Wednesday, January 23, 2008

News from Lotusphere '08

Okay, I'm not there. I'm not bitter or anything -- really, I'm not; I'm doing a lot better, but there's just so much THERE there this year (again) that I'd probably look like the sci-fi robot thinking about the Cretan paradox right about now if I were there. I can read the news releases and blogs and whatnot, though, and wrap my tiny little mind around the summaries.

So what's really big? Notes on Ubuntu is going to be big from a marketing perspective, I'd think. The Designer for 8.5 looks to be a bigger deal for folks like me, what with the Eclipse-born syntax hinting and class browser and so on. Foundations? Been asking for something like that for a while (see the ND6 beta forum). Bluehouse? Sounds good to me. Real integration with SAP? A genuine off-platform migration stopper, and a great alternative to Outlook/Exchange for those thinking of having their business SAPped. But all of that stuff is merely good news. There is bigger and better.

No, the biggest news by far in everything I've read is something that's barely gotten a mention: the xPages design element. And it's not so much xPages as a whole, but the server-side JavaScript it allows. A language with first-class functions. On Domino. I hope I'm not dreaming.

Yeah, I know that we've gotten accustomed to seeing JavaScript in the browser. It kinda seems like a toy language to most developers, but that's because they're not doing a whole lot with it. Validate this field, update that one, throw some text over here and change the colour of that thingy over there. Even AJAX, all by itself, doesn't seem like much to get excited about -- unless you look under the hood of those plug-in libraries you're using.

Most of us have never programmed in JavaScript to any extent. We may be using JavaScript to get the job done, but we're mostly writing Basic, C or Java code using the JS vocabulary. JavaScript isn't a miniature Java, it's Haskell in disguise. Well, maybe that's going a bit overboard (can you say "side effects"?), but it's not too far from the truth, either. I can't wait to see what the implementation looks like. I wonder if they'll step it up to ECMAScript 4 at some point.

Now if we could just get a Rhino-style JS engine for agents....


Charles Robinson said...

I plan to do a whole post dedicated to all the goodness coming in XPages. It's unbelievable. I'm actually excited about doing Domino web development. Did you just feel that? Yeah, the Earth tilted off its axis for a second.

If you're excited by the tidbits you've gotten so far you better hold onto your knickers because it's a LOT better than you even thought.

STAG said...

So what does that mean for the guy picking out a pc at futureshop?

Stan Rogers said...

Directly, Bill? Not a lot -- unless he's in the habit of visiting the websites of the businesses he deals with (or wishes to deal with); or happens to be a small business principal who needs to have a high degree of interaction with his customers, employees and suppliers.

Lotus Notes and Domino has always been an excellent platform for knowledge bases, collaboration, communication and process control. But like a lot of platforms, you had to bend your expectations to the way the platform worked. That was particularly irksome when it came to building web applications (as opposed to apps that worked in the context of the dedicated Notes client).

Web users have expectations that are influenced by the other sites they visit. Unfortunately, the default scheme for Domino web applications has been stuck on the 1999-vintage web site layout for some time. There have been a few of us who have engaged in full-contact righteous hacking to bend Domino to our will, and the results have been (in many cases) spectacular -- but those results have usually depended on large, difficult-to-maintain code bases with limited portability. Server-side JavaScript, done properly, can change all that.

Given an actual product release (of Domino 8.5, Foundations and Bluehouse), a wee bit of time for some forward-thinking developers to create a few libraries, and a bit of shoe leather, even something as seemingly far from the IT world as a mediaeval/renaissance armoury might find the technology relevant. No doubt a customer, completely unaware of the underlying tech, would appreciate it. (Gotta pimp. Gotta shill. Gotta apologize for it -- but this is way freakin' kewl stuff.)