30 Apr

MT3 perspective

Tim Appnel, one of the developers most familiar with Movable Type, provides some interesting perspective about MT 3 (Tim helped us architect and develop some of the things done at MarketingVox, where by the way I’m not active on a day-to-day basis anymore):

"Perhaps 3.0 isn’t deserving of the dot 0 label, but I could argue otherwise so its a grey area. The real problem is that the lack of updates to MT has created an anticipation that did not forsee or properly address through their communications in order to manage these expectations. It is here were the radio silence has been so damaging. I can only hope they see how damn important this is going forward and make it a priority and not an after thought as they have. They make a tool of collaboration and communication after all!"

(Emphasis mine.)
I’m not an insider like him, but I think I can reverse-engineer what happened and not miss the mark entirely (feel free to contradict me):

  • Sometime last year Six Apart, seeing the success of its largerly self-organized developer community, decided to focus on growing the platform side of MT, as opposed to its product side. I gather that decision took some time to be internalized and formalized, and in the meantime everyone was left hanging dry with the expectation of an MT Pro feature-driven release. This longer-term bet makes sense, especially for a multiple-seeking VC-funded business, plus it’s harder to catch up with an established platform as opposed to blogging software (yes, barriers to entry — new blogging tools seems to pop up every other week, and they’re rather competitive as it’s always easier from a clean slate, and it’s not like a blog CMS is rocket science).
  • Scalability, availability and security are features. Just ask Microsoft, or closer to Six Apart, Blogger, which almost didn’t add any visible feature in two years (i.e. forever) but at the same time added hundreds of thousands of users. Typepad doesn’t have a free product so the numbers are an order of magnitude smaller, but still the service is successful which means you need to ramp it up. The benefit to the end-user is invisible until things break down (my girlfriend uses Typepad on a daily basis, so I’m aware of uptime or lack of). On that record Typepad has been running well, but there’s no doubt this required resources. Add a couple of roadbumps such as comment spamming, and you’re basically recoding the same software again and again to keep it working properly.
  • Typepad was the main focus for a while, as it can generate cashflow more quickly. There was simply not much attention span available for MT.
  • Hiring and ramping people up is very time consuming, and adding more developers to a project doesn’t shorten time to delivery.

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27 Apr

Father of the IPod

Wired blogs about Tony Fadell, the guy who apparently created the iPod (his exact contribution is unclear). He also designed the Philips Nino, one of the first Windows CE PDAs. I had one of those back in 1998, not a bad PDA but compared to Palms it was a brick, and when its battery connection broke, I never bothered to fix it or buy another PDA. I’m currently not mobile enough, but when the perfect device is available for cheap, I’ll eventually fork some money for one.

27 Apr

Internet Apps Come in Many Flavors

David Temkin (Laszlo’s CTO), inspired by Gmail, writes:

"It’s interesting to think of RIAs [Rich Internet Applications]as belonging to three different categories, each analogous to an operating system:

  • Unix-style RIA: Gmail is a great example of this. It’s essentially text-only, with keyboard equivalents. It’s reminiscent of Pine or vi, particularly with regard to how keyboard shortcuts work. The emphasis is on speed, not friendliness — it’s best for geeks and most likely designed by geeks (and I mean that in a nice way).
  • Windows-style RIA: Oddpost, another rich Web mail service, is a perfect example of this — a Windows-style UI delivered into a Web browser. This can be done with DHTML heroics (as is Oddpost), or with Java. Here’s a comparable example built with Laszlo. The look and feel of these applications is essentially a duplicate of the “classic” Windows desktop look and feel. Users new to these applications can lean on their familiarity with Outlook and similar applications, but they don’t reflect what we’ve learned on the Web about UI — very little linking, very little contextual “content” or media.
  • Mac-style RIA: Here I’m talking about the visually differentiated, smooth/animated interaction often associated with Mac OS X (or with Flash), but used in the context of a Web application. These applications as a category represent the attempt to blend the best of the Web with the best of applications. Most of Laszlo’s deployments and demos fall into this category."

07/08/04 update: I didn’t know the guys who do Oddpost came from the defunct Halfbrain.

25 Apr

What GPS for Europe?

According to a credible reviewer of the Garmin eMap Deluxe GPS (scroll some, Amazon doesn’t have permalinks at the individual review level), this device doesn’t work well in Europe. Does anyone have to recommend something similar in price and features that wouldn’t be as US-centric?
Speaking of Amazon reviews, are spotlight reviews new? Can you retrieve them separately from the others through AWS? It makes sense to filter reviews just like you want to moderate down most of any given Slashdot thread.
04/28/04 update: I’m investigating on Usenet (still more useful than the web for many things, at least until web forums will have better URLs or search engines will be smarter at indexing them), it seems the eTrex Vista (extensive review) works rather will this side of the pond. I’d of course buy the device in the US where it’s cheaper, apparently you can’t change the basemap but that wouldn’t be too much of a problem. There are restrictions in terms of matching local grid systems, but that’s not something I need anyway. Now the question is, shouldn’t buy a GPS-enabled PDA instead? I guess they’re not as functional, and the unit I’m really drooling at is the GPS-60C (upgrading rationalization is well underway).
06/15/04 update: to add permalinks to each paragraph on any web page, there’s PurpleSlurple.

25 Apr

Start Thinking Beyond the Browser (Distributed Light Hangover)

If you still think the web is always going to be a bunch of HTML pages read with a browser, or that the next web is a bunch of XML files read by a newsreader, think again and read Miguel de Icaza’s post about Longhorn to understand what’s at stake. Sure, this will really impact how public (especially mainstream commercial) "sites" will be made five years from now, so it’s not like there’s an urgent call to action, but I get the feeling many web professionals are going to wake one day with a bunch of largely irrelevant skills based on obsolete standards, early notice or not.
When the new stuff works properly, the current web is going to look like gopher. It will of course take a long time to be phased out during a coexistence phase, and it will survive for a while longer on PDA phones or whatnot, but eventually nobody made nor bought DOS apps anymore. When I see people getting excited about the latest soft shadow CSS hack, I can’t help but think this is just ASCII art to any decent 3D graphics card. The web will go beyond a terminal-like stateless paradigm, and sooner or later its UI will stop looking like something from 1989. Show me something an Amiga couldn’t do. Let’s admit that (if only) from an eye candy perspective, the effort-to-output ratio using CSS is downright silly (just because it beats using HTML tables doesn’t mean it’s good in absolute terms).
Have a look at Far Cry screenshots (remember that this moves at 60 fps in hi res full screen on recent PCs), project that three years down the road this will be considered a butt ugly oldie game, and smell the coffee: the web as it is now is plainly primitive and awefully static, and most attempts at not making it so suck so bad it hurts just to think about it (it hurts even more than reading this 6AM stream of semi consciousness written while I’m still digesting Douro wine drunk last night while pondering with friends the relative merits of Argentina and Brazil as places to relocate to). Anyway, case in point: nine car manufacturer web/Flash sites out of ten. And really, the whole idea of streaming or downloading some piece of audio or video that I can’t do anything with but read is equally pathetic. Please make use of my local computing resources, thanks.
Longhorn is not a half-assed rush stopgap attempt like ActiveX. And Microsoft had better get it right anyway or they’ll be in big trouble to compete against Linux, let alone their good-enough Windows XP installed base. (I wonder where Apple fits in that picture, if at all — but sometimes strange things happen, like .NET apps for ipods, and btw flashenabled is awesome, hmm, lots of Microsoft tech in there.)
Bottomline is, the current browser-based model is going to be kicked in the pants, and the sooner the better. Second bottomline is, Portuguese red wine is good but strong (12.5-13

24 Apr

Record sales up, shows Soundscan, RIAA playing with stats?

We learn on John Buckman’s blog that the RIAA bases its propaganda on sales-in data (to the channel) rather than sales-out (to end customers). Which makes sense since they’re in the forcefeeding-down-your-throat-with-threats business rather than please-buy-me-I’ll-be-nice-to-you business. Who cares about the end customer (or rather, the consumer, a word which literally means we’re meant to ultimately ingest and destroy the products we buy).

23 Apr

Excel Freak? You Are Not Alone

With this post and thread, Anil proves that a) he’s read exclusively by freaks, and b) there’s a market for a 12-step program to get people out of the habit of making complex but useless spreadsheets. Hi, my name is Olivier and I’m addicted to making useless spreadsheets.