you want this software to have a chance of surviving, you need to write a document that explains the software to the unwashed masses.

It does not have to be exhaustive. Keep the 80:20 rule in mind: most people will use only 20 percent of the software's features. Figure out what those are and address them thoroughly. Leave the rest to the developers and those with special needs.

Here is a starting point:

1. Introduction
Tell people what AOLServer does and how great it is. When they finish this chapter, they should be convinced that this is the way to go.

2. History
AOLServer has a history. Tell people what it is. The history will establish its bone fides and help sell the software.

3. Installation
This needs to be very detailed (remember Junior Programmer). Show how to install the software on the major variants of Linux, MS Windows, and Mac OS. Leave out the obscure operating systems.

Cover every step. Do not assume that Junior knows anything. Tell Junior what folders to create and where to create them (Programming Geniuses will know that they can do whatever they want, but Junior is nervous and wants to have his hand held.)

Cover troubleshooting issues. You cannot cover everything, but there are some common errors that should be discussed.

Give instructions on how to test the software.

4. Review the essential features
Do not just list them and assume that Junior will figure it out. Go into detail and give examples.

Provide a complete list of configuration parameters and explain how to use them

Cover ns_ functions. Talk about how to use them.

Cover tcl and its integration with AOLServer. Again, give examples.

There are others. Cover them.

5. Show how to use AOLServer to build web pages - that is what a web server is for
This may be obvious, but including this is important.

Static web pages

Static and Dynamic web pages with tcl

Dynamic web pages with adp

The more examples, the better.

6. Cover the features everyone uses - this is the 20 percent of features
Cover how to connect to a database. Give examples.

Cover https. Give examples.

Cover virtual servers. Give examples.

There are more. Give lots of examples.

7. Advanced features
Talk about how to create c modules

Talk about how to contribute to the software

Talk about advanced features

That is it. I am sure that I missed some things, but you get the picture.

Some of you will note that a lot of this information is out there. That is probably true. The problem is that there is not a single source for this information. Plus, as new versions of the software have come out, the documentation has not caught up. The unwashed masses want things to be accessible. Make it so, and they are more likely to use it. As long as it is hard to use, no one will use it.

The format does not matter. It can be html, pdf, or paper.

Only someone who really knows AOLServer can create this document. It will be a chore, but is must be done. I could not begin to write this document. However, I will be happy to help edit it.

A document like this will not ensure AOLServer's success. But I can promise you that without a document like this, AOLServer is doomed.

Good luck.


AOLserver - http://www.aolserver.com/

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AOLserver - http://www.aolserver.com/

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