Monthly Archive for November, 2006

Firefox Crop Circle in Oregon Hits Google Maps

Way cool! Here is the Firefox crop circle created in rural Oregon after OSCON. Unfortunately, I wasn’t involved in the crop circle, but I’m still waiting for our Cylon Raider from Foo to hit the maps.

Guy Kawasaki’s VC Aptitude Test

Even if you are not drawn to the allure of the venture capital industry, Guy Kawasaki’s aptitude test is worth reading for the amusement value. A few gems from the test:

  • Been kicked in the groin by a major, long-lasting economic downturn, so that you know how powerless you are. (add 1 point)

  • Worked at a failed startup, so that you understand three things: first, how hard it is to achieve success; second, that the world doesn’t owe you a thing; and third, what it’s like to be fired or laid off. (add 3 points)

  • What is your background? Management consulting (subtract 5 points)

The Open Source Gift Guide

Make Magazine, the place where you can find instructions to make all sorts of strange things (the modern day MacGyver site), has released the “Open source gift guide – Open source hardware, software and more for the holidays” with many geeky gift suggestions for the open source hacker enthusiast. Tim O’Reilly adds his twist to the gift guide by suggesting donations to a variety of open source organizations.

My personal favorite from the list is the Chumby. I saw some early models at Foo, and they were way cool.

Mark Shuttleworth Invites OpenSUSE Developers to Join Ubuntu

The recent agreement between Microsoft and Novell has drawn quite a bit of criticism from the open source community especially with respect to the patent portions of the agreement. Mark Shuttleworth uses this as an opportunity to invite OpenSUSE developers into the Ubuntu community:

“Novell’s decision to go to great lengths to circumvent the patent framework clearly articulated in the GPL has sent shockwaves through the community. If you are an OpenSUSE developer who is concerned about the long term consequences of this pact, you may be interested in some of the events happening next week as part of the Ubuntu Open Week:

https://wiki.ubuntu.com/UbuntuOpenWeek

We are hosting a series of introductory sessions for people who want to join the Ubuntu community – in any capacity, including developers and package maintainers. If you want to find out how Ubuntu works, how to contribute or participate, or how to get specific items addressed, there will be something for you.

If you have an interest in being part of a vibrant community that cares about keeping free software widely available and protecting the rights of people to get it free of charge, free to modify, free of murky encumbrances and “undisclosed balance sheet liabilities”, then please do join us.” (Mark Shuttleworth, here be dragons)

Mark’s pragmatic response is certainly a more productive reaction to the issue than what I have seen elsewhere. I also suspect that Mark is on to something: Novell will probably lose quite a few good community members as a result of this action.

Web 2.0 Reality and Hype

I have a huge amount of respect for Bill Thompson, but his recent article in the Register Developer takes an overly harsh view of web 2.0. Admittedly, the term is now associated with an amount of hype not seen since the last tech bubble of the dot com era; however, web 2.0 ideas and technologies also have strengths: an architecture of participation facilitating user generated content, an increase in citizen journalism, improved user interfaces, and more. Bill Thompson seems to be willing to forgo these benefits and dismiss the technologies that make them possible as pure buzz and hype with no substance.

“Now we must decide whether to put our faith in Ajaxified snakeoil or to look beyond the interface to distributed systems, scalable solutions and a network architecture that will support the needs and aspirations of the next five billion users.

Over it all stretches the ‘Web 2.0′ banner, a magical incantation that will bring attention, funding and respect to any programmer able to weave a little Ajax into their interface. It seems that it only takes a browser that can interpret JavaScript and a server that will let a page call for packaged data through XMLHttpRequest and we can have all the benefits of distributed systems without the need to write too much code or rethink the way that the different components of a service communicate with each other.

If Web 2.0 is the answer then we are clearly asking the wrong question, and we must not be fooled by the cool sites and apparently open APIs. Most of the effort is – literally – window dressing, designed to attract venture capitalists to poorly-considered startups and get hold of enough first-round funding to build either a respectable user base or enough barely runnable alpha code to provide Google or Yahoo! with yet another tasty snack. We need to take a wider view of what is going on.

Web 2.0 marks the dictatorship of the presentation layer, a triumph of appearance over architecture that any good computer scientist should immediately dismiss as unsustainable.” (Bill Thompson, Reg Developer)

A good architecture is always important, but we can also have a great user interface and user experience along with it. Shelley Powers does a great job of putting this in perspective:

“I’m not sure who is touting Ajax as a replacement for distributed systems. If that were so, I wouldn’t be writing a book on the Ajaxian technologies. Ajax is nothing more than a way to create a user interface that’s simpler, quicker, and easier to work with then more traditional web pages. It’s handy, its helpful, but it’s also limited and most who work with it understand this is so. Unless Mr. Thompson believes that user interfaces aren’t needed in his distributed utopian environment, I don’t see the technologies going away. Nor do I see them interfering with distributed development.

Even his dismissal of JavaScript and XML makes little sense. According to Thompson, we cannot rely on Javascript and XML since they do not offer the stability, scalability or effective resource discovery that we need. Need for what? XML is a standardized markup, a syntax, a way of organizing data so that multiple application can access the data without having to come to some kind of agreement as to format. It’s use in syndication, for instance, has led to an explosion of communication; a version of which forms the basis of this page–in what way does this not scale, lead to resource discovery, or demonstrate instable behavior?

As for JavaScript, it’s almost as old as Java, and is considered the most commonly used programming language in use today. It is not a replacement for Java, nor is Java a replacement for it. If I wouldn’t think of using JavaScript to build a distributed system, neither would I consider using Java and EJB to validate my form data, or provide for live commenting. Apples and oranges.” (Shelley Powers on Mad Techie Woman)

No single technology (or even a group of technologies, like AJAX) will ever be the “perfect” solution to every problem. We need to keep this in perspective and focus on using the right technology for each job. Dismissing whole categories of technologies as hype without acknowledging that they have legitimate uses is not a productive discussion. It is black and white argument in a very gray world.

Portland BarCamp Meetup Scheduled for Nov. 30

Our third informal Portland BarCamp Meetup has been scheduled! Any local techies are welcome to attend.

When: Thursday, November 30
Time: 6:00pm – 9:00 pm
Where: Jive Software Office (317 SW Alder St Ste 500)
Sponsored by: Jive Software

Jive Software

Jive Software is located on Alder near 3rd. Parking is available in a nearby parking garage, and it is short walk from the Max (directions to Jive Software).

If you plan to attend, please RSVP on the Portland BarCamp Meetup wiki (RSVP required):

The meetup will be very informal and similar in format to previous meetings. We’ll do a few introductions, talk for a few minutes about organizing the BarCamp, and then see where the discussion goes.

If you would like to receive notifications about any last minute changes, future meetups, and other PortlandBarCamp communications, please join our Google Group to receive email announcements.

Google Groups
Subscribe to BarCampPortland

Email:

Browse Archives at groups.google.com

We have also created a BarCamp Portland Google Calendar for upcoming events. The next event will be held in January.

We are also trying to gain support for a real BarCamp event in Portland. We will start the planning process when we get enough people signed up on the Wiki, so please add yourself to the wiki if you want to attend a Portland BarCamp event!

Web 2.0, Data Gathering, and Flickr

Flickr has found an interesting way to leverage the data from their community of users. When pictures are uploaded to Flickr, meta-data about the camera used to take the pictures is uploaded along with the the photographs. Flickr is now providing this information for anyone to view, while using it to drive traffic to Yahoo shopping (as most of you know, Yahoo owns Flickr).

I like their innovative approach to reusing the data; however, Yahoo is not as good at Google about distinguishing between content and advertising.

For example, the main part of the camera page prominently displayed at the top shows a “Featured Model” camera, which is actually an advertisement. In tiny light gray letters under the feature, you’ll find this small disclaimer: “Featured Model is a sponsored placement.” The idea is really cool, but credibility with users would be increased if Flickr / Yahoo flipped the approach to feature the content (which cameras are really being used) while still providing clearly delineated advertising from sponsors.

OpenID, Identity Management, and Single Sign-on

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about my recent change of heart about OpenID and identity management in general. As we begin to rely more heavily and put more of ourselves into web 2.0 and other online environments, identity management becomes increasingly important.

We have an upcoming hackfest here in Portland on January 17th called MashPit: OpenID for anyone wanting to learn more about OpenID in a hands-on environment working with the experts to make OpenID work for your sites and apps. If you’ve ever wanted single sign-on and OpenID, but did not know where to start or had questions about implementation, this event would be a great place to start!

The Details:
MashPit: OpenID
Wednesday, January 17, 2007 from 4:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Where: JanRain World Headquarters
RSVP here to attend this free event.
Visit the wiki for more information.

Moving on to a New Gig (Compiere)

Friday was my last day at Intel. Changing jobs always brings mixed feelings: excitement about starting a new job combined with the difficult feelings associated with leaving so many great co-workers and friends. Intel has been a great company, and I have learned so much over the past six+ years; however, a few weeks ago, I made the difficult decision to leave Intel to return to my open source roots.

I have just joined Compiere as their new Director of Community and Partner Programs where I will be working in a small, start-up environment for the first time in my career. Compiere is an open source ERP/CRM software company, and I will be responsible for managing the relationship between Compiere and their open source community while also managing some partner relationships and programs. I am excited to be working in open source again, and Compiere has some really interesting technology that could make a real difference within the enterprise environment.

This is a great opportunity for me, and I am thrilled to be joining the Compiere team.

Troubling Trend in the Virtual World

Those of you who regularly read this blog know that I am a huge fan-girl for web 2.0, online communities, and social interactions. I am also known to occasionally hang out in Second Life, and I think that virtual worlds hold tremendous potential from a community standpoint and from a corporate marketing standpoint.

However, I am a bit troubled by the recent trend of making corporate announcements and holding Q&As in virtual worlds like Second Life with no alternate means of participation. Sun hosted a Q&A in Second Life to talk about the open source Java announcement yesterday. This morning, Dell held an invite only press event to announce a new Second Life island where people can buy real world Dell PCs or virtual PCs for their avatars to use. Holding press events in Second Life sounds like a great idea until you consider the realities of Second Life:

  • Not everyone has a Second Life account

  • Many people do not know how to navigate within the virtual world to effectively participate in the event.

  • Most laptops (and some desktops) do not have the horsepower required to run Second Life.

Frustrating the press is probably not the best way to promote a new product. At least one journalist (according to TechCrunch) passed on the opportunity to attend the Dell announcement, since it was not worth the hassle. Allison Randall at O’Reilly had issues running Second Life on her laptop where “only half the avatars at the event and on stage were rendered (leaving me the interesting task of trying out “empty” seats to figure out which were actually empty and which were occupied by invisible avatars)”

I do think that these two examples are significant, and I am impressed by Sun’s and Dell’s ability to embrace new opportunities; however, the execution of these events was not ideal. Dell probably should have done a traditional press event with minimal information to generate some awareness and excitement followed by a Second Life event providing more detail to the residents. The reality is that the intersection between the press and Second Life users are probably fairly small, so the press might not be the best virtual audience. In general, companies should consider providing real world information using real world events while providing information relevant to Second Life residents within the virtual world.