With tax day over, there's no reason to put off registering for Smalltalk Solutions at LinuxWorld/NetworkWorld. Advance Registration is still available, and Smalltalkers can get an additional discount by contacting Suzanne Fortman prior to registration. There are lots of great talks, like Emil Markow's on regression testing tools:
Testing at Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan has for some years heavily relied on BRITE (internally developed, now open-source application) to run acceptance and regression tests. BRITE is used to test applications written in Smalltalk and applications written in other languages, most notably Java. This session talk about BRITE's main features, including test data management, test execution, reporting and documentation management and Web Services testing.
See you in Toronto next week!
Sam Ruby is looking for consensus on the handling of content:encoded and the description entry in RSS feeds. One se of thinking is to treat the description as a summary, and the content:encoded as the full text:
As to content:encoded , if people can come to a consensus on to the precedence rules regarding description and content:encoded , the Feed Validator will honor such consensus.
The trouble is that "in the wild", usage is all over the map. I haven't looked lately, but back when I added support for content:encoded, it was typically the same content as description - it was just explicitly encoded. Given that, I treat them as the same in BottomFeeder, and have content:encoded override description. I suppose I could add a preference, but I don't see a compelling reason to do so at the moment.
Now, maybe if there was a real spec for RSS, this - like other issues in RSS - would go away. We all know that there's one man who, for utterly inexplicable reasons of his own, thinks that more specificity would be a bad thing.
Rick Bradley is setting up a dynamic languages group in Nashville:
I've set up a Google Groups mailing list for the Nashville Dynamic Languages group "which is a pretty informal social and technical group of people (predominantly located in Nashville) who are interested in dynamic programming languages ( Smalltalk , Ruby, Lisp, Io, etc.). We had a get-together earlier in the week to test the waters and had a really good turn out. There's a heavy Ruby (+ Ruby on Rails) bent, but there's a lot of interest as well in other languages.
There should eventually be a website at nashdl.org.
Moderation. So I know you have Clay Shirky talking about it and folks like me and Scoble living it, but what is the solution? It seems that blogging as a communication medium is prone to entropy the more successful a blog becomes... perhaps comments should be tiered so that there is always a secondary page one can go to for all submitted comments and elevated comments ( either by the owner or readers ) can make their way onto the main blog page to ascend next to the main post's text. Kind of like Slashdot, just without the one-liner noise of each filtered message.
It's simply human nature at work. As any communications forum becomes popular, the number of troll comments rises - it's happened on old-time BBS systems, USENET, Slashdot... etc. Not a big shocker that the popular blogs have the same problem. Heck, look at any popular political blog and you'll see one of two things:
- No comments allowed (i.e., link from your own darn blog)
- An ever growing, more and more useless comment section
It's just the way things work
I suspect that China's new "no email server without a license" law will have a few unintended consequences - it'll probably play a role in any offshoring decisions. Why? The simple cost (monetary and bureaucratic) in getting a license, and the need to monitor otherwise inocuous conversations:
China's new rules also prohibit use of email to discuss certain vaguely defined subjects related to 'network security' and ' information security', and also reiterate that emails which contain content contrary to existing laws must not be copied or forwarded. Wide-ranging laws of this nature have been used against political and religous dissenters in the past.
Ignore the politics of free speech for a minute, and just consider the notion of having a few developers in China - and having to consider which technical issues are safe to discuss.
With taxes out of the way, it's time to register for Smalltalk Solutions 2006 - Advance Registration is still available, and Smalltalkers can get the STIC discount code by contacting Suzanne Fortman. Registrering will give you access to all tutorials and all sessions - the Smalltalk tracks and the LW/NW tracks alike. Get in now, so you can save money and learn about the latest in Wiki development from Lukas Renggli:
Web applications and wikis are often built using string-based approaches to parse and generate the resulting web-pages. While such approaches work well for simple applications, they hamper the customization and adaptability to end-users with more sophisticated needs such as different output formats, user-interfaces, management tools, application logic and security policies. Pier (formerly called SmallWiki 2) is the second version of an industrial strength application framework built on top of Seaside. Pier is written with objects from top to bottom and it can be easily customized to accommodate new needs. Pier is based on a powerful meta-description called Magritte, that allows one to create user-interfaces elements, queries and persistency in a declarative way.
See you in Toronto!
Dale Wolf (a colleague of mine at Cincom) explains how syndication technology hits the b2b sweet spot in terms of attracting the attention of busy people.
In case you hadn’t heard about it, some companies have begun blocking RSS feeds at the firewall. The rationale for this short-sighted, counterproductive bit of paranoid stupidity ranges from bandwidth worries to productivity concerns. The first I heard of this was from a reader of my monthly email newsletter. I’ve been cajoling my 2,500-or-so readers to switch to RSS for well over a year now. This particular reader wrote back saying he’d be happy to give RSS a try but for the fact that his company has banned RSS.
That just brilliant. So when product managers and product marketers want to monitor what's being said about their products - their management instead throws a cone of silence over them. I love the rationale behind this - it's to improve productivity:
The rationale behind monitoring employees, according to Newman, is that a computer at work is a corporate tool for enhancing the employee’s productivity. Because some people abuse that privilege by sending personal e-mail and viewing movies during working hours, employers feel they have little choice but to monitor what their workers are doing.
Ok, here's a tip to every manager and IT staffer who's ever had that thought - lie down until it goes away. If you have people who are not doing their jobs, then there's a simple procedure: document the problem, and - if it doesn't stop - terminate the employee(s) in question. Punishing the whole class instead of having the guts to address real problems simply lowers morale and productivity. Yeah, that's a brilliant management strategy. To follow it up, I suggest holding $100 bills up and lighting them on fire.
The same sort of stupidity is blocking mp3 downloads. Yes, I understand the legal issues, given the current state of cluelessness at the RIAA. At the same time, your marketing department might well want to monitor podcasts covering the industry you're in - there could be good news to tout, or negatives to counter. Of course, there's also the cone of silence approach. That works so well in negative PR situations.
Apparently, back in the 1920's and 1930's, the war departments of the US and Canada had a little too much free time on their hands - both developed cross border invasion contingency plans.
It's time for my weekly look at the logs - looks like BottomFeeder downloads ticked up to a rate of 331 per day last week - I'm never sure why these sudden burts (up or down) happen. Anyway, the details:
Off to the HTML page accesses for the blogs, by tool:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
After a one week absence, Everest/Vulcan is back. I wonder if that means testing is underway again, or if it's gone into deplyment? Off to the RSS pages accesses:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
|Net News Wire||11.5%|
|Google Feed Fetcher||3.5%|
Chris Petrilli defines Enterprisey for the clue challenged.
Advance Registration for Smalltalk Solutions at LW/NW is still open - and STIC members can save even more money - send an email to Suzanne Fortman for details. Sign up now, so you can hear Georg Heeg extoll the virtues of Smalltalk:
In 1981 the first article series was published about Smalltalk. In the early 1990s many very successful Smalltalk projects were started. After a slow-down between 1996 and 2002, Smalltalk is once again picking up more and more momentum. This presentation looks at the question what the inner properties of Smalltalk are that it is still considered hot although almost 25 years old.
See you in Toronto!
Looks like I touched a nerver - look at Robert McIlree's brilliant response in my comments - he even picked a great title for his comment: "Please stop blogging, you have another wife to beat and a dog to kick"
Feel free to give James or me a call after the crap you obviously develop leaks data to some identify theif or has various state attorney generals crawlingf through your systems before they hand what's left of your carcass back to the trial lawyers.
I do have to thank your content-free rants for one thign though, it drove a lot of traffic to my site. With luck, these folks probably have a few more brain cells then you do.
The Wizard of Oz didn't much care for the curtain being raised either. When you want a dysfunctional, but buzzword compliant, enterprisey answer - contact someone like McIlree. When you want something that gets delivered before the budget is busted, and without an excess of magic quadrant-ness, try considering the true nature of your business problem. I'd bet good money that it isn't actually as complex as some would have you believe.
Like Troy, I procrastinated on the whole tax thing. I just got done with TurboTax - or maybe it just got done with me. It installed nicely, offered to update itself - then crashed when applying updates. Tried again - same thing.
Sigh. Time to reboot. Rebooted, ran without updates. That worked fine until the part where I needed to file - then it demanded to ne updated. With trepidation, I went along. It worked. Then I recalled that I ran Civ 4 last night, and it always leaves Windows in a weird state.
At least I'm done with the filing of returns.
Well - it looks like the reality of offshoring/outsourcing savings differs from the hype - the savings are 10% - 15%, not 60%:
Outsourcing of information technology and business services delivers average cost savings of 15 percent, a survey found on Thursday, disproving market claims that outsourcing can reduce costs by over 60 percent.
After professional fees, severance pay and governance costs, savings range between 10 percent and 39 percent, with the average level at 15 percent when contracts are first let, according to outsourcing advisory firm TPI.
Well. The question you then have to ask yourself is this - is a 15% savings worth the hard to measure, but real annoyance your customers face when dealing with disempowered support staff they can barely understand? Proving that management is often immune to reality, the article goes on to state:
Cost reduction remains the primary motivation behind current outsourcing contracts, but an increasing number of companies are outsourcing primarily to improve quality, at 21 percent now versus 11 percent in 2004.
*Cough*. Yeah, I've always felt that I get better service when I deal with a remote call staff. I have to repeat everything I say, and if my problem doesn't fall into the "is it plugged in?" bag, I have to escalate out of of their domain anyway. Which is always hard. Better quality my posterior.
The Enterprisey theory of development is still very prevalent in the industry - witness Robert McIlree's take on development:
The underlying theme behind the anti-EA, and moreover, the "Web 2.0-Saves-Humanity-As-We-Know-It" crusade is this: you, the user, can have it better, cheaper, and faster if you [ fill-in-the-programming language-or-kewl-technology blank here]. Most of us who have been around the information technology business for a substantial length of time know that, eventually, this mode of thinking reinforces a number of serious and detrimental issues, particularly in the complex corporate and government environments where most of us ply our trade.
Here's the thing: Most applications just aren't that complicated. The propeller heads would like you to think they are - too many analysts want you to think they are - and too many vendors want you to think they are. As Chris Petrilli said today, an 80% solution delivered quickly is far more valuable than the Enterprisey solution that takes years and millions of dollars. The (supposedly) highly scalable, buzzword compliant solution doesn't help anyone while it's busy being late.
Reminds me of a situation related by a friend of mine awhile back. He was learning about various development projects that were ongoing at his new firm, which does consulting to a government agency. He was hearing about one project, that had set itself up to use a three tier architecture, Oracle as the DB, Enterprise Java Beans to connect to that, and a browser on the front end. He asked about the number of end users, and the answer - at the height of deployment - was "fewer than 20". He suggested that they just implement a simple Access front end to the data and be done with it. They branded him a heretic and sent him on his way.
I get the impression that McIlree would have been excited about the buzzword compliant enterprise architecture - even though it was going to take well over a year to build. Had they taken my friend's advice, they could have had a working 80% solution within a couple of weeks. But hey - it wasn't enterprisey enough, so down the garden path they went, led by people like McIlree.
There's another problem too - the large development job that takes N years to deliver is probably outdated by the time it does manage to get delivered. Those are the real wages of Enterprisey-ness - late solutions that cost tons of cash, and end up being outmoded to boot. Heck, this next bit from McIlree is more or less proud of that:
We work in environments where IT budgets are in the tens of millions, and in a number of cases, hundreds of millions of dollars. While there will always be some wasted money and failures financed by budgets in that range, part of our role is to insure that the systems designed and deployed with those monies provide value and cost control to the organization beyond the scope of any individual system or project. As JT notes, "Every architect and customer must understand the REAL business problem and functionality we are solving for." Not only is that true, but I would add that a message like this must be clearly communicated to executive management, both line and IT. If you do not have the complete support of your CIO, for starters, you're working with a minimum of one hand tied behind your back.
Translation: "You bozos have no understanding of the really important (expensive) job we're doing here. Leave us (and our large army of favored consultants) alone so that we can deliver a scalable enterprise (extremely costly and immediately obsolete) solution"
The real answer: you don't want any of that enterprise stuff on your fingers. Deliver the 80% solution now, so that the actual business of your company can move forward. What McIlree - and too many IT people, to be honest - forget is that they are just plumbers. Important, yes - no one likes clogged pipes. An actual center of profit? No. IT enables profit, but it doesn't actually create any of it.
This article has a lot to say about raging fanboy-ism, but also correctly identifies what Nintendo is up to: they aren't after the hardcore, willing to spend 12+ hours a day gaming addict. Instead, they are after the casual gamer, and especially after the handheld game market. They have a great thing going with the gameboy/DS space; the Revolution is a small upgrade to the GameCube, intended to attract those currently not in the market for game systems:
The oddest thing about the fanboy fantasy of Nintendo being King of Video Game Mountain again is that Nintendo doesn't share that fantasy. Nintendo knows where its profit is coming from, and that's handheld gaming. No one console is selling as well as Nintendo's combined GameBoy lineup (DS and GBA and all the various other incarnations) and no game division is raking in the cash like the mountain of licensing fees Nintendo collects from handheld software.
They didn't spend huge developing a new machine - the Revolution is just a souped-up GameCube. They're not taking a loss on the manufacturing - that would require some kind of initial investment and the danger of losing it (Microsoft took a 10-digit loss on the original XBox). They took no such risks because they didn't need to. Anything they make off the console market is gravy to them.
The beautiful thing for Nintendo - in business terms - is that no one else is competing for that space. At all. Microsoft and Sony are both after the "serious" gamer market. They each lose tons of cash on each console sale, as they continue to add better and better graphics (etc). IMHO, one of them (and I think it's going to be Sony) will say "uncle" eventually. The interesting thing then will be whether the survivor has any interest in encroaching on Nintendo's turf.
It's an awful lot like the early "browser wars", actually - remember when, for a few years, MS and Netscape constantly pushed new and better stuff out? What happened when Netscape cried "uncle"? It wasn't a golden age for browser fans, that's for sure. Rather, it was a long slog of stagnation until Firefox appeared to push things again. When one of the two hardcore systems dies, I expect to see a few years of stagnation in the console space as well.
I took my daughter down to DC yesterday - I had promised her a trip to the Spy Museum. Alas, I have no photos from there - they don't allow any (kind of appropriate in an atmospheric sense :) ). There was a long wait to get in, so we had time to stroll the neighborhood before our 3PM entry time. So, we walked down to Ford's Theater, where Lincoln was shot in April, 1865:
There's a small museum in the basement, which we visited. It has various exhibits from the time of Lincoln's death, including the nasty political cartoons of that era. The various people who think that politics are too mean spirited now have no sense of history, that's for sure.
We didn't get into the theater itself - it was restored back in the '70's, and is a working theater now - there was a group rehearsing while we were there. We took a look at the old boarding house across the street though - that's where Lincoln actually died, after being carried across. There was a long line, so we didn't go in - but I did snap a photo of the plaque:
We also walked down to the Navy Memorial, which is beautiful. Victoria took a few shots of that - I might post a few once she gets around to downloading them off her camera.
Digg may be trying to be the new slashdot, but they don't need to copy the historically low signal to noise ration. Here's an example: I just ran across this Digg item, talking about DMCA extensions that would make Firewalls illegal. I thought it sounded familiar - and sure enough, the link ran to a 2003 Register story.
There's still time for Advance Registration for Smalltalk Solutions 2006 - you can save even more money with the STIC discount code. You'll want to attend, so you can attend talks like Avi's - which should have some DabbleDB details:
Every startup needs a secret weapon. Ours was Smalltalk. Learn how we got an acclaimed web service out the door with no investors, no capital, and no experience, staying profitable the whole time.
See you in Toronto!
The conference location application works now - I deployed it at 3 am last night, which was a mistake :)
Here's the dumb thing I did - I'm saving the results to a simple BOSS (serialized object file), as a running collection. Simple enough - but here's how I was getting that collection:
existing := self getExiting. existing := existing add: newInfo. self saveToFile: existing.
Now, if you know the way the collection APIs in Smalltalk work, you'll have spotted the error: #add: answers the thing you pushed in, not the collection. So I was saving only the new entry. Worse, the second usage of the application blew up, since #add: through an MNU. Sigh.
Never deploy an application at 3 AM...
Google Calendar sounds like it should be an interesting service - I've never had the personal patience required to use a tool like Outlook (or, back in the day, various other PIM applications). Heck, I have been hard pressed to manage a paper calendar (so much for my organizational skills). However - having a calendar app that ties in via RSS to my aggregator? That sounds interesting to me, and like something I could actually make use of. I'm setting some stuff up there now, and we'll see how it goes.
We are looking to finalize the location of our bi-annual User's Conference (last held in 2004, in Frankfurt, Germany). We are looking at a number of locations in Europe, and have put together a survey to guage interest. Please give us your feedback here.
MIME types and HTTP content negotiation are good ideas in practice that have failed to take hold on the Web. Arguing that this fact contravenes stuff written in specs from last decade or from findings by some ivory tower group of folks from the W3C seems like religous dogmatism and not fodder for decent technical debate.
That said, I don't think MIME types should be retired. However I do think some Web/REST advocates need to look around and realize what's happening on the Web instead of arguing from an "ideal" or "theoretical" perspective.
Sometimes, I feel like web specs are like battle plans - they don't survive contact with content providers any better than battle plans survive contact with the enemy.
Dare runs into a problem with the .NET APIs that I'm sure every developer has hit, with pretty much any non-trivial API they have to work with. I know I've had my own private "WTF??" moments inside VisualWorks while working with Silt and BottomFeeder. There are subtle disconnects between library developers and library users, and every so often we land in the seam between them.
We held a User Conference in Franfurt (Germany) in December 2004. We decided at the time to hold a new conference every other year, with the location to be determined.
Well, it's now 2006, and we are looking at where to hold the December conference. It will be in Europe, and we are casting about for locations. So - suggestions? We are open to ideas. I'll have a new survey up shortly.
James McGovern asks to be engaged:
Hoarding of knowledge also comes about in that most folks in other enterprises work in walled gardens where they are not allowed to communicate with outsiders. I am the polar opposite. Would the community consider engaging in a face-to-face conversation at any of the events I plan on speaking at? You may find it interesting that I will be on a panel regarding web 2.0 at the Infoworld conference hosted by Jon Udell where I hope to represent and encourage others within the enterprise to not eschew but to embrace web 2.0.
I'd be more than happy to engage Mr. McGovern in a reasoned concersation. Other than OOPSLA, none of the events he mentions are on my radar at the moment, but if he wants to set up a panel discussion at one of those events, I'll happily look at it.
My daughter was disappointed about a school field trip - there were a couple of possibilities, and she was hoping to get the trip to the Spy Museum in DC. Didn't work out that way, so I'm taking her down there tomorrow. It's spring break, so we can do it on a weekday. It should be fun; I'll be out most of the day.
Today, Joel Spolsky hits the sweet spot of what he does best - explain the mechanism of software development at a business level. It's a great column, and managers everywhere would be well advised to read it. The summary explains via an analogy - read the whole thing:
Nobody expects Dolly Parton to know how to plug in a microphone. There's an incredible infrastructure of managers, musicians, recording technicians, record companies, roadies, hairdressers, and publicists behind her who exist to create the abstraction that when she sings, that's all it takes for millions of people to hear her song. All the support staff and management that make Dolly Parton possible can do their jobs best by providing the most perfect abstraction: the most perfect illusion that Dolly sings for us. It is her song. When you're listening to her on your iPod, there's a huge infrastructure that makes that possible, but the very best thing that infrastructure can do is disappear completely. Provide a leakproof abstraction that Dolly Parton is singing, privately, to us.
That's how a productive business entity runs
There's still time for Advance registration, and by using the Smalltalk code of ST135, you can save even more money. You'll get access to all the talks, both LW/NW and Smalltalk. Here's the sort of Smalltalk session you'll have access to - Smalltalk in the food sorting industry:
Ever wonder how the food you eat gets sorted, the good from the bad and the ugly? This is an experience report describing how Key Technology's latest machines (and the people behind them) do just that, using Linux, Smalltalk, and Test Driven Design. The presentation will cover the challenges, solutions, and wins using these technologies. We'll probably show some of the UI/control system, some footage of the machines in action, and the auto test and build environments in action. The intent is to "tune" the presentation as we go based on the interests of the audience.
See you in Toronto!
Here's an update on the StS 2006 Coding Contest:
The Coding Contest has been extended until the 19th of April.
While there was a lot of interest in the contest, many people complained that they could not do it in the timeframe alotted. Unfortunately, this means we only got a few submissions on the 9th of April.
Because of this, the STIC Board has decided to extend the contest until the 19th of April. If you wish to participate, just drop me an email (email@example.com).
Those who did complete have been granted finalist status and will compete at Smalltalk Solutions. These two finalists, of course, are allowed to continue to refine their program.
This means there is one slot left open - so get in and compete for this last position. If you were unable to complete the contest due to time constraints, now is your chance.
Best of Luck,
Mike Austin points out an interesting issue surrounding the learning of Smalltalk - the perceived irregularity of the syntax. As is pointed out in his comments, it's not irregular syntax, but the consistency of the object model that's at work. However, Mike has a point in terms of how newbies see things:
In one aspect, Smalltalk is a very small and elegant language. But I find there are some hidden intricacies when you actually use it. One example is the difference between using the messages whileTrue: and ifTrue:. whileTrue: expects a Block, while ifTrue: expects a Boolean. In the following, at first glance it's not understood why one uses square brackets and the other parenthesis:
[count < 10] whileTrue: [count := count + 1] (count < 10) ifTrue: [count := count + 1]
Once you understand that the control messages are just that - messages, not operators - it makes sense. I can see Mike's point though - to a person just learning Smalltalk, that might be seen as confusing. I'll have to think on this.
I like reading Ted, but I think he makes a common mistake here - it's one you see a lot of people make in the software development business, while discussing Cedric Beust's take on Ruby and the mainstream:
Cedric's definition of mainstream includes being appealing to Visual Basic and PHP programmers. That seems to be the backdrop of his first two points, that Ruby and Rails are too hard for these folks. I can see some of these points - folks in our reading group have been somewhat mind bent by some of the Ruby concepts, and they are Java/C# folks, which would put them higher on the food chain than VB and PHP programmers. I think that some of this is just unfamiliarity as opposed to difficulty, but there's not doubt that there is a learning curve there.
I find that a little funny, because of the conversation I had with Joshua Bloch a couple of years ago after his API talk at OT 2004. When I asked him about various Java things I dislike ("final" being the main one), he asserted that Java developers are down near the bottom of the developer food chain, and needed crutches like that - Smalltalkers and Lispers were up near the top, so they didn't.
The only thing that differs about these thoughts is where various programming cliques belong in the food chain. Just about everyone thinks that VB developers are some kind of lower life form, but they differ about where other people "belong" in the list. The thing is, I've dealt with a number of VB developers, and I don't accept the idea that they are lower ranking. They found a tool that works for them, and solves the kind of development problems they face. Heck, for lots of common tasks, VB has been a great tool - it can solve a number of problems faster and easier than Java, Smalltalk, or Ruby. Giorgio Ferraris recognized this awhile back, and has been building tools to make Smalltalk a player at that end.
One of the larger blind spots in this industry is silver bullet-ism. We Smalltalkers are as guilty of it as anyone else. Java developers think Java is the end all, be all. So do Smalltalkers. So do Lisp developers, and the Ruby buzz is filling the Ruby-ists with the same triumphalism. In an important sense, many VB developers may actually be more sane about this - most of the VB developers I've met don't think VB is the uber-answer.
Actually, a lot of the stuff he talks about with regards to SLAs, monitoring business processes and regulatory issues are all things we face as part of building Windows Live. However it seems Jeff missed my point. The point is that folks building systems in places like Yahoo, Amazon and Windows Live are building systems that have to solve problems that are at the minimum just as complex as those of your average medium sized to large scale business. From his post, Jeff seems to agree with this core assertion. Yet people at these companies are embracing approaches such as RESTful web services and using scripting languages which are both often dissed as not being enterprise by
He goes on to give an example, comparing RSS to WS-Eventing:
Just because a problem seems complex doesn't mean it needs a complex technology to solve it. For example, at its core RSS solves the same problem as WS-Eventing. I can describe all sorts of scenarios where RSS falls down and WS-Eventing does not. However RSS is good enough for a large number of scenarios for a smidgeon of the complexity cost of WS-Eventing. Then there are other examples where you have complex technologies like WS-ReliableMessaging that add complexity to the mix but often don't solve the real problems facing large scale services today. See my post More on Pragmatism and Web Services for my issues with WS-ReliableMessaging.
The bottom line is, you don't want too much of that enterprisey stuff on you.
James Governor notes that RedHat has acquired JBoss, and then hits the meat of the issue - the problem IBM could have:
The deal shines a clear focus on the Linux market. Can IBM really afford not to be in control of its own distribution for the long term? Sure Linux can be swapped out but ISV relationships and hardened environments at customer shops can't. Let's not forget that IBM already paid Novell $50m to strengthen the relationship.
With JBoss in reliable hands (and James notes that Oracle might buy RedHat), WebSphere just acquired a huge migraine. The way this all plays out will be interesting to watch.
The Smalltalk Industry Council (STIC) Announces New Executive Director
State of STIC Meeting and Open Enrollment Scheduled at Smalltalk Solutions 2006
The Smalltalk Industry Council (STIC) is pleased to announce the election of Bob Nemec as the new executive director of STIC. Nemec, vice president of Northwater Objects, has been an avid Smalltalk developer since 1990. Nemec's first act as executive director is to host a State of STIC meeting during Smalltalk Solutions 2006. The STIC meeting and STIC open enrollment is scheduled for Monday, April 24, 2006 from 5:30 -- 7:30 p.m. at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
"Allen Davis has done an incredible job for STIC during the past 5 years. It was Davis who resurrected STIC and brought Smalltalk Solutions to the success it is today. Allen's enthusiasm and advocacy for Smalltalk will continue with Knowledge Systems Corporation remaining on the Board to support Bob Nemec. We thank Allen and look forward to many more years of service with STIC," said Alan Knight, Smalltalk Solutions Conference chair.
"The decision to step down was very difficult for me, although it was the right thing to do for the Smalltalk Industry Council. Due to the success of Smalltalk, I have been overwhelmed with Smalltalk opportunities and cannot dedicate the time I would like and STIC needs in order to continue to build the Smalltalk Community," said Allen Davis, former executive director for The Smalltalk Industry Council.(1999-2006)
"I look forward to working with the enthusiastic and dedicated people of STIC, and the broader Smalltalk community, to raise awareness and understanding of what Smalltalk is. Smalltalk is by far the most enjoyable and productive development environment to work with; we have a chance to make that fact self evident to a broader audience," said Nemec.
Smalltalk Solutions 2006 is the premier forum for bringing together Smalltalk users, developers and enthusiasts. This year's conference will be held April 24-26, 2006, in conjunction with LinuxWorld and NetworkWorld Toronto. Advanced registration ends April 23, 2006.
To register for the conference go to: http://www.lwnwexpo.plumcom.ca/smalltalk.cfm. Smalltalk Industy Council members receive a 25 percent-off discount for advanced registration.
The Smalltalk Industry Council (STIC)
The Smalltalk Industry Council is a cohesive Smalltalk community where information, technical issues, new ideas and concerns are openly discussed to benefit the industry. STIC members are users and vendors of Smalltalk tools, components, databases and services. The Smalltalk Industry Council has been reorganized and reformed with the core board members from Cincom, Instantiations, GemStone and Knowledge Systems Corporation.
Smalltalk Industry Council
Giovanni Corriga is organizing a Smalltalk party in Cagliari, Italy on July 1st:
We're holding a Smalltalk Party in Cagliari on Saturday 1st of July. This will be a great chance to have a friendly talk about Smalltalk and related technologies, meet some other Smalltalkers, and get to know a nice part of southern Europe.
If you're interested in coming, please add your name to the wiki at http://smalltalkit.seasidehosting.st/seaside/pier/SmalltalkParty20060701 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The wiki also contains travelling information which you may find useful.
Sounds like fun - I sure wish I could justify a trip!
This CIO.com story has an interesting take on the spread of distance enabling technology - the take being that the technology is making it less reasonable to send small/medium jobs offshore. I'd argue that "large" jobs are probably a mistake, unless you properly split them into a set of small/medium ones - which in turn makes easy communication more relevant than sheer lower cost.
Of course, the trump to all this will be if firms in India (China, etc) start moving up the food chain. IMHO, it makes little sense to offshore a bunch of developers, when project management (and up) is still in North America - the timezone difference makes proper communication nearly impossible. Look back at the experiences of the big US automakers though - it was when nimbler foreign competition started taking on the whole job and shipping competing cars that they ran into trouble.
I had someone in comments the other day ask me who was going to challenge Microsoft. I rather expect that the CEO of GM, circa 1960, had the same smug thought...
The conference is getting closer - less than 2 weeks, and advance registration closes on April 23 - Smalltalkers should register with code ST135, which discounts access to the entire conference - all talks, both Smalltalk and LWNW. Register now, so you can attend talk like this from Mike Hales - showing a use of Smalltalk most people wouldn't expect:
This is a case study highlighting the development process, successes and setbacks of developing PlantVision, image analysis software for mineral processing plants. PlantVision is a hybrid system built using Smalltalk MT, Microsoft DirectX and various third party components in C accessed through com interfaces. This experience illustrates the productivity and fast time to market achieved by using existing frameworks together with the rapid prototyping, easy debugging and test driven development natural to Smalltalk. It also illustrates the ability of Smalltalk to easily interact with other languages, something not widely recognized outside of the Smalltalk user base
See you in Toronto!
James Governor spotted something interesting about Ruby - IBM may be paying attention:
IF IBM is hiring Ruby skills then Ruby is enterprise. That may seem like circular logic, but the reality is that IBM, more than any other individual or organisation, still defines what is and what is not "enterprise". If IBM is investing in an area, you can be pretty sure its going to be used in enterprise contexts.
I guess it'll be all enterprisey after this, as James says. Watch for violent head spins here.
There's some irony here too. If IBM is getting interested in Ruby, the spinning out of VAST last year could be considered a blunder. They could easily have taken Avi's advice. Yes, we could take that advice as well. We have a trifle fewer resources on hand than IBM though :)
Dare relates a funny thing about standards as he notices that Mark Pilgrim is posting again. Same as Dare, my aggregator notes a 410 notice by turning updates off (letting you delete the feed and it's archived posts at your leisure). Or as he said:
Mark Pilgrim's feed being resurrected from the dead is another example of why simply implementing support for Web specifications as written sometimes bites you on the butt. :)
If you play golf and want to keep track of your statistics, there's a new online application for you: GolfNumbers.com. Powered by Cincom Smalltalk. Check it out, and try not to duff to many out into the rough.
On our trip through Kansas, it was impossible not to notice the difference in average intelligence between Lawrence, the university town, and Liberal, a beef-processing and Walmart town. In 1900, the costs of moving away from one's home town were high. You'd see your family and friends only once every year or two. You'd talk on the phone or communicate via telegraph only in an emergency. These costs discouraged enough folks from moving that every town had its intellectuals. They dreamed of moving to Manhattan, but they never did. You'd find them at the library, in the local theater company, running a Great Books club, etc.
There's some truth to that - a related thing occurred to me while reading about the flue epidemic (1918) last night. The civic associations that took over when local government failed were all run by women; most of the women who ran civic organizations then have jobs now. Social change has many interesting side effects - but back to Greenspun's point. Further down, he makes a point that I think works against his theory over the long haul:
In 2006, you can move 300 miles away and get back home every weekend on an Interstate highway in a few hours. You can move 2000 miles away and get back home every month for $300 round-trip on an airliner. For a fixed $20 per month, you can get a voice-over-IP phone and make unlimited long-distance calls. For free, you can exchange email and instant messages. You can get the benefits of moving, associating with other smart interesting people, without many of the costs formerly imposed on those who moved away from their home towns.
That same technology allows a lot of smart people to move to "dumb" lower cost areas, and still work with the "smart" people. Consider - I live in suburban Maryland. Existing homes in my area are going for $750k and up. We don't live near a river or the ocean, either. My sister lives in suburban Texas. Down there, she and her husband were able to afford a house on one income. Heck, when I look at housing prices in Ohio, near where Cincom headquarters is, I get shocked - the prices there are less than half what they are here, and the weather is no worse. I'm in my forties, and established - but believe me, if I were 24, and just starting out - there's no way I could even begin to afford living in my area. That reality, combined with the technology advances in communication, are going to have distributive effects of their own.
I had to turn trackbacks off - the inbound spam was too much. I'll extend the filtering I do for referers to the inbound trackbacks and comments this week, but in the meantime, I just had to stop the flood.
I don't dispute the theory here, but I'd sure love to see where the data came from. Via Dale Wolf, I see this:
According to Jim Lanzone, Senior Vice President of Search Properties at Ask Jeeves, there are 36,000 blogs that "really matter" since they have 20+ subscribers. That means only a small percentage of blogs have enough relevant material to gather a community around them.
The thing that is generally useful from Lanzone's analysis is that subscriptions for blog feeds through Bloglines gives us a relative understanding of the blog world:
Level 1 -- 36,000 blogs that are serious enough to garner 20 subscribers.
Level 2 -- 14,363 blogs that have +50 subscribers
Level 3 -- 437 blogs that have +1,000 subscribers
Level 4 -- 60 blogs that have +5,000 subscribers
Level 5 -- only one blog with +50,000 subscribers
Here's the gist of my question. I periodically go to BlogLines to see how many people are subscribing to my blog through BlogLines. Yesterday, that number was 302. Today, it tells me that there are zero with public profiles. So either BlogLines reset that data, everyone who was subscribed dropped off, or they all en-masse decided to hide their profiles. Occam's razor leads me to the first conclusion, but - the loss of that data tells you something about how slippery this area is.
So say my Bloglines subscribers are still around 300. When I looked at my logs today, I noticed that there are over 4600 unique IP addresses subscribed to one or more of the feeds on cincomsmalltalk (across all blogs). There are other online subscription services too - Newsgator comes to mind. I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting. The point is - I have no easy way of telling how big the community around the blogs on this server is. I can get a rough feel based on commenting frequency and log activity, but that's very rough - and the subscriber numbers are a lower bound anyway, due to proxy servers - if 10 people from Cincom subscribe to your feed, for instance, it will look like one unique IP.
Bottom line - does anyone have a methodology that captures anything that resembles real data on this stuff?
It's that time again - first up, BottomFeeder download activity. Not much changed from last week, it ran at a rate of 257 per day:
I'm always fascinated at the 1 or two Alpha downloads; that's a very, very back version of BottomFeeder now. Next, let's see what went on with HTML pages accesses last week:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
The Mozilla share has been rising of late - I wonder if my audience is changing, or if my audience is moving to Mozilla? Hard to say. Finally, the syndication tool report:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
|Net News Wire||9.7%|
|Google Feed Fetcher||3.7%|
One interesting result there, and in the HTML accesses - I've had a fair number of hits from something called Everest/Vulcan over the last few weeks, and that just disappeared. I wonder if it was being tested - it seems to still be under development.
But both Ruby and RoR have things that the other products lacked when first out: a vocal, convinced and evangelizing community, a low barrier to entry, an amazing product, and a philosophy where the programmers' ease is at the front. The whole thing is just elegant.
That was a comparison with things like Lisp and Smalltalk. Now, I'll admit that Smalltalk has not always been easy to get ahold of. The community has made that easier though - there's Cincom NC, which is free for personal use, and there's the fully open source Squeak. The various other vedors make it easy to get started too. Admittedly, making the jump from files to an image is asking a little more, but we are working on making the intro process simpler.
I wonder if the hypesters in the Ruby community would comment on the fact that learning a new tool or technique actually lowers programmer productivity and product quality initially. The eventual benefit is achieved only after this learning curve is overcome. Therefore, it is worth adopting new tools and techniques, but only
(a) if their value is seen realistically
(b) if patience is used in measuring benefits.
So... C was a mistake - no one knew it back in 1978, so it should have been ignored. Java was an error in 1995 - clearly, it was a waste of time for anyone to learn it. Add in your own favorite language; everyone can play!
I guess McGovern believes that Cobol was the uber-answer, since any new tool that came along afterwards lowered product quality initially. To be enterprisey, you never want to take risks. Stay with the herd.
Chris Petrilli rips James McGovern yet another new one. It needs to be done just about every time McGovern opens his mouth.
Jon Udell goes through the ways he prepares to speak; I know this drill pretty well. I've never actually prepared a talk in advance (as in, had a prepared text). Maybe it would be a good idea; I don't know. I've always used what he calls "mode two", a set of slides to remind me about what I wanted to say. I tend to do a lot of ad-hoc demos though, so I "wander off the reservation" a lot.
I have no real idea how effective I am at this; I've been getting in front of groups for years, so I assume I'm not horrible. It would be nice to get some feedback from people who have attended one of my talks though.