Monthly Archives: November 2007

A fire has started, indeed

I just finished watching Charlie Rose’s interview of Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos on PBS. Most of the conversation focused on Kindle: Amazon’s Wireless Reading Device, an amazing new device that embodies a vision to improve the act of reading. Kindle was the chosen product name specifically because it means to start a fire. The creative fires surrounding authoring, publishing and reading are certainly stoked by the arrival of this device.

Charlie Rose has got to be one of the best connected persons in the world.

Part of his paradigm–appropriate given his profession–is that questions are important. So, Charlie asked Jeff what question the Kindle seeks to answer. Jeff replied something as follows: “How can the act of reading be improved? How can a the essence of a book be improved?”

Q: What is the most important aspect of a book? A: It disappears. That is, when you start to read a long form, well written text, you enter the world of the author. Paper and ink fade away; the book disappears.

Jeff went on to say that you “can’t ‘out book’ a book.” There are aspects of books that cannot be improved upon. So Kindle doesn’t attempt to outshine such qualities of books but rather focuses on what physical books cannot do.

Nearly 90,000 books today can be delivered to Kindle, which can store up to 200 books, yet weighs less than the average book at slightly more than 10 ounces. I probably own more books than I can pack into a Kindle, but I assure you that I can’t carry my personal library either! :-)

Jeff expects devices like Kindle to become platforms for experimentation, and he very quickly remarked that most experiments will fail. However, experimentation benefits everyone by uncovering the unforeseen challenges, creating new choices, lowering access barriers, etc.

I appreciate that Kindle has been under development for the past three years. Kindle represents a bet by Amazon’s leadership that all of the required technology would be commercially available in time for today’s public launch (e.g. the paper-like display, 10 years in the lab). It’s a fine example of calculating risk-taking as well as, what appears to be the reasonable expectation of a rewarding commercial future.

Prelude to a product offering

Although I’m posting this today, I originally sent the following thoughts via email on 7/3/2002 to my GM at the time–subject “Preface for our 1-1 about future architecture (.NET & J2EE) – some (hopefully) thought-provoking analogies.” The email in its entirety (and unedited) follows.

At the time I sent my remarks I wouldn’t have thought that it would be until roughly five years later that SOA enablement would become initial reality in the form of EMC Documentum Foundation Services.

Hi [GM].

I thought that I’d precede our discussion on this topic with some analogies that I see developing for business around “service-oriented architectures” like the one I described for DCTM in its future.

Do you visit Starbucks regularly? How about the movie theater? Sporting events?

Imagine if these vendors told you that you had to pony up a year or more’s worth of mocha/latte purchase, movie or game tickets (plus concessions) before you could enter the premises; however, if you did so, you’d be able to enter regularly thereafter without additional cost. But please be advised, if you bought the matinee package, you could only see matinees; if you purchased tall lattes, venti mochas or Frappuccino® are out of the question. Would you still pay your money to Starbucks, etc?

Some folks might, under these terms, but MSFT and others are betting that more enterprises are more inclined to pay for what they need (or even what they don’t), if they pay smaller amounts for more discrete, value-added services. The days of MSFT being able to annually charge its customers $400~500 for the next Office application suite upgrade are drawing to a close. Office .NET is a realization of this by MSFT.

Consider the modern phone with its support for caller ID, call waiting, etc.

Pacific Bell (SBC) allows its customers to choose to pay-as-you-use or to pay a flat monthly rate for unlimited usage of such features. The customer has the phone, but the phone company has the centralized service. The phone is only as good as its service.

MSFT, for example, is positioning Windows in all its various forms (PC, PDA, XBox, WebTV and soon the Tablet PC) as the software equivalent of the modern phone–ully capable of hosting rich services from multiple enterprises. .NET is akin to SBC phone lines–tying together desktops with servers, delivering software services on demand just like your local utilities. MSFT talks about “software as a service.” The computing platform (e.g. PC) will be defined by the services it supports and presents.

Clearly, DCTM is in a strong position to become the service provider for enterprise content management. We have an opportunity to draw additional revenue through exploiting our capabilities within service-based environments and through service-aware clients–“smart clients” as MSFT calls them.

Hopefully these analogies will be though-provoking over the long weekend. I look forward to picking up our discussion this coming Monday afternoon.

-Craig

Of course here in late 2007, there is still the whole matter of Software-as-a-Services (SaaS) to address in EMC’s Content Management & Archiving (CMA) division.

Wikify Documentum already

“The companies that figure out how to harness the power of open platforms while providing adequate incentives to all stakeholders are poised to reap great rewards.” -from Wikinomics

A few months ago, I blogged about this thought-provoking book. Around the same time I began to promote the idea of taking aspects of our product documentation (e.g. development guides) and “wikifying” them. I contend that it’s better to replace the current delivery model (i.e. a PDF drop per release) with a new model that harnesses the power of the web and the energy of the Documentum community. Better for writer (uptake, feedback), better for all cross-functional product team members (accessibility, performance, quality, functionality, architecture, usability), better for the overall community (collaboration, connectedness).

The Django Book is an example application (user experience) of what I’d like very much to see become of the DFS Development Guide content—Wikibooks (e.g. this) is another example.

As you might expect our Technical Publications group leverages XML (DocBook to be more specific) as the underlying markup for its deliverable, which are released in PDF form. This is great news, since XML to wiki markup format transformations are fairly straightforward. By taking the underlying XML content and projecting it into a wiki–for example, off the EMC Developer Network (EDN) web site–rather than a PDF document can open up documents like the DFS Development Guide to our developer/admin/user community. By doing so, I believe that such documents can be revised, extended and planned more effectively. For example:

  • I find a gap I can fill. So, I simply create the missing wiki page(s)–I don’t have to wait until the next release of the software or the PDF document.
  • I find a gap I don’t know how to fill. So, I add a topic to the wiki’s “wish list” page, and someone else with the ability to author the missing content gains my respect and builds his or her reputation in the DFS community.
  • I can share how I took an existing code sample and tweaked or extended it to satisfy a new requirement.
  • I can talk about how DFS did or did not work with my existing IT environment–and expect more timely, specific/targeted response in return.
  • Etc.

Once the wiki exists, it can (and IMHO should) become the truth of its subject matter. In fact, PDF documents simply become the output of convenience (e.g. Atlassian’s Confluence wiki allows you to quickly rendition any wiki page as a PDF or, via a plugin, an entire wiki space as a single PDF document–links and all). Snapshots are just snapshots, and the current state of information is open for all to access and contribute.

To quote one of my colleagues: “The idea that we can control and perfect the quality of the information internally and shield it from possible inaccuracies introduced by customers is pretty flawed.”

When I talk with developers, partners and customers in the Documentum community to explain the idea of such wikis, the universal response is, to paraphrase, “sure…and yesterday would be great!” To trim it down to a single word: “Duh!”

So, to quote Jerry Maguire, “Help me help you” by posting a comment here, sending an email to the good folks at EDN and/or posting to the EDN forums, or call your main EMC point of contact to make your voice heard and your vote count. Thanks! :-)

Update 12/27/2007: Thanks to Anne Gentle’s link to my post, I found Wiki Patterns, which offers an open catalog of patterns and anti-patterns concerning people using and adoption of wikis (e.g. a WikiGnome versus a WikiTroll).

Conversation in Monaco

Today I had the privilege of talking about EMC Documentum Foundation Services (DFS) to roughly a 100 or so customers, partners and integrators at Momentum Europe 2007, held at Grimaldi Forum, Monaco. As promised, my slides are here, and the demo client in both Java and .NET (C#) can be downloaded via Zip archive here.

Before my session during the day’s keynote, the winners of the D6 Web Services Challenge were announced. As an internal judge, I was quite impressed by the breadth of submissions and how little time it took to develop them using DFS. The winners are as follows:

  • 1st Place – Incident Management System: Armedia
    This Windows Mobile 6 application simulates a field employee using a handheld device to capture notes in the field, and import them to Documentum. It allows for the mobile device camera to directly import images to Documentum, plus importing of images from an external service, in this instance Flickr. This application was built in only 10 days by a team of three individuals.
  • 2nd Place – 5MD gTop: Rob Cleghorn, Alexandre Alvares, Andrew McAllister, James Maughan, and Simon Green
    This five man team is so named due to the five days they dedicated to their effort to build a highly functional Web based user interface to Documentum leveraging Google Web Toolkit. In the words of one judge: “A clear example of the power of the new Rich Internet Application (RIA) and SOA programming model in action.”
  • 3rd Place – PDF Publishing and Search: Alan Greendyk
    This single person entry leverages the power of Flex programming and Adobe LiveCycle Data Services to illustrate a publishing application pushing content into Documentum, with an extended search capability to fetch content from the Documentum repository.

The press release for this announcement is here. There should be more details about the winning entries up on EDN soon, too.

Congratulations to Armedia, the team from BNP Paribas (Cleghorn et al), and Alan Greendyk from Wachovia!