Monthly Archives: April 2004

Pre-meeting introductions

During this week I had business in Redmond. Due to focusing on my conversation with a coworker while driving instead of paying attention to the road, I missed the 520 exit off the 405–I mean REALLY MISSED it. (That’s funny…there are a lot more trees than I recall from previous trips…never seen that strip mall over there, either…!) Cell phone rings, it’s Microsoft. Where am I? <I answer> Oh! Man, you need to double-back to get to us. When is the meeting? When you get here. Great! So, I high tail it back towards the 520. As I’m rounding a bend on the 405, I spot a patrolman on the shoulder, dismounted from his motorcycle pointing, that’s right…a radar gun. I brake. Doesn’t matter. He signals me to join him on the shoulder. My coworker is chuckling. As my guests would later record, I received a pre-meeting introduction by the Washington State Police in the form of a traffic violation for going 76 in 60. The officer was polite and even brought down my fine slightly since I was out of state. (Hmm, how does traffic school work for out of state citations?) While I’m not making any excuses–and before braking I was probably going faster than 76 due to missing the exit–it’s interesting to note that on my way back home from the airport (both in California), I noticed that I wasn’t even keeping up with traffic while driving 76. (Our local freeways top out at 65, too.) Oh yeah, the final action item for me from the meeting is pay the fine. At least it was a sunny, pleasant day in Redmond.

Word: RSS – Part 2

(Part 1)

Here I catch up on the remainder of the unaddressed posts I’ve collected on the subject of blogging and RSS (or Atom) over the past couple of months:

  • Two valid concerns that need to be addressed in enterprise-class product (via Robert Scoble): (1) RSS/Atom feeds are pulled down by news aggregators every hour. Multiply that by the size of the average Fortune 500 workforce and you will realize a bandwidth bill that’s many times higher for RSS than it is for HTTP and the traditional web browser; and (2) RSS/Atom feeds pull down all the content every time–even content that hasn’t changed since last time. Is there a way to only send down a feed that’s changed, or even better, a partial feed with only new/updated items (e.g. byte-/character-level differencing)?
  • Mark Pilgrim writes about the myth of RSS compatibility (among the nine versions of RSS currently in the field). Luke Hutteman comments, While I’m sure his article is technically correct, in practice it’s not that hard to write a single parser that handles all formats of RSS. Such a parser may not be 100% correct according to all the 9 different specs, but it will handle the vast majority of available RSS feeds without a problem. So, is it more important to code to a specification or to code an easier-to-maintain solution?
  • Arve Bersvendsen writes about 11 ways to valid RSS. Dare Obasanjo shreds this down from 11 to five. My take away from Dare’s post is that you need to spend the time to understand what you’re coding (e.g. XML, RSS, etc.). Coding before adequate design is complete all-too-often leads to unnecessary work and increased scope (up front and long-term maintenance thereafter).
  • Aaron Skonnard wrote a nice The XML Files column, All About Blogs and RSS, in the April 2004 issue of MSDN Magazine.
  • While questioning if blogging is a two-way medium, Lenn Pryor (Robert Scoble’s boss) said: So if blogs are all about the conversation, the aggregator took the conversation back and turned it into a lecture again.
  • Joshua Allen shows us that RSS feeds can be a pleasant read for human beings and not just machines. Jon Udell asks for HCI (human/computer interface) guidelines for the internet in general (including those orange XML icons).
  • About Microsoft and its customers, Robert Scoble posts: This is an important trend that marketers need to realize (people want to have a permanent marketing relationship with each product team, and right now they aren’t being served. Email is screwed up. Web sites force users to remember URLs and revisit the sites. RSS/Syndication is so so superior to other methods.
  • CSS extraordinaire, Eric Meyer dislikes the reverse-chronological nature of weblogs. I agree that a timeline flip feature would be nice for some of the blogs I read. However, an author’s views can change over time and such change is more likely the longer a blog is maintained. (Perhaps this is why Martin Fowler uses a bliki instead of a blog.) Anyway, Robert Scoble comments on Eric’s dislike. In a way, reading a time-ordered set of posts in chronological order vs. just reading the last post first is similar to a vector vs. a mere point–the point in a vector has direction (i.e. you have a sense of where it’s headed or came from).
  • Joshua Allen ponders how to bring RSS to the masses by covering the last mile of making the technology accessible to the non-power user.
  • Will you be informed or ignorant when it comes to meeting the needs of your customers and market through RSS?
  • In a Red Herring post, Marcia Conner reminds us that products in general not just for the blogsphere or other forms of social software must account for the learning and teaching styles of individuals and organizations to be effective: If the tools and rules in an organization happen to fit that way of learning, employees thrive. If not, they flounder and frustration mounts until the social software is scrapped along with hopes that the company can become a “learning organization.” I believe that RSS/blogs have the ability to facilitate learning as a by-product of sharing.
  • Chris Pratley invites everyone to participate in an exercise to see if blogging support can become a viable (profitable) for a future release of OneNote. While he received a significant amount of feedback, apparently it was thin on the design side.
  • Jon Udell suggests that blogging tools enable a project-oriented work to be clarified through effective narration. Or, as he credits Dave Winer as saying: By narrating the work, we clarify the work. Thus the role of the project narrator is born and seeks a dedicated owner on each project team!
  • As this Fast Company post reminds us, blogs are about transparency, and transparency is good. Restaurants show off their kitchens for a number of reasons, but it doesn’t mean that they’re giving away their special sauce. Similarly enterprise software companies don’t have to give away their highly prized and invaluable intellectual property to generate high attraction in their marketplace and increase loyalty with their customers. Sometimes just seeing how busy someone else is working on your behalf is all it takes. Sometimes understanding the reason why something functions the ways it does, triggers the desired response. People want to be heard; companies want to be understood. Blogging can facilitate both and lowers the barrier to achieving results. Robert Scoble offers several examples from Microsoft on this last point.

Since the barriers to entry with RSS are very low, why is it that there aren’t more enterprise-class players in this space?

Word: RSS

[If you need a non-technical resource to better understand RSS and how to use it, read this RSS primer.]

It’s been awhile since I posted on this topic; so, here I try to catch up with related developments and thoughts over the past couple of months as follows:

  • Quality applies not only to the content itself but also to how the content is broadcast via syndication feeds like RSS. Here are six tips for producing quality feeds.
  • To get more exposure, visibility and reach for your RSS feeds and weblog URLs, here is a very useful listing of best blog directory and RSS submission sites.
  • Howell Developments released RSS Composer.
  • Given where email finds itself today concerning spam, viruses, etc., special attention must be given to newer technology like RSS. I, for one, appreciate today’s feeds because they are advertisement (spam) free. However, the days of this remaining true may be numbered (also here). Are we all prepared? More importantly, is the underlying technology ready for the weight of such an event, or will it die an untimely, premature death?
  • Pluck 0.8.2 for IE was released on 4/2/2004.
  • Robert Scoble (Microsoft) and Eric Auchard (Reuters) have a conversation, which reveals the power of blogs and the power of a professional response to them. Chris Pratley questions the ability of blogs to facilitate meaningful dialogs. Some of those who appreciate the posts Chris makes, weigh in. [1][2]
  • Listening to the brief interview with Dare Obasanjo on Channel 9, and in particular, Dare’s comparison of RSS 2.0 to RSS 1.0 and Atom–RSS 2.0 is the simplest of the lot and suitable for most syndication needs–reminded me of his previous post On Semantic Integration and XML as well as his post, Mr. Safe’s Guide to the RSS vs. ATOM debate.
  • For Robert Scoble blogging is really just the watercooler network of the 1980s. Michael Herman disagrees. Robert replies. They’re having a conversation. Blogs may not be conversations in and of themselves in much the same that one’s resume is not by itself a conversation either. However, a well-written blog can be a conversation starter just like a well-written resume can be. Networking and the quality of your network apply to both blogs and job-hunting, too. Anyway, I digress. But my recent conversation with Harry Pierson is my first hand proof that blogs are conversation starters.
  • Red Herring reports on the DEMO 2004 panel on the meaning of blogging. Robert Scoble comments afterward: One knock against weblogging and potential businesses that are being built around weblogs is “they are technically easy to reproduce.”
  • Sam Ruby offers some insightful commentary on why he uses Bloglines.
  • What’s good for small business (e.g. high sense of touch with customers) is good for business. Period.
  • The Birth Of The NewsMaster: The Network Starts To Organize Itself >> Heads, decks, and leads: revisited >> Newspaper Views for Reading RSS Feeds
  • Blog content needs to become a first class citizen in the XML world. -Jon Udell
  • What kind of conference blogger are you?
  • Dave Winer’s lecture on 2/9/2004 to Microsoft Research, Weblogs and how we can work together, can be heard here.
  • Blogs vs. NNTP technology (here, too)
  • Blogs vs. previous push technology
  • What’s up with blogging, and why should you care?
  • Jeremy Wagstaff ponders trackable RSS. It seems that under all technology is a battle for control pitting producer against consumer. Does it have to be this way?
  • Robert Scoble offers his vision of blogging’s future in response to Dave Winer’s poll on the subject.
  • Lisa Williams provides a great summary about what blogging’s future needs are from those in the blogsphere in The Weblog Wishlist Manifesto.
  • Why Ed Sim blogs as a VC is why more people in general should blog. For example (italics mine): Instead of beta testing a product, I get to beta or alpha test my opinions or thoughts and receive instant feedback no matter how far-fetched my ideas may be.
  • Brian Cantoni posted his notes from the 2/24/2004 SDForum Web Services SIG meeting, What is RSS? Links to PDFs of each presentation given at the meeting are as follows: [1], [2] and [3].
  • Jim Moore offers some good analysis on the Pew Internet Project study on online content creation (e.g. weblogs), which was released on 2/29/2004. eWeek reports the study: The impression out there is that a lot of the blog activity is very feverish, said Lee Rainie, the Pew project’s director. That’s not the case. For most bloggers, it’s not an all-consuming, all-the-time kind of experience.
  • Brad Abrams: I believe that blogging is having a major contribution to the changing culture around Microsoft. As an outsider looking in, I agree that Microsoft blogs, among other changes, have the affect causing me to see Microsoft as being more open. At least there’s a lot more heart to go with various faces I know. I want that kind of perception for myself and for the company I keep.
  • Relationship networks are hard work, and blogs/feeds can help you in the building process.
  • If you are currently just using a browser and an email application to interact with the web, you should read this to learn how you can benefit from an RSS Aggregator.
  • Dave Pollard posts a communication decision tree of when to blog and when to use other media to communicate online.
  • InfoWorld’s CTO recognizes the RSS tipping point for this company on 3/9/2004. Steve Gillmor reports the RSS tipping point in general within the enterprise: If it’s going to be true, it is true.
  • Dare makes a strong case for not merging RSS and Atom as Dave Winer suggested.
  • Why is RSS/Atom adoption so low [within Microsoft]? asks Robert Scoble.
  • Luke Hutteman‘s successful approach to building the SharpReader feed reader: This is exactly what I’e been trying to create: a simple, easy to use interface that doesn’t make you jump through hoops to get at the desired functionality. With any ideas I have about new features, I always try to think about how to best fit it into the current UI with a minimum of added complexity. If I cannot figure out how to do this, I typically rather leave out the feature than add it at the cost of a more complicated UI. This is not an easy job for anyone who has tried to realize its potential, but it very worthwhile and pays huge dividends in the long-run.
  • Robin Good says that job one for RSS is managing the realtime flow of information.
  • Jason Mauss suggests that blogs are a technical publications content killer. I agree that blogs should cause publishers like Fawcette to reconsider value-cost dynamics of hard copy vs. the value of RSS feeds. For example, I now see content from eWeek, InfoWorld and many other technical magazines in my feed reader days in advance of the weekly drop in my (regular mail) inbox. When the timeliness of information matters, this is a big deal. However, there still a lot to be said for a good traditional publication. I still see these two delivery channels as complementary–in the same way I appreciate and use blogs/RSS, email, IM, voice and face-to-face. In certain situations, one medium of communication is more appropriate and effective than another.
  • Although posted some time ago, Robert Scoble’s Corporate Weblog Manifesto still holds water.
  • Don Box tries to set the RSS version history record straight. Aaron Skonnard clarifies his record of history.

What’s surprising is that I’ve only been able to summarize and comment on roughly 50-60% of the posts I’ve collected on this subject. Guess the rest will have to come later. Stay tuned…

RE: You need EMC Documentum

Harry Pierson took my bait and asked me via email: Tell me more about why I need it [EMC Documentum‘s content management system]. I’d love the opportunity. I’m a software architect and developer by trade, as is Harry, not a marketing professional. So the elegant answer (i.e. reuse the valuable work of corporate marketing) is to point you here. In one page, the concerns you raised in your content repurposing hell post are addressed. These include:

  • Make content available in as many different channels as possible while avoiding expensive and time-consuming manual processes.
  • Publish to a new channel in a scalable manner (i.e. avoid having to create a new manual process for each repurposing effort).
  • Address proprietary data formats, including graphics formats.
  • Work across client environments (e.g. Windows and Mac).
  • Offer developers and information architects a rich configuration and customization environment.
  • Enable migration of manual processes into the automated system.

EMC Documentum also supports automated transcoding of media into a variety of web-ready formats and bit rates. It automatically delivers the resulting files to streaming servers, content distribution networks, or editing systems, for applications such as repurposing audio/video content for the Web (RealVideo, QuickTime, Windows Media, MP3, and WAV) and for wireless devices.

And EMC uses Documentum to accomplish just this sort of workflow and production every day. We successfully use our own product to produce and maintain our online presence, technical publications, educational training materials and marketing collateral.

  • The analogy to enterprise software is obvious: Explicitly design your process for automation and extensibility. It won’t happen any other way.

I completely agree with this statement. As a Software Architect, EMC Documentum Content Management Offerings, this is one of my primary responsibilities: ensure that EMC Documentum offers a robust platform, for other EMC divisions, Documentum business units, Documentum partners and EMC Documentum customers to leverage and build upon. I derive immense satisfaction, for example, whenever a customer shows me how they’™ve taken EMC Documentum out-of-the-box and made it do things in production I never dreamed of during design/development. The only way to ensure these validating surprises is to build-in their potential. It’s not something that just happens; it’s planned.

From our repository tier through our content services and business logic tier up to our application infrastructure and presentation tier, EMC Documentum provides a vast array of functionality out of the box. At the same time we provide prescriptive guidance on where and how to configure (declare) and/or customize (program) our behavior and UI to meet the specific needs of your enterprise (e.g. Microsoft’s MSDN property/brand).

Thanks for your interest.

Smart client resources

I’m looking forward to contributing to smart client architectures as a member of the Microsoft Architect Advisory Board (MAAB). We have a meeting coming up in early May where this will be a focus. Hopefully we’ll have some material to publish and present more publicly thereafter. In the meantime, there is value in the following resources on the subject of smart clients:

7/12/2004 update: more smart client resources: