Alex Barnett blog


February 2007 - Posts

Thinking with a hyperlinked-content processor

Alex Pang's post Thinking with a word processor led me to ask myself...

This question: How does my trawling / tagging / blogging / processing of hyperlinked content affect my thinking?

Answer: Immeasurably, I suspect.

Ajax'd Scrabble

Via Ajaxian, you can now enjoy Wabble, a browser-friendly way of convincing your friends that you didn't just invent the words hunormous or tagtastic. Or, you could try to score more ligitimate big points with hits such as sleazier and grazings.

(fixed typo in the title...oh, the ironay!)

Posted: Feb 23 2007, 07:49 AM by alexbarnett | with no comments
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1 in 4 Developers To Get RESTed

AJAXWorld has reported a couple of interesting data points from Evans Data Corp’s latest Web Services Development Survey (the article refers to the Spring 2006 survey - I think this is a typo as the Winter 2006 Survey has come out).

First, The REST (Representational State Transfer) 'style' use is on the rise: The Evans Data survey found a 37% increase in respondents implementing or considering REST. Now, as a mentor of mine once said to me, "X% of f*ck all is still f*ck all", so this data really needs qualifying to understand significance of this, I haven't seen original survey data (but I intend to). I do know that there were 400+ respondents.

However, this is noteworthy:

  • "with one out of four surveyed saying that they are considering REST-Based Web Services as a simpler alternative to SOAP-based services".

So, if you are one of the 3 out of 4 developers that are not considering REST, then you might want to take a look here

Another data point in the survey: close to half of developers surveyed say they are already working with AJAX or plan to do so in the coming year.

Posted: Feb 22 2007, 11:12 AM by alexbarnett | with 2 comment(s)
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(Hints of) The Future of Windows Live as a platform

This story at Redmond Developer News discusses the future of Windows Live as a platform and includes an interview with Adam Sohn, director of worldwide sales and marketing in Microsoft's online services group.

Main points of the article (plus additional notes and links): 

  • "Microsoft's MIX07 developers and designers conference is set for the end of April in Las Vegas, and promises to be the venue where the company reveals more of its plans to make Windows Live into a bona fide platform for third-party developers"
  • "First, the company is working to present a more cohesive architecture than it has previously for its emerging Live Services businesses "
    • Sohn: "With the emerging framework, APIs fall into two fairly distinct categories-infrastructure and applications"
    • LiveSide has intepreted the breakdown of the two categories as mentioned in the article as follows:

     identity     IM
     relationships     search
     advertising     Spaces
     domains     mail/calendar
     storage     classifieds (expo)

  • "some of the pieces have been delivered, at least in version 1 form. Others, such as the Windows Live Contacts Control, which Sohn describes as providing access to "probably the largest social network on the planet," are still in beta test."
  • "As Microsoft is developing the software needed to make Windows Live work, the company is also dashing to create enough server space to provide Live services on a truly global basis. That is, Microsoft is investing heavily in data centers to support all of those users and their services"
    • Sohn: "This is a scale game"

Robert Scoble's reaction to the piece:

"I’m worried about the boil-the-ocean approach. Web developers like small, discrete APIs

...Oh, and they like to see lots of iterations, er, small improvements in the service over time that demonstrates a team’s commitment (Virtual Earth got dozens of little, and some major, improvements over the past three years)."

And LiveSide:

"Developing an architecture around Microsoft's Live services has been and will be a big part of what happens in this coming year and beyond.  It may be why Ray Ozzie has been so silent lately.  We may find out as early as his keynote at Mix07. " 

I suspect there will be some more reactions to the RDN article, so I'll update this post if I see stuff of interest.

Online, Video-based Technical Support Networks (on YouTube)

Chris Pirillo has a very interesting experiment going on YouTube.

In a series of videos called Help! (here's the latest), he's recording answers technical / PC troubleshooting on his webcam and then uploading those recordings on to YouTube. In the videos he is recording (no music, nothing fancy at all), he's watching the webcam recordings of those questions uploaded on to YouTube by a community of users he's building, offering his advice in those videos and then uploading those to YouTube.

What's more, the community themselves are now starting to offer their own answers to some of those questions inline, so there's this kind of self-help PC / technical support YouTube video community emerging.

The reach of this experiment is interesting too. One woman all the way from Lancashire (UK) recorded her question regarding a simple way of editing her videos.

Forums and newsgroups have been around for a long time, but what Chris is showing me could be the beginning of an interesting format trend in the area of technical support - online video-based technical support networks . Will be interesting to see where this goes.


The Top 10 Databases in the World (not including the ones we missed)

Via Josh Porter's links, I saw this post on Business Intelligence Lowdown, claiming to 'cover the top 10 largest databases in the world'.

Great idea, shame about the execution, as just reading from the comments shows they've missed some huge DBs. Some commenters have also been good enough to suggest alternative titles for the post:

"you may want to call this the top 10 databases "that we could find.""


"This article should have been entitled "An uneducated guess at the top 10 American databases".

Harsh, but fair.

Posted: Feb 21 2007, 09:13 AM by alexbarnett | with no comments
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Dr. Peter Chen - the ER Model and ADO.NET Entity Framework - Podcast

A couple of weeks ago Dr Peter Chen, inventor of the Entity-Relationship model (ER model), visited the Microsoft Campus to provide a lecture sharing his thoughts on the ADO.NET Entity Framework. As we were planning his visit, he was very keen to make sure that his views could be shared with a wider audience beyond Microsoft employees, so we agree to record some sessions while on campus.

His original paper on the Entity-Relationship model (ER model), published in 1976 is one of the most cited papers in the computer software field. I was fortunate enough to have dinner with him, Sam Druker, Jose Blakeley, Britt Johnston, Erik Meijer, Pedro Cellis where we heard how his ideas on the ER model were formulated some 30 years ago. Lot's more fascinating conversation all about this history of databases, and their future too...

The next morning, I picked up Dr Chen from the hotel and drove him to the recording studio to meet with Britt, Jose and Brian Beckman where they got talking for an hour with the microphone on. Here's the podcast, hosted on Channel 9 (.mp3 here) It is superb. I mean it. If you're into 'data', you'll love it.

"Beckman interviews Dr. Chen along with Jose Blakeley, Software Architect, SQL Server, and Britt Johnston, Director of Program Management, Data Programmability. Join as we discuss the ideas behind Dr. Chen's original paper, how these concepts have subsequently influenced the software industry and database technologies, and how the ADO.NET Entity Framework is an execution runtime for the ER model."


Nothing profound, but...I realised this:



Don't cheat. OK, well you can, but don't give it away unless you worked it out...

Help China's kids seek a brighter future

Rich Hoeg, a Honeywell employee whose blog 'econtent' I've been following for a while, is helping rural children in China by running a marathon to raise money for the China Tomorrow Education Foundation. The charity's mission is to help the children of remote villages in China obtain a basic education, escape poverty and seek a brighter future by retaining their elementary schools and support local education-related capital projects.

Rich is asking for help from fellow bloggers to spread the word on his charity run. No problem Rich!:

"Please consider sponsoring me for Grandma's Marathon and my Run for Chinese Education. Not only will I be putting the proverbial feet to the pavement ... for 26.2 miles, but I am also contributing $600 of my own money." - is this your idea of transparent marketing?

This ad popped up on the site this morning. Overlayed is what looks like internal codes from their customer segmention model. Either this is shown in error, or, Chase is taking the notion of transparent marketing a little too literally.

Voices for sale?

Congratulations to Michael Gartenberg who's moving from an analyst role at Jupiter to an evangelist role in Jeff Sandquist's group at Microsoft (the same Jeff who nabbed Jon Udell recently).

Within the comments of Michael's announcement, there are disappointed voices, the sentiment of which is that Michael will lose his subjective view of Microsoft in his commentary relating to Microsoft and therefore his views are less valuable. There's a bit of the the old "you've turned to the dark side" point which isn't surprising to hear but I think there is a serious point to consider within the comments.

Let's take a quote from Michael's old Jupiter blog (which I presume will now be put on ice by his former employer - and not deleted now he's left). From March 2006:

"Vista Delayed

March 21, 2006, 07:21 PM

Not a real shocker (never lost money yet betting against a Microsoft ship date) but MSFT is holding off on the Vista launch until January.

Net impact? Little on Microsoft. Those that want Vista will wait a few more weeks for it. The real impact will be for the PC vendors who were looking to sell Vista machines for the holiday. Microsoft's going to have to work to provide some mechanism to make sure vendors aren't sitting on lots of inventory while customers wait for the new OS to ship. Perhaps they could try this :)

It will also be interesting to see how the competition in Cupertino capitalizes on the delay."

It is arguably this kind of post that made Michael 'readable' - opinionated, some insight and to the point. The question here is how will his commentary change now he's employed by Microsoft as an evangelist? Of course, it will change in terms of the focus and attention he lends to Microsoft products (at his new personal blog), but, will he lose his a) ability to forthrightly criticise Microsoft when he sees something broken, and b) sense of objectivity regarding not just Microsoft but it's competitors?

The commenters that are now informing Michael that they are unsubscribing to his RSS feel the answer to both these questions is 'Yes'. The challenge for Michael, or any other voice that is recruited by a company because of their voice, is to prove those folks wrong.

Good luck to Michael, and once again, nice one Jeff.

(btw, I heard the news via Techmeme - sorry Josh ;-)

Posted: Feb 15 2007, 10:31 PM by alexbarnett | with 1 comment(s)
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The Lightnet Revisited

At the end of 2005 I wrote a post messing around with some ideas on the future of the net.

One of the ideas was the counter concept to the Darknet, using the term 'Lightnet'. I didn't define 'Lightnet', Lucas Gonze did that (and soon after Lucas was good enough to acknowledge me with credit for the invention of the term in the Darknet context).

Over the next few days, Mike Linksvayer, Peter Van Dijck, Kenyatta, Richard MacManus and Jon Udell did their bit of meme-spreading, then J.D. Lasica, author of 'Darknet: Hollywoods War Against the Digitial Generation', picked up on the Lightnet too, where this pic turned up:


A few days later, Lucas and J.D. Lasica were both interviewed by Jason Boog for an article Jason published at Publish, where Clay Shirky was also asked to comment.

But it didn't end there. Prompted by Raymond's post today I was curious to see how the lightnet meme has been doing so I did some searching around.. Here are some samples of the Lightnet citations I found:

Long live the Lightnet.

Sign up for Windows Home Server Beta 2

Via the Windows Home Server blog:

 "While previous releases have been tested by 1000+ Microsoft employees and some of our hardware and software partners, we are now starting to invite a broader group of external testers to participate in Beta 2."

You can sign up here (no places guaranteed) and peruse the Windows Home Server Forum.

In case you've not heard about Windows Home Server but want to learn more, check out and this post describing a short history of the product's development.

Posted: Feb 13 2007, 09:11 AM by alexbarnett
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Create a Mashup and win $25K

Microsoft, BT and Top Coder have launched a competition encouraging developers to build 'managed network mashups' using BT's Connected Services Sandbox (an implementation of Microsoft's Connected Services Framework - CSF). From Top Coder's announcement:

"Usage scenarios can include a combination of communications services, such as e-mail, instant messaging and document collaboration, with Web services, such as Windows Live™, Microsoft MapPoint®, Amazon, eBay, Google and Yahoo!"

I'm confused.

I've not heard someone say "I'm confused" for a while now.

I find it to be a confrontational phrase and I dislike it. I intepret it as someone trying to make a point along the lines of "I'm smarter than you, and what you just said doesn't make any sense to me". Aware of the way it makes me feel when someone does say it, I try to make sure these words don't pass through my lips in conversation.

The next time someone tells me they are confused, I'll consider using one of the following responses:

X: "I'm confused"
Me: "I know."

X: "I'm confused"
Me: "I see. What part of the word "x" didn't you understand?"

X: "I'm confused"
Me: "Not for the first time..."

X: "I'm confused"
Me: "I've heard that about you"

X: "I'm confused"
Me: "So am I"

X: "I'm confused"
Me: "You know, I'm not sure this is the appropriate time to discuss personal issues."

Feel free to add your own...

Posted: Feb 09 2007, 08:20 AM by alexbarnett | with 5 comment(s)
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