Wednesday, November 29, 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)

Monday, November 27, 2006

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.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

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:

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.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

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


Browse Archives at

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!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

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.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

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.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

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.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

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.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Google: Friend or Foe?

The New York Times today poses the question, “Is Google a friend or foe?”

Clearly, by the only measurement that matters (Google Trends), Google is a friend, not a foe. To test this theory, I ran Google Trends on several related searches:

Google Friend (blue), Google Foe (red)

Google Good (blue), Google Evil (red)

Google Angel (blue), Google Devil (red)

Please do not take this post seriously – it is meant to be a bit silly.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Why Attend Conferences? AKA Time for a Change

The buzz around the Web 2.0 Summit this week got me thinking about why we attend conferences in today's world of near constant connectivity and information overload. I remember listening to TWIT sometime around CES when Dvorak talked about how he was “virtually”attending CES. He had decided to skip the travel and follow the news coverage virtually rather than physically attending the event. With thousands of other journalists in attendance, Dvorak decided that having one more technology reporter on the show floor was not a good use of his time.

Before every company had a website, before bloggers, and before RSS readers, we attended conferences because conferences were the primary mechanism for learning about new technologies. Now, we can read our favorite blogs, newspapers, and trade magazines from the comfort of our couches in our pajamas with wireless laptops. With so many great summaries of every conference appearing online and bloggers posting live updates whenever someone important sneezes, the need to attend conferences to gather information is greatly diminished.

Historically, we also attended conferences to hear the experts speak on relevant topics; however, podcasts are making conference keynotes, sessions, and even panels less relevant. I admit to being a podcast addict. I typically subscribe to more podcasts than any one human being could possibly process, but it does give me the opportunity to pick and choose based on my current interests. I regularly hear interviews with open source experts on FLOSS Weekly and the O'Reilly Foo Casts, web 2.0 experts on TalkCrunch, and a little bit of everything related to the tech industry from TWIT and PodTech. I do not need to attend a big conference to hear the experts and their latest ideas about technology.

Conferences have also become a mechanism for corporate PR and product launches designed to capitalize on the topical buzz around the time of a big conference, but in reality, the press releases and launches tend to get lost in the noise with dozens and even hundreds of press releases crammed into just a few short days. This is also a holdover from the days when people attended conferences to learn about the next new thing, and corporate types have the conference press release machine in motion.

I am not saying that we should stop attending conferences; however, our reasons for attending have changed over time. I currently attend conferences mainly to hold meetings with customers / partners and network with other smart people to generate new ideas and new ways of thinking about the tech world. The customer meetings and networking usually happen outside of the traditional conference format as lunches, dinners, and informal hallway conversations. Typically, I can learn more by spending 10 minutes in a hallway chat with someone than I can learn in an hour long conference session. Conferences are a great way to gather a whole bunch of experts and those wanting to learn more about a topic together in one place to facilitate learning and the sharing of new ideas and thoughts.

I am starting to wonder if technology conferences are due for a change. Maybe fewer talking heads and fewer keynote sessions with a larger number of small discussion groups giving people an opportunity to share ideas. I am also becoming a fan of the “un-conference” format popularized by FooCamp and BarCamp, which provide a framework for a conference where intimate discussions can be more easily organized; however, I do not know how well the un-conference format would scale when you get larger numbers of attendees. I recently had a discussion at a party with Identity Woman aka Kaliya who is an advocate for a hybrid approach like the un-conferences, but with a little more structure to keep people on track.

I am not quite sure if there is an “answer” to the conference dilemma, but I suspect that the time is right for a broader change in how we organize and attend technology conferences.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The GPL and Antitrust Law

A U.S. court has found that open source software provided free of charge under the GPL does not violate antitrust laws ... or as Matt Asay says “Duh!”. An excerpt from Evan Brown's Internet Cases blog provides a nice overview:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has issued an opinion in which Judge Easterbrook declares, "[t]he GPL and open-source have nothing to fear from the antitrust laws." The case is called Wallace v. IBM., No. 06-2454. [Download a copy of the opinion.] Internet Cases covered the lower court's decision from last December here.

Plaintiff Wallace filed an antitrust suit against IBM, Red Hat and Novell, arguing that those companies had conspired to eliminate competition in the operating system market by making Linux available at an "unbeatable" price (free) under the General Public License ("GPL"). The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana dismissed the case, finding the plaintiff had suffered no antitrust injury. The Seventh Circuit affirmed.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Will Red Hat Survive the Recent Assault?

Yes, I know ... everyone else blogged about this last week (I was having one of “those weeks” where blogging suffered as a result of my being consumed by other activities), and I just had to weigh in on this issue if only briefly.

I think that Red Hat, as a business, could be in trouble. First, Oracle begins offering support for Red Hat Linux at a price below Red Hat's support cost (ouch), and then two of Red Hat's biggest competitors Microsoft and Novell sign an agreement to collaborate that includes indemnification (Dana Gardner said this agreement was akin to “Fox marries chicken, both move into henhouse”).

Nick Selby from the 451 group has an interesting analysis comparing Red Hat to the “Poland of software vendors” including not just the recent Oracle and Microsoft / Novell but also some insight into how Ubuntu may contribute to Red Hat's decline:

And Red Hat itself now faces the real possibility of extinction … Overnight, Red Hat has become the flattest piece of land between two battling superpowers: the Poland of software vendors.

Less obvious is the effect on Ubuntu’s plans to burst onto the enterprise scene in the West. Ubuntu’s sponsor, Canonical’s, overriding strategy hinges on two key pillars. First, Ubuntu is feature-rich and easy-to-use, to appeal to non-fuddy-duddys - that next generation of young whippersnapper admins coming up in enterprise as we speak.

Second, the support model is flexible. Years before the Oracle and Microsoft announcements to provide support for someone else’s Linux distro, Canonical set out to provide support not just from itself but from an entire eco-system of other support companies. And the support could be bought for as little as a single server in a cluster.

The model was appealing precisely because of the Red Hat and Novell’s Soviet-style lock-ins - the very models which are now in flux. (Quote from Nick Selby on the 451 CAOS Theory blog)

Unless Red Hat pulls a rabbit out of their hat or Oracle, Microsoft, and Novell fail to execute on these announcements, I predict that Red Hat will really start to feel the pain in 2007.

JanRain Helps Sites Manage User Identities

I rarely (if ever) blog about online identities or OpenID, and if you had asked me a year ago about OpenID, or any other technology designed to provide a single point of authentication where the user manages their own identity, I would have responded with something like “dream on”, “when pigs fly” or some other “no way in hell will that ever really happen” smartypants answer.

Maybe I have been spending too much time talking to people like Scott Kveton and Kaliya Hamlin (AKA Identity Woman), but I am becoming a true believer and advocate for identity management. With the recent proliferation of web 2.0 sites, an easy way to manage my online identity without needing a billion username / password combos is very appealing. Yes, I know that wishful thinking will not make something come true; however, OpenID has made an amazing amount of traction over the past few months.

Now, JanRain is making it even easier for companies / websites to use OpenID with their new affiliate program:

I am excited to announce the launch of our Affliate Program aimed at sites that want to use OpenID but don’t want to have to manage an OpenID server or their users’ identities. Now with just a few clicks of your mouse you can have a place for your users to get OpenID’s. In addition, sites will get added to our ever-growing directory of sites that support OpenID. There are hundreds of sites that support OpenID today and that number is growing everyday.

By hosting identities for end-users we’re hoping that sites that support OpenID can focus on their “main thing”; blogging, photo sharing, wiki’s, etc. OpenID lowers the barrier to engagement for users and increases stickiness on sites; no more forgotten usernames or passwords. If you’re a developer and interested in OpenID enabling your site, head over to our sister site and learn more about the open source libraries, patches and tools available for making that happen. (Quote from Scott Kveton's Blog)

I have an OpenID through ClaimID, and I would like to see more websites start to support it. It really is a win-win for both sides: ease of use for the consumer and less overhead for companies / individuals maintaining sites requiring authentication.