Matt - You should follow the lead and do a video of setting up a simple app using AppFuse.
This might sounds like a good idea, but if I did it right now in AppFuse's current state, it'd be a disaster. The reason? Because you have to manually create a whole bunch of classes to do CRUD on a database table. Here's a list of new classes needed for adding a new "person" table.
The last two JSPs can be generated, but that's still a buttload of classes (9) just to CRUD (and test!) a database table. Not too mention all the files you need to edit for Spring and i18n.
Result: to CRUD a database table using AppFuse you have to create 11 new files and modify 5 existing files. 16 files. What a beotch, huh? If I made a video of this - it'd be 20 minutes long! While this might make AppFuse look silly, it's really more of a symptom of the patterns we have in J2EE and how we're supposed to architect our apps. 3 tiers, test-driven, loosely-coupled and internationalized. Of course, if I was focused on fast and efficient, I could do this all with 1 JSP and JSTL's SQL tags. Everyone would slap my hand for not following patterns, but I'm willing to bet it'd work just as well and be just as fast. But I digress.
There have been a fair amount of requests (and some patches submitted) to generate and modify all of the files listed above. For the most part, I've frowned upon adding such a feature because I think if folks can run "ant generate -Dmodel=Person" - they'll end up with a whole bunch of code that they know nothing about. Sure there's the tutorials, but folks will quit reading those. Instead, they'll create a whole slew of POJOs (maybe even using Middlegen) and run "ant generate" on all 50 of them. Poof - now they've got 550 new files to maintain. Talk about a maintenance nightmare. Even worse - a support nightmare for me.
Nevertheless, if I wanted to create a cool video for AppFuse, I'd spend a few days writing this code-generation engine. Then I could show how you could create the data, service and web layer (including UI) in a matter of seconds. It'd be cool and folks would dig it. I'm still considering it, but I'm also leary of the resulting support fiasco. Maybe I could just say "use at your own risk".
A while back, I saw Erik Hatcher suggest a better solution than code-generation. I can't remember what he called it, but it was something like "meta-data dynamic rendering". The idea is that your application reads the metadata of a table (or POJO) and renders the appropriate UI for it. I loved the idea as soon as I heard it. I've always wanted a way to dynamically render the UI rather than writing HTML. Of course, I still want the ability to edit the templates and HTML since I fancy that sort of stuff. I don't like writing HTML for each row in a form, but I do like tweaking the HTML and CSS to look good.
Earlier this week, I saw the concept in action with Rails and its demo. IMO, something like Rails would never fly in Java because it appears to be tightly coupled to the database and only MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQLite are supported. The Java community always seems to pride itself on database abstraction, partly due to JDBC and its ability to connect to anything that has a JDBC Driver. Ruby will probably catch up someday, but right now it appears to be looking for something like JDBC.
Then along comes Trails, which made me smile earlier today when I first read about it on the tapestry-dev mailing list.
Trails is very much like Rails, except that it doesn't talk directly to a database table. Instead, it talks to your domain objects that you mark up with XDoclet/Hibernate tags. To test it out, I dropped a User.java file into the org.trails.demo package, marked it up with XDoclet and deployed. It didn't work at first because the .hbm.xml files are explicitly listed in Spring's applicationContext.xml. I changed the "sessionFactory" bean to use the following and wammo - success! I could list and CRUD the table that my User object was mapped to.
<property name="mappingDirectoryLocations"> <list> <value>classpath:</value> </list> </property>
Trails is very cool, and I'd love to incorporate it into AppFuse or Equinox. Does an LGPL license allow me to do this? The one problem I can see with adding it is that it's specific to Tapestry and Hibernate, which doesn't always suite folks. I think developers might be willing to change because this solution will vastly improve their development productivity, but who knows. I think the best solution would be to offer this option in AppFuse/Equinox, but also offer the current manual and code-generation options. The holy grail would be the ability to plug in iBATIS or JDO instead of Hibernate. In addition, using Struts, Spring, WebWork or JSF instead of Tapestry would have folks clammering to use this stuff.
Mad props to David Heinemeier Hansson and Chris Nelson - you guys are developing awesome software.