Thursday, March 23, 2006

Birds of a Feather; What a difference a year makes

One year ago, BIRT had just dropped the M1 build of the 1.0 product. At our first Birds of a Feather discussion on BIRT we had two attendees with four BIRT team members. This year, we still had four BIRT team members, but we now had 20 attendees.

Thanks to all of you that came out and shared how you are using BIRT, and what your hopes are for BIRT.

Paul Clenahan from the PMC lead the meeting with a review of the product direction and a short discussion about Bugzilla. What a difference a year makes, last year BIRT was using an internal bug tracking system and there was just a little bit of fear associated with the bad exposure that could be caused by showing all of our bugs (dirty laundry). This year, the message from the BIRT team has been very clear, if you want to get something done in BIRT you have to log it in Bugzilla.

For those of you who have not used Bugzilla, it is not just for bugs. Bugzilla is the way features, enhancements and changes to the product are tracked (yeah, we use it for bugs too). Every bug that is submitted is carefully reviewed and tracked to a resolution. We also encourage our community to discuss their requirements. The more clearly you can state what it is you would like and how you will use it, the better the chances that we can get it into the product. Use Cases, pseudo code, sequence diagrams... All of these tools help the project team to shape the product.

One other useful technique is that if you submit an enhancement and would like to see some discussion, post to the newsgroup with a link back to the bugzilla entry. You can also include either Jason or I on the cc. list and we will post about it here in BirtWorld. (jweathersby@actuate.com, scottr@innoventsolutions.com). If you do get involved in a bugzilla feature discussion, please vote and let us know how where you stand.

After discussing Bugzilla, we opened up the floor looking for examples of how people were using BIRT as well as what they thought they might use BIRT for in the future. We also asked what were the three things that people really like about BIRT and what were three things that BIRT could do better (and then we asked the participants to log their requests into Bugzilla).

Some of the themes from what people like in BIRT:
- Integration with Eclipse
- Separation of data connection from data bind (Sql etc.) logic
- Output formats
- Feature set
- Ease of use
- Tabular layout paradyne
- Pagination
- The friendly and profesional BIRT team (okay no one said that, but I know you were thinking it)

Some of the things that we could do better:
- More examples (we have a bunch of great examples from the presentations that we are going to publish).
- Better packaging in the run time engines (charts and engine) to make it easier to deploy and use, the biggest complaint was the use of the plug in architecture, which is great in Eclipse, but not so good in other apps.
- A need to improve the Script editor (we are working on this for 2.1)
- The ability to debug JavaScript code (we are looking for a contributor)
- A suggestion was to provide more focus on the use of BIRT in non Eclipse / non-web environments e.g. Swing apps.

There was a great discussion to add new charting constructs for diagram constructs. A lot of the BIRT consumers want to create reports about systems that are best visually represented by diagram objects (think sequence diagrams, flow charts, etc.) If you have an interest in this, please go out and file a Bugzilla entry and provide some use cases and examples.

We also had a great discussion about the use of JavaScript within BIRT. Everyone seemed to agree that JavaScript was the preferred language for most report developers, especially if there was the option of going to Java for more robust scripting requirements. As stated above, everyone would like to see better code assist and JavaScript debugging.

The final discussion centered around the use of EMF as a data source to BIRT reports. Bernie Bussiere has created a use case for this topic in Bugzilla at 132958. If you are intereseted in using your EMF model information to create and feed BIRT report designs go out and join the discussion.

Thanks to everyone who came out and made this such a good conference for the BIRT team.

scott

3 comments:

Wenfeng Li said...

I am interested in exploring the issue about using the plugin architecture outside of Eclipse.

The benefit we have from using OSGi/Eclipse plugin architecture is to allow developer to code one plugin that will work on both desktop and in app servers. Various ODA drivers, Chart report items, and report output format emitters have used this architecture to achive the goal of one code both work on both environemtns. Without this architecture, BIRT will need to invent a new extension discovery mechanism outside of Eclipse, and the component developers will need to implement and test two code path.

Given these benefits, we are likely to continue to use the plugin framework, but we are definitly open to make it easier to use outside of Eclipse.

Some usage scenrio that shows the problem and difficulties would be a great help for finding a solution.

I create a bugzilla entry for this thread of discussion...

Here is link to the bugzilla entry

https://bugs.eclipse.org/bugs/show_bug.cgi?id=133225

Anonymous said...

Hi,

Is it possible to use nested loops in Tables for XML Data Sources? Does this feature exist in current BIRT releases or is it an enhancement in future releases?
Please let me know. If it is possible, how to use this?

Thanks in Advance.
Kevin

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