Saturday, December 29, 2007

Externalizing user profile data... and the social graph

Efforts like Mozilla's Weave and OpenID make for a compelling option to finally externalize a user's complete profile. Imagine being able to define (in a secure, encrypted way of course):
  • Name, Email, et al basic stats
just once and then use a single login to access multiple sites. The concept is definitely nothing new: companies have done it for a while on their Intranets using various SSO solutions.

Obviously, this gets a bit trickier when propagated outside the firewall and across multiple domains. Who "owns" the profile data? Where is it stored (and how)? Weave is just now getting launched, but if they can nail in reality the concept as documented:

This would provide key benefits for us all -- and probably help drive further adoption of Firefox. In addition, I think it's possible to incorporate storage of social graph elements here. Then things will get interesting as "switching costs" are removed. Any sites will have to live or die based on the features they provide, and not just because our data (e.g. list of friends) is stored there.

Feasibility on this remains to be seen, but if things head in this direction it could fundamentally change the dynamics for the Web 2.0 market.

Update on Tuesday, 1/1:

I should have figured that somebody else had already given this much more pondering... Brad Fitzpatrick's Thoughts on the Social Graph is a MUST READ!!!

And Ujwal Tickoo reconfirms the idea

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Facebook - this too shall pass?

David Sacks provides an excellent view on how portals have been fundamentally redefined since their inception:

He further asserts that each transition was due to surpassing what I'll call a critical data saturation mark that drastically reduced the usefulness of the previous method. In short, applying simple aggregation logic will not scale since
The core question a portal needs to answer for a user is “How do I find the information I need?”
and the ability of a portal to do so is inversely proportional to the underlying volume of data. Summarizing or segmenting things only helps to reduce the volume for a while. However as the portal gains critical mass, it will eventually succumb to the same underlying force.

Couple this with a fantastic article by Tom Gruber on Collective Knowledge Systems which predicts:
Today, that interaction pattern treats the web as an information source: we learn by browsing, searching, and monitoring the web. Tomorrow, the web will be understood as an active human-computer system, and we will learn by telling it what we are interested in, asking it what we collectively know, and using it to apply our collective knowledge to address our collective needs.
In my opinion, shifting from collected to collective intelligence will be the next major transition. Whether this is done as an entirely new site or as an app within Facebook, we'll see... but one thing's for sure: aggregating popularity-based metrics alone will encounter the same inherent limitations as previous cycles.

Update on Friday, 12/28:

Jeremiah nails another force at play here:
...we’re all looking to see how social graph will open up and let us migrate freely between networks. THEN the need to build best of breed social platforms will be needed.
If this is added to the mix, it will provide a catalyst for all of the above.

Yes, FB is more than just a portal and I'm very much a fan of it, not a foe. However, after the glitter wanes a bit it'll be back to basics. Perhaps something like Mozilla Labs Weave or planned extensions to OpenID might set the proper foundation to open up the social graph... give us a kind of "social transportability" that will move things to the next level? If so, it would undoubtedly force solid competition based on the features of the actual platform -- and not just who happens to store the graph.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

You can't legislate Darwinism

When I took my first job working for a software vendor (in 1996), one of my co-workers was adamant that the "Wild West" days of development were drawing to a close. More structure and licensing requirements were sure to come, as with other professions... Doctors, Lawyers, etc. Poor software quality would be litigated / mitigated thru resulting legislation.

Thankfully, more than 10 years later such regulation never occurred, but an even more powerful force does fill the need: Open Source.

When the world can see the naked, unvarnished quality of your code, there's nothing you can hide. If it's junk, they'll spot it. If it's beautifully architected, they'll admire it... in fact, some may contribute to the code base directly to inject new features.

OSS products will live or die based on utility as well as quality. No amount of legislation could ever have the same (positive) impact.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Organizational Structure - Impact on Innovation

During most of my career, I've been in large Corporate organizations. There was usually room for both Managers (multiple levels) and Leaders. However, innovation from the latter rarely had any impact on the business. That was for managers to decide, and their goals almost never aligned.

Recently, I experienced the exact opposite of this dilemma. A much flatter hierarchy that's run mostly by consensus. Everyone gets a voice. Topics are debated. Actions are assigned. Politics are minimal. What an invigorating shift!!

Of course, this requires a different culture. But when it clicks, the results are amazing.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Always reaching to exceed your grasp

Funny how we all place limits on ourselves. Even if unintentional or subconsciously, it's so easy to back off on certain tasks because of a knee-jerk "there's no way I could do that" or worse, "that's not my job".

Reflecting on every major transition in my career, I often think that -- had I truly known what the next step involved -- I would have probably not made the shift. Perhaps missing some of the facts can be a good thing.

When that's not the case, you have to consciously push yourself to up your game. It's hard; I know. Exceeding your grasp takes as much faith as facts, driven by the will to do more.

Stretch yourself beyond complacency. You will be amazed.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Access to the Alfresco web site

This weekend there was a problem with our domain registrar, Reg-123, and the sites for which they provide domain services. This means that anyone trying to access our web site via web access or email cannot find our servers. The Alfresco servers are fine and running, but the domain is not.

If you want to reach anyone in Alfresco by email, you can do so by using instead of

To access the web site, please use the following URLs:

* - please use
* and - please use
* - please use

We will try to get this resolved as quickly as possible. Rest assured we will take steps to make sure this never happen again.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Social Computing - "Unified Theory" for Web 2.0?

First the Internet, that ever nebulous "cloud", expanded and morphed to the point that it eventually flexed inside of Corporate firewalls to become the Intranet. Next came Wikis and Blogs with the whole "Web 2.0" craze... which continues to seep into companies today. Following the same absorption process, and nicely blending all previous technical crazes: social computing.

This lends the context that's been missing to make effective use of recent technologies. Perhaps not as profound as the (still elusive) unified theory for Physics, but no less important where software is concerned. Think: Facebook meets your ECM. How much more useful would something as mundane as a content management system become when similar features are applied?

We'll see soon... innovators in this space are bringing tangible products to market within the next few months. Laggards beware!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Chasm 2.0 - Oceans instead of Tornadoes

Metaphors always abound in marketing, but I rather like this one:

Tactically, there will always be competition, etc... but strategically, we need to target the "Blue Ocean". This implies a healthy amount of innovation across all areas of a company. One more advantage for an Open Source approach.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Blame it on Quarter end

It's the last day of our quarter here at Alfresco, and I just realized that I've neglected my blog for a full month. If nothing else, it tells you about the activity here!

Engineering put out a fantastic release with 2.1 -- in particular the Web Scripting functionality. This greatly expands access into the repository and has gained traction in several scenarios... for portals, .Net, et al general N-tier designs.

Definitely take a look if you haven't already.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

KISSing your customers

Well, figuratively anyway. The key point being per Occam's razor:
Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity
The corresponding idea of being "customer focused" or "customer driven" is certainly nothing new, but it too needs to extend throughout the entire organization.

Too often, software companies become development-focused and try to create the mother-of-all-applications. Simple ideas are vastly over-architected, and the methods required to implement them become foreign to those who would use it.

Never loose sight of the target market. Make things functional but simple (versus simplistic). It can be done.

Friday, July 13, 2007

From Stagnation to rapid Innovation

There's nothing worse for someone technical (much less a software company) than stagnation. At best, it breeds mediocrity -- and at worst, it turns to rot and decay. While the CMS market as a whole matures and consolidates and, to some extent, stagnates: there's none of that at Alfresco. Not even close.

The amount of features added in the latest release, not just volume but solid, *relevant* features is incredible. Coupled with a clean architecture, strong roadmap, and ever-growing community base... this is truly a kick-ass product to behold.

OK, so I work there and my view is by definition therefore tainted. Another beauty of the open source model: see for yourself, right now. Just visit

and get cranking with your own install today. Be sure to download the WCM module and tutorials (especially the Virtualization Server). And to checkout the new WebScripting capability (REST-based API). Many, many items to explore.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

OSS: Transforming Relationships

Enough has been blogged to date about the main benefits of Open Source: Democratization, Innovation, etc. This are of course key. However, as a recent convert from the dark side (a.k.a Enterprise Sales) what strikes me the most is the impact on customer relationships.

Having been in the industry for 17 years -- the last 10 working for vendors -- the notion of "transparency" that comes with applying an OSS style to one's business model makes for more than a slick marketing slide. It permeates the software company's culture and drastically transforms relationships across-the-board. Hyperbole? Perhaps, but the next time you feel like something is being withheld by a proprietary vendor during a sales cycle, it's probably because you're right...

When prospects can instead download both your product as well as its source code freely on the Internet, that changes things. The whole discussion becomes one of making projects succeed, rather than finding the hidden gotchas in locked-down software. Who wants to start of a relationship with so much (almost expected) negativity?

Approaching things in an open source manner has impact far beyond the Engineering labs of a company. It's not simply a development methodology. Nor is it solely a fundamental shift in business models. While both are true, the real win for customers is the ability to enter into relationships with someone who wants to see them succeed with their software.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Big, "Mac" Attack???

Alfresco is like many other companies with Mac and PC camps. I converted less than a year ago and now use a top-of-the-line MacBook Pro for work. Any lingering doubts were removed last week, during an onsite training course.

A colleague of mine conducted the training from his Windows XP laptop. It barely stayed running all day without something having to restart or reboot - just to accommodate him as a single user.

This coupled with other logistical issues forced us to utilize my Mac as a classroom server so we could keep the course going. The 2.33 GHz Core 2 Duo with 2Gb RAM streamed along effortlessly and scaled to handle our peak attendance of 18 concurrent users. Quite the contrast in performance.

So much so that my co-worker may finally convert himself. Seems he had a big Mac attack!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Livin la vida Alfresco

Just a quick update. I haven't forgotten my blog, but am rather entrenched in my new job at Alfresco. Today marks 2 weeks.

Gotta stay heads-down and learn a new product from the inside out. Will return to more blog posts when I'm better able to "tread water" here.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The smell of Fear

"UNIX is snake oil" - Ken Olsen, 1987

"Linux is a cancer" - Steve Ballmer, 2001

"There is an overwhelming number of patents being infringed [by FOSS]." - Horacio Gutierrez, 2007

Microsoft's biggest competitor anymore is itself... unless they stop blaming everybody else and start taking a serious look in the mirror, we all know where this path will lead.

FOSS has as much snake oil in it as Unix did, and look where we are 20 years later.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Schrödinger's Cat

I saw a local student wearing this the other day

which of course on the back states the cat is NOT dead... made me recall the excellent book written by Brian Greene. Nothing like special / general relativity, quantum mechanics, and calabi-yau manifolds to get the mental juices flowing.

I often wonder how much not only our math, but our language, inherently limits our ability to understand such things more easily. Perhaps that's why some of us like Linux better than Windows... I'd rather be given a construct to build my own "reality" (give me a command line and pipes any day!) than be limited by flawed assumptions that time (much less the Bill Gates notion of computing) is experienced in the same manner by everyone.

Quick - someone stick an Ubuntu server near the event horizon of a black hole!! Who wants to bet that Vista wouldn't escape Earth's orbit without blue-screening?!?!?

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Dealing with Open Source FUD

Matt's recent blog on how to manage the "No Open Source" clause helps to dispel a lot of FUD that's still lingering out there. In particular, point #3 notes:

If a customer is not planning to distribute the software outside their organization, then they can modify open source-licensed software ad infinitum without having to contribute a single line back.

I've seen many companies who still believe that any IP developed on open source must be placed back into the public domain. A little education and a few "marquee account" case studies will help to combat these points. In addition to free passes for an annual event, maybe the OSBC could sponsor webinars on this topic to proactively educate a broader audience?

Over time these barriers will come down -- any companies leading the charge will certainly enjoy massive growth.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

TV, wireless to wired to wireless (again)

Kind of funny that TV was the original wireless transmission, only to become wired with cable, and now locally wireless again with new technology. Tzero provides some cool new features - but it's not on the market as yet. Just tracking it for now, and waiting for the initial product to hit BestBuy later this year.

Who wouldn't love a nicely framed HD set "floating" on the wall... sans wires!!!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Spring and AOP

Interesting "aspect" to Spring... in addition to the overall framework and portability angles, AOP provides some unique elements. An excellent background and subsequent highlights:


Since 2003 there has been much interest in applying AOP solutions to those enterprise concerns, such as transaction management, which have traditionally been addressed by EJB.

Spring AOP supports method interception. Key AOP concepts supported include:

  • Interception: Custom behaviour can be inserted before or after method invocations against any interface or class. This is similar to "around advice" in AspectJ terminology.
  • Introduction: Specifying that an advice should cause an object to implement additional interfaces. This can amount to mixin inheritance.
  • Static and dynamic pointcuts: Specifying the points in program execution at which interception should take place. Static pointcuts concern method signatures; dynamic pointcuts may also consider method arguments at the point where they are evaluated. Pointcuts are defined separately from interceptors, enabling a standard interceptor to be applied in different applications and code contexts.
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    Friday, April 20, 2007

    Ubuntu - "Feisty Fawn" (7.04) is no Bambi

    Run, do not walk, but run to Ubuntu and check it out.

    Download the latest version (7.04 as of this writing, aka "Feisty Fawn"). It's only a 700 Mb file that you extract onto a bootable CD. Test run it straight from there without impacting your existing machine... if you like, then install it permanently using the shortcut provided.

    Quick, easy, and very user-friendly (contrary to any previous Linux stigma). As with any Unix-based system, it runs much more efficiently *and* securely than that disease laden petrie dish of an OS from Redmond.

    If you're not ready to switch over completely, breathe some life into an older PC by installing Ubuntu there. You'll be amazed at how quickly it can perform on older chipsets with even 512 Mb RAM.

    Monday, April 16, 2007

    Things we take for granted: heat, power, and SUMP PUMPS

    Amazing how a natural emergency consistently reminds you of:

    a) the importance of common welfare
    b) the things we take for granted

    We've had a bit of local flooding here in NJ. Our neighbors across the street have it worse - basements with 1 - 2 feet of water (and therefore no heat). Out of sheer luck I had cut wood in my shed from a bunch of trees we cleared last year. Our heat is fortunately still running, so we rationed our wood to anyone who has a fireplace.

    I'm not looking for any praise, this was a no-brainer for me. But it is nice to see people across-the-board come together during any such difficulty.

    What amazes me even more is how reliant I am on things I cannot control... like the power, and the sump pump in our basement. That $100 device is currently all that's left between a miserable, rainy day - and a huge cleanup headache. We've lived in this house for almost 3 years, and until today, I paid it no attention.

    This morning, it's the only thing on my mind. Such a simple tool for such a critical task. One more reminder of the many things we take for granted every day.

    Sunday, April 15, 2007

    Callwave - FREE Visual Voicemail for mobile phones

    Check this service from CallWave. Use it to switch from your mobile phone's default voice mail to one that shoots messages to your email. For us heavy email users (and / or anyone not always wanting the cell phone turned on), this is perfect!

    I made the switch in just a couple of minutes.