Hi fopsians,

Arved sed,

> I think that OS practise is proving out that largish projects (and FOP is a 
> largish project) need a core team of at least 2 or 3 FT developers to 
> provide momentum, continuity, and a rallying point. FOP doesn't have that, 
> although long-time developers and committers try their best. So we are 
> hurting because of it. I could be wrong but I don't think I am. So any 
> suggestions from outside the FOP circle are welcome. FOP and the technology 
> it represents, and the number of other Apache projects that it could augment 
> or cooperate with, is a big deal, IMO. It is worth some higher-level 
> attention and thought, I think.

To my mind the primary issue with FOP's development is actually an issue
with XML:FO in general, and that is that it's usefulness and the range
of problems it solves have not really been well enumerated. Unless you
know what problems are solved by a solution then it's hard to get
excited about it. I agree that FOP is a Big Deal but not that it's
Obviously a Big Deal.

I mean, maybe people are evangelising XML:FO but I don't think it's been
effective, because I had to work it all out on my own. I don't mean to
say that it's hard to work out, just that I think that part of the
appeal of things like XML or Linux is their obviousness: a standard,
human-readable encoding for all structured data and a free modern
operating system, versus ... this thing, right,  where you take these
bits, see, and then you take these other  things, and then you replace
this CSS thing, right, and well, you have a web browser, right, and ...

My point is that whenever I read about XSL:FO I see how it's going to
make reading stuff in our browsers much nicer, and how it replaces CSS.
Well, noone's going to get too excited about that, because Microsoft and
to a lesser extent AOL/Netscape/Mozilla are driving the market there and
XSL:FO may or may not make an impact - it's really not in our hands.

But XSL has implications that far exceed web pages and CSS replacement.
I don't see this spoken of much. XSL is potentially an excellent way to
produce paper reports, to do graphing (with SVG), to do excellent page
layout for non-web applications, and to generally enhance or standardise
the end-products (human readable outputs) of just about any software. It
means we can get rid of all these proprietary reporting systems and
replace them with standard, free ones -- at least in theory.

I'm just ranting about this because I think that there needs to be a
compelling reason why someone like IBM might take on the task of helping
with something like FOP. As a HTML replacement, it's a big yawn. As a
way of producing all those thousands of tonnes of paper reports that get
printed out every day by big-iron machines, maybe it's a bit more
exciting, maybe people could see where it could help the bottom line?

I know that projects like Linux and Apache didn't really get much
support until they were well into the 1.0+ stages of their lives. So it
seems to me that battling forward to 1.0 and a big splashy press release
would be the start of getting some 'real' sponsorship of the project. I
know that 1.0 is a goal and I don't mean to imply that I think it's
taking too long (I don't). I'm just saying that 1.0 seems to me to be a
very important step for more reasons than just completing the spec.

Also, some 'live' examples of real-world stuff on the FOP page would be
good, some enumeration of the benefits of XML:FO and FOP, some ways that
FO can be applied to solve real problems. Certainly I can help with
examples of that, since I got involved in this project specifically
because of the advantages of FOP over other mechanisms for producing
output.

I'm just saying it how I see it, of course; maybe I'm oversimplifying
and talking out my botty. But the FOP page doesn't really get me all
worked up about how it's going to change the world, even though I'm
pretty sure it's impact will be huge. So I guess I'm saying it's a
marketing problem...?

Cheers
Mark


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