Wilfred Mutua Mworia's (Old) Blog (Now at Afrinnovator.com)

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Information for tech enthusiasts, hobbyists, devs, tech startup founders and tech entrepreneurs

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

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

Sue Dumais talks about search and user context

Filed under: information retrieval, research, search, yahoo

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