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Talisman RAD Tool

Talisman, a web based rapid application development tool, was my first large scale project. I created it as a way to rapidly generate custom web applications for the data curators within the sequence database group where I was working at the time. It used an XML based domain specific language which deliberately omitted any visual design elements, focusing entirely on data models and behaviour, along with a runtime environment which built clean, functional web interfaces from the XML definitions.

At the time, 2002, creation of web applications tended to be a fairly heavyweight process, involving the usual software development cycle of deployment, capture of user feedback, development, testing and re-deployment. This cycle was slow, and caused substantial disruption during the deployment phase as all existing users had to be locked out of the system while the code was updated. By de-coupling the runtime and the application definitions, and by making those definitions sufficiently concise, I was able to create a system where not only did the server not have to be restarted to update applications (users with the old version would carry on seeing the old version of the application until their next log-in) but I could make changes to the applications fast enough that it was possible to do so with the users in an interactive fashion, leading to much reduced turnaround times for application updates and, consequently, much happier users.

The system provided access to data held in the group's Oracle databases, controlled vocabularies, rich interfaces using Applet based components where required, state management (sessions could be saved and re-loaded from another machine) and a limited form of provenance tracking.

Talisman has now been retired, but it was in active and heavy use for many years, and has under-pinned much of the curation work within the group. It was released under an open source license and hosted on Sourceforge.net, it can be found (unsupported, and for historical purposes!) at talisman.sf.net.