December 31, 2005
The year that was
Just a few hours left before 2006 rolls round the corner and time for some reflections on the year that soon will be 'was'.
- I jumped out of a plane
- I actually received a request from a VC for the business plan to TagTagger
- I went to some very interesting conferences such as OSBC, EuroOSCON and HollandOpen. They also let me speak at a couple of those.
- I wrote a couple of articles
- I invested a large portion of my free time trying to get something off the ground that I'm really passionate about. To date with little success.
- I went to Rickopolis.
So, those are most of the highlights I think. So what about next year? Well, who knows what's around the corner. If you have some suggestions as to what I should do next year - let me know and Happy New Year to you all!
December 30, 2005
Social Weather 2.0
Here's an idea for a Weather site built around Web 2.0 goodness. There is probably something like this out there already - please let me know if so.
Basically the idea hinges around something I read once, that stated the highest chance of forecasting the correct weather for the next day was to say that it would be the same as today. I can't remember where I read that - but anyway.
The Weather 2.0 site is built on the Google Maps API and a user-base. Each user logs on to the site and can enter the current weather where they happen to be. The form allows things like general observations such as "sun is shining", "snowing" or just "cloudy". You can also enter things like current temperature, wind direction etc. if you happen to have the necessary gadgets available. Free text annotations are also possible "freaking cold" or "raining cats and dogs". The information is then shown as a layer on top of the Google Map and pinned at your current position.
The user can also take a picture of the weather situation, upload that to say Flickr and link to the picture from their current weather observation. Of course you can subscribe to RSS feeds of weather observations from places you may be interested in.
Carsten came up with an interesting addition to the idea while we were discussing this in the office today (yes, a slow day here in the mine) - personal forecasting. Each user can also enter their personal forecast for the next day - based on whatever information they happen to have available to them (meteorologic data, cloud formations, the activities of local animals, pains in various body parts, whatever). Then in the Map-view, you can switch between current weather and tomorrows weather based on personal foreacasting.
An application like Social Weather 2.0 would surely disrupt the commercial weather-forecasting market for good.
December 27, 2005
After spending some time
playing researching the XBox 360 I must admit that I'm pretty impressed. Obviously games such as PGR3 rock and the whole gaming experience is so much further along than the last time I did any serious "gaming", which was - well - some time ago. But Microsoft has taken the whole thing so much further in the way they've integrated something which makes you go "duh, of course" when you experience it.
Seamless online connectivity.
Go back and read the first word again. Seamless.
That will be the real winner for consoles in the coming year. The ability for both the games and the box itself to seamlessly connect up to either other players or a commerce platform that provides value-add. For a fee.
On connecting up your XBox 360 via the Ethernet cable or Wireless adapter, your box immediately starts "living" on the Net. Sign-up to XBox Live for the free silver membership. And sure you'll take the trial-month free gold membership. Thank you.
So, now you're online - what's next.
If the console needs an update then it'll just suck it down the tube. New functionality for the XBox - again, just a download away. In PGR3, the game automatically downloads things that are going on on Live and displays race results in a ticker, even if you're not actually competing on Live. Of course, an online match is just a click away.
The cool thing about a game like PGR3 and the online connectivity is that you actually feel as though you are connecting up to a community as opposed to just "other players". Being able to watch other people racing has (to me at least) little value, but it shows just how seamless the whole thing is designed to be.
The XBox Live Marketplace, temple of temptation that it is, offers you free games to try out (again, just a download away). Microsoft also gets the "money" thing out of the way quickly. Just purchase some "points" for real money and after that spend points. Spending points is soooo much easier than if you saw that the games cost real $$$. Need add-ons for the games you have or full-fledged versions of the arcade games? Just spend some points and they're yours.
In short, I think Microsoft have got it spot on. And once the console is sitting in your house, connected up to the Net - well, who knows what the guys in Seattle have planned.
Meanwhile, they're not the only ones hard at work.
December 25, 2005
We traditionally celebrate Christmas both in the German and the English versions. Last night the family gathered at my in-laws for the traditional Christmas Eve fondue. Before that everyone gets their presents (so, yes the XBox 360 is now official). Then this morning there were more presents under the tree at our house and everyone comes round for the mid-day meal cooked by moi. This year I did a turkey with all the trimmings. It went well but I think I was dreaming about cooking it for a couple of nights now.
This afternoon we've been testing the XBox with Fifa 06 and PGR 3. Lots of fun, although my youngest son drives circles round me - so I need to practice.
Happy Holidays - wherever you are!
December 24, 2005
Support the Creative Commons
December 23, 2005
I happen to live in Germany. Call it twist of fate, call it luck. Whatever.
Now, I have an account on your iTunes store and that's cool. I can buy songs and videos there and I do and that's cool too. However, I can't download stuff that's in the US iTunes store. Hey, I can't even buy things like new episodes of Commander in Chief (a series that will never be broadcast in Germany). Hell, I can't even download the free SNL episode you currently offer (another series that will never show here). Now, that sucks. Big time.
Ever heard of globalization? And it's Christmas. Please.
December 22, 2005
The Cafe question
Well worth a read and reflection over the next few days.
XBox 360 - first impressions
Here's hoping my kids don't read this and/or don't understand what I've written. Anyway, last night I took the "console" for a spin to see if everything works before putting it under the tree. We don't want to risk tearful kids eyes - do we ... Great excuse for taking an early look actually. I unpacked everything and connected all the various bits and pieces (including a long network cable) and played around for about 30 minutes or so. Here are my first impressions:
- Make sure you take all the protective covering off, before trying to put a game in - the disc tray just will not open if there is something sticking to the front
- A blinking red circle on the power button means you haven't put the A/V cord in properly - you need to firmly press it in
- Setup is pretty easy. The keyboard interface works well.
- Wow, the power brick is really big and heavy. Not something you'll want to carry around with you.
- I love the wireless controller. Freedom.
- The console/fan is pretty loud - but I was expecting that and it didn't bother me while playing
- PGR 3 looks really neat. Graphics are extremely good (compared to my previous console experience)
- Downloading the emulation for an old XBox game worked smoothly, but I had to do the XBox-Live sign-up thing before it would let me.
- In fact I think the whole XBox-Live sign-up procedure was a little tedious.
- My gamertag is "mlangham"
I was able to drag myself away and repack everything after about 30 minutes. I haven't tried any online play yet - something for Christmas. Oh wait, it's a present for the kids... I forgot there briefly for a moment. So, see you around on XBox Live soon!
December 21, 2005
What are the odds of dying?
Check out the odds for dying here (via Stefan). At least those are the odds if you are in the US. It is actually more likely that you will be legally executed than killed by lightning. So you can stop worrying about that storm now.
Later: I've just realized that the title of my post was stupid and that really should read "..from a particular cause". The other answer being obvious.
December 20, 2005
We're all suppliers now (and customers too)
Open Source changes the relationship between suppliers and customers. This is one of the hardest things to pitch at commercial entities using an Open Source project and who have found a bug or something else they don't like. This email response from MarkThomas to someone on the Apache tomcat maoiling list serves as a good read through if you're uncertain about your role.
This excerpt should be a standard quote in any Open Source presentation:
The supplier-customer relationship is very different in open source projects. In fact, it just doesn't exist. There is no them and us. We are all users, we are all developers, we all provide support to the other members of our community. Everyone is welcome to contribute. Contributions can take many forms: Some people write code; some answer user questions on this list. However we contribute, we are all part of the one community and we all have a part to play to make Tomcat even better than it is today.
The calendar never lies
December 19, 2005
Google goes Germany
Google already has a branch in Hamburg, Germany. This weekend, I noticed this job offer and wondered
whether to apply about what it meant. The German online IT news service Heise has an article up today about Google establishing an engineering center in Germany. There is no city given as a possible location - so may I suggest Paderborn? We have the world's largest computer museum here after all.
December 17, 2005
West Wing departure
December 16, 2005
Open Source business in Europe
Just a reminder that there is a group on Frappr for those interested in Open Source business in Europe.
December 15, 2005
Portal 2.0 - Google opens the door
December 14, 2005
Pssst...don't tell the boys but the console arrived yesterday. I haven't unpacked it yet and am keeping the suspense until Christmas. But I went out and got a couple of games today (1 for the boys, 1 for me :-)). Roll on Christmas. Oh, you're wondering what I got in the end. Well, I can't say here - but let's just say that things will come full circle soon.
Show me the content!
I've just unsubscribed from Mary Jo Foley's "Microsoft Watch" RSS feed. Why? Because the ads in the feed take up more space than the actual content. I often "quick glance" over the feeds I have, meaning I don't actually read each line of what's there but scan the whole page in one quick glance and let my brain tell me if there's anything there worth looking at properly. And because the ads are more "in your face" on that particular feed, that doesn't work.
December 13, 2005
Apple Mail niggle
Is there a way to see the progress Apple Mail is making when sending out a large document? It annoys me that I can't see it is still sending and then close up my Powerbook.
Later: Derek points me to Window->Activity Viewer
Outsource your search
Alexa (an Amazon company) has just gone public with "Alexa Web Crawl". From the blurb:
Users can search and process billions of documents -- even create their own search engines -- using Alexa's search and publication tools. Alexa provides compute and storage resources that allow users to quickly process and store large amounts of web data. Users can view the results of their processes interactively, transfer the results to their home machine, or publish them as a new web service.
Basically this service means you can build your own search engine on their APIs and even run it on their hardware. There is a price tag for doing all that however.
December 12, 2005
Jumping the shark
This weekend I had my "shark moment" when my daughter (10) had to show me how to operate our all-in-one printer. Time to dig that hole.
December 10, 2005
Ricky Gervais podcasts
Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant are doing a podcast on Guardian Unlimited.
December 08, 2005
Open Source can commoditize too
While there has been enough written about the commoditization of software and how that leads to Open Source gaining traction in those areas, let's focus for a moment on what may be the commoditzation of Open Source projects themselves.
I've been following the ongoing discussions on the Apache Cocoon mailing lists and as a long-time "fan" of the platform, I think a lot of what we are seeing there is actually what we should be calling "commoditization". Something natural to any software solution, be that a commercial product or an Open Source project.
Or, as Geoffrey Moore would say, too much of the Cocoon core has now become context in the project. More and more resources are now needed to maintain the context and there is not much left for the core. This also means that developers, those that once drove the platform forward, have basically lost interest and are turning slowly to the "shiny" platforms like Ruby On Rails.
Over five years ago, Cocoon entered the marketplace with a radical idea - to separate concerns in the building of web-sites. Use XML and XSLT to format data into various formats - as needed. Back at the beginning of 2000, Cocoon was a new and shiny way of doing Web publishing. And over time the platform became more and more popular. As the popularity grew, so did the "itch scratching" and Cocoon became "enhanced" with a portal framework, forms framework, mvc underpinnings and much more.
But the cost of maintaining the beast also grew over time and adding new shiny things became more and more difficult. Also, the project grew self-centered and for a long time dwelled on Cocoon's virtues and ignored the growing popularity of frameworks like RoR.
The "innovator's dilemma" set in and in a way Cocoon tried to flee upmarket by adding more and more enhanced functions. Functions that also became increasingly hard to understand and master. Newbies into the Cocoon world are today overwhelmed with the plethora of APIs and "ways of doing things".
At first I thought the new discussion on the fate of Cocoon was a bad thing and the end of the world was near. Of course I realize how wrong that initial thought was. In many ways the ongoing discussion is exactly what is needed.
Why? Well, for one thing the current situation shows that Cocoon has reached a level of maturity that makes it maybe boring for geeky developers - but that makes it ideal for a platform that can be built on. Cocoon itself could now become the commodity that other successful platforms are built on.
On the other hand the Cocoon community will eventually turn to building the "next new thing". And that is the way it should be. The community is the strength of an Open Source project - not the code. The community with its tight-knit network for unique personalities can move forward and build something new. Using the knowledge gained in moving Cocoon forward through over 5 eventful years, I am sure that whatever results from the current discussions will be exactly what is needed.
Just as Cocoon was so many years ago.
It remains important to remember that an Open Source project is just as prone to becoming a commodity as a commercial offering is. This is not a bad thing. It is a good thing.
Bonus Link - Stefano posts his thoughts on the current Cocoon development.
December 06, 2005
Your stack - my stack?
The market for certified Open Source stacks heats up with Red Hat about to enter the foray. This is maybe the major gripe I have with this sort of business model. How is the customer helped when she has to choose from 42 different certified Open Source stacks that focus on Web publishing?
Which brings up a new business model - certifying certified stacks. Which reminds me of something else. And while Open Source is about giving customers a choice, we are again reminded that too much choice may not always be a Good Thing.
It will be important for companies providing certified Open Source stacks to quickly move up-market and add some sort of vertical value to their offering. It is by far a lot harder to copy an Open Source stack that focusses say on the financial marketplace compared to a generic LAMP stack. So incumbent companies like SpikeSource will have to move up-market when attacked by new entrants such as Red Hat. Now where have I read that before?
Google calendar scheduled?
Later: Well, I guess they didn't.
What to do if you've outsourced the parachute
As I still plan on taking that skydiving course next year - this great article is for me. (via #mobitopia)
Wacky dream #423 - OpenSourceInvestors.com
One of my wacky dreams has always been to set up a VC fund (about which I know nothing) that basically would invest in startups in Europe trying to build a business out of Open Source. Today, after reading about a fund called RSS Investors (they invest in RSS centric companies), I went and registered my domain. Now I guess all I need is around 280 $ million. Hmmm - I guess that was the small catch. Duh.
The boys are bugging us for a new console for Christmas. We've had a Gamecube for quite a while - but now they moan that there aren't any "cool" games available for it. So I've been checking the scene. Here's my thinking:
- XBox 360 - way expensive (399€) and probably not even available in the shops before Xmas. Also: loud, hot and the games already out don't yet do the platform justice. No nice-price games yet available
- XBox - around 150€ - plenty of "cool" games available. Nearing EOL with more and more games obviously coming out for the XBox 360. Nice price games available
- PlayStation 2 - around 150€ - plenty of "cool" games available. PlayStation 3 is scheduled for Spring next year, so EOL is further out than the XBox. Nice price games available.
My only parameters are that the console should also play DVDs (so we don't need an additional DVD player in that room) and the odd "adult" action game should be "way cool". Oh yes - online gaming could eventually become be an additional plus, although the boys haven't "discovered" that yet.
So - what have I missed or what would you suggest? And yes I know the PSP is cool too - but hey - then I'd need to get 2. Or 3 :-).
December 05, 2005
Need an Open Source project? Buy one!
If you need an Open Source project to complement your offering then perhaps you should just go out and find a company with the correct proprietary product, purchase the technology and Open Source it. JBoss buys Arjuna/HP software to do just that.
December 04, 2005
Cocoon 3.0 - The Innovator's Dilemma
A discussion has started in the Cocoon community as to which direction the project should take in future development. While I haven't been doing much on a technical side with the project for a while, I've certainly been busy getting customers to adopt and deploy the platform. Many of the things Sylvain states in his original email are spot-on and Cocoon needs to regroup and reshape if it is to continue on as a successful Open Source project. The main developers are hard at work discussing the various options and I'm sure they will make an excellent job of moving the project forward. I've kept my comments to this blog.
However, it is interesting to note that Open Source projects are obviously not immune to the "Innovator's Dilemma". While the Cocoon community was "dwelling" on the platform, new entrants to the "market" rapidly overtook the XML platform and frameworks like Ruby On Rails are now driving innovation in the area of Web frameworks.
Innovation happens on the fringe.
I think the main problem with Cocoon is that it is now trying to be too many things to too many people and their needs. I doubt there is another framework out there that incorporates so many different modules and technologies. The abundance makes Cocoon very flexible in what it can be used for. The downside being that it can take a newbie ages to learn and get up to speed in. The lack of tools and other "enabling" factors make it frustrating for new users to receive the instant gratification the newer frameworks like Ruby On Rails provide.
However it would be a mistake to try and turn Cocoon into some XML based RoR clone. Ruby on Rails is the new incumbent - and you can't outrun the incumbent.
Cocoon should focus on what makes it special. The sitemap architecture, pluggable components - each with their own distinct role, the use of XSLT and XML to build powerful pipelines that can take content from various data-sources, aggregate the content and then render it out in a variety of formats.
At the core, Cocoon is unique and it would pay for the community to not grapple with how to rewrite everything from scratch or which parts to copy from other Web frameworks but to look inwards to find direction.