A step forward20 Jun 2011 » Giacomo Tesio
After two months of hard work, I welcome the 0.2 release of Epic.
I can breathe again. Mountains of work are waiting in the next two steps, but this release add some value to the project per se.
The Epic.Core project includes the entry point of Epic-based application: the enterprise’s organizations, that manages the livecycle of the users’ working sessions. Through the working session a user can achieve or leave his roles. Each role is a hat that provides access to a set of repositories, domain services, responsibility and tools, just like all real roles in any real enterprise’s organization.
All the code released is well documented and features a full coverage from unit tests.
Writing good documentation is hard. Hard and expensive.
However you can not predict the cost of building a reliable application upon an undocumented framework: developers can both misunderstand and misuse the API and sometimes they have to debug the internals just to understand why a strange exception has been thrown.
The API references generated from source code are extremely useful, but they’re only part of the story, and eventually all non-trivial frameworks require good documentation that provides an overall vision.
The Epic’s target audience are high-skilled developers facing complex corporate requirements that can not lose their time looking for help or insights: they just want to get the job done and move on.
Moreover Epic is more than a C# library: it is a conceptual framework that was born out of some years in domain-driven development, with many errors and a few successes.
This posed the problem of a good documentation strategy, beyond the obvious unit tests and the XML documentation comments included in the code itself.
After some analysis, I realized that I needed to reach a wide variety of developers, each using different tools to read the Epic’s manual. Of course I have to provide both HTML and PDF, but why not CHM or EPUB?
Such consideration lead me to docbook. I’m fluent with XML and XSL and I used Docbook before (in previous live, when I was a pure Debianist :-D) but I asked myself: what about the other contributors? Docbook is a typical unix tool but no other windows developer that I know would write more than two page in docbook. They would find it convoluted.
Then I’ve found Asciidoc, a funny python script that translates a simple textual markup into either HTML or Docbook. It was the deus ex machina that I needed: it is easy to write and to read (even easier than a wiki), it can easily produce HTML for windows users and Docbook for linuxers, so that I can use my Debian box to build the manual in all the format that I need.
Once I defined the toolchain, I wrote the first part of the manual, describing the patterns and practices that Epic advises.
All comments and feedback are very welcome.
Note that I’m not a native English speaker: feel free to show me the mistakes!