An Interview With Helmuth Ritzer

Today I have partial control of my senses, and that's why I agreed to meet Helmuth Ritzer at the home of the world's largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, on the outskirts of Geneva.

"I started to use RapidWeaver around 2010 when I finally moved to my MacBook Pro," Helmuth told me as we made our way across the gantry towards the access shaft. "Before that I was a big supporter of NetObject Fusion, which was an Apple spin-off started initially on the Mac. But when NetObject finally dropped Mac support with NetObjects Fusion 4, I had to look for another web development platform that was Mac native."

"And you found RapidWeaver..." Helmuth mistook my puzzlement for a sign of intelligence.

"Exactly. It looked kind of weird to begin with. As it was template-based I felt limited in what I could do compared to how NetObjects Fusion worked. But what looked like a limitation in the beginning is actually one of RapidWeaver's greatest assets."

It's likely that when future scientists look back upon this revolutionary period of RapidWeaver's evolution they will devote much attention to Realmac's founding fathers Ben and Dan Counsell, and the brilliance embodied in YourHead's Isaiah Carew. And rightly so. But if bright lights cast deeper shadows then it is within these shadows that many of RapidWeaver's great visionaries and unsung heroes go modestly about their business, developing comparative order from the chaos that governs our unformulated hopes and desires.

As the great man Jobs once said, we don't know what we want but we sure as hell want someone to develop it for us.

Step forward Helmuth Ritzer.

Shadow Of A Stack

08

He said, "RapidWeaver in combination with Stacks' open API is currently the most advanced HTML generator at the moment. I think both Realmac Software — as well as Isaiah Carew, the genius behind Stacks — had a clear objective while creating RapidWeaver and Stacks. They wanted to make the usage of the tools as simple and consistent as possible for web developers. That's why you can hardly do anything wrong. But this is also a limitation. StackApps is most likely the most advanced stuff you can do right now with RapidWeaver and Stacks. While it's probably too advanced for the average RapidWeaver user, for the advanced user it's a very powerful tool that makes PHP development in RapidWeaver a whole lot easier."

It's no great surprise then to discover that by day Helmuth is in charge of product development for a company called car2go, whose objective is to move urban mobility to the next level and create the most advanced and convenient mobility service for urban dwellers to go from A to B.

By night, however, Helmuth dons his alter ego, designdisorder, and works on his brainchild, StackApps, which after six years in development has finally emerged from the shadows to become the first fully-fledged application development framework available for Stacks.

As we descended further into the bowels of the Hadron Collider, I could feel the energy pulse within me as though I was a tuning fork reverberating to the constant throb and whine of the complex machinery that rose above us like a mechanical face of the Eiger. I wondered how the innocuous nocturnal exploits of a fledgling geek could lead so many years later to the birth of StackApps?

"As a child of the VIC20, C64 and Amiga," Helmuth told me in confidence, "those days consisted of endless nights playing games and developing in assembler and C. My parents didn't have a clue why somebody would stay up all night in front of a screen. But one thing led to another and I ended up studying computer science at the renowned University of Kaiserslautern, in South West Germany. I actually still own one of the many Amigas I had, the A3000T."

What was he trying to say? That the seeds of great endeavours are subject to the same chaotic forces that are slowly unravelling the indeterministic thread of my own questionable existence? I found that hard to believe. Let alone understand. So I asked him if the rumours were true, that he was a hardcore gamer, had a huge library of Playstation and Vita games.

He nodded wistfully. "Sadly, I have less and less time to actually play all the signature franchises like God of War, Ratchet & Clank, Jak & Dexter, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus from start to finish now. Instead I have other longterm objectives."

"You mean with StackApps?"

"Initially my main objective with StackApps was to provide me with the tools to exceed RapidWeaver's limitations. With StackApps 1.2.0 almost ready for release, I've achieved that and StackApps now provides a very complete set of features. Now I'm interested in what people want to do with StackApps that is currently not possible, extend it in areas where it still has limitations. Other than that I want to improve the documentation and examples provided with StackApps."

"Where do you go from here?"

"Being currently interested in new development platforms like meteor.com, I would love to see both worlds coming together, making it easy for front-end developers using RapidWeaver to leverage the power of a platform like Meteor. Personally I think that Meteor is going to become one of the most important web development platforms over the next month and years."

"In a nutshell, StackApps gives you the tools to add a level of functionality to your website which can't be done by HTML and Javascript, which are the technologies that Stacks typically supports. In other words, anything that requires server-side scripting and a database. If you check out the examples at stackapps.info you can see some of the use cases that are possible using StackApps: blogs, content management, protected website areas, newsletter functionality, bug & feature trackers or any kind of database views.

“Of course even StackApps has its limitations, but there's a lot the average web developer can do without even touching the code. Nevertheless, you have to understand the concepts of database-driven apps in order to actually use StackApps, which is the only price you have to pay in order to use StackApps."

Which is not much of a price at all, considering Helmuth's offering his StackApps absolutely free to all.

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