Archive for October, 2006

Google and Liferay at Openmind’06

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

I’m in Tampere, Finland, attending Openmind’06.

Chris Dibona
from Google opened up by talking about how Google does things the open source way. He goes on to show some pictures from the various generations of their server rooms, concluding that PC architecture might not be the most reliable platform around. Hardware stinks, so you have to build a software layer that provides stability. Google runs Linux based servers and they use various OS libraries, languages, compilers, web toolkits and other things to achieve what they do today. They use due dilligence for Open Source, to see where a particular chunk of code comes from and if it raises any red flags, they will deal with it.

According to Dibona, Google wouldn’t exist without Open Source. It’s not about the price (Google has all the money), it’s about having control and ownership. Open Source enables you to control your own company and be adapting anf flexible to market conditions.

He shows examples of map mashups where people combine google maps to databases they might find useful. Google has no interest to provide information on where for example universities in Sweden are located or where to get best ice cream, but they are interested to solve the hard problems like mapping and let people innovate on top of that by bringing data in from various locations. Some discussion emerges on the trust issues of Web 2.0 providers. Dibona answers, that you have to deserve the trust to be an API provider. They are willing to fight US governments search results etc. to protect their users.

I asked about Youtube’s copyright problems and no surprise, they don’t really worry too much about copyright issues related to Youtube. I think their company was founded on taking advantage of the gray area anyway, by making money out of content made by others.

He asserts that web standards are important but there are cases where customer requirements get higher priority. The reason their front page is not completely standard-compliant is because that enables them to save terabytes of bandwidth and bandwidth is important if you want to offer a reliable service.

Brian Chan and Bryan Cheung from Liferay talked about Web 2.0, how we move from top-down software delivery (like platforms and other one-way of doing things) to an ecosystem of different approaches and solutions, just like a conversation. Open source is like a conversation while proprietary software was more like a broadcast.

They work on Liferay, a Java-based portal solution that currently has highest number of downloads per month from the Java alternatives. For them a portal is a cross-road, rather than the end (Rome) in itself: it adds value on top of the various roads (services). They themselves are also in the cross-roads: large enterprises still look for stable release cycles and robust services. Combining the chaotic dynamic development approach with a stable one is a challenge. Redhat is a good example of having community-supported (to drive innovation) and company-supported (to drive stability) versions of their solution.

Open Source enables people to try everything. It’s a kind of “Rice rocket” approach to application development: start from a cheap “car” and use lots of resources to tinker and modify it.

[UPDATE] What really struct me about Liferay is the ethical grounds by which they operate. Their philosophy is ROG, return of giving. They invest part of their revenue in charities. What also comes up with their case examples is that they want to make a positive impact in the living of others. With 150% increase in revenue every year since 2000, ROI is clearly present. What is better than ROI + giving? Maybe a theoretical economic model needs to be formulated for ROG to spread it among corporations that want to make a difference.

Take wine and go for a picnic

Friday, October 20th, 2006

My friend Gerrit Visser pointed me to great quality presentation recordings from PICNIC ’06. I watched Dan Gillmor’s (author of We the Media) presentation on Conversations as a Source of Information and enjoyed it very much. Examples speak for themselves. Popularity (as in Digg) is not enough, we need reputation (people we trust as recommenders).

I plan to watch the rest but I share them with you first. Anyone know where I can get a bottle of Stormhoek in Finland?

Open your mind at Openmind 2006

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Openmind 2006 conference is being organized once again on 24th and 25th of October by COSS in Tampere, Finland. I will be there to blog and to check out the speaker lineup, including people from Google, Trolltech, IBM, Wikimedia, Magnatune, Liferay, Novell, CSIR and Nokia.

I will also participate in the informal round table about Open Media on closing day. Along with the expected Open Source and Open Content themes, Web 2.0 will be one of the central themes this year. Open Source has enabled a lot of innovation in the Web 2.0 spectrum. The whole idea of software as a service (or eternal beta) is also different from software as a distribution.

This is challenging open source licensing schemes that try to preserve freedom. if you run a service, you are not distributing a copy of your software, yet you can have a huge ammount of users. Effectively the GPL enables you to customize Open Source code to your own needs. The license only forces you to distribute your modifications if you distribute the source code to third parties. It doesn’t limit your ability to offer it as a service. If you make modifications to the software and gather a huge ammount of users, you don’t have to release your modifications. As more and more software you use resides on the web as a service, this effectively changes the rules of the game.

We have setup a service called OpenmindSpace that aggregates blog posts, Flickr images and links, as we did at EU eLearning conference and ITK conference this year. If you are coming to the conference, register your blog at OpenmindSpace to find likeminded people and participate in the conversation.

Virtual band

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Having a band used to be cool. A punch of weirdos gathering in a dark basement making noise together. It’s still cool. What makes it even more wicked, is the ability to have a virtual band, where each one of the band members are in different physical locations, don’t know each other, play alone by jamming alone to each others’ video recordings and then remixing the whole thing together as a song once the recordings are made available.

On Youtube, ClipBandits shows off how this works. Google’s Youtube quite naturally facilitates such activity through video responses.

Play a bit of guitar and put it online. Some other guy will download it and sing on top of it. Put that online and some other guys will play the bass and drums on top of the previous works. In the end you have a band and a full piece. Moby creates his own music by recording each instrument separately and then putting everything together. Now a group of people can do it, not even agreeing together to play in the same band.

What next? First Internet kitchen creating decentralized co-created meals? That would be fun… I can make the dough for our pizza. Now we just need a way to teleport my creation to your place… Oh yeah, sharing the recipe.

Knowing knowledge (beta)

Friday, October 13th, 2006

It’s not just the web 2.0 apps that are in eternal Beta, you will soon see a lot of content referred with the same incompleteness. Knowing knowledge is a book coming from my friend George Siemens, being co-created with people interested in knowledge. The book cover will have Beta printed on it, because the physical book (product) is just a catalyst for the continuous collaborative improvement of the content online (process). I like it.

The concept of books are shifting. They are just fueling online collaboration, rather than being the end in itself. Knowledge becomes a flow.

Today, 12.10 George Siemens gave presentation on Connectivism: Knowing knowledge at ePortfolio 2006. It’s online as a video (slides + audio). I urge you to check it out, it’s very important work.

I will be presenting Blogs as Reflective Practice (friday December 1, 16:30) at Online Educa Berlin in Germany, where George Siemens is giving a keynote on knowing knowledge. I look forward to that.