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    The Bungee Line was an audio podcast for web developers, covering web API's, software development, and the creation of richly interactive web applications.

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R.I.P. Bungee Labs

Hearing today that Bungee Labs closed shop once and for all on September 1st left me with mixed emotions. I worked with good people there. Working with Alex Barnett and Martin Plaehn was terrific. Alex and I had a blast recording our all-too-short-lived podcast, “The Bungee Line.” Some friends still worked there when the hammer finally fell, and they’re exiting Bungee into a tough job market. I wish them luck.


Now Seeking My Next Gig

As a short update on my status, I’m now beginning to seek my next exciting role in technology.

As of Monday morning, I no longer work for Bungee Labs. My departure is part of Bungee Labs’ continuing restructuring that started with a larger layoff in late August.

I gained a lot from working with the Bungee team. I come away with a solid basis in object-oriented programming, its major design patterns, and an innovative re-take on the Model-View-Controller architectural pattern.  I learned how to work with RESTful, SOAP and other XML web APIs. And I gained an enormous amount of experience in relating to developers and building a developer program. All in all, I leave with new experience and skills that are particularly well suited for today’s technology market.

I’m still in the process of assembling my go-to-market-myself plan, but if you know of an organization seeking an innovative evangelist/community manager/developer-marketer or other tech generalist-specialist, please point them to my LinkedIn Profile.



Heading to FOSScamp!

FOSSCamp is coming up on December 5 & 6 at the GooglePlex, and I just got cleared to attend.

FOSSCamp is an un-conference designed to get different Open Source projects together to discuss how to work together in different ways.

Several of my friends and fellow followers of Free Software will be attending the event. I hope to have a lot of discussions regarding some ideas I have been working on around choices for Free Software licenses.

If you’re planning to attend FOSScamp, too, please leave a comment.

FOSScamp Facebook Event

Salesforce.com: A New Microsoft?

Salesforce.comSalesforce.com’s rapid rise to success has been the subject of much debate and speculation. Is Salesforce.com a complete anomaly, a lone black swan in a software market that remains steadfast in its traditional delivery model? In what other market category than Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has Software-as-a-Service been so wildly successful?

CRM seems an obvious choice for business success in Software as a Service (SaaS). Salesforce.com solidly meets a market need that is crisply defined, enabling companies to eschew the need to host their own CRM applications. I suspect that there is little need for me to explain why the “No Software” value proposition appeals to so many small and mid-sized businesses.

While watching CEO Marc Benioff’s keynote at Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce conference at San Francisco’s Moscone center last fall, I looked back over my shoulder at a vast crowd of thousands who seemed to hang on Benioff’s every word. Salesforce.com has developed what so all technology marketers should covet: a cult following. They have won the SaaS lottery in a huge way.

Salesforce.com’s success does more than merely demonstrate that the SaaS model works for CRM. With their first major success in SaaS already well established, they are well poised to control a significant portion of the growing SaaS market, which goes well beyond CRM. Benioff’s speech was accordingly bullish about this proposition.

A while back, I discussed how the ability to increment features will continually be one of the ways that SaaS asserts its power against both the purchase-and-install model of traditional software, or the download-and-use model of free/open source software. Big companies now have the SaaS/CRM space in their sites: Microsoft with Dynamics, Oracle with Orace CRM On Demand. Will these giants be able to carve into Salesforce’s dominance enough to unseat its leadership? If Salesforce.com keeps its market focus, perhaps they can outpace the new entrants by applying the feature crank-up that their SaaS leadership provides them.

At the same time, Salesforce may be seeking to become to SaaS what its two major assailants are to their own market spaces. Now firmly established as the in-the-cloud CRM platform—and supported by an increasingly sophisticated set of web APIs—is it possible that Salesforce.com has achieved the market power to stifle aspiring SaaS startups from attaining similar success in other markets beside CRM? That is, could they become (or are they already becoming) the Microsoft of SaaS?

Indeed, Benioff declared from the Dreamforce main stage that Salseforce.com now looks to enter into many new SaaS market spaces as to lay the groundwork for the new Force.com to eclipse Salesforce.com itself. The name implies a lot: it sets them up to break free from the CRM cocoon, and emerge something much broader.

As I listened, it occurred to me that any company wanting to win big in a potential SaaS market space would now be required to outmaneuver the emerging Force.com (as well as the entrepreneurs using force.com as a platform). Whether by leveraging it or by out-innovating it, aspiring SaaS entrepreneurs must now consider how Force.com factors into their business plans.

Here is where the rapid pace of innovation through collective collaboration touted by Free Software meets firm competition. The time-to-market advantage gained by using a cloud-based platform is considerable: while roll-your-own start-ups stitch together their data centers, LAMP stacks, etc., those companies that choose to launch from a cloud-based platforms will be delivering actual products. A reasonably priced, readily available platform offers much to the entrepreneur.

By introducing Force.com, Salesforce.com reveals aspirations that some readers might find unsettling. How much will force.com affect and influence innovation in SaaS? What constraints might force.com put upon Freedom—both software freedom and market freedom? To date, Salesforce.com things to get right in their development and pricing models, and they have yet to break out from the “mainly for CRM” association that most people make. Nevertheless, the potential of Salesforce.com becoming an industry monolith raises concern about openness in hosted platforms.

As I have noted in several earlier posts,
the platform in which I am involved, Bungee Connect, is still a proprietary offering using its own language. I believe Bungee Connect must move toward more openness to become a broadly accepted technology, free from the threat of monopolizing the SaaS platform market.

Nevertheless, even as a proprietary offering, I would assert that Bungee Connect is well-suited as an alternative to force.com for delivering SaaS applications. Yes, the pricing model beats out force.com, But more importantly to the goal of openness, the development model allows developers to create applications that are independent from the company providing it (for example, you own your own user registration, completely independent from that of Bungee Labs).

June 27, 2008: Salesforce Times picked up this post, somehow gleaning a positive from my comment about outmaneuvering Force.com.

Say No to “the Clowd”

I’m a regular reader of Seth Godin’s blog, and I have read several of his books. I’m a fan.

However, this term he attempts to coin in his latest post–the Clowd–an amalgam of “crowd” and “cloud”–just doesn’t work.

Yes, Mr. Godin, I’m involved in the cloud and the crowd. But…for the love of all that is holy…let’s not foist bad homonyms upon either.

Is AGPLv3 Too Radioactive?

Continuing the thread with Simon Wardley, I want to lay out a couple thoughts that Simon’s reply has prompted me to finally put into writing. This is two of two.

In Simon’s reply to my comments, he states:

However ‘Affero’ enforced that changes are to be released back and this could possibly discourage use. It could also discourage companies creating operational improvements to the system, i.e. keeping to the primitives of the platform but improving the code efficiency.

Indeed. AGPLv3 eliminates the SaaS Loophole. The era of innovation the GPL has fostered would have been substantially different had the license been AGPLv3. To build their businesses, companies would have to make the choice between using Free Software that forces them to open their own source code, or using proprietary software that allows them to choose when and whether to open their code.

If your first thought is something along the lines of, “Well then it sucks that they’re afraid to open their code…they don’t deserve to succeed anyway,” then you’re overlooking an important factor. Would Free Software be as popular and successful today if it had not been the platform of choice for so much of web innovation? Before flaming me with vitriol, please consider this question thoroughly.

I recently discussed another aspect of this in an earlier post about “Sharing Source Code in the Cloud,” in which I posed the idea that developers sharing code with each other on a hosted platform have only two license scenarios available from the Free Software Foundation. GPLv3 (which is effectively the same as the BSD license when it comes to hosted services), and AGPLv3 (which is effectively the same to hosted service providers as GPLv3 to software distributors).

As a service provider, what if I want to foster adoption and innovation similarly to how the GPL’s SaaS Loophole has done? Maybe I want to ensure that developers who modify my code have to contribute back, but I don’t mind if they keep their own code (which merely links to mine like a library) private or licensed under a different Free Software license. In other words, what is the equivalent to the LGPLv3 in the hosted services world? How do I provide code under a license that is not so radioactive that it affects everything it connects with?

Is there a need for a Library AGPL?

Long Live the SaaS Loophole

Continuing the thread with Simon Wardley, I want to lay out a couple thoughts that Simon’s reply has prompted me to finally put into writing. This is one of two.

In a comment reply, Simon Wardley points out that the aforementioned “SaaS Loophole” is actually a good thing. I agree. To put a finer point on it, one could make a great case that without SaaS Loophole, excellent web search results (Google) and thousands of other freely-available services on the web would have been much longer in coming around. Much of what we love about the Internet today was created by companies that used Free Software as a platform for innovation and a springboard to building a business.

After my talks at LugRadio Live USA and LinuxFest Northwest, a couple of people posted blogs expressing shock or dismay on learning that companies have been using this loophole. Robin Barre of CivicActions, for example, posted:

What saddens me about this talk is that it seems like companies are looking at GPL version 2 as having a loop hole. That as long as they are just “hosting” and not distributing code, then they may forego contributing their changes back to the community. These same companies rely on free and open software to provide their products and services.

I initially took Robin’s whole post to be a bit alarmist, but in follow-up dialog with her, it seems that she was specifically commenting in terms of Free Software principle: “I am frustrated that people feel the need to hide software from one another.”

When bootstrapping a business, it’s often necessary to keep your IP under wraps. Having another entity introduce your half-baked project before you have managed to complete the parts that really emphasize its value can tarnish or destroy the project’s reputation before it ever gets going.

Google still takes great care to protect their search algorithms. Are they wrong to do so? Does their massive amount of valuable contributions–yes, contributions to Free Software, but in orders of magnitude more significantly, their contributions to the usefulness of the Internet itself–in any way offset their protecting the secret sauce that enables their primary revenue stream? While I don’t buy into their corporate credo (“Do No Evil”) as a reason to trust them or like them, I’m personally okay with Google using the SaaS loophole to keep their search indexing algorithm IP a secret. I use many of their services and APIs, and I’d rather have those than have a bunch of upstarts replicating Google’s search capabilities. (Yes, this might hold back innovation in search indexing. On the other hand, it might be promoting it. In my mind, these two possibilities cancel out.)

Simon: I’d be curious to hear how Google could use trademarks and reputation in place of IP protectionism. In your view, is it possible?

Overall, much of this ties into my next related post, which asks, “Is AGPLv3 is Too Radioactive?