This document is an introduction to Obviel from the perspective of how it was developed. For those impatient with history, you can just go to http://www.obviel.org and read the documentation there, however.
We decided to use jQuery for those projects. jQuery is very popular, with a vibrant community with a lot of components choose from. It would mean we would have to do more integration than we would need if we chose a more integrated framework such as YUI, which I also have experience with, but I was a bit tired of big frameworks. And jQuery's terse and powerful way to express things is attractive. And you just have to make a choice to see what happens at some point, right?
This made me think about the stuff I did at Gocept again. I felt there was quite a bit of potential in those patterns, potential I hadn't explored fully yet. So I added it to one of our projects and started to rewrite the UI to use it, to try to clean things up.
At this stage more people started to be involved. Ideas tend to get better with good input, and with usage by a larger group of people. I will forget some of the people involved in this project, for which I apologize, but I'm going to drop some names now.
The original idea was born at Gocept. I was doing the work for Christian Zagrodnick there, and I had some good conversations with him about it then. He also used the early code in a few of his own projects later on. Just as I had checked in the view stuff into the new project I was doing I found myself in Germany at Gocept again, and had further productive conversations with him about it. Thanks Zagy!
Going to Germany, where Gocept is based, from where I live, the Netherlands, means a train ride, and in the train I had the opportunity to bounce ideas off Jan-Wijbrand Kolman (and him ideas off me), something I always enjoy tremendously. The biggest thing that came out of that was Fanstatic, but that's the topic for another discussion. It also helped me think through what later became Obviel. Thanks JW!
Working with Guido in this way was a new experience: I had designed a framework but Guido was implementing it. Guido focused on making the code solid. I, Guido and Izhar together came up with various new approaches.
I had Guido go ahead and start building the form library for us.
Meanwhile Sylvain Viollon at Infrae had started using Obviel as well. He had decided to do its own rewrite, to my chagrin at the time, as now we had two parallel versions. But it turned out for the good: he had introduced some new ideas into his version that were very useful: when a view was rendered, it would be bound to the object it had just rendered, and the element it was rendered on. These bound views would allow a better structuring of view code than passing this information along as parameters all the time.
We kept learning however, and after a while, when Guido had already moved on from the project, several things in Obviel forms in particular started to be frustrating.
So I decided to rewrite Obviel forms cleaning it up. Among new things introduced were composite sub-forms and a generic repeat widget to allow the user to enter repeating sub-forms as well, and a way to maintain the inline error messages as a datalinked object as well. Govert Buijs, who had started to work on the projects with us, also helped work out advanced form validation scenarios.
On a roll, I decided to rewrite the Obviel core as well, introducing Sylvain's ideas about bound views. Along the way I also started using the new jQuery deferreds in its implementation (Sylvain then turned out to have done so in his version as well, in parallel).
Now it is time to attract more people to Obviel. It's been battle tested in a number of big projects.
To attract people to a project you not only need good code. We do have good code I think: it's unit tested and coverage tested. But you also need great documentation. Along the way I and Guido had written bits of documentation about Obviel. It took me months of stops and start to get this documentation in the state it is now, so that newcomers to Obviel aren't lost.
So, if you are curious about Obviel and want to find out more, go to http://www.obviel.org
And give us feedback, please!