Joel on Software

Joel on Software is a must-read for anyone in software development. Here’s a small excerpt from his Strategy Letter V:

All else being equal, demand for a product increases when the prices of its complements decrease. In general, a company’s strategic interest is going to be to get the price of their complements as low as possible. The lowest theoretically sustainable price would be the “commodity price” — the price that arises when you have a bunch of competitors offering indistinguishable goods. So, smart companies try to commoditize their products’ complements. If you can do this, demand for your product will increase and you will be able to charge more and make more.

The World of Bill Gates

Fortune story on Bill Gates and his interests in software, family and philanthropy. Never miss a story on Gates — there’s always a lot to learn.

Writes Fortune on Longhorn, the forthcoming OS from Microsoft:

Gates’ geeks are completely overhauling the operating system, they’ll also have to redesign most of the company’s other software products and services to take full advantage, including the MSN online service, its server applications, and especially Microsoft Office, the productivity suite that accounts for nearly a third of the company’s sales and profits. If this enormous undertaking succeeds, it will make computers more personal than ever. Equipped with Longhorn, your PC will keep track of how you work, whom you talk to, what sites you look at, how you make documents and whom you share them with, which data on the network are yours–making all those things easier.

Nokia – Business Week

Nokia’s Next Act is a story on how the company is responding to the challenges: “The mobile industry is in the midst of an historic transition driven by financial crisis and fast-changing technology. Cell-phone ownership is approaching saturation levels in the developed world. The wireless Web was supposed to spur demand for pricey new computerlike handsets capable of handling everything from real-time stock quotes to videoconferencing. But the introduction of so-called third-generation wireless services is running behind schedule. What’s more, financially strapped carriers are rolling back the generous subsidies that made it possible for new customers to take home $200 phones for $10. No wonder handset manufacturers lost money overall last year and should show only a modest profit in 2002.”


Interview with Slashdot’s Rob Malda: “To a lot of people, Slashdot is nothing but 12 links to new things every day. To half of our readers, in fact, that’s all Slashdot is. But to some of our readers, it’s a community that’s here to discuss issues that are relevant to this community. There is a lot of value. The bulk of our content comes from other people. There are 6,000 or 7,000 comments on a busy day that other people write and just a dozen stories of just a paragraph or two that we actually generate, that are ours.”

I strongly recommend visiting Slashdot daily. Make sure that you create a login and set a threshold for the comments (3 is a good figure). Slashdot was also talked about in Steven Johnson’s book as an example of Emergence — where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Watch how people’s comments can help spark new ideas.

Red Hat on the Desktop

Red Hat hears desktop Linux calling:

Cost and security issues with Microsoft’s software, combined with the arrival of the Mozilla Web browser, have triggered Red Hat’s interest in a desktop Linux.

The key to open-source software success on the desktop is to outflank Microsoft, not to clone Microsoft’s Windows and Office, Red Hat CEO Szulik said.

Combining Linux with a GNOME or KDE interface and the open-source Mozilla browser, there’s room to compete by selling inexpensive computers used only for basic tasks, he said.

“Our research and our customers tell us they’re basically using PCs for (Web) surfing or for opening mail attachments–doing very basic, lightweight work.”

Think Thin Clients and Digital Dashboard, not just Linux replacing Windows on the Desktop.

Emergic Update

An important breakthrough in thinking last week was to view Emergic through a software/OS lens, rather than looking at it from a hardware and software solution. We are best at developing and aggregating software and have to work in putting together the channel/distribution network. I also finally completed the Tech Talk series on Rethinking Enterprise Software (the final parts will be published this week). Its my longest series, stretching over 5 weeks and 24 columns and over 12,000 words. It has also been the most productive in clarifying thought.

BlogStreet: Last week, we fine-tuned our proglets to get them to work properly in unison for the blogroll analysis. This week, we do the blog neighbourhood analysis. Am looking forward to the first cut version which we should have ready sometime this week. I am actually glad we changed direction a few weeks ago in the path we are now going. This will now serve as a perfect complementor to the Digital Dashboard.

Digital Dashboard: We now have the RSS Aggregator fully in place…from last week, we realised that we had to do quite some enhancements to make it scale up and work incrementally with feeds. This week, we’ll integrate with a blogging tool. A test will be for me to use the RSS Aggregator and post directly to this weblog, which means we’ll have connect with MovableType. After that, need to deploy it for everyone in the organisation.

Thin Client-Thick Server: The week was spent resolving some continuing minor issues which kept coming up — fonts, printer support, backup, a few crashes, etc. Also thinking through on the Architecture — how do we build out a scalable system. Need to also think on productisation. The Thick Server has now not been rebooted for 5.5 days.

Enterprise Software: Working on OpenOffice-Postgres-ODBC integration as a prelude to creating an application which can automate some internal accounting tasks (with integration into marketing).

My Blog: Have done some enhancements: added news headlines on the archive pages, changed the nature of the permalink from IDs, made comments in-place. Now, working on getting outlines on the month pages.

Messaging: Have released on ad for Channel Partners as part on an ongoing effort to reach out to more channels.

This is the last week of the current quarter. So, next week, I want to take stock of the progress we’ve achieved so far, a kind of big picture look. And also think on what we want to accomplish in the coming quarter. An initial thought: 2-3 months ago, we had a lot of ideas on Emergic, but didnt know where to start and how to proceed. Now, I feel a lot more confident about what we are doing as work has begun on multiple front. It is still very early days. The next quarter will be crucial in determining market acceptability of some of our poposed products.

Previous Emergic Update

TECH TALK: Rethinking Enterprise Software: Digital Dashboard (Part 3)

The two themes central for the New Desktop are Chronology and Events. A blog (a personal journal or diary) lends itself to capturing thinking and displaying based on time. [Examples of blogs: John Robb, Mine] We would be expected to narrate events, tell stories about the work we are doing, write about what we are reading, and discuss things we find interesting. But this is only one of the ways in which the blog gets populated. Events are happening around us: calendar alerts, emails coming in and going out, news feeds bringing up posts of others, news feeds coming in from the outside. These events pass through an RSS aggregator and are made available to us for use in the manner we see fit.

The Weblog’s read-write application becomes the New Desktop, the personal portal. It can use Office for its writing and specialised display (eg. use a spreadsheet to show a tabular document with formulae), and a Browser for general-purpose reading. Search is available across all that one is doing. The Weblog becomes the personal information management system. A collection of the weblogs of employees within the enterprise becomes the enterprise knowledge management system.

Into this architecture can come later enterprise-events from specialised applications like ERP, CRM and SCM. The interface remains the same. This is a big shift from today, wherein the only front-end we have available is the browser. Using Blogs and Syndication, we can create a framework for the New Desktop the corporate portal, or the Digital Dashboard.

One Screen to Rule Them All

I can envision the following scenario in a company to amplify and institutionalise knowledge:
– all individuals have their own blogs and RSS aggregators
– RSS feeds include external news, internal posts, mail, documents, “events”
– each blog published has its own RSS feed to close the loop
– search across the blogs: with the granularity being a blog post
– use outlines to display for the table of contents

The combination of Blogs, Outliners and RSS Aggregators are the building blocks for the Digital Dashboard.

Heres an example from John Robb, wherein he elaborates on building an RSS digital dashboard using a weblog tool:

In addition to getting new posts from news sites and other weblogs, RSS feeds can contain machine generated data from corporate systems. Sales data, financial data, supply data, data from partner systems, data from suppliers, etc. Using this method, employees could get up to the minute data from multiple applications on a single webpage — a personal digital dashboard.

So, for example, I could be a sales manager at a Fortune 500 company. I want to track information available to me from multiple corporate applications, and I don’t want to run the client software for each app on my desktop. I only want the data. So, in order to offer employees better access to data, the IT department is convinced to spend a couple of days to create granular RSS feeds for the main corporate apps (CRM, ERP, financial, etc.). Here is what the feed could look like:

Sale: Customer name: Proctor and Gamble, Date: June 12, 2002, Amount:
$2.3 m, Made by: Tom Durst, E-mail:, K-Log: , Product: Widget XYZ

Using Radio [a blogging tool] I merely subscribe to the feeds I want to monitor form a list on the Intranet (using the news subscription page). Every hour I get all the latest data from each of the apps. Further, I can take any of this data, add an annotation / comment / Point of View, and publish it to my K-Log. I could also create published views of this data using the Multi-author tool for Radio (this tool lets me select the feeds I want to group and publish them to category specific weblog).

Weblogs, Outliners are RSS are the unlikely combination which are re-making the user interface of the enterprise. Think of a browser with three tabs: one for navigating through weblogs, another for reviewing RSS feeds, commenting on them and deciding which blogs they need toflow to, and a third for writing. For enterprises, this triad in the form of the digital dashboard presents better way to manage information flow. Just as Googles search box has provided a window to the Web, similarly the Digital Dashboard can provide a unified window to the information-centric and collaboration-driven enterprise.

Tomorrow: Whole Solution for USD 20 a month