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Name: John McDowall
Location: Redwood City, California, US

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Mapping blog relationships

I came across a tool a few months ago that I found interesting Kartoo, last night it occurred to me that it could be used to visually map relationships between blogs.

It is pretty cool - go to Kartoo type in your favorite blogger and a map appears of relationships. One of the more interesting things is that you can see the concepts that link blogs. The search can be refined by adding or deleting concepts - hours of endless fun. Other interesting things - put in the names of two bloggers and see how they are related.

Apart from being fun this is also an interesting way of mapping the spread of ideas and/or concepts, if the search in Kartoo could be limited to just people with blogs then idea mapping could become possible. How about a private search just using RSS feeds - interesting anthropological experiment conducted in real time.

Now if I could just calculate the degrees of separation....

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Standards and Profits

Standards and Profits

I have been on panels, and in interviews with analysts and press over the last few weeks and the subject of standards (and pseudo standards) has come up repeatedly. The software industry is obsessed with standards and the politics of creating them. Perhaps CS departments should offer a specialization in standards!

The confusion comes from the fact , people assume companies are creating standards for altruistic reasons. This is not to say that many individuals are not working very hard to create a better world through the standard bodies and I applaud their efforts.

Companies are out to make a profit and produce returns for their investors. The standards process is just a way to maximize this return. A good rule of thumb is the more effort a company puts into a standard the higher the return they expect and hence the more skeptical we should be of it. It is totally appropriate for us to question our own and others motives for creating and supporting standards. "The market demands standards" is a true statement, customers like standards but the actual standard they get may not be optimized for customers, it may be optimized to generate more revenue for the vendor.

Standards are great and we need them to make the development process easier, allows products to interoperate and be more secure, but lets be pragmatic and look at individual standards to see who benefits the most.

Friday, October 18, 2002

Identity and idea distribution through Blogs

Identity and idea distribution through Blogs

One of the subject that is consuming a lot of my time at work (apart from travelling, hence the lack of blog activity) is federating identity between organizations. I have found that my best source of raw material has been blog. Here many smart people are freely sharing ideas, (thanks John Udell,Phil Wolff,Eric Norlin). The impact of this sharing is hopeful lead to faster and better decision making for many of us.

It would be interesting if we could create time based context map of ideas in blogspace - see how ideas flow together morph overtime - something for the RSS aggregators to think about.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

The pillars of integration - a shaky foundation

The pillars of integration - a shaky foundation

EAI and other integration technologies assume the existence of information silos that need to be integrated. This is the accepted wisdom today. More and more complexity is built on this assumption, when the problem is really the information silos. Building more complexity on top of complexity does not make the problem go away, rather it makes the problem more complex.

Instead of trying to integrate complex silos of information - should we not be considering why the silos exist in the first place? If the problem of the isolated silos of information was removed integration would be significantly simpler. Make information easily accessible, then applications can become transient creations, the whole dynamic of the enterprise changes.

I believe this is where the next wave of innovation will come from, it is a wave we desperately need!

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Shape of Blog Space

Shape of Blog Space

This morning I took a little detour in blog space off my usual track and spent an enjoyable 45 minutes wandering around in various minds. Having been reading "Linked: The New Science of Networks by Albert-László Barabási " recently ( highly recommended for those of you interested in networks), I thought there may be a semantic map in blog space that relates to the map of the Internet.

If we want build software to optimally extract, collate and present the thoughts of blog space we really need to understand the semantic map. Otherwise we will again be reduced to brute force approaches to the problem of the information explosion. This would I think be a step backwards as there are a many interesting views being presented in the blogverse. Perhaps this is a good focus for the current RSS/RDF debate which appears to be a debate over style rather than substance. If there was a real problem that needed to be solved the debate will become more concrete.

So I pose the problem, can RSS move towards a semantic mapping tool from a headline aggregator, could we use it to fly through a conceptual map of blogspace. The possibilities seem endless if I have hooks to tag RSS descriptions I can create my own personal conceptual map, getting a little far out there can we start to extract true meaning from our collective thoughts. There raw material is there, we create it everyday it just needs the infrastructure to make sense of it.....

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Reliable Web Services

Reliable Web Services

While I agree to Jon Udell's posting Reliable Web Services that web services will converse in a loosely coupled asynchronous manner. I do disagree that this requires message orientated middleware to happen. Reliable message delivery is a function of the protocol among the nodes not the transport, i.e., you can build reliable messaging using UDP Tibco/Rendezvous or over HTTPR, I have even seen JMS over HTTP. Therefore to make SOAP more reliable it is more around defining the semantics of the interaction rather than the protocol that SOAP is bound to. This is similar to JMS, which is an interface rather than a protocol and the messaging semantics are defined at an abstract level allowing the implementers to use any appropriate transport.

It is going to be interesting to see if web services develop in to a rich set of XML standards for messaging or does it become relagated to being a hitchhiker on a reliable transport.

Monday, October 07, 2002

Like minds leading to Polarized Societies?

Like minds leading to Polarized Societies?

I received some positive feedback from Stephen Dulaney (thanks Stephen) after I linked to his blog. This started the thought process of how communities form, I linked to his blog because we appeared to share the same interests, read similar books, and I found his entries insightful. One of the issues, if we all start linking to similar minds, is do we create polarized virtual societies. Therefore should we all create “anti-minds” lists and compel ourselves to read them once a day – in Roman times when a victorious general was given a triumph a slave rode in his chariot whispering in his ear “you are still a mortal”, something to bear in mind as we all join/create like minded communities.

Saturday, October 05, 2002

Where is the information?

Where is the information

Years ago we relied on magazines and periodicals for our information, that has quickly shifted in the last few years to news sites and now to blogs. All my current knowledge comes from blogs of one form or another (I include Slashdot as a blog). Why magazines now becomes the question and how to synthesize the information in blogs or is the distributed nature part of the fun, like delving into an used book store looking for unknown treasures.

Regardless blogs are changing the face of information dissemination, the web increased the speed of distribution of editorial information but blogs are moving raw ideas at the speed of light - how will this change our world?

Successful panel discussions

Successful panel discussions

I have both been on and listened to several panel discussions recently - as well as the usual amount of solo presentations. The most informative and useful information has come from well organized panel discussions as they compare and contrast ideas. Some panels work well some do not, to help understand I have come up with the three rules of successful panels. (There is actually four but I hope that is obvious to everyone - come well prepared! ).

John's guide to panel discussions:

  • Controversial or relevant topic that has distinct sides, broad enough to be interesting but not to broad to loose focus

  • Panelists with divergent views: panels do not work well when everyone agrees

  • Well prepared and provocative moderation, if the moderator has the first two in place they can create dynamics that both inform and entertain the audience

Follow the rules and panels well not only be informative but also interesting. Anybody got other ideas?