Neil's Place

September 28, 2003

11:44 PM Weblog Milestone 1.0

Hmmm. I finally managed to mess up my weblog temporarily. I posted a link with a missing closing quote and this caused the edit page to not display so I couldn't fix it. This was also the time when I found that the backup system wasn't working. So I had to edit the files manually. All on the 200th entry.

Anyway, congratulations to me for managing to fit 200 posts into one year. That's just over one every two days.

Comments ( 27 )


11:28 PM RDF Introduction

OK. Since you asked, I created a more detailed guide to RDF. It has two parts. The first page describes the model including triples, types and so on, in enough detail to understand RDF, without barely a mention of syntax. The second page describes the RDF-XML syntax, using examples and terms from the previous section.

The goal is so that people can understand the purpose of RDF without getting distracted with XML syntax. So, if you are reading it, make sure to read the first page first, or you'll be confused.

I include it as part of the Mozilla SDK Guide, although it isn't particularly specific to Mozilla.

Comments ( 8 )

September 25, 2003

3:53 PM RDF is like pointers

A lot of people get confused about RDF. Many don't understand why one can't just use some other XML form to accomplish the same thing. For instance, one advantage of RDF is that one can freely mix terms from one RDF vocabulary with another. You can't really do this with XML. Of course, XML people will think you can.

One reason for this is that the XML people are thinking only in terms of syntax. RDF, however, is actually just a model, but happens to have a serialization syntax (there are several actually). If you think solely in terms of syntax, RDF-XML might not offer any advantages since it is just XML too. When thinking in terms of the RDF model being a set of triples, or as a graph, then there becomes a difference.

Unfortunately, thinking this way requires an intuitive leap that many may be unable to take. This is similar in some sense to how people look at pointers in C. Some people are just unable to grasp pointers, no matter how hard they try. Likewise with RDF. With the usage of HTML, XML and so forth, people have grown accustomed to thinking in terms of syntax. It's unlikely, for instance, that someone writing some HTML is thinking about the DOM tree the code produces, rather they are thinking about tags and text. When people start to use RDF, learning syntax is the first thing they learn.

People that are new to RDF, ask questions about problems they have, but are often thinking only about syntax. Often, they ask, 'how do I produce this RDF?' and give an example of RDF-XML. In can be difficult to answer since it's unclear what they have already and what they are trying to do. If the person doesn't understand the RDF model, it can be difficult to explain in terms they can understand.

Comments ( 11 )

September 23, 2003

5:51 PM OK. This is the last one.

There are so many different groups of people using or writing for different aspects of Mozilla, it's impossible to cater to everyone's needs. My recent posts have been based on comments made by others, not necessarily my thoughts. In fact, I didn't have strong opinion on the developer issues I raised until recently.

However, I did want to ensure that comments by dbaron, Boris, Pete Collins and mozdev.org project owners were addressed. There is a rift between groups, whether it be between Seamonkey and Firebird, user and developer, or something else. There are various developers (application, extensions, theme, or otherwise) that "think Mozilla.org is [not] doing a good job *clearly* articulating at a higher level the direction the project is heading."

Axel Hecht tried unsuccessfully to get mozdev developers to come up with a set of goals and requirements so that we'd know what issues needed to be addressed. I think that is a great idea. What happened though? The discussion quickly went off-topic and a new Mozilla branch/fork/project was created.

Sure, end-users are important. You can debate about gaining market share for months. Maybe Firebird will achieve world domination. Maybe it won't. There wouldn't be many developers without any end-users. (Of course, there wouldn't be any end-users without developers either.)

The point is, whatever the developer rift is, there is one, and we need to find a way to address it. Petending it doesn't exist isn't helping.

Comments ( 30 )


2:27 PM So many thoughts, so few bullets

There are so many thoughts going on in my head over the last few days. It's hard to come up with a clear response to things. So I won't.

I will, however, do what Danny does by Turning a Blogger Off.

Comments ( 33 )

September 22, 2003

2:44 PM Using Sockets in Mozilla

Now available: a simple guide to using sockets in Mozilla, with an example.

I also added some links to the book Creating Applications with Mozilla in the SDK guide.

Comments ( 5 )

September 21, 2003

4:11 PM More on Mozilla Direction

Asa's weblog provides some commentary on my recent post about Mozilla developers. As would be expected, the comments there go off topic a bit.

I just wanted to clarify something. Asa quotes the following that I wrote:

Developers are getting frustrated by the direction Mozilla is taking and are unsure about developing for a moving target.

He then responds by saying that there are many more extensions for Firebird than the Mozilla Suite. That may be true, but I think that's primarily due to a much heavier marketing effort, the momentum of which creates more extensions and therefore even more interest. The quote mentioned doesn't mention extensions nor does it mention Firebird. Actually, I was refering to the refocus of Mozilla as an end-user product instead of a platform, not on the switch to Firebird. The mozdev.org developers such as myself who have projects that aren't extensions, are frustrated over the ever-changing APIs and the apparent lack of documentation and communication of changes.

Whether the Mozilla Suite is used or the Birds are used really doesn't matter. If people overall prefer Firebird, that's fine. Let's use it instead. We're just concerned that the new end-user focus is going to be at the compromise of the developer.

Comments ( 15 )

September 19, 2003

3:03 PM Mozilla Developer Documentation

Over the years there has been numerous attempts to improve the documentation for Mozilla. Unfortunately, all of these attempts have failed because everyone spends too much time arguing about organization, style sheets, and naming conventions, and no one gets around to writing any documentation. Mozilla developers need some organized and detailed information about how to build applications, with examples.

So I've set up a big Mozilla SDK Table of Contents. Currently, it provides only links to existing documentation such as the XUL tutorial and the book Creating XPCOM Components.

I'll add as much to it as I can. If you have additional documentation to add, please, just write it. Select a section from the table of contents and write it. There won't be any meta-discussion since you only have two choices:

  • Host it on your own site which means you can do what like.
  • Host it on xulplanet.com which means you can write documentation the way I tell you to.

That may sound a bit harsh, but it's the only way to get things done. Eventually, I'll get around to providing a template you can just use, and adding a user notes section like just php.net has. Or, I will do the formatting for you.

Also, any comments about additional sections to add would be most welcome.

Comments ( 38 )