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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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Nat Friedman & the Personal Cloud: “Personal data warehouse”


Ximian co-founder and intrepid technologist with SUSE Linux, Nat Friedman recently blogged about a “Personal data warehouse,” stating:

What I want is a giant elastic bit bucket in the cloud, with a powerful search engine on top of it.

He goes on to describe several capabilities that he wants the search capabilities to have, essentially bringing together several disparate services available on the web today–such as face recognition (Polar Rose) and Optical Character Recognition  (OCR, the simplest form right now may be Evernote‘s)–in order to make his data imminently accessible and usable.

Nat describes several other aspects, all of which in my view comprise not a single service, but a data platform. This Personal Cloud concept really cannot be delivered well by a single service provider–you don’t want it to be. Once you have your personal data in the cloud, the next step is to have a selection of relevant applications to choose from for helping you to manage your Personal Cloud. That means APIs that allow developers to offer best-of-breed services, such as face recognition, as applications that you can use with your cloud-hosted personal data.

All of that reminds me that I really need to write up a post about the necessity for data owners (you and me as individuals) having ultimate control over who can access our data (and what data they can access).

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Open Source for America


Open Source for America logo

If you have not yet looked into Open Source for America (OSA), the advocacy organization recently announced at OSCON, I recommend checking it out.

The recent increased focus on governmental transparency is long overdue. In the 1990’s, we saw a trend in the US toward putting public records online. The trend reversed drastically over the last decade, as new justifications for government secrecy arose. Coinciding with the new US administration, the public is expressing a renewed interest in transparency, with increased attention to Lobby Reform. (In a representative democracy, should it be permissible that elected officials should be able to make secretive backroom policy deals with lobbyists from the tobacco, health insurance or energy industries?)

In the context of open government, the transparency of government technology must also be considered. Free and Open Source Software gets used by government. But when software can be acquired and deployed at no charge, is it going through the same security and other reviews as proprietary software? Conversely, are there times when proprietary software is unacceptable? Consider electronic voting machines. If “We The People” fund the creation of the software ran on these machines, is there any way a vendor can justify not disclosing the source code? I state these observations as questions not to open a discourse about them, but to point out that there are many issues to consider about the role of Free and Open Source Software in government. The establishment of OSA may help shine light on such issues and provide help and guidance to Federal, state and local governments.

To find out what the organization plans to do, I recommend listening to the series of interviews with various OSA board members recently hosted by my good friend Erin Quill (also my former co-presenter on–and now host of–Novell Open Audio).

Freedom-free Week: A Viking Reports from the Front Lines


AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, November 19 (RT)Hein-Pieter Van Braam, self described as “an arrogant viking,” has engaged in a David Blaine-style self-imposed total isolation experiment. The task: to survive a week using all proprietary Software. Van Braam has dubbed it, “The Freedom-Free Week.”

For seven days, or until he chickens out, Van Braam will use the proprietary operating system Windows Vista for all of his daily computing needs. In an early, exclusive interview Van Braam stated: “Well, I hate to admit it, but after you’ve looked at it for a while it looks kinda slick.” Adding, “But I haven’t gotten much further than the desktop, Internet Explorer, and the screenshooter app.”

Best knownfor his blogroll link on the prominent open source blog Open Source Advocacy with Reverend Ted, and minorly for his participation in the LugRadio community, Van Braam is well known for his extremist Free Software viewpoint. Said Ubuntu community manager and LugRadio host Jono Bacon, “Oh, yeah, he’s a real nutter, that one. Seems like he gets on one of his barely articulate Free Software rants just by telling him hello. Makes me quite uncomfortable, actually.”

As Van Braam slogs his way through this seven-day trial, he reports his findings on his blog. In our exclusive interview, Van Braam shared that, “The small [Aeroglass] 3d effects are executed quite nicely, in my humble opinion. I can’t really compare it to compiz as I don’t run it.” Concluding, “Although…user interface consistency is an entirely alien concept to Microsoft. It feels like I’m running WxWidgets, Qt, GTK+ and Tk apps.”

To learn more about Van Braam’s “Freedom-Free Week” experiment and findings, visit http://blog.tmm.cx.

____

Addenda and Errata:

  • If I have mischaracterized Mr. Van Braam in any way–especially in a libelious way–it was entirely unintentional.
  • The genesis of this fake news report was a simple request from Hein-Pieter to me, asking me to simply mention and link to his project.
  • Jono Bacon’s quote is not so much a quote as a paraphrasing of Mr. Bacon’s general sentiment about Mr. Van Braam, albeit with far fewer expletives, colorful gesticulating, and complete-loss-for-words halting pauses. Check comments below, frequently, to confirm whether Mr. Bacon refutes, endorses, or embellishes upon the quote.
  • The link to David Blaine implies that Mr. Blaine is an idiot. I do not support this position, as it could be proven libelious. However, I do support the position that Mr. Blaine is a self-absorbed, batshit fucktard.

Identi.ca: What’s the Point?


Note: Contrary to the title’s implication, this is not an anti-microblogging post. Originally a skeptic, I’m converted to the value of microblogging.

Addendum: Please be sure to read some of the very thoughtful comments made by Bob Jonkman, Hein-Pieter Van Braam, Craig, and Odin Omdal Hørthe. They managed to sway my opinion about Identi.ca.

A listener of the Linux Action Show left a comment about a statement I made on the show, something to the effect of, “I’m not on Identi.ca, because…what’s the point?”

I knew right after saying it that would rub a few people the wrong way. I don’t really have anything against Identi.ca. The glib tone of that comment is rooted in something I have asserted many times in my advocacy of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). I’ll state it again, this time in the context of web applications and services.

Let’s first lay out a couple definitions:

  • Identi.ca is a microblogging service that is very similar to Twitter
  • Laconica is the FOSS offering that powers Identi.ca

Onward we go…

Is Laconica Cloneware?

Long, long ago, I posted some thoughts on “cloneware”: free software that simply knocks off the functionality of a proprietary offering mainly for the sake of replicating the proprietary offering. Typically, what results is a cheaper, crappier version of the original. There are notable exceptions, and I hardly mean to suggest that its wrong to replicate just for the sake of doing it. But if the only goal is to replicate–meaning there is no other driving reason such as new innovation–then I don’t expect a very inspiring offering. (SourceForge is littered with many such dead-end projects.)

So is Laconica cloneware? No, I don’t think it is. Laconica is useful. For example, with Laconica organizations can freely implement their own microblogging hosts for whatever need they may have, such as hosting a confidential microblog. Laconica also demonstrates innovation. As an example, it allows you to federate your Laconica host with other Laconica hosts. So, if Laconica perhaps started off as mere cloneware, it then demonstrates that cloneware can beget innovation.

So, my “What’s the point?” comment was not at all aimed at Laconica. It was about Identi.ca. Why would I use Identi.ca?

Religiosity & FOSS: Why I Use Twitter instead of Identi.ca

I disagree with those who feel that we should all use FOSS for the principle of it. That sentiment is arrogant B.S. promoted by those who spend too much time enagaged in technological omphaloskepsis. Sure, you can make a case for how we all need to support OSS at every opportunity, but to me, it starts to sound a lot like religious dogma after a certain point.

I love innovations that provide me with a new and useful tool that just works. So while I advocate Free Software as a great delivery mechanism of new innovations, I have no issue with using a proprietary service that gets a job done. Twitter is a great example of such a service.

Twitter costs me nothing. Usually, it just works. For the price, I’m okay with when it doesn’t. It has an API that gives sufficient freedom for my data. Twitter also has a user base that dwarfs any other Microblogging service, which is very important. Much like Facebook, I can find almost every wired person in one place. The originators of Twitter were responsible for the advent of microblogging, and consequently they have a massive user base. I see nothing inherently evil with Twitter. In my opinion, they earned their success, and I’m comfortable to be one of their millions of users.

So, when I asked “what’s the point?” about Identi.ca, I was being deliberately provocative because I don’t see any advantage to using Identi.ca. Identi.ca cannot lure me away from Twitter merely by virtue of its use of a FOSS offering instead of a proprietary system. As I see it, Identi.ca is simply a knock off of a well-established service. Unlike Laconica, I don’t see its purpose.

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.

Notes
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).

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