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From Jonathan Revusky <>
Subject Re: A 1.5 release date?
Date Mon, 08 May 2006 11:05:21 GMT
Daniel Dekany wrote:
> Sunday, May 7, 2006, 2:53:33 PM, Jonathan Revusky wrote:
> [snip]
>>of FreeMarker of several years ago. That is how far behind the state of
>>the art this project is technically. In that vein, the 1.5 release date,
>>while important, is still too little, too late. Even a stable 1.5 
>>release will not be remotely competitive with production/stable versions
>>of FreeMarker of three or even four years ago.
> The question is, how do you measure if how competitive a project is.

I was only referring to the technical considerations. Velocity is not 
currently competitive with FreeMarker technically. I mean they've got a 
blue skies wish list for a hypothetical 2.0 version of Velocity that 
does not contain anything that has not already been in FreeMarker for 
several years.

> If you measure it by how successful (nearly means, popular, widely
> respected, famous) a project is, then it has little to do with the
> technical qualities of the project. OK, a certain level of technical
> quality must be reached, but after that... what matters is marketing,
> i.e. the manipulation of what the mass thinks. Now, unlike Velocity,
> FreeMarker is weak on the marketing field, and probably it always will
> be. 

Well, it isn't actually that Velocity has any "marketing". It simply 
benefits from an "Apache effect". A very large number of people out 
there place an amazingly high value on the "Apache brand".

I don't know exactly why this is so and I've wondered a lot about this. 
People perceive the Apache brand as meaning something, and it inspires 
some degree of confidence. OTOH, as far as I can see, there is no basis 
whatsoever for having any particularly greater degree of confidence in 
something from ASF than anything else throws at the wall to see if it 
sticks. Just from observing what one sees here, for example, why would 
anybody think that something being under the Apache umbrella is a 
guarantee of anything at all? When asked about when much-needed 
bug-fixes will be generally available in a release, the people 
responsible for the project simply point out (correctly) that they are 
unpaid volunteers and so on. Fair enough, but this is just the same 
situation that you'd have with any fairly dormant project on 
sourceforge. Why should anybody attribute any value to the "Apache brand"?

My thinking on this leads me to the idea that this has to do with a kind 
of herding instinct. It's the idea that there is safety in numbers. And 
that, actually, is rationally based to some extent (though not 
absolutely, of course.) The thing is that the animals in the herd need 
some point of reference to herd around, even a completely arbitrary 
point of reference, and it seems that has evolved as such a 
focal point.

> Thus, to be competitive, let me mind you, that you (or... we)
> should invest a *lot* into fixing all the design mistakes of
> FreeMarker, and improve it's quality in general. 

We should do that, but not specifically in order to compete with 
Velocity. There is, currently, no technical competition with Velocity 
going on.

> Thus debating too
> much on this list may not be a good way of using your time. You are
> the main developer there after all.

Well, you, Daniel, originally became aware of FreeMarker because of 
discussion on this list that I was involved in.

> [snip]
>>Well, the thing is that these projects under a Jakarta/ASF umbrella get
>>a lot more attention and usage than they would otherwise, and surely, 
>>this is precisely because people think that these projects are more 
>>likely to be actively maintained and developed than other open source 
>>projects. I think it's important that people should open their eyes and
>>realize that this is not particularly the case.
> [snip]
> Sure. For the sake of fullness, however, it should be mentioned that
> FreeMarker also had and has problems with development inactivity.

That is definitely true. OTOH, our record, though far from perfect, is 
far far better than the Velocity project. Bugs just sit around for years 
here, even ones that look like they should be trivial to fix. For 
example, one improvement (bug-fix really) in the latest version of 
Velocity is that you can now write directives on multiple lines, i.e.

#set (
    $x = $y

Clearly, VTL is a language that skips whitespace in directives and the 
above should have worked. That bug was there for years, people were 
aware of it, and Will, I think, finally fixed it a few months ago.

But this was just a glitch in the lexical specification in the grammar. 
I mean, if something like this slipped in and was brought to our 
attention, we would probably fix it on a same-day basis, and put out a 
release maybe the next day with the fix. Again, if there is a bug of 
this order in FreeMarker, it's less effort for me to just fix it than to 
engage in any mailing list discussion....

>  It's
> not better then Velocity if we ask how much is the maintenance
> guaranteed. 

Well, this is the thing. In neither case is there any mechanism that 
guarantees the continuity, i.e. the future development and maintenance 
of the project.

Of course, once you realize that you can only judge by track record, our 
record has been much better on this.

> Still, it has developed faster than Velocity... Why is
> that? I think, that at the end of the day, it because of the mentality
> of the main contributors. They really love to improve the stuff
> (instead of seeking *excuses* if why a new feature goes against the
> philosophy of the project, so they have to do nothing, or admit any
> past mistakes). Just for the pure sake of joy. Some people there, are
> genuinely interested in the template engine topic (yeah, there are
> such perverts... :)), even if it they can seldom find time to lift
> some heavy weight. It's that good-old hacker mentality (I don't mean
> cracker here; nowadays hacker is often used as a synonym of that, who
> knows why...), that was maybe there when the whole OS/FSF stuff have
> started. 

Well, I have been aware for some times that the ASF brand-name 
projection has the perverse effect that people may want to get involved 
with ASF projects for questionable reasons. I don't know exactly, but I 
can't help but suspect that people think that getting involved with ASF 
will further their careers somehow or other, provide something appealing 
to put on their resumes....

I can only speculate about this, but the motive of many people is not 
principally to hack code. That much seems clear.

> Maybe I'm wrong, but I have the feeling that this mentality
> is less and less significant at ASF (or maybe it never was
> significant). 

My sense of things is that in the early days, things were more loose and 
informal and some things really could happen. Now, it's just so bogged 
down in process and politics and so on that it looks impossible. I think 
that projects get into ASF and just get bogged down in all this stuff. 
Just look at what is happening with Webwork now that it is "merging" 
with Struts. Amazing...

> I feel it rather shows similarity to some kind of
> business concern. (Jonathan had a good blog entry about this:
> If I'm right with my feelings, then I think that for most of the young
> ASF fan people this thing is bad. 

Well, I am convinced that the net effect of all of this on the "open 
source ecology", as it were, it pretty negative.

> They are in most cases not the part
> of the group who has benefits from this. <sarcasm>Unless, of course,
> they win a plasma TV by trying Geronimo.</sarcasm>


Well, I think that Geronimo is a flop basically, regardless of how many 
plasma TV's they gave away.


Jonathan Revusky
lead developer, FreeMarker project,
FreeMarker group blog,

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