[Seaside] Seaside vs. Traditional

Rob Rothwell r.j.rothwell at gmail.com
Sat Mar 29 15:05:28 UTC 2008

I would like explore a little further the post "Seaside vs. Traditional" at
http://www.lukas-renggli.ch/blog? because:

1. I was a sound bite! ("As a new Smalltalker, I couldn't understand
Seaside.") Kind of embarrassing, huh?!
2. This post did not fully help me understand the source of my inabilities!
Even more embarrassing!

The two basic statements I am [mostly] referencing are:

1.  I've experienced this many times while giving dozens of
Seaside. There are always some people that have a very hard time to get
their head around Seaside, mostly because they think in terms of TRADITIONAL
WEB FRAMEWORKS (my emphasis).

2.  On the other hand, Seaside is AMAZINGLY SIMPLE (my emphasis) for people
without MUCH (my emphasis) prior web development experience.

Well, unfortunately, I have NO prior web development experience.  And I mean
NONE.  Look at me, I have copied and pasted from another site and now have
indents (likely due to HTML that I don't understand) that I can't even get
rid of in the Gmail editor!

Anyway, I completely skipped that part of the 21st century, much to my
current dismay.  I have Assembly Language, FORTRAN, and Visual Basic
experience.  I am the classic [boring] example of "Why does the world seem
inside out in Smalltalk!"

Nonetheless, I became enchanted by "a better way," and have stuck with my
attempts to learn Smalltalk for nearly four years, most of which has been
spent "building images" with each new Squeak release and staring at an
"empty browser."

I have a degree in Physics, I have been "programming" since I was 11, and I
was a U.S. Army Airborne Ranger Medic.

Smalltalk has been the first thing in my life that was ever hard for me!

So...fun! But...frustrating, because I wanted to get real WORK done with it,
and kept going back to obviously "lesser ways" just to get something done.

Ok. Enough background. The point I am trying to make is that I tried. I
googled. I would meet a couple of guys once a month or so that CAN
Smalltalk. Seaside made sense...when they were doing it! Then, I went back
to the empty browser.

My impression is still that you need to have a certain level of
accomplishment in Smalltalk itself before the...elegance...of the framework
as at your disposal. This isn't a bad thing, although it does leave me
feeling a little incapable, but, hey--the number of objects at your command
when you open a Squeak image for the first time are simply overwhelming. And
"overwhelmed" would be how I would describe my experience with Seaside to
be, because it "looks so easy," so why can't I figure it out? Which,
coincidentally, is EXACTLY how I feel watching an experienced Smalltalker do

So, I agree with you. Seaside IS harder for those with a "traditional"
background. But I think traditional includes standard static language
programming to produce basic client applications for typical operating
systems. And from THAT point of view, I feel like I don't understand web
programming ENOUGH to even lay things out on the screen where I want them to
be, or get images into my application (yes, basic stuff like that).

And so then there is Aida as well, which WAS easier coming from a
"traditional" (my definition) background.

Now, I do not want to be thwarted so easily and will surely continue to try
to understand Seaside because I think that will help me continue to
understand Smalltalk.

But WHY was Aida easier for me? Is it because it is "less powerful?" "More
procedural?" Because I CAN lay things out on the screen quite easily "the
wrong way" with tables? Is it more "concrete?" These are all "negative"
phrases as if I should assume somehow that Seaside has the upper hand in
some way I do not understand.

I obviously don't have the answers! I didn't even know Aida existed until
Janko posted his benchmarks on the Cincom site and because I was struggling
with Seaside I gave it a shot. I DO think that after spending some time with
Aida, I will be able to understand Seaside better, which is MOST
interesting, because somewhere in that thought lies the gap between my own
process capability (my ability to simply use Smalltalk) and the capability
demanded by the system (Seaside, Aida, or any set of classes for that
matter), which is the classic gap inherent in any system implementation.

Anyway, if I can figure this out better, I may be able to help others
succeed where I have struggled, because I am obviously missing something.

In the meantime, keep up the good work! I am intrigued by the "meta"
abilities of your solutions with both Seaside and Magritte and their
apparent ability to act as an elegantly abstract layer for Content--which
could be useful in appropriately complex situations. Unfortunately, I don't
think I'm ready yet. Maybe someday...when I grow up, and can handle that
level of abstraction!

I hope this doesn't sound like the beginning of another "Us vs. Them" post.
I've had enough of that with LPGL vs. MIT! I just want to understand...what
I don't understand!

Anyone going to the Smalltalk Solutions conference? I am trying to position
myself to go...maybe in the shear presence of mastery I can pick up on some
of the stuff I am missing!

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