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Web 2.0

So what is this thing called ‘Web 2.0′? Well, glad you asked that question; it is an evolution in the way we experience the web, it is a tidal wave that’s taking the web by storm, it’s been around, being discussed in industry circles for a few years but I believe it’s fullness is only beginning to show. Web 2.0 is a concept that came to being from a brainstorming session between O’Reilly and MediaLive International; it goes back to about 2004 when the first Web 2.0 conference was held.

So what does it mean? Well, according to a paper by Tim O’Reilly (read it here or stream the audio here), Web 2.0 is characterized by a number of principles, that we will get into shortly. One way to learn something is by making clear what something IS NOT and then clarifying what it IS. In this case, what is Web 2.0 NOT and what IS Web 2.0, a simple way of knowing what Web 2.0 is NOT is by looking at it’s ‘predecessor’, ‘Web 1.0′; and this is what is proposed by O’Reilly:
Web 1.0 –>Web 2.0
DoubleClick –> Google AdSense
Ofoto –> Flickr
Akamai –> BitTorrent
mp3.com –> Napster
Britannica Online –> Wikipedia
personal websites –> blogging
evite –> upcoming.org and EVDB
domain name speculation –> search engine optimization
page views –> cost per click
screen scraping –> web services
publishing –> participation
content management systems –> wikis
directories (taxonomy) –> tagging (“folksonomy”)
stickiness –> syndication

Though the list is not exhaustive, it does show a significant difference in a sense of what is predominant on the Web as it is in comparison with what was (mostly) familiar, or what predominantly characterized the web in different ways in various areas from before!

According to Tim O’Reilly’s paper, the following are key distinguishing ‘principles’ that are emergent in Web 2.0:

1. The Web As Platform:

‘A Platform Beats an Application Every Time’

Here Tim makes use of 3 examples and some ‘Web 2.0 lessons’ that are evident in them:

Netscape vs. Google: The value of the software is proportional to the scale and dynamis of the data it helps to manage.
DoubleClick vs. Overture and AdSense: Leverage customer-self service and algorithmic data management to reach out to the entire web, to the edges and not just the center, to the long tail and not just the head.

Akamai vs. BitTorrent: The service automatically gets better the more people use it

2. Harnessing Collective Intelligence:

Web 2.0 shows an incredible enhancement in the leveraging of collective intelligence; collection, distribution and sharing as well as finding information and making sense of it. Here, Tim mentions the roles played by Wikipedia ad collective content creation and editing, del.icio.us and Flickr and the concept of folksonomy (a style of collaborative categorization of sites using freely chosen keywords, often referred to as tags.) and others, especially blogging, RSS and sites such as bloglines that aggregate RSS content and Permalink.

3. Data is the Next Intel Inside:

The race is on to own certain classes of core data: location, identity, calendaring of public events, product identifiers and namespaces. In many cases, where there is significant cost to create the data, there may be an opportunity for an Intel Inside style play, with a single source for the data. In others, the winner will be the company that first reaches critical mass via user aggregation, and turns that aggregated data into a system service.

4. End of the Software Release Cycle:

Here, Tim O’Reilly takes notice of some key aspects that Web 2.0 companies have to embrace in their business/software development models. He claims:

Operations must become a core competency. Google‘s or Yahoo!’s expertise in product development must be matched by an expertise in daily operations. So fundamental is the shift from software as artifact to software as service that the software will cease to perform unless it is maintained on a daily basis.

And

Users must be treated as co-developers, in a reflection of open source development practices (even if the software in question is unlikely to be released under an open source license.) The open source dictum, “release early and release often” in fact has morphed into an even more radical position, “the perpetual beta,” in which the product is developed in the open, with new features slipstreamed in on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. It’s no accident that services such as Gmail, Google Maps, Flickr, del.icio.us, and the like may be expected to bear a “Beta” logo for years at a time… Real time monitoring of user behavior to see just which new features are used, and how they are used, thus becomes another required core competency.

5. Lightweight Programming Models:

Simplicity is the name of the new game!

A case in point being RSS and REST (Representational State Transfer)! Tim O’Reilly clearly notes the following key aspects of the Web 2.0 era in this regard:

Support lightweight programming models that allow for loosely coupled systems… The Web 2.0 mindset is very different from the traditional IT mindset!

Think syndication, not coordination. Simple web services, like RSS and REST-based web services, are about syndicating data outwards, not controlling what happens when it gets to the other end of the connection… the end-to-end principle

Design for “hackability” and remixability.

6. Software Above the Level of a Single Device:

According to Dave Stutz, “Useful software written above the level of the single device will command high margins for a long time to come.”

7. Rich User Experiences:

One word: Silverlight! and another word, Popfly

So, really, Web 2.0 is a paradigm shift in the way we look at the web, the way we get information from the web, the way we find information on the web, the way we develop the web, the way we build business models around the web!

Filed under: blog, content, cool, feed, google, information retrieval, microsoft, research, search, SOA, software, yahoo

Interview with… Robert Scoble

I came across this interesting interview with one of the most influential people on the blogosphere, Robert Scoble. It’s a very nice read…

ActiveWin.com: What exactly do you do at Microsoft?

Scoble: I’m a technical evangelist. Most evangelists here work with developers to help them build software for the next versions of our platforms. For instance, Windows Vista. Most of them work with specific companies. Me? I work with the community at large.

My day job is Channel 9. I walk around Microsoft with a camcorder and interview people about what they are working on. By doing that I get the community details on our products, services, and platforms that would be hard to get anywhere else.

ActiveWin.com: Your Wikipedia article states you are the Chief Blogging Officer at Microsoft? Is that an official title?

Scoble: No. I think that’s funny, though.

ActiveWin.com: What got you started in blogging?

Scoble: I was working as a conference planner in the late 1990s. I helped plan VSLive and the now defunct CNET Builder.com Live conference. Every year I asked the speakers what they thought we should cover at next year’s conference. In 2000 Dori Smith and Dave Winer talked to me about blogging. I didn’t think it was important enough to do a conference session on (I could only find a couple hundred blogs at the time) but they talked me into doing one of my own. I started on December 15, 2000. Within a few weeks I had gotten a link from Dave Winer, who sent several thousand people, which told me there was more to it than just a couple hundred blogs, and got invited to Steve Wozniak’s Superbowl party too.

ActiveWin.com: How did the idea for Channel 9 come about?

Scoble: After the 2003 PDC (Microsoft’s big developer conference) we were sitting around comparing notes. Some things we noticed is that people liked us (Microsoft employees) after meeting us. That reduced their fear and got them to see that we were just passionate technologists and not quite as evil as they’d heard about us.

So, we were wondering how we could meet more customers face-to-face. The PDC is great, but we could only potentially touch a few thousand people that way and we have millions of developers around the world.

We knew that to reach more people it’d have to be on the Web. We threw around a bunch of ideas and we remembered United Airlines’ Channel 9 that let people listen to what the pilots were doing. That reduced our fear of flying. So, we thought “why don’t we do our own Channel 9?”

ActiveWin.com: How has your blogging, along with that of all the other Microsoft bloggers, already changed marketing and PR at the company? (As suggested by this Economist Feb 2005 article: http://www.economist.com/printedition/displayStory.cfm?story_id=3644293&fsrc=RSS

Scoble: We got a lot of PR mileage out of just showing up and writing in a way that people didn’t expect. For instance, I regularly say nice things about our competitors and regularly bash our own offerings. I also linked to people who said that “Microsoft sucks” (or worse). That caused some interesting behaviors. People stopped yelling and started having conversations with us. They started emailing me with both good and bad things Microsoft was doing. And, even better, they started posting product requests. In fact, over on Channel 9’s wiki there are dozens of pages of product requests that customers have done — those pages weren’t done by Microsoft. For me, though, what changed is that now everyone can figure out how to talk with us. Just go to Google/Yahoo/MSN and type “OneNote blog” for instance, and you’ll find Chris Pratley, the guy who runs the OneNote team. In the old days the only way to tell a team like that what you want was to head over to one of our newsgroups. But if you did that you’d never know if the right person got the message.

ActiveWin.com: At first, were you ever afraid the negative things you posted might affect your job stability?

Scoble: Yeah. I knew I was playing with dynamite and it might blow off my hand, or worse. But I knew Microsoft’s culture pretty well, and I had lots of relationships with people and I knew that the executives wanted Microsoft to change. So that helped me get over my fears.

ActiveWin.com: What are your thoughts of the now famous Mini-Microsoft blogger? http://minimsft.blogspot.com/

Scoble: I like him. He helps Microsoft look at itself and improve itself. It’s a bit uncomfortable, yes, but I’d rather he be there than not.

ActiveWin.com: Were you involved in the Windows Vista naming process at all? What do you think of the name?

Scoble: No, I wasn’t. I am warming up to the name. It’s a lot better than many of our names. I wish we were a lot better at product naming than we are. Naming things “Microsoft Windows Tablet Edition 2005″ just doesn’t make my heart warm.

ActiveWin.com: How will blogs change Vista’s development cycle from, say, Windows XP’s, if at all?

Scoble: That’s a tough one cause I wasn’t around for XP. I am already noticing that the information that the community gets is better and more complete due to blogs. And, certainly if you talk with teams like the Internet Explorer one, they’ll tell you that blogs played a key part in helping them focus on the top features that everyone wanted.

ActiveWin.com: Your position allows you to meet a variety of people across Microsoft most other employees wouldn’t have an opportunity to. What are some of your favorite Channel 9 stories you have done?

Scoble: Well, last week I got a tour of Bungie. That team is ultra secretive — most Microsoft employees can’t even get inside their offices. I think my favorite videos, though, are the ones inside Microsoft Research. They not only have cool equipment to build cool stuff (like a multi-axis milling machine) but they have some of the smartest people I’ve ever met, too.

Some of my other favorite ones? The .NET CLR team tours (we’ve done several). Those guys are smart and they are building the future of Windows, so it’s important to figure out what they are up to.

ActiveWin.com: Channel 9 has become a big player in the Windows community landscape. What kind of limitations does that put on you, being run by Microsoft? How does it affect your interaction with independent sites?

Scoble: Well, I can’t run leaked screen shots. Heheh.

But, I try to do videos that the independent sites couldn’t do. I really try to get to teams that ActiveWin and the other independent sites are interested in to give them more depth on a story and let them meet some of the people they might have read about in press reports.

ActiveWin.com: Do you think companies who crave secrecy like Google and, even more so, Apple will eventually grow to embrace corporate blogging?

Scoble: That’s a tough one. I’ve presented to management teams at Target and Boeing. Boeing builds many products that they need to be much more secretive about than Apple or Google does and yet they are doing blogs at the corporate level.

I think they will eventually after they figure out there are more benefits to having employees blog than there are risks.

Here’s why: the word-of-mouth network is both doubling in size every five months and getting more efficient. So, news stories now are going from blogs you never heard of to the front page of the New York Times in a couple of days. There’s no way a centralized PR team can participate completely in this kind of conversation. Not to mention the PR types don’t know the products as well as the people who actually built the products. I’ve found too that the developers who built the products often are online until 2 a.m. or even later, and on weekends. So, rumors get fixed, stories get worked out, and conversations happen online way before the story gets into the New York Times. Not saying that negative stories won’t happen anymore, but at least now we’re having people who know and care getting involved in the conversation.

ActiveWin.com: Where do you see the future of Channel 9 going, as it evolves and matures with time?

Scoble: That’s a tough one to predict. A lot of my video interests are in reaction to what the community asks me to do. For instance, just since this interview started I got an email asking me to go over and interview the MSN Messenger team. Obviously over the next year we’re releasing a TON of new stuff. Visual Studio, SQL Server, Office 12, Xbox 360, Windows Vista, and dozens of smaller products like…CRM, BizTalk, and so on. We’re working on features to make videos easier to watch. Just last week we released “Clipster” which lets users clip out their favorite parts of a video and post that for other people to watch. I want to make it easier to use Channel 9 on cell phones, too. There are some very talented developers working on Channel 9. Charles Torre and Adam Kinney. Oh, and the Nine Guy was developed by David Shadle. My wife keeps lobbying him for a female version of the Nine Guy.

ActiveWin.com: You’ve often described your blog as a corporate blog yet often venture into very private matters. Where do you draw the line?

Scoble: That’s a tough one, particularly now that my wife Maryam is blogging. Talk about fear! Heheh.

I look at it like a good meal. A little salt makes a meal taste better. Too much, though, spoils it. Luckily I’m pretty much only interested in technology. If you met me, that’s probably what we’d end up talking about.

ActiveWin.com: Speaking of which, how do you manage to juggle your family life with the already hectic work-life and a severe blogging addiction?

Scoble: Who said I managed that well? It’s a struggle, that’s for sure.

ActiveWin.com: What are a few of your favorite blogs?

Scoble: Hmm, every morning I start out with http://tech.memeorandum.com which is a tech site that analyzes the linking behavior of the top tech blogs and presents a news page. I still read Dave Winer’s blog every day. A new one that I find is very good is TechCrunch. Engadget. I have 1,400 blogs I read on a regular basis. Yeah, I’ve been slowing down since Memeorandum came along. Since that brings me most of the stuff I’d be looking for anyway, and it’s updated every five minutes.

It used to take me up to six hours to read through that many feeds.

ActiveWin.com: What do you want your next job at Microsoft to be? Where do you see yourself in 5 years at the company?

Scoble: That’s a tough one cause I already have the best job in the company. Not the best paycheck, mind you, but sometimes quality of life is worth more than money and getting to interview the world’s top geeks is a lot of fun.

ActiveWin.com: Do you have anything to add?

Scoble: No, I am just honored to be on ActiveWin. I’ve been reading ActiveWin for longer than I’ve been blogging. Thanks for doing such a great job keeping us all up to date.

Filed under: interview, interviews, microsoft

What Everyone is Excited About – LINQ

LINQ or Language Integrated Query is probably the most exciting feature of what I will call the future of the .NET languages. It facilitates native, SQL-like querying of data sources within code (C#/VB.NET), and you can query in-memory collections, relational databases and XML data.

For example you can have query a string array or any queryable ‘object’ and do some interesting things with that. Here is a simple example using a string array

using System;
using System.Query;{	public static class simpleLinq    {

	public static void Main()

{

var names = new string[] {"Wilfred","Mwenda" "Mutua",."Mworia"}

		var namesWithM = from n names
                       where n.StartsWith("M")
		       select n;		foreach(var individual in namesWithD) 	{

Console.WriteLine(individual);

}

}
}
}

That simpler piece of code as you would expect return all the names beginning with ‘M’. Of course this is a pretty trivial example. Linq promises to open a door to enable devs to do data manipulation quite flexibly.

You will notice a few things:

The System.Query namespace enables you to use LINQ

var names : the type is inferred

The query structure is SQL-Like but not exactly SQL. The reason given by Anders in a video on channel 9 is that the syntax is actually represents the natural flow of thought. You want to go somewher where you know some interesting things are stored and probablt you want only a subset of these things so you go there and get them, (I hope I have not twisted my logic there).

Anders Hejlsberg is the point-man in Linq, this is a nice video giving a good overview of what LINQ is and where the C# team is headed with it.
Here’s a link to the official project site.
The Linq Project Overview
For tonnes of examples click here.
Scott Guthrie has some tutorials on his blog. This and This.
A look at Linq on codepreject.com

Here are two very interesting articles:

Article 1 & 2

Linq is only one of the really interesting things happening at MS that I am following, the Entity Framework and ADO.NET, Silverlight , DLR amongst others are just a few more examples of some of the good work going on there. I will get to post something on these over time.

PS: If you want the best scoop on all this… bookmark channel 9 and keep an ear on the ground.

———–
var toPost =
from p in wilfredsThoughts
where p.isPostable()
select p;

Filed under: cool, microsoft, research, technology

Yukon to Katmai

The Windows Observer -Volume 4, Number 19 — May 16, 2007

Microsoft Talks Up SQL Server ‘Katmai’

Published: May 17, 2007

by Alex Woodie

Microsoft started beating the drum for the version of SQL Server, codenamed “Katmai,” last week at its business intelligence conference. In addition to new business intelligence capabilities, Katmai, which is scheduled to ship in 2008, will feature better security, more extensibility, new high availability features, a rule-based management framework, and an array of new tricks for .NET developers.

The new rule-based management framework Microsoft is developing for Katmai is expected to reduce the dependency on scripts for daily maintenance activities, such as query optimizations, naming conventions, backup and restore operations, and index management. By automatically monitoring and enforcing policies in Katmai, Microsoft says users will be able to push policies out to thousands of servers, providing a more heterogeneous SQL Server environment.

Better security will be a focal point for Katmai. With this release, Microsoft intends to make it easier for users to encrypt entire databases, or just specific data or log files, without making changes to the underlying applications. Better auditing will also allow administrators to more easily enforce compliance.

Microsoft is also talking about a feature called “database mirroring” in Katmai. With database mirroring, users will be given another option, on top of application server clustering, for boosting the availability of their critical business applications. Microsoft says it is also improving the recoverability of applications from storage failures by making it easy to move processor and memory resources without affecting applications.

It will also be easier to tune SQL Server for the best performance as a result of new performance data collection features in Katmai, Microsoft says. This will be made possible through a new centralized repository for performance data where administrators can view performance figures and compare them to past reports.

Similarly, Katmai will also sport a “resource governor” that, according to Microsoft, will help administrators provide a “consistent and predictable response” to users. The resource governor will achieve this by defining resource limits and priorities for different workloads.

Katmai will also feature new tricks for developers, including the new Entity Data Model, which is part of the ADO.NET framework, and support for the previously announced Language Integrated Query (LINQ) technology.

With the new Entity Data Model, developers will be able to access data by defining business entities like customers, orders, and products, as opposed to using the table and column format that is standard with relational databases. Developers can then query and retrieve these entities natively within any .NET language using LINQ, which is a set of language extensions that Microsoft announced in September 2005 as a way to simplify the development process and prevent programmers from having to know and use SQL and XQuery by allowing them to query data in C# and Visual Basic. Meanwhile, as developers work with a logical view of objects in the database, administrators will still be able to manage the database using the physical table and column view.

Microsoft also plans to improve support for non relational data–such as XML, a hierarchical format that Microsoft first supported in its database with SQL Server 2005. With Katmai, Microsoft intends to enable SQL Server to store and consume any type of unstructured content, which would suggest support for XML documents, PDF files, or JPG images, as well as new “spatial” data-types for building geographic and “location aware” systems.

This widening of file-type support sounds a lot like the type of capability that Microsoft was touting with Windows File System (WinFS), the revolutionary file system that was to debut with Windows “Longhorn.” WinFS, of course, was removed from Longhorn after running into development problems. After surviving for a time as a separate development effort, it has entirely disappeared from view.

Katmai will also bring new features designed to help users build new business intelligence applications. On the plumbing side, Microsoft says it is boosting SQL Server’s capacity to manage large numbers of users and large amounts of data, and will improve the database’s query performance on large tables, optimize queries for data warehousing scenarios, and increase I/O performance. New changed data capture (CDC) functionality will assist businesses with the real-time loading of data warehouses, while more scalable volume management and integration services will help administrators keep it all properly sorted.

Katmai will also shine when it comes to building and running today’s cutting-edge business applications, according to Microsoft. Better hooks into Microsoft Office will continue to push Microsoft’s desktop suite as a key way to consume business intelligence, while an array of more advanced capabilities, such as SQL Server Reporting Services for building reports, and SQL Server Analysis Services for building dashboard applications with key performance indicators (KPIs) and the like.

Microsoft has historically trailed the business intelligence technology leaders, including Business Objects, Cognos, Oracle (which recently bought Hyperion), MicroStrategy, and others. But SQL Server Katmai may have the potential to turn Microsoft’s business intelligence fortunes around.

“Microsoft is charting a course to transform the BI marketplace as we know it,” said Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft’s Business Division, said during the Microsoft BI Conference held in Redmond, Washington, last week. “By fundamentally changing the economic model for BI and delivering unprecedented ease of use, we’re enabling the broadest deployment of BI possible so employees can better contribute to a company’s overall business performance.”

Microsoft further boosted its business intelligence strategy last week with the acquisition of OfficeWriter, an application that enables users to access Excel spreadsheets and Word documents through a Web browser. OfficeWriter was developed by a company called SoftArtisans, out of Watertown, Massachusetts, but Microsoft only obtained the product, not the company. Microsoft plans to offer OfficeWriter alongside SQL Server Reporting Services.

The first community technology preview (CTP) for Katmai is reportedly due out in the next month or so. For more information, see www.microsoft.com/sql/prodinfo/futureversion/default.mspx.

Filed under: information retrieval, microsoft, research, technology, tool

A Special Night

The last couple of dys have been a bit busy. Following up on my previous post, i did some more reporting with SSRS(That tutorial is still in the pipeline) and I also got a taste of some new things here and there as well as experiencially learning the DOs and DONTs of SSRS. SSRS is a great tool, the only thing i do not quite fancy is the way you have to tweek the report a lot just to get the right print out (and big-up to all those nice folks at MS who worked on it!). For example, there is this interesting thing that started happening with the report i built; on the client machine they would navigate to a page say 221 but oddly when they preview the print-out it would show a page or two ahead (like 222). I have not managed to track whats up with that but i gave the users a simple work-around that suffices.

Other than that I have as usual been doing a lot of work on data and some interesting reports, i did one this afternoon that almost had me jumping up and down in blissful glee.

Other than that, I have been watching all these videos about interesting stuff at microsoft research, stuff to fo with CLR research, an interesting item called DLR (Dynamic Language Runtime) that they are doing with Ruby (I really ought to learn Ruby!), F# and Functional Programming, LINQ (very interesting, Anders is pretty good), Silverlight, Programming Language development  and some more stuff, but mostly CLR.

Frankly, a lot has been said about Microsoft, but I think they have some great work going on there and they work on pretty interesting stuff (but i still think Google totally rocks).

I am sure the title of this post has some eye-lids up in curiosity… so I will just leave it like that… for now!!!

Filed under: cool, fun, google, googler, interview, microsoft, research, software, technology, work

Microsoft



First of all isn’t it funny how you end up ‘googling for yahoo, or googling for microsoft’. Ok, maybe it’s a lame joke but I found myself doing exactly that many many times. Does that say something about Google, yahoo and MS???

Well, so I was looking for some info on what it’s like to work at Microsoft. Here are some interesting results:

MS jobsblog, interesting stories.

Someone’s experiences at Microsoft, Google and Yahoo!

The ups and downs of working at MS

Tim Sneath on getting a job at MS

Jeremy on getting a job at MS

Lovely stories from guys who interviewed at MS

Interesting article!

There is also a three-series video on Channel 9 on interviewing at MS. Can’t quite remember the URL but as soon as I get it I will give you the URL.

Filed under: google, interview, job, microsoft, work, working, yahoo

Google’s Acquisition Appetite

I got curious recently about google in regards to acquisitions and so i did the most logical thing, yep, I googled it! And the results were pretty interesting might I add.

I got this wikipedia entry; a list of google’s acquisitions since 2001 to date.

According to the wikipedia entry:

Most companies acquired by Google feature:

  • A small but very talented development team
  • Interesting and innovative products, technology, or intellectual property
  • A private start-up with a relatively cheap price tag.

There is also this very interesting blog entry that intends to dissect google’s recent acquisitions.

Have you ever read this SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) filing by google? Well, i breezed through it.

Googley-good history!

They say that curiosity killed the cat, but well, that didn stop me now did it? I went on to google yahoo’s acquisitions (or should I have yahood for it??? Naaah). The results are quite interesting as well:

(Typically) There is this entry at wikipedia of yahoo’s acquisitions

And this (nice) blog had an entry as well.

Ok, so you wanna stretch this little inquiry a little further? Let’s see what microsoft has been up to!

Here’s a blog entry!

And here’s something from microsoft itself.

Oh and here is the SEC’s repository in case anyone is research inclined when a juicy piece of interesting information is provided and they want to find out more.

Filed under: acquisitions, google, microsoft, yahoo

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