Forum OpenACS Q&A: Re: Some Feedback From an OpenACS Newbie

Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
Andrew, the point is that if you don't understand or appreciate why OpenACS uses PostgreSQL rather than MySQL, then you're not even vaguely competent to issue a technical critique of OpenACS. And whether that's wnat you intended to do or not, that's certainly how your post came across to me, and I think to many others as well.

To beat the dead horse some more (sorry, Talli): Andrew S. clearly is much brighter and more knowledgeable than, say, our friend Divya. However, his original "feedback" was in fact neither questions nor even suggestions, but a technical critique, and most unfortunately, an un-informed technical critique at that. When you offer a technical critique you are implicitly asserting that you know enough about the subject at hand (e.g., database backed web sites) to give the critique at least some validity. Most importantly, you have to know what you don't know.

Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case in Andrew S.'s original critique above, and thus was dismissed out of hand by many readers here. A critique (as opposed to questions or suggestions) by the uninformed is simply arrogance with nothing to stand on, and not useful to anybody really.

Now, I'm being a bit too harsh here, as some of Andrew's comments - for example, specific new user impressions of - could indeed be easily turned around into useful questions and suggestions.

Note that you need not completely expert in all ways for your critique or argument to have some validity. For example, Eric Raymond's The Art of Unix Programming has at least a few statements which I happen to know are just plain egregiously wrong, and worse, he leaves those statements completely unsubstantiated. (E.g., various silly comments on Tcl not working for any project with more than 2000 or so lines of Tcl code; utter nonsense, and easily disproved by example.) But there is enough other good info in that book for me to not dismiss it and its author out of hand, and for me to think it does have some value and is worth reading, despite a few obvious failures under my own technical spot checking.

But any writer has to earn those "bys" that the reader gives him when he says something the reader knows is incorrect, and especially when the author doesn't explain his reasoning, but just asserts his opinions unconditionally.

Now, from all known reports, compared to the "industry average", the OpenACS toolkit and community are both unusually smart in the degree they use and understand the RDBMS. So it would be nice if, as a community, we were especially good at spreading RDBMS education via articles, etc. (And I happen to think the same is probably true for other tools like AOLserver and Tcl, but the FUD and misunderstandindg out there about the RDBMS is so much more obvious, that the the RDBMS is by far the best, clearest, most unquestionably true example.)

This however, is hard, and a lot of work. Ben Adida's and Philip G.'s old articles and books may be all we've generally got, but at least they are pretty good! But the more high quality white papers, case studies, articles, etc. we can point to from a FAQ to help inform potential new adopters, the better. Something for us to think about anyway...