On Blogging

Cory Doctorow’s My Blog, My Outboard Brain captures the essence of blogging:

Blogging gave my knowledge-grazing direction and reward. Writing a blog entry about a useful and/or interesting subject forces me to extract the salient features of the link into a two- or three-sentence elevator pitch to my readers, whose decision to follow a link is predicated on my ability to convey its interestingness to them. This exercise fixes the subjects in my head the same way that taking notes at a lecture does, putting them in reliable and easily-accessible mental registers.

Much of what Cory says applies to me also!

TC-TS at Sun

A developed country and company version of Thin Client-Thick Server at Sun: “Sun employees log onto a very small, inexpensive computer “appliance” called a Sun Ray, which lists for about $500 and is little more than an I.D. card reader. That connects them to the servers, which supply all the programs and data they need. ”

Living in the Future

I had written about this point recently in Tech Talk, and was talking about it yesterday with a few friends. My point was that if one wants to do something innovative, it is important to forget the present and dream/live in the future. The present has too many problems which over a longer time-frame are quite irrelevant, and yet we waste a lot of time talking/arguing about them.

We have to create our own world in which we exist, which is somewhat distant from the world in which we live in today. It is not easy to do this because everything around us is in the present — the newspapers, various websites, television. What it means is we have to limit our intake of this type of media.

One way I have found to live in the future is to read many of the tech bloggers and watch their mind-bombs explode with ideas about the future. There is a inventiveness here which is amazing. No one is talking of the Nasdaq or tech slump or wars. People are working to build new things, like children given a new box of Lego pieces.

Of course, one can argue, that one cannot just run away from the present. No. The future exists because of the present. Anyone can manage the short-term or the long-term; what’s needed is to manage both. The problem that I see is that we worry too much about the present and the near-term. On a scale of even a year, what’s happening day-to-day will be easily forgotten. What we need to do is to look more at the big picture — there are a lot of interesting innovations happening in the world, below the surface of the rust that is being seen. Scrape it away, dig deep, and a whole new world beckons.

Syndication

I came across an article on Syndication by Kevin Werbach (editor of Release 1.0) in the May-June 2000 issue of Harvard Business Review. Wrote Werbach: “With the Internet, information goods, modularity and fragmented distribution becomes not only possible but essential. Everything that moves on the Internet takes the form of information. The hyperlinked architecture of the Web is modular by nature. And because anyone can start a web site, there are literally millions of different distribution points for users. In such an environment, syndication becomes inescapable.”

Weblogs are a form of microContent. Think of Web Services as microSoftware (software compoments). RSS enables the syndication of content (news, blogs). Web Services enables the re-use of software, where the service is “syndicated”. Take this idea further. There’s been a lot of talk of the real-time enterprise and the event-driven enterprise. What this means is that events are syndicated. Have been thinking of how we can look at similarities to what’s happening between the content world and the enterprise world. The granularity which needs to be syndicated is the BlogPost and the Event. Need to build further on this thinking.

RSS Auto-Discovery

A very interest 4 days in the Blog world. Started with a simple idea by Matt Griffith in his blog on using the LINK option in the HTML TITLE to enable RSS aggregators find the feed easily. Matt Pilgrim and a few others then enhanced thinking on the idea, and lo and behold! It was all over the place, with implementations on the way.

What is the idea? RSS provides a syndication format — so for example, if you subscribe to the RSS format of a weblog, the updates are automatically fetched periodically into an RSS Aggregator. The LINK extension provides a URL to pick up the feed given the URL of the weblog. Earlier, one had to keep track of the URL of the RSS feed separately. The same concept can be used, as Radio has now done, for publicising links to a site (or a blogger’s) RSS subscriptions (what one is reading) and the BlogRoll.

Why is this idea important? One application of this is in figuring out social networks, or Weblog Neighbourhoods. Harvesters can look at a blog’s RSS subscriptions and BlogRoll and go a few levels deep to provide greater insights on who is it that I should I reading and what are my neighbours reading. This helps in identifying blog clusters.

On a bigger picture: the combination of News Aggregation (via RSS feeds), Syndication (publishing via RSS what one writes) and Blogging is creating a new kind of grassroots information network, with a lot of flow. The RSS Auto-Discovery was one such example of rapidly amplification of ideas can take place in this world.

The question I have been pondering about is how to apply these ideas within the enterprise. Instead of BlogPosts, one can think of Events. These events are published on to an Information Bus, and can be subscribed to my applications or people interested. This can become the foundation of what is called as the Real-Time or Agile Enterprise.

TECH TALK: Rethinking Enterprise Software: Trend 2: Standards (Part 2)

The two major platform contenders for Web Services are Microsofts .Net platform and the Java approach (with J2EE and EJB). To ensure that web service components from different vendors work together, various players in the industry have come together to form the Web Services-Interoperability (WS-I) organisation. Membership has grown from 10 companies in February to over 100 now. One important name still missing is Sun. WS-I is more likely to succeed, because, in the words of Ted Schadler of Forrester Research (quoted in the Financial Times), this profoundly simple commitment to interoperability will prevent the potential Balkanisation of emerging XML standards and ensure that firms that build web services will see them work together as intended with minimal hassle.

According to Adam Bosworth of BEA, there are three themes around which Web Services will be built: a coarse-grained application model (which enables multiple requests to be serviced via a single request), asynchrony (because applications may not always be running or may require time to return the result) and loose coupling (so that even if an implementation changes, it does not break the other applications using it). This move to a message-passing world will lay the foundation for the event-driven enterprise.

Says Adam Bosworth in an interview to XML and Web Services magazine (June 2001):

For example, you write a system that wants to go and order some medicine. Some other one has written an application that actually takes an order for medicine and processes itthey in turn talk to a system that is your bank that does bill paying and settlement. In that world, you have a couple of processes going on that aren’t synchronous in real time. When you order the prescription, you don’t want to actually have your bill debited until the prescription has been mailed out, and your bank takes a day or two to settle, depending on what you’re doingif it’s a brokerage house, it can take five days.

What you get is a model where applications need to be wired together so it’s easy for those applications to invoke each other in this kind of n-tier way. But they’re not invoking each other as a set of distributed objects, which was the original vision; they’re invoking each other as a set of applications that they can talk to.

The early adoption of Web Services will happen within the enterprise first. Once companies are comfortable using them, they will then be extended to connect applications across enterprises. The major benefits of Web Services, as outlined by Douglas Hayward in the Financial Times, are:


  • By letting applications exchange information cheaply and automatically, web services should eventually slash the costs of tying applications together, a huge part of every corporate IT budget.
  • A key benefit is the ability to aggregate data from multiple sources automatically, without end-users having to make any effort.
  • Web services will dramatically decrease business interaction costs by allowing easier and cheaper communication between organisations.One benefit of application integration is that businesses can save money by using more externally provided software, accessing it as an online service, perhaps by renting it or paying by usage. The result could be a more accessible form of outsourcing, allowing companies to unload IT functionality which does not generate competitive advantage.

Tomorrow: Web Services and Business Processes