May 30, 2004
It's the feed, stupid
Now that even venture capitalists are "getting" the importance of feeds (whatever format you happen to worship), we can start the countdown to the FeedExplosion (TM). In a few months we will start seeing feed components (either generating or digesting) appear in products everywhere. On the other side this will also cause a shift away from blogging software in general to systems that easily produce and consume feed-formats. Publishing to - say - RSS will be at the top of the features list, and not somewhere in the middle.
May 29, 2004
Getting there: Marathon update
Around 17 weeks left to go until my first marathon in Berlin and I seem to be back on track again with my training. The weeks between Easter (the half-marathon) and this week were pretty bad. I think after the half-marathon my body decided enough was enough ("vacation time pal, we're outta here!"). In the past 3 weeks or so I've been suffering from pains in my shins which allowed me to run for like 17 minutes - not exactly marathon distance. Anyway, a week or so ago I decided to take the whole thing a lot slower and listen to the signals. So, regular stretching for the shin symptoms and reduced running, together with starting a running-diary (I really think that's a help). Another motivation are "peer pressure" emails from Timo, an ultra-runner and someone who I can cry to if necessary :-). Today, I managed 8 Kms again in my usual time, which was more than I had hoped for. And most importantly - no pain. So, there's still time to donate to my run - and you'll find the link over on the left. Onward.
May 28, 2004
Cocoon on Internetnews
Taking place on the 6th of June 2004, NotCon is a techie conference with a difference. Not to be missed if you can make it to London. Me? I'll me making sandcastles on Omaha beach. Oh no, wait, it's my daughter's Birthday - I knew there was something else..
OnJava on Apache Forrest
OnJava has an introductory article on using Apache Forrest to document projects. Forrest is an application built on top of Cocoon which relieves you of some of the harder stuff if your goal is to produce documentation.
May 27, 2004
Is this a weblog?
Now, as weblogs become more and more popular, it also becomes more difficult to spot the cases where typical marketing material is being repackaged as a weblog. Tonight, I was looking for some Jamie Oliver (the tv cook) related stuff, and came across his weblog.
But is it?
At first glance it does look as though this is Jamie's personal weblog, but a second closer look reveals for example: no Jamie email-address (only his editor listed as: email@example.com). No way of registering a trackback or leaving a comment. In addition, each post has a prominent notice of copyright (Copyright ©2003-2004 Jamie Oliver). So, in effect, the site actually is only pretending to be Jamie's weblog. If not - then there are a few things he needs to change.
Wikis for Business People
I've decided to put together a little "Wikis for Business People" article. This article is aimed to get you manager types up to speed on this subject. I wrote it as a fictional conversation between myself and ...
Ok, so what's this wiki thing? I keep reading about it and my employees keep pointing out that we need to set up a wiki - but what the hell is it anyway? And what's with the funny name?
A wiki is a quick (hence the name) way of setting up websites that everyone can write on. More.
Everyone - now wait a moment...what about our IT security infrastructure team and securicy policy, page 245?
Don't worry. There is no problem with setting up a wiki so that the access is only possible from people who have the right to do so. You can secure a wiki just like any other web application. That being said, you will want to think carefully about doing that because it will raise the entry barrier and maybe scare off people interested in contributing. Just make sure you make it easy enough to access. Oh yes, some wikis also provide backup/restore functionality.More.
Does it run on my employees PCs? I mean I'm not going to get them all new PCs or more RAM or anything.
You won't need to. All your employees need is a browser (they have a browser don't they)? The editing is really simple and works inside the browser. Once the content has been edited you just click a button and it's published out to HTML. Some wikis can also publish to an RSS feed.
Oh, so you don't know what RSS is? I'll leave that to another article.
Yeah, yeah - but why would I want something like that? I mean our company already has a way expensive CMS and communication infrastructure. I want my people to use that!
But are they? Seriously, a wiki is a very low barrier way of getting your employees or teams of employees to actually communicate with each other and work collaboratively on stuff. And all you need is a browser to read and write a wiki.
But what about our Notes/Exchange corporate infrastructure? We can't just set up a wiki .. like anywhere. We need to run that through our next corporate infrastructure team meeting, which is in 4 months.
Yes, but your company may not be around then.
Ok, so I'll run this wiki thing by our infrastructure management team and then we'll get a corporate policy on wiki writing made up and then we'll appoint a wiki administrator who can make sure the people only write things they should be writing there. I mean we don't want them swapping porn links via the wiki do we?
Well, really you should just set the wiki up, publish the link and see what happens. You see that's why wikis are so popular. Just like weblogs, wikis are giving people their voice back. More.
What about our customers? What will if I say if they find out that we're using this wiki stuff? I mean won't they think we've turned into a bunch of hackers or something?
Actually you should get your customers to use your wiki as well. Maybe set up project wikis, where your customers can join in the project by contributing their thoughts and input from an early stage.
Ok, so you've convinced me - for the time being anyway. Which wiki should I install? I'm sure the needed infrastructure is going to break the bank anyway.
There are lots of different wiki implementations and the needed resources are really very low. My guess is that you will have no problem running a wiki on the systems you already have. You can take your pick. More.
Because we can, we must
Bono in an unusual role - but still with much to say.
May 26, 2004
Focus offers RSS feed
May 25, 2004
The death of communication?
Over the past few weeks, I have seen email and weblog-comment spam rise to levels that are beginning to make the underlying communication forms unusable. Soon, I will just have to turn off the comments here.
It is time to realize that we can't beat spam - either in it's email, wiki-defacing or weblog-comment form. The sooner we realize this and start thinking about how we can use other forms of communication more effectively the better. At the moment we are just wasting a terrible amount of resources by constantly maintaining email whitelists or lists of IP numbers we want to block. I could spend hours weeding out the spam comments from this weblog (even though I'm using MT-Blacklist).
This is a war we just can't win.
Chris Sells on "Burton"
A collection of information on the upcoming release of Microsoft's Visual Studio 2005 Team System.
Quite a bit of Apache news flying around - Carsten has news on the Geronimo, Pluto and Forrest projects. Meanwhile, Beehive, the Open Source release of Bea's Weblogic Workshop is buzzing it's way into the Apache community.
Jax keynotes available
May 24, 2004
Hang in there, Joanna!
My sister lives near Detroit and is now in the middle of this.
Cocoon 2.1.5 released
Rather quietly, Carsten released the next version of Cocoon earlier this afternoon. Due to the fact that there seems to be a problem with Apache email at the moment - we are spreading the word via the weblogs.
TechEd community impressions
May 22, 2004
Victoria (7) to Christopher (9): "You were young once too, you know"
Apache held board and member elections this week. Congratulations to all elected.
May 21, 2004
Formula 1 fun
Gates on weblogs as business tools
Bill Gates spoke to top business people about using weblogs and RSS for business communications. Now of course, everyone is waiting for the BillG weblog to pop up somewhere.
Later: You can find the transcript of the speech here. Some comments on this "coming out" add an interesting spin. Actually I think it's really a no-brainer as to whether Microsoft is going to jump into the weblog/rss arena. They would be stupid not to.
May 20, 2004
What - no price tag?
Frank had an interesting comment to make on the last post - and I would like to "raise" his comment to a blog posting - as it would be interesting to get some comments on his comment (if you see what I mean). Here it is:
An interesting comment by a friend this week: there are lots of studies by the big consulting companies out there that leave the OSS solutions out because they can't put a price tag on them, and that would make their comparison more difficult. He mentioned an expensive study on Application Servers not mentioning JBoss - and a portal study not mentioning Cocoon.
Is this something that's common out there? I mean Open Source solutions being disregarded is studies because the "consultants" (duh) can't put a price tag on them and therefore leave them out?
May 19, 2004
Open Source business thermodynamics?
The more companies (like Intel) invest into Open Source companies (like JBoss), the less you will be able to tell the difference between JBoss and a proprietary software company (like say Bea). A bit like the universe expanding until it reaches a uniform temperature. This means that there will exist a point in the future where enough investment money will have been sucked up by the Open Source companies to make them indistinguishable. And everyone will wonder where they've suddenly gone....poof...
Is it me?
I can't work out how to install Pwyky under Apache on my Windows XP laptop. I installed a fresh Apache version, fresh Python version, twiddled the settings in httpd.conf so I could call the index.cgi script (that works). I commented in the rewrite module and made sure index.cgi is listed under DirectoryIndex. But I can't figure out how to configure the setup so I can then just access the /wiki directory as you're supposed to. I guess the problem lies in the fact that the directory is configured as a script directory (so the Python engine is called) but also needs to be accessed as /wiki. I guess I'm just to stupid for this type of stuff now and it is probably an RTFM. The error is basically: Permission denied. Anyone have an easy-to-follow description for me? Tonight I'm going to try the same installation on my Powerbook. And I bet it works in minutes.
Update: I got it to work. Basically, just make sure you have Options: ExecCGI and AllowOverride: All turned on in httpd.conf for the directory you install Pwyky into. Yes I know that's common sense. Thanks.
May 18, 2004
ApacheCon Europe - please!
I've written about the lack of major European Open Source conferences before (yes I know there are the LOTS and FOSS conferences), but to attract more major European companies into the Open Source arena - we need a major OS conference. I've had my ear to the ground and at least heard soft footsteps that would seem to indicate a movement in the wings - but nothing more yet. Waiting.
"Professional Open Source" - exposed
Web 2.0 conference
O'Reilly is putting on an invitation-only conference in San Francisco in October. I applied for an invitation but only got onto the waiting list - hint hint.
Update: Now I know how much the conference costs, maybe not.
May 17, 2004
Let's go plogging
This article discusses the use of weblogs in a corporate environment for maintaining project logs (or "plogs"). While setting up blogs inside an enterprise is not that difficult, one of the highest barriers to take will be convincing management why you are using the new medium and not the established corporate communication network (whatever that might be).
Corporations resist change - especially grass-roots change (i.e. change that comes from the employees themselves). In fact some corporations are just plain scared about employees writing blogs. This was a subject brought up at my presentation at Jax. When asked about the reasons corporate blogging is so uncommon (still) here in Germany, I put forward the view that corporations are reluctant to let their employees have a voice. After all it may then be that the customers listen to that voice and no longer to the "corporate message".
Still, establishing blogs in the inside may be a way to get your corporation into the blogging - or plogging - world.
Where's my Super Suit
I enjoyed the teaser before and the trailer promises more. Now this is a film not to be missed.
RoboWife returned to work today after the knee injury last November. So the name will now go too. Meanwhile, Christopher (9) was hit by a car this afternoon while crossing the road on his bike. Luckily only bruises and scratches. Interesting times.
May 15, 2004
Even though I have no problem with the fact that SixApart now want to actually earn some money off MovableType, I've read a lot of good things about WordPress (here for example) and decided to give it a spin. Not here, but on another site I'm in the process of setting up.
Being at Jax, where most of the sessions are really very technical Java geeky stuff, made me think that perhaps the time has come for me to "get back into" technical stuff. (Already this post is scaring my colleagues shitless :-)). Not to the sense that I really want to start full-time programming again (and I hear sighs of relief there), but more along the lines of "keeping up with things". So, to warm things up I installed Eclipse 3.0 M8 on my powerbook. Now about that EJB 3 spec.....
May 13, 2004
Jax - last day
Today is the last day of Jax and I spent it in several interesting sessions. First off was a 2-part Maven presentation, given by my colleagues Martin and Carsten. An extremely interesting overview of the Apache build management system. This talk had a very large audience and the many questions show that there is a lot interest in this subject (and a need for some decent consulting). Next up was a keynote by Novell on portals. It was a general introduction to Java based portal systems and in particular on standards such as JSR 168. Of course the Cocoon portal supports this already, so not much new there. I am now in a session on Agile development. Although I'm sure there is a lot of useful stuff in the presentation, it is somewhat spoilt by a lot of discussion between the attendants on the best agile methodology.
In a while we'll be packing up and heading home. In my view the Jax was (again) a great success and even though the number of attendees was up from last year, the whole organization went pretty well with no major upsets.
May 12, 2004
Social software session
I held my session on social software here at Jax today. The session details all the social software subjects such as weblogs, wikis, foaf and their possible uses in the enterprise. The room was filled with about 40 people. The session went well and the discussions centered around the difference in the use of social software in Germany compared to the US. Based on a show of hands, only 2 other people in the audience actually write a weblog and no-one had a laptop on their knees. In fact I'm now sitting in another session with around 100 people and I'm the only one with an open laptop.
Update: Looks like I inspired someone at least.
Erich Gamma on Eclipse M9
"We didn't slip the date for M9 - we rescheduled it".
Erich spoke last night at Jax about the Open source (based) process behind the development of Eclipse.
May 11, 2004
Due to be announced later tonight - here is the new English language Jaxmagazine.com site. Brought to you by the same people who do the German equivalent (and more) and put on the Jax series of conferences.
This session is a "partner session", which means that it is billed as a more product related presentation (read: glossy brochures). The speaker (Sven Doelle) from Macromedia begins as feared by demonstrating different sites built with Flex. Yawn. 500 million PCs can view Macromedia Flash content. Macromedia Flex is a presentation server based on J2EE (or .Net) that uses MXML to define the GUI. Macromedia provides various components and skins to ease development with Flex. After the glossy slides, a different presenter (Sven Claar) digs into the more technical details. The Flex presentation server runs on a J2EE server and consists of the Flex application framework and Flex runtime services. The Flex application frameworks uses MXML, ActionScript 2.0 and the Flex class library. The Flex runtime services consists of things like a Web service proxy and player detection.
Macromedia also presented a tool based on Dreamweaver that allows WYSIWYG authoring of Flex applications ("Brady"). According to the presenters, a license for Macromedia Flex comes in at around 14.000 Euros for a dual CPU system.
After the talk I asked about support for mobiles and building multi-channel Flex applications in general. Support for mobile devices is currently being worked on and a Flex application has the possibility of finding out which player is being used to adjust itself for different environments.
Next on my session list is Christian Gross talking about the Apache Jakarta Commons project. Christian kicks off by explaining exactly where to find the project on the Apache website. The Jakarta commons project is actually made up of a mix of different other projects. Many of which are used in other projects such as Tomcat or Ant. The goal of the project is to provide reusable components. Reusable is defined ad people who use the components in their projects. It's the community, stupid. Christian explains how to get a component, you may have built yourself, accepted by the commons project. If you want to use the components in your own projects, you can either download a binary or source version. Christian then shows the different projects to be found in the commons project and comments on when you may want to use what.
How SAP went J2EE
Day 2 at Jax kicks off with a keynote from Ivo Totev from SAP. Ivo is technology evangelist and he spoke about SAPs move towards Java J2EE in SAP products. SAP started looking into Java in 1996/1997, acquired a J2EE company (Inqmy) complete with J2EE server in 2000 and now uses Java extensively in their product "NetWeaver". The current version of NetWeaver is based on Web AS 6.4 and supports both Java and ABAP (the SAP specific programming language).
Ivo went into detail on the Java development infrastructure in use at SAP. They have implemented an infrastructure that makes it easier for their business developers to implement the more business specific software without the need for them to worry about Java details. The system provides stuff like business consistency checks. The development environment integrates both Java and ABAP and allows the programmer to seamlessly navigate between both languages. Ivo showed that SAP now has many products using Jave (mySAP CRM, mySAP SRM, Enterprise Portal..). SAP doesn't have a particular preference when deciding which language to use. 3000 SAP developers use Java and 500 SAP developers work on the SAP Java base platform, used by the other SAP products.
SAP also supports Open Source with solutions like MaxDB (formerly known as SAP DB) or the NetWeaver Developer Studio, which is based on Eclipse. SAP has developed over 290 plugins for Eclipse. SAP supports all major operating systems including Linux.
Unfortunately, after an interesting begin, Ivo drifted off into "SAP land" and detailed non-Java specific subjects such as the complexity of business processes ("the evolution of enterprise services").
May 10, 2004
Jax - Day 1
Today is "Powerworkshop" day and Carsten and I are doing our Cocoon show. About 10 people in our workshop which is about par for the course. 250 people here for the workshops today but it will get a lot fuller tomorrow when the sessions start.
There are a lot more laptops visible here this year. And the conference also has free WLAN access now, so communication is a lot easier (and cheaper).
May 09, 2004
On the road
Packing up for Jax. This year, I'll be taking two laptops with me, the iPod, my digital camera, lots of cables and what else...wait...oh yes..clothes. Hopefully there will be WLAN access and blogging will resume.
Update: I'm in the hotel and have purchased a half-hour Internet access for 5 Euros.
May 08, 2004
What does Google need in Europe?
There are plenty of articles in this weeks printed IT magazines in Germany discussing "the evil that is Google". Now plenty of this is related to concern over Google's handling of privacy issues in Gmail but the articles also stress the growing "big brother" power of the search engine (and it's possible accessibility by, say, the US government or related agencies). This is also a very public issue in the US from what I've read. However I'm pretty sure that people in the US are probably more inclined to "go with the risk" and "if it's cool, we'll use it". People in Europe are more wary of possible "control" by institutional or governmental entities. Witness the decade old discussion on ID cards in the UK.
Reading the Google prospectus will show you that at least some of Google's future success is linked to a strong (and successful) position in Europe. So what are they doing here?
Apart from sales-offices in various European countries, Google has established a European development lab in Switzerland. Google is now making first attempts at policy making - here for example (oh, so they're looking for someone). However, there is not really much in the way of public Google'ism happening in Europe at the moment (correct me if I'm wrong). When was the last time you saw a Google guru grab the stage at a European conference?
Official response from the German Google sales office to one of those articles? "We value the privacy of our customers." That was it. Nothing else. Nix.
So, what does Google need? They need to get off their butts and recognize that Europe isn't just another state of the US but that it demands a different approach in terms of marketing, community contacts and public policy. They need some European Evangelists who are out there at conferences spreading the word on say the Google APIs and all the cool stuff here. And what about Blogger? The grandfather of blogging sites. Is it still alive? Does it breath still? Ah I just noticed that they're planning a new version on Sunday. And I bet they've looked at the news items over on Typepad and will be announcing Blogger Germany, Blogger France and....
Take note Google: Since the 1st of May, the European Union now has a higher population than the US.
LOTS of Open Source tipping points
Bertrand points to this article on the growing success of Open Source. He's also been appointed to help organize the next LOTS conference in Bern, Switzerland. Congratulations! Meanwhile, he's looking for suggestions for speakers - so if you have an idea - get in contact with him.
The alleged programmer of the Sasser virus was taken into custody last night. He is a school-boy from a small town in northern Germany.
Update: The creator of the Phatbot worm is from Germany too and was also arrested yesterday (via Heise, German).
May 07, 2004
DIY Reuters news portal
Ok, so it's a rainy weekend and you've nothing to do - why not build your own news portal? How? Easy - just download this and then configure some of these feeds into the integrated portal. (Only for non-commercial use - of course!)
May 05, 2004
Jon Udell on XBRL
Jon Udell writes about XBRL, a (rather complicated) XML format for exchanging financial data. XBRL is gaining a lot of traction in the financial world here in Germany. We're doing a lot of work in this area and using software platforms such as Cocoon to do some really cool stuff. We'll be showcasing some XBRL solutions at Jax.
Project failure feedback
Ok, so I guess I asked for it by putting up my list of reasons for project failures a couple of days ago. On the other hand the comments have been very interesting to read and I want to thank everyone for giving their views on my - sometimes rather tongue in cheek - points. It's obvious that there are a lot of different views on the subject out there and of course I was putting out a very simplistic and one-sided view of things.
During the past 20 years in the IT business I worked for about 15 of those as a "Real Programmer" - so all the points apply to me too :-). Now, having moved on (not up as it may seem from my post), I spend a lot of my time using my experience to reflect on things I see around me and to sometimes pick out a few things to use as thought-provoking examples (both here on my blog and for work). So I hope no-one it too pissed at me (hey I was one of you once you know) and I especially want to point to Berin and Steven who give their side of the story and continue the conversation. Thanks guys.
More words of wisdom from Marc Fleury from this article:.
What Apache does well is a lot of little projects, utility tools, definitely the parcers are great, Tomcat. But we are the leading sponsors of Tomcat today. ... To sustain that model means commitment from us.
I always knew Apache was just a bunch of kids hacking a few lines of code. Thanks Marc for proving me right. Now where do I apply? And please keep sustaining the model for us .. please....don't stop....
May 04, 2004
Creating the buzz
I still think weblogs have quite a bit of catching up to do at German (European?) conferences. For the past couple of years I've been nagging the good people at S&S Verlag to set up something (and perhaps a Wiki too) for the Jax conferences (like an RSS feed of aggregated blogs or something). I wonder if this year will be different? Hint hint Even an RSS version of the news on the S&S site would be a start. Ho hum. Anyone else going to Jax and going to blog? Meanwhile - read this for more on conference weblogs.
Update: Hmm..shared neurons - Loic Le Meur on the same subject.
Sun weblogs a go-go
Why software projects fail
Everyone and his dog seem to have written something like this, so I thought I would too. Here are the reasons I think cause many software projects to fail:
- Real Programmers think that specifications (written before the coding starts) are for wimps
- Customers and the Real Programmer both think that a murky (at best) specification to be to their advantage. In the end - the customer will win
- Asking a Real Programmer how long he/she needs to write a component/application causes the same brain cells to fire that would be involved if you asked them (in a bar) how often they have sex. Albeit in the opposite direction numerically speaking
- Whatever the reply to the previous point, management will think they are exaggerating and reduce the numbers
- Real Programmers have a tendency to hate reuse and think they can adopt and integrate any new hype technology out there without impacting their project plan
- Real Programmers think they are artists (maybe some are) and instead of searching for a pragmatical approach they want to make art. "I am not just a programmer, I am an artist and I paint with code". Remember - famous artists are dead artists
- Project plans include (if you're lucky) time for documentation, testing and deployment. Real Programmers interpret those words to mean more time for "programming" or "coding"
May 02, 2004
Open Source for managers - Don't Panic!
That's the title of one of the presentations I will be doing at Jax in a week's time. I've done the talk a few times and basically the idea is to clue up managers on Open Source - and in particular give them tips on how to prevent mistakes like this. Sylvain explains what happened here.
Update: I corrected the links to reflect what actually happened better. After Sylvain's explanation, the Cocoon project then discussed better ways to incorporate business aspects into the community.
Back from a weekend spent with a long-time friend (and family). Interesting talks (as always) as he's been in the IT business for longer than I have and we always have something to talk about. Now, my friend has always been the techie/hacker guy, knee deep in code - and liking it. So, even though we both see IT from different angles, our main topic on a long Saturday walk was how IT just isn't solving enough problems. The IT companies are too eager to market or sell the next big thing and don't spend enough time listening to the everyday problems their users (and customers) may be having. Things like the number of (incompatible) "information buckets" you'll find inside any company. And no easy way to consolidate and synchronize data between those buckets so you only need - say - one address book instead of 3 or 4.