Karen Lease wrote:
Peter,

...

... I will make a few comments on the "redesign" issue. I agree with Arved that we certainly have some large problems to face. As he points out, the mainstream redesign suffers from not being understood and therefore from a lack of active contributors.

... Insofar as I was quite involved in the initial idea and in some of the initial coding, I certainly helped chart this course, and there was quite a lot of discussion on the list concerning these ideas.
I was aware of that, and I apologise if I have given the impression that I was not.

Unfortunately I've been unable, because of work pressure, to contribute anything useful to the rewrite since early summer. However, I've tried to at least keep an eye on what was going on. What I see is that Keiron has been carrying on almost alone with the rewrite which we had started together, despite quite a lot of efforts to get more people (Joerg notably) involved in it. It's clear that one person on such a large job is not enough, even if the person has as much energy and talent as Keiron. And even if I were still involved, two people is still not enough.

I did make some efforts to describe the general idea early this year, and Keiron wrote quite a lot of things as well: the whole understanding series and some design notes. But if people are not able to get over the entry barrier, than perhaps the idea or the way it is implemented is just too complex. Or perhaps we haven't written the right kind of documents.
This may be the nub of the documentation problem.  I fall into
a similar trap very often.  From within your own understanding it
is almost impossible to get back to the pristine mind-set of anyone
approaching the problem cold.  I have never seen this problem dealt with
very successfully anywhere.

However, I think there is another factor contributing to the lack of general involvement in the rewrite streams, either the "main" or the "alt-design". This is that a large number of people, and I assume that includes many of the committers, are actually using FOP on a day-to-day basis to do real work. When one is in that state, it is much easier to justify working on fixing critical (or even just plain annoying) bugs in the "0.20.x" series than to find time to bring forward a "developer release" which is not yet capable of actually composing most documents.

I know we already had this discussion some months ago and it was more or less decided to try to put out 0.20.5 and to stop development on the maintenance branch. I don't know if this is really possible; I for one am now using FOP in production and need some work done which will not be done in 0.20.5 (assuming we push it out the door fairly soon.)

Until we get over this hurdle, neither "Main" nor "Alt-design" is going to be able to get far enough along to prove that it can do a better job at layout than current FOP. I still basically believe in the rewrite, and I don't know enough about Alt-design to judge its merits. I think we _do_ need to focus on the essential: implementing an FO processor. I personally don't think building the FO tree or even property handling is central to our problems today. Neither is perfect, but both are functional.
I agree that implementing an FO processor is the essential thing.
Alt.design started as a sidetrack for me to 1) implement pull-processing
(although I didn't call it that) for the FO tree bulding, 2) to see
whether properties could have a more compact resolution, and 3) to look
at a galley-based method of implementing the layout engine. Properties
just sucked me dry, as you would understand.

Although it is not yet complete, if the FO tree work were found to be
useful, it could be bolted onto the existing design without an
outrageous amount of work. In any case, I am now at the point of
seriously considering where to put my effort in the layout. If you can
convince me that it's going to work I will join you.

There is an implication in what you are saying that you do have the direction forward for the FO processor "internalised", so to speak, and that a complete FO processor is, as Christian says, just a matter of time. I, and I suspect Arved, wonder why that is not clear to everyone. You have a great track record in FOP over a long period, and if you insist that the redesign is moving towards completion, I would be inclined to believe you, but I do need to be shown how. Arved also has a great track record over many years in FOP, and Arved seems to be skeptical.

In any case, I would like to be able to make useful suggestions
concerning the redesign. I have many times in the past expressed the
genuine hope for the success of FOP by whatever path, and I had never,
until recently, even suggested that anyone commit to alt.design over the
HEAD redesign. I cannot, however, commit to a design that I either do not understand, or do not have any confidence in. Who can?

In order for the "software darwinism" described by Bertrand to function for FOP, both alternative streams would need to have a bigger developer community to move them along and to explain their merits. Do we have the human resources to afford that? And do we want to do that? If not, how do we decide how to make a better FO processor. These are the questions we had better discuss, the sooner the better.
Peter
--
Peter B. West  [EMAIL PROTECTED]  http://www.powerup.com.au/~pbwest/
"Lord, to whom shall we go?"



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