Emergic Update

Last week was a slow, testing week. Progress was incremental. Though one thing has become increasingly clear to me: we are on the right track. This is a long journey. There are going to be some good weeks and some not-so-good weeks. Last week fell somewhere in between.

BlogStreet: There were some dramatic performance improvements, and one can actually see neighbourhoods of about 1000+ blogs. Need to iteratively build this through to 10,000+. We ran into a problem with haywire bots, and are working to fix this. Also, code reviews and optimisations. This week, we will begin with the Blog Auto-Categorisation. Once we do that, then we are ready to do a beta of the site.

Digital Dashboard: Problems with different kinds of RSS feeds slowed us down in the RSS Aggregator. But, we did get a first implementation of the deletion of entries in the feeds. This now makes it possible for me to view only the new entries: a big jump in terms of usability.

Thin Client-Thick Server: We are trying to get the hardware and software RAIDs working. This is important because data on the server cannot be lost. We also want to put in place testbed with a “data recorder”, so we can better debug problems when they come. Moved two of our marketing staff to TCs, and are now working through the OpenOffice compatibility issues.

Enterprise Software: We gained a better understanding of JBoss and RosettaNet this week, both building blocks. This process will continue in the coming week.

Platform Leadership – Gawer

Some interesting comments by Annabelle Gawer in Infoworld’s Forum on Platform Leadership. Gawer is the co-author of the book “Platform Leadership”, which I’ve been reading.

– Platform leaders are firms that lead and drive innovation in their industry, by stimulating complementary innovations performed by other firms.

– The most important thing is that the corporate executive leaders would be aware of just how interdependent many industries are — and that the market is full of innovative firms that can add value to your product. The trick is to be able to tap into the innovative capabilities of a while industry, without having to internalize all innovative effort.

– Platform leaders understand strategy at two levels: the level of their own firm, and the more encompassing level of industry — and they constantly need to formulate and implement and evaluate their strategies at these 2 levels.

– Broadening the focus, and tap into external innovation requires innovation internally, and being able to drive innovation across the industry as well — so the vision and understanding of where the industry is going is not enough — one has to have the internal capabilities to innovate internally as well.

Gawer’s Thesis on Platform Leadership (PDF, 364 pages)

My context: we have to build Emergic into a platform. I wrote about this recently in Platform Permavantage.

MS Office WishList

Writes David Coursey in ZdNet’s AnchorDesk: “I have a dream, that someday the individual applications in Office will go away and, instead of using Word on some documents and Excel on others, I’ll have a single app capable of doing whatever I need. Microsoft has this vision, too: They call it “Universal Canvas” and include it as part of .Net. Using XML, all types of data (word processing, spreadsheets, databases, slides) could reside in a single document format and be properly displayed to the user.”

I like to think of it as the Digital Dashboard. Instead of thinking of Word or Excel, think of the browser as the front-end, with the Office components as web services which can be called dynamically. This fits in well with InfoWorld writes:

Web Services have the capability to scale down far below the large business-to-business (B-to-B) systems being talked about today and could find their way to the desktop as the technology progresses, John Bobowicz, chief technical strategist at Sun Microsystems’s Sun One, said Thursday in Tokyo.

“Ultimately, things I get today as applications can almost become features once you can get to them as services,” he said, delivering a keynote speech at the Web Services Conference. “Everybody knows that Web services are going to play a big role in B-to-B and having large systems talk to large systems. But there is no reason why eventually we don’t see this same capability coming down to smaller types of applications.”

“If we were to apply these concepts to what we call a word processor, the different capabilities could act by themselves as Web services and word processing could become a virtual application,” he said. Thus the spell-checker, dictionary, thesaurus, publishing and editing functions that go together to make a word processor could all be offered as individual services.

“You may be able to decide whose dictionary you want to use without having to get different versions of the application. Eventually, word processing isn’t necessarily an application but it could be considered a feature itself,” he said.

Once such functions are available as services, it also becomes easier to build other applications because many of the same services can be re-used, said Bobowicz. Construction of an e-mail application, for example, doesn’t require much more than the addition of SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) and IMAP (Internet Message Application Protocol) functions to many of the same pieces that go together to make a word processor.

“So, the message is, we tend to duplicate a lot of functionality and each time we need a slight change in function, we create a new application when in reality there is a lot of shared functionality we can leverage if we were to access these things as services,” he said.

TECH TALK: Devdas – The Story of a Winner

This should have been the start of a series on “Tech’s 10X Tsunamis” but that series will have to wait until tomorrow. Because, over the weekend, I saw “Devdas”. Not since Lagaan has a movie made such a big difference to me.In Lagaan, it was the characters on-screen who triumphed in the face of adversity (a feat of similar magnitude was repeated by Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj on Saturday at Lords). In Devdas, though, it is a person off-screen whose presence is there in every frame.

Devdas, as a story, is well-known and has been made into film many times before. It is the story of a loser _ a person who has everything, and yet, loses everything he has in life and love. He meets a tragic end. The things that he does (or doesn’t do) embody a frailty, which at times seems so commonplace. There is a Devdas in each of us. Because to be something different, something extraordinary requires us to rise to the heights that the director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has risen to.

At Rs 50 crores (USD 10 million), Devdas is India’s most expensive film. Bhansali has made a masterpiece, the like of which has arguably not been seen before in Indian cinema, at least in our generation. He has taken the ordinary and made it magical. The detailing which has gone into the film is astounding and it shows. The performances by Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit are par excellent. If it was just this though, I would not have talked about Devdas!

Devdas is the triumph of one person’s vision and passion, and battle against all odds. Everything that could have gone wrong did during the making of the movie from death and fire on the sets to the arrest of the producer (Bharat Shah) and the resulting financial difficulties. The industry (and most people, me included) had written off the movie “Who wants the see a drunkard who loses everything and dies?” We pronounced the verdict before seeing the product. We were wrong. As a friend put it, this is “India’s Titanic”.

Bhansali never wavered in his vision. He knew what he wanted, and he did it. What others said mattered little. His is the story of an entrepreneur. He saw a future (in the movie) which few could envision. He brought to work his incredible passion. He focused single-mindedly on making the best product that he could, one that would do India proud globally (as it did, when the movie was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in May). His is a tale of a person who asked, “What would you do if you were not afraid?”

The movie leaves you a little numb at the end. But for me, the greater impact was made by the unseen presence of Bhansali. It is the story of, like Bhuvan in Lagaan, of one person who can make a difference. Only, in this case, it is not a fictional character, but one who has gone through the pain and tribulations. Bhansali has raised the bar for everyone else. He is a person who followed his heart and built his dream.

Devdas the person may have been a loser. But Devdas the film and Bhansali the film-maker are winners.