Extreme Programming

An article in Salon on a new methodology in programming — XP, or extreme programming:

Designed to overcome the endemic problem of programmers promising one thing and delivering something totally different, the XP methodology is built around putting the face-to-face interaction between developers and customers — not to mention developers and developers — over the keyboard instead of over the conference table. XP’s underlying article of faith is that if programmers and customers just communicate better, quality software will be the natural result.

Definitely worth trying out!


An article on Zaplet in the San Jose Mercury News says: “Zaplet was supposed to be the new, new thing. Instead, the company’s plan to sell its software for collaborative e-mail to individuals and businesses has flopped….Zaplet is now throwing its resources into winning government contracts, hoping to tap into the $38 billion soon to be spent by the government on homeland security.”

Zaplet was a cool company when it started…it had a way to do “magic” via emails — opinion polls, live updates, collaborative apps, and much more. I even remember us trying to “reverse-engineer” what Zaplet was doing — we are after all in the messaging business. It was after all, a Vinod Khosla (Kleiner-funded) company.

The problem was that even though the demos could be neat and cool, the real applicability was still not clear. I still think email applications have a part to play in the future, though I’m (still) not too sure how they’d work and what they’d do. The combination of Email-IM-SMS may provide an answer.

Teachable Search Engine

David Plotnikoff writes about the need for a teachable search engine.

My teachable search engine would watch my every move, looking at sets of search results and collecting a wealth of data about the pages I view — and perhaps those I don’t, as well. It would archive this vast personal history but it would not be able to tie it to my personal identifying information. In a perfect world it would only know me when I log in as “anonymous user No. 12345.”

The search engine would note whether I visited a page once — or 20 times. It would find similarities between relevant pages, without me ever having to tell it, “This page was close to what I’m looking for. This one was not.” And in this manner, over the span of a hundred or a thousand searches, it would build a pretty good understanding of how I search. With each new search it would turn to this history and look for similarities between the current query and all previous searches.

A good place to try out some of these ideas is with a Blog Search Engine. Its a much narrow cluster of documents, and its also about “connecting” to people like us.

Mainstream Linux

A series of articles in Business Week on Linux. In a nutshell: “Linux is gaining momentum in nearly all corners of computing, and more and better programs now run on it. Now, it just needs a business model.”

The big opportunity for Linux, Star Office and other such software solutions is in targeting the new users of the world. No point trying to go after the existing Microsoft users. There are the next 500 million users who are not in the high-income countries of the world. They also need computing. They are the ones who should be targeted. The problem is that most of the articles we see provide a viewpoint from the developed market, that is where the journalists are!

Linux and the other open source alternatives can only get a niche market share in countries like US, Europe and Japan. But in countries like India and China, they have an opportunity to become market leaders. This is where Sun should be focusing their Star Office efforts. This is a point echoed by Amy Wohl in her weekly newsletter: “I have some advice for Sun: Look for customers who aren’t Word users – if you can find them. Remember, most of them will be outside the U.S.”

Word Processors

Three articles on Word Processors, following on yesterday’s announcement by Sun on the USD 76 pricing for Star Office.

News.com writeson Microsoft’s plans to incorporate .Net elements into MS Office. Writes News.com:

For the next version of Office, the company is considering an optional subscription version tied to Web services based on Extensible Markup Language (XML). Those services, which could include some of the online calendaring and collaboration features envisioned for .Net My Services.

One new Web service being considered by Microsoft would provide customers with Web-based e-mail capable of connecting to multiple services and linking to Outlook. Another service would take a similar approach to calendaring and online collaboration. The service would, for instance, allow online calendars to be updated and linked to a wireless handheld. Another service would provide online data storage for documents.

A separate article on MSNBC talks about AbiWord: “It works on most major OS platforms and supports many languages; its able to read and write most documents in Microsoft Words .doc format, as well as twenty others; its authors claim it can do most of what Word can; and best of all its free.”

Walter Mossberg reviews Star Office in the Wall Street Journal. His conclusion: “I’d recommend StarOffice 6.0 only for light-duty work, and then only for people on a tight budget, or who just can’t abide Microsoft’s licensing and activation policies…StarOffice 6.0 has a long way to go.”

Autonomic Computing

A Scientific American article on IBMs manifesto.

IBM argues in its treatise that the goal should be “autonomic” computer systems analogous to the involuntary nervous system that allows the human body to cope with environmental change, external attack and internal failures. “Our bodies have great availability,” Morris observes. “I have soft errors all the time: my memory fails once in a while, but I dont crash. My whole body doesnt shut down when I cut a finger.”

This is the challenge for us. The next set of users of computers in the world need simpler, self-managing and self-healing technology.