On web sanity

Stefan Tilkov, who has written an excellent REST introduction and an analysis of REST anti-patterns has some criticism for enterprise web apps that applies equally well to "GeoWeb" apps:

In other words: Many web frameworks, especially those within the Java space, try to support the development of desktop applications that are delivered over the Web as opposed to “web sites”, and I believe this idea is deeply flawed: Any Web application should be measured against the criteria that are used to judge web sites.

I think this goes for the "GeoWeb" too. We're delivering too much desktop GIS over the web. It's a point made also by Brian Noyle here, though I see Flex, Silverlight, .NET, and MVC as parts of the problem, not the solution.


Re: On web sanity

Author: Tim Bowden

Those links are great thanks Sean. I'm developing a desktop app replacement on the web atm, and that material has clarified some of the issues I've been mulling over. I probably won't get it all right this time around, but I'll certainly get closer than I was going to get.

I've previously looked briefly at the idea of RESTful apps, but not in any great detail or real understanding. Now I am, and it's certainly an interesting journey. The app I'm replacing is definitely very much in the traditional desktop space (with a legacy stretching back all the way from its DOS roots; think reverse engineering very old and poorly documented binary data formats). It doesn't *look* like a candidate to be a 'website' type app, as opposed to a 'desktop app on the web'. The requirements *seem* to point that way, that is until you dissect it bit by bit using a RESTful scalpel. I'm not sure how far I'm going to be able to push this model, either because of limitations in my skill and understanding or limitations in the RESTful model, but I'm keen to see where I can go with this.

It's a good thing this is a relatively simple app, as using a RESTful scalpel for the first time isn't so easy. Old mental models of what desktop apps should look like and how they should behave keep getting in the way. I've still not gone very far on this journey (I've not tried implementing any of this yet; next step!), but so far every issue seems to have been answered by sharpening my RESTful scalpel a little more. I think one of the hardest ideas to come to terms with is the idea of “hypermedia as the engine of application state”. All those 'client side' data structures start to melt into very ephemeral constructions. Implementing that is going to be an interesting experience for sure.

Sean, keep pushing the REST barrow. I'm very much a novice, but from my perspective so far, it *seems* to be a winner, despite the mental difficulty of overcoming deeply ingrained ideas from the desktop environment. Hopefully I'll not be too shell shocked when I come out the other side!