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February 25, 2003

TreeMaps

I've not used the SmartMoney "Map of the Market" for a while, when Gavin McGovern referenced it today; and I'd forgotten just how good it is.

It's a treemap: an incredibly dense but easy-to-read visualization of a large dataset. PhotoMesa does the same thing with image libraries.

Lazyweb time: Tim, I want to build exactly this in PHP, navigating over a Groove files tool with remote Web Services. Easy, right?

February 24, 2003

ACM: Ubiquity

An interesting mid-2002 interview with Terry Winograd (PARC, Action, Interval, Stanford, Google).

What surprised me, which Google was part of, is that superficial search techniques over large bodies of stuff could get you what you wanted. I grew up in the AI tradition, where you have a complete conceptual model, and the information retrieval tradition, where you have complex vectors of key terms and Boolean queries. The idea that you can index billions of pages and look for a word and get what you want is quite a trick.
Part of an ongoing series from the Ubiquity magazine.

February 23, 2003

Introducing...

Richard Summers, ex-Agora, likely to have some interesting things to talk about. Hi, Rich!

"Smart" documents

Peter O'Kelly continues to provide good perspective on Microsoft. A couple of snippets: some DRM in the works... and Smart Stuff, pulling some of the threads together.

February 22, 2003

Blame Google

Daniel, it was Google not me, honest!

Thank you for the kind words. And, even more, for your seemingly boundless enthusiasm. The future might arrive from different directions, and we need your navigation skills to get to good places.

February 21, 2003

Public domain

Complementary to the private domain, which certainly is under pressure: the public domain, also at a critical juncture.

Get inspired. How about this for a goal: "universal access to all human knowledge". Public access to the public domain. Is that crazy? Brewster Kahle argues no, indeed: we ought, can, may, and possibly will.

This is over an hour streaming video, but worth every minute. There's nothing on TV anyway, right? If you're really time-strapped, jump in to 46:10, or 54:00 (say). But you'll still miss the awe-inspiring bookmobile and much more. And the scandal of thomas.

More of the series might be worth a look sometime, too!

(I found this on Jon Schull's weblog. But it took a while to realize he'd cut-and-patseyed a paragraph from boingboing. Go follow that link, you'll see what I mean. It's not in any way misattribution, but I don't much like it!).

NewsDesk

Daniel Shurman suggested I try NewsDesk, a desktop news aggregator (built in .NET). And - it's very very good.

Ten things to know about XDocs

Jon Udell has an InfoWorld article and a blog entry talking about XDocs InfoPath, with "10 things you should know about this revolutionary piece of software".

My take from reading about this app:

  1. It'll surely be a Release 1.0 product. R1 products don't change business overnight, but they do change the landscape when they're interesting enough.
  2. "Semi-structured" doesn't mean "a little structure and a lot of blobs"; XML is deeper than that. In a desktop tool, this means: centrally-managed schema, with decentralized data gathering...
  3. When did you ever hear the words "aggressively standards-based" about something from Redmond? But this is. Finally MS's huge investment in XML tooling - parsers, schema - begins to show fruit.

(Jon's blog entry has something new, too: audio clips from his interviews. Wow!)

February 20, 2003

Expectations meltdown

Fascinating on many levels: Accidental Privacy Spills: James Grimmelmann dissects at length the story of what happened when a reporter sent some interesting but very informal conference notes to a few friends.

Remember how everyone keeps saying that distance is irrelevant on the Internet? Well, this is what happens when distance disappears. You wind up right next to the damndest people. The problem isn't that you can hear your loud neighbors; the problem is that they can hear you.
I have two issues with the analysis: [1] there's a conflation of Internet and Web; and [2] I don't believe there's a "complete dissolution of the category of the 'private'".
Of course everything is "just bits", copy-and-pasteable to some extent, but we can build environments like your Inbox in which "private" is virtually indistinguishable from "public", and also tools like Groove in which the private sphere reigns by default. Thus also my fascination with Groove-Web interop, in which the technology to blur that boundary proves quite easily tractable, but hints to support and reinforce the appropriate social norms need to be present too.

February 18, 2003

"kiddee-Groove"

Microsoft's latest thang: threedegrees. The spin from boingboing:

MSFT has shipped a kiddee-Groove, a file-sharing/IM/collaboration tech aimed at teens, called Softie. The project sounds kind of neat, until you realize that it's got an assload of DRM built into it and, in the end, does less than Napster did.
It really does sound Groove-like in some ways. Musicmix is a familiar idea, but could use a twist (as Patrick knows - go play).

Still digging

Well, the snow's heavier elsewhere, but here it's quite enough thank you. Hey, at least it's warmer! Pix of the car and postbox... :-)

RTC

Robert Faletra in CRN, talking about Microsoft and Real-Time Communication (RTC):

Microsoft ought to leverage Ozzie more or even make Groove the lead dog here. A concerted effort to articulate a product road map while leveraging Microsoft's value-added channel would be a winning combination
Hmmmm.

Personally, I'm fascinated. I see the PlaceWare acquisition as a sign that someone understands the need to [a] establish a beach-head with a focused application area (meetingware), and [b] have something with which to define the category of "realtime application server" - that has to include SIP and SIMPLE, but also have broader capabilities.

Placeware has been interesting since the start, because its heritage includes the grandaddy realtime-appserver of them all, one I spent way too much time using:

PlaceWare got its start in 1990 at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). In its first iterations, it was a ground-breaking multi-user game known as LambdaMOO.
I don't know zip about SIP, but here's one way to look further. Groove is to SharePoint (decentralized application:::centralized application server) as Groove is to PlaceWare (decentralized application:::centralized application server) too...?!

Tim

It's good to see Tim Knip at #2 on the Technorati Interesting Newcomers list. Lots of people are talking about (and quoting others talking about) his Groove/Radio interop tool.

Access control scalability

Jiri Ludvik (via Scott Loftesness, because Jiri wrote "Groove rocks!" a couple of days ago) has some interesting observations around access control. He quotes Daniel Geer:

If you look at the access control problem, it is a matrix. The rows are requestors and the columns are objects of their desire. Linear growth in either or both means geometric growth in the number of table entries in that matrix... beyond a certain size no one can get their head around it anymore... An awful lot of legacy systems' durability is explicitly derived from this combination of "essential" and "cannot be understood."
Lovely. Yet, decentralisation of the security can help here too. Decentralization makes things personal and immediate. In the context of security, is it possible to decentralize - make individuals at the edge partially responsible for who they can share information with, by putting some of that directly in their field of view - but keep a sensible amount of stringency, planning and oversight? I think, actually, it is.

February 17, 2003

Shhhhh....point?

Via Scripting News: "Microsoft's Matt Williams compares Sharepoint to weblog tools".

Matt seems to get the wrong end of more than one stick at once (SharePoint PS is kinda big-and-punchy, and costs, where SharePoint TS is almost a great weblogging tool, and is kinda free) when he writes

a guy named Anil Dash... wrote an article back in October on why Sharepoint is a crappy weblogging tool. He goes through lots of points about why you might not want to use it for weblogs. DUDE! Sharepoint is not a weblogging tool! I am sure if we decided to write one, it would totally rock...
I'm tickled by his later entries too - sounds a lot like the sort of thing we used to say about Notes: integrated software, it'll cost ya less to run. Not untrue, mind, but I don't think that'll make many converts from (say) MovableType.

The real deal is something more like "k-logging". Weblog-style publishing as a consciously-instigated business groupware practice. Of which, more later, methinks.

Oh, the luxury

Running a weblog is such a luxurious, inessential privilege - something the Pyra deal will likely change. Meanwhile I get to opine at length, gripe when nobody recognises the hidden brilliance of my latest opus, hallucinate about the size of my readership, and all that. Heh.

So, here's to some of the unsung people who deserve their day in the sun. I'm lucky to work with some incredibly good people - you probably know some of them, like Paresh and Michael and Matt, but not many many others who built this great thing, and taught me a lot along the way. Congratulations. I'm honoured to be a contributor.

February 16, 2003

InfoWorld reviews Groove 2.5

Jon Udell's comprehensive review of Groove 2.5 for the Infoworld Test Center.

Groove founder Ray Ozzie and his teams have always pretended to build application software. But what they have actually delivered are the operating systems of the future years ahead of schedule.
...For developers, 2.5 is a watershed.. Groove's encapsulation of its API in managed code arguably goes beyond anything Microsoft has done with its own products.
...Until now, you had to step out of the mainstream to take advantage of Groove's advanced collaboration technology.
Here's the piece which I particularly want to expand on: interoperability. In particular the SharePoint Team Services glue, which debuts in Groove 2.5 (and I hope will expand going forward). For once, I don't think Jon completely "gets it".

Udell says

Also new in the Professional Edition of 2.5 is two-way synchronization between a Groove shared space and a Microsoft SharePoint Team Services (STS) Web site. Using a separately licensed Groove toolset called the Groove Mobile Workspace for SharePoint, this bit of integration will appear more seamless to the STS user than it will to the Groove user.
Yes, true; we deliberately tried to keep much of the SharePoint user experience in moving STS lists into Groove shared spaces. But even this - lists, discussions - is an education in process.

What do people use to collaborate? #1: Documents. Opaque-blob, resolutely uncollaborative, determinedly non-semantically-queryable documents. Word, Excel, that stuff. #2: E-mail. #3: Discussions. Threaded responses (but this is really pushing the envelope). Documents are the stock-in-trade, and the most important piece of the STS integration because everyone just wants to share (and publish) files.

I work at Groove because I want to change that.

At the opposite extreme to document sharing, we've some Groove platform capabilities and tools which really open the door for "contextual collaboration". The platform's presence and notification mechanisms run deeply through the whole user experience. Then, for example, Pinboard very subtly shows each user what the other people are looking at right now. The experimental MeetCam lets you talk and work together while seeing others' expressions. A proof-of-concept GPS tool lets groups work (on documents, natch) in a space with "place" - showing the real positions of people and things. Several engineering visualization tools let teams work on, say, a support issue, but work with a shared perspective into a 3D model.

The "work on" will usually end up in something for publication: Word, PowerPoint, Web, whatever. Mostly "just files".

The "work in" and "work with" help people get things done, and here, blobs are not enough. Threaded discussions are a good place to start, especially when in SharePoint you can very easily add, say, a "Issue" field which is a lookup into your list of top issues. Then a "Red Flag" field which marks it as a task, or an action item. And so on. The collaborative environment is shaped by its users; it's ad-hoc application design.

Try that with the Groove SharePoint toolset. It just works. And - I'm incredibly excited by this - it's only the beginning.

February 12, 2003

Canonical

Great word. Here's the canonical definition, if you like.

Groovelets

New from Virtual Methods: Groovelets, a very neat set of small Groove tools. Nice!

In case you were wondering...

this is where I've been for the last week - after all, we have plenty more winter weather to come... :-)

Interop

Tim Knip has been busy, building a Radio Userland / Groove "interop tool". This little gem uses Groove Web Services (GWS) from Radio, letting you: pull weblog entries into Groove discussions, post Groove discussion entries and files to your weblog, and more. The Groovelounge is an example of what can be done with this integration: a group of people sharing a space, reading news there together, and effortlessly publishing some of their work to the Web.

Jon Udell likes it too. "That third step is a doozy", he says of Tim's blog-reading feature, which indeed elegantly overtakes the NewsClient tool's capabilities.

Fix Error Handling First

An excellent little article from Ned.

Fixing code is easiest when you can run it, and error handling code is only run when there are errors happening for it to handle. Broken error handling code is just a future mysterious accident waiting to happen. Fix error handling code before fixing errors.

February 11, 2003

Happy Fifth Birthday

It's five years since XML was published as a W3C Recommendation. Awesome.