This is actually old news for many people, but recently I learned (by pure chance) that the OMG issued a RFP for a “Concrete Syntax for a UML Action Language”. Letters of intent are due on December 8th. Submissions, one year after. OMG members only need apply (Aww…). I wonder if anyone in the Eclipse Modeling project is involved in submitting a proposal. Anyone?
Soapbox: since version 1.5, UML has had support for algorithmic behavior specification, commonly called action semantics. It is still hardly used, and most people that consider they know a lot of UML have never noticed it. Some people believe that the lack of an official concrete syntax for action semantics is a barrier to adoption. You see, the OMG defined the semantics and an abstract syntax, but left concrete syntax as an exercise for tool vendors.
As I wrote here before, I don’t really see the value in the OMG godfathering one concrete syntax over all others. Of course, we are talking here about a syntax for human beings, not for tools. Tools certainly don’t need a human-readable concrete syntax, a standard binary or XML format will do. The problem is: we all have our own preferences for what makes a good syntax, and there is no single syntax that will make everybody happy, so we are bound to have multiple concrete syntaxes anyway. We all like interoperability between tools, but when it comes to sugar, we like choice.
But maybe I am wrong. Maybe an OMG-blessed C-like concrete syntax for UML is all that is missing for Executable UML to become mainstream in the software development community. Go figure, we are an amusing bunch. Personally, I don’t care that much. I have been a Java developer for around 12 years now, so I can certainly stand another C-like syntax. We are not talking about a language anyway, it is just a syntax for an existing language, and syntax, a bit like UI, is inherently disposable, if you take it away, the real stuff is still there.
One clear positive outcome of the RFP is that submitters must provide, along with the proposal for a concrete syntax, any changes to fUML* that would be required to support such action language. That will probably help closing some gaps in the UML specification that make it hard to execute if you are stuck with the standard.
There are many other interesting bits in the proposal, but I will leave a more detailed analysis to a future post.
* the Executable UML Foundation Submission says:“Foundational UML Subset (fUML) is that subset of UML required to write ‘programs’ in UML”