wftk: History and specs

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The sordid history of the wftk

December, 1999
The wftk has been my brainchild and obsession since December of 1999, when I first ran across a proposal for an open-source workflow system on the now-defunct SourceXchange. Since I had just lost a lucrative customer, I was looking for something to do with my time that might actually put some food on the table, and this fit the bill -- and in fact, it has paid off over the subsequent years, even though it's really only now getting more or less finished. Well, finished is of course something it will never be. But it's to the point where it's almost useful for actual intents and purposes.

Spring, 2000
By spring, I had laid out what a workflow core engine would have to do, designed the procdef language, and written a pretty decent first cut of the code, along with a wrapping system in Tcl under AOLserver to provide a user interface. It was bona fide workflow, although pretty clunky in practice, as it relied on a command-line processor which accepted workflow commands, and didn't talk directly to any databases.

July, 2000
Dabbled in a CGI interface for the editing of procdefs, and got very bogged down in that. An initial CGI procdef editor was released July 10, 2000.

October, 2000
First release of the prototype. Galactic Marketing, the original proposer of the system, had quietly given up on me by this time, so I lost some momentum at this point and entered a more quiescent phase for a while. The prototype ran only on Windows, it could talk to ODBC databases but nothing else except for data stored in XML files in local directories, and consisted only of a command-line interface (although a Windows AOLserver task manager system existed which could use it to a certain extent.) It was just barely a workflow system, but it was a workflow system.

February 2001
I woke from a winter slumber and ported the system to Unix -- of course, on Unix it couldn't talk to any database at all, but it ran on Solaris by February (at the time I had no Linux system for testing.)

Early 2001
The fine folks at Startext GmbH were crazy enough at this point to hire me to adapt wftk to their project as a general, well, open-source workflow toolkit. So I did. The crucial change was the separation of the wftk core engine into a module of its own, callable from the command-line interface or from other programs. Of course, this had been my initial goal, but I hadn't actually done it. Startext also underwrote the initial Oracle adaptor, and some other miscellaneous stuff. And they paid! On time! And then they disappeared for a while. But I'd gotten the bee back in my bonnet.

July, 2001
The first real actual release of wftk, with Oracle and ODBC adaptors and some other neat stuff.

August, 2001
Long frustrated by the inability of the wftk to handle datasources in anything like a rational manner, I started the repository manager from scratch, borrowing from earlier Perl work on a content management system with which I had had similar data-access management frustration. Workflow per se moved solidly to the back burner for a long time.

November, 2001
The repmgr module first became useful by November, talking to ODBC and MySQL databases with equal aplomb, and organizing all datasources into functionally equivalent "lists" -- and just barely scratching the surface of everything a data management system should do. As usual. But it worked, and as I was using it in a couple of production installations, it actually started to get debugged, along with the XMLAPI library it was based on. The repository manager also included a Python wrapper (for Windows, anyway) which worked pretty darned well. This started a real love affair with Python.

January, 2002
Reorganized the whole wftk concept based on the repository manager.

June, 2002
Released the wftk library as production, with the inclusion of state-based workflow.

Rest of 2002
Let's just not talk about 2002, shall we? I hated 2002. I made less money month after month, and obsessed about current affairs. Only when I decided that the United States was bound and determined to shoot itself in every available foot with or without my morbid attention did I return to something like productivity and sanity.

January, 2003
I put the repository manager into use in a CGI context for the first time, with actual usable results. This was the beginning of a new head of steam for wftk.

May, 2003
Started integrating the repository manager with the wftk core engine. The more I worked on this, the harder it got, and it was starting to bog down in detail again, until, miracle of miracles, ...

June, 2003
The fine folks at Startext GmbH came back for more! After some problems getting the original workflow-using project off the ground, they were now ready to finish it -- in the meantime, wftk had moved on, a lot, and so had the expectations of their customer. So they wanted a demo program to show people just what workflow was about, and I said, "Sure, gimme a couple of days!" They also needed some extensions to the wftk, like the application server adaptor and situation handling in the core engine.

July, 2003
A month later, it worked -- the repmgr and wftk core engines were integrated at last, and the whole thing had a handy-dandy little Python GUI interface based on wxPython (my GUI platform of choice for quite some time.)

The to-do list indicates how the story might continue.

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