Alex Barnett blog


January 2008 - Posts

Joshua Porter - talking Social Design for the web (podcast)

Last week I had the chance to some spend time with Joshua Porter (of to discuss his thoughts on "Social Design" for the web. We recorded the conversation and it's up now up as a podcast.

Josh has a new book coming out soon, "Designing Social Applications (Voices That Matter)":

"How do you create and launch a vibrant social web application that people are motivated to use? Getting people to participate (and stay participating) is the key to any web-based strategy, but you have to do more than simply add features. This book teaches you how. By using real world examples and a bit of social psychology theory, this book provides a solid foundation for designing your next great web application" 

I miss our chats.

Geek Juice

Yup, I've definitely been missing my feedreader (and now FeedDemon is free I really have no excuses to catch up).

So much good stuff out there, so little time! Here's a sample of the good stuff I've been running into...

MVC, I know what you're thinking...

Haacked shares his MVC joke - "So A Model, A View, and a Controller Walk Into a Bar"...ok, so that's a bad start.

Less of a joke though, more the future...I think therefore I click - Microsoft's investigation into the subconscious, studying thought patterns as part of battle against Apple, Google:

"When a Microsoft Corp. patent application for a method of sorting brain waves surfaced late last year, it drew quips that the company now plans to read PC users' minds, in addition to selling them software."

But that's a while off. I think.

Build it!

In the meantime, back to some semi-reality - here's a good Facebook app primer on How To Build A Facebook Application...and now you can add your own very own virtual realty into Virtual Earth: 3D Models in Mashups. Customize your own Virtual World on your website!

"In this release we added the ability to load custom 3D models as part of a Collection right in your own web applications"

Ship It!

Skyfire has emerged from stealth mode, this video shows the Skyfire mobile browser enabling Flash video through server-side rendering

"While the mobile phone industry scrambles to adopt faster graphics platforms for rendering video, a startup may have bypassed everyone with an approach so simple, you wonder why nobody tried it already"

It looks pretty slick and could well...It just needs to ship! Something else that needs shipping, and pronto...The World Wide Web Consortium releases draft of HTML 5:

"In its final form by 2010, HTML 5 is intended to bring the markup language forward into today's richer Internet environments, with new application programming interfaces to control audio and 2D video content."

And along the shipping theme, Tommy Williams of Microsoft's Data Programmability team describes how he takes a finished software product and gets it up on the Web for people to download.

Trends It!

Here's a comment left by a Brian Campbell re: Tim Bray's 2008 Prediction 1: RIA vs. AJAX post.

"Well, one of the big trends is actually getting AJAX to be able to do what the RIA platforms can."

Yup. Lots more to do here.

And what consumer trends to we expect this year? How about the Expectation Economy? I read this, liked it, but thought: Isn't this really describing the experience economy?

A personal trend for me...How about enjoying the NJOY Electronic Cigarette. My wife got me one of these. I haven't got the balls to try this publicly yet...but my time may come.

And this year, how are devs really going make money with Web 2.0? I agree with Phil Wainewright's prediction:

"a groundswell of smart developers are going to use DevPay to make money under the radar screen"


Subscribed to Steve Gillmor's podcasting series - The Gang » Audio. It includes a fair amount of stuff I'm not really into, but some very good stuff that's right up my street. Just got to be selective about which episodes I'll listen to.

I liked this tool, FlickrDown - download and save your Flickr pics to your hard drive - pics by username, tags or group. Windows only. Sorry! Maybe Mac support in a future release?

Letting your customers know where you're going with your product, what criteria you're using to float some features / improvements to the top of your roadmap is obviously important when you're dealing with developer customer base.

But that's easier said than done. It's a balancing act - on the one hand you don't want to risk over-promising and under-delivering (in fact, you want the opposite) and yet you want provide the best level of visibility you can, so I liked how Ning is carefully introducing its future roadmap to customers in this post - January Product Roadmap - What's Next.

Defining Community

Having clearly defined and agreed term is generally a useful thing (Web 2.0 anyone?) gets us all on the same page when we're trying to figure stuff out together. Bob Rebholz of Microsoft's Community team is doing his bit to define the "Community" bit in Social system design part 1: defining terms

"Defining community should be easy right? And it is, sort of."

Among the dynamos, My Data and advice for startups.

SaaS / DaaS / WaaS (Whatever As a Service) and Mashups

Nick Carr quotes Henry Adams in Among the dynamos

“One lingered long among the dynamos,” he wrote, “for they were new, and they gave to history a new phase.

Pointing to SaaS Platforms trends, Clive Keyte write about "SaaS Management Platforms"

" is not on it’s own offering ‘cloud development facilities for SaaS applications though, there are a plethora of smaller companies entering into the fray including Bungee Connect"

Among the dynamos indeed...

And SaaS by the numbers: 24 Billion API Calls So Far

"This statistic along with others like 130 million transactions daily, 61,200 custom applications, and 750 AppExchange apps"

Bray Forrest informs us even Your Car Gets An API

"At the end of the month the Dash will get a RESTful API. At the user's initiative lat/long coordinates can be sent to a server. The Dash will consume a GeoRSS feed. This is just the first release. In the future they may add HTML pages, search and even the ability to poll. The device I saw did not have any API-driven apps loaded, but I can imagine great ones (update my location and finding out who from my YASN contacts are nearby)."

So what will we do with all these APIs? Mashups of course!  What is a MashUp?

"Potatoes + beans + a little bit of beef + pork, and then you pour Smithwicks over the top of it."

Ah...Microsoft Research project alert: Rotunda: Profiling the Cloud

"the goal of the project is to be able to profile the performance of a Web application from the time a user clicks on a link and triggers an event in the browser—which triggers a database lookup—through each point of the resolution of the transaction."

Sounds a lot like Bungee Connect instrumentation designed to measure every transactions from user's browser interactions and server-side roundtrips, through to the app's service calls, triggers, events, response times, etc...You see, our business model demands we and our developers know this...we have this today :-)

My Data

The UK gets some relief from the ID Card madness, for a while anyway...turns out National ID cards scheme will delayed until 2012:

"The Government’s national identity card scheme was “in the intensive care ward” after leaked documents showed plans to issue UK citizens with the cards have been delayed until after the next election."

Phew! Seeing stories like this seems to be knocking sense to those who are living in cloud-cuckoo land...

On the other end of the "my data" equation: cries of "we want our data, when we want it and where we want it" are getting heard...

Here's video intro to initiative: DataPortability - Connect, Control, Share, Remix.

"DataPortability gathers existing open standards into a blueprint for a social, open, remixable web where your online identity, media, contacts and content can follow you wherever you go."

Niall Kennedy's take on Data Portability, Authentication, and Authorization.

"Data authorization is the first step in data portability."

Enter OpenID and OAuth.

How will keep from being hijacked by Microsoft? Now Microsoft has joined the fray, so does the inevitable questioning begin:

"So is the nascent group at such risk from Redmond? Not according to a source inside the group."

News of's on demand since CBS's acquisition hit the mainstream tech media yesterday. But what next? CBS Will Try To Convert Last.FM Acquisition To Video Value

“One of the reasons we liked the idea of buying it is, if we can develop a great social networking site around this music content, why couldn’t this extend in to entertainment, in to news sports, all businesses that we’re in"


Martin Plaehn's Quick Hits: Do's and Dont's of Entrepreneurship. 16 pieces of advice for start-ups.

"6. Do always accumulate choice; two by definition, three of four is better; then make decisions and have a back-up"

 More Investments Into Open Source

News that Alfresco Gets Another $9M for Open Source Content Management

"Alfresco Software, an open source content management alternative to software created for large companies, has received an additional $9 million in a third round of financing, led by SAP Ventures and existing investors Accel Partners and Mayfield Fund"

However, not all the shareholders are happy with the Alfresco deal...Matt Asay wrote in New open source venture funding and the importance of SAP Ventures and Intel Capital

"But since we didn't need the money (not even remotely) and I didn't want the dilution, it's not my favorite news of the day."

Amen to that.

Uh Oh...

Mobile phone radiation wrecks your sleep

"Radiation from mobile phones delays and reduces sleep, and causes headaches and confusion, according to a new study, reports The Independent"

Video demo: REST Describe & Compile for WADL

In March 2007, I naively asked if REST needs a WSDL and if yes, was WADL the one (Web Application Description Language). The conversation goes on, but I thought the video below and pointers might be of interest to those who have an opinion one way or the other.

The video Google Chalk Talk was published last week and shows Thomas Steiner demoing REST Describe & Compile, an online editor and a compiler for REST Web services based on SUN engineer Marc Hadley's Web Application Description Language (WADL).

(huh? video not available as embeded??? wtf? Here's the link to it)


REST Describe & Compile is an editor and a compiler for REST Web services based on SUN engineer Marc Hadley's Web Application Description Language (WADL). REST Describe & Compile is implemented using the Google Web Toolkit (GWT) and is split up in two sub-apps:

REST Describe:
This component takes a (set of) URL(s) as input and tries to analyze the parameters regarding parameter types and Web service structure. It then generates a WADL representation for the given URL(s), represented in an editable, tree-like form. Typical input would be GET

or GET{userID}/albumid/{albumID}/photoid/{photoID}?kind=kinds=0=10

REST Compile:
This component allows for the WADL representation of a Web service to be "compiled" to working programming code in various languages (for the moment these languages are Java, PHP5, Python, and Ruby). The idea is thus similar to WSDL2Java, however in a more general WADL2Anything way.

The application can be tested online:

There are some screencasts available on YouTube:

Speaker: Thomas Steiner
Thomas Steiner works as a Customer Solutions Engineer from Barcelona, Spain, and has joined Google full-time only since October 1st. However, he has been with Google first as an intern and then as a temorary contractor since February 2005. During his time at Google, Thomas has created the Google APIlity PHP Library for the AdWords API, as well as the APIlity Agua Ajax application, which can be seen as an Ajax GUI for AdWords. From January 2007 till July 2007, Thomas did his Final Year Project with Google, where the REST Describe & Compile application was to be developed, hosted by Googler Patrick Chanezon."

Related, last week Assaf (a true web pragmatist) wrote in his post REST IDL, substance over style

"So far most of the suggestions I saw are turf wars in disguise, arguing for this syntax or that, but never for what it should describe. WADL so far looks like one of those best-for-my-platform choices, the constant mentioning of Microformats, which are not optimized for this task, is another danger sign.

It has to start somehow, but it better start with substance, not with style."

I agree with the last statement...

Now, I don't know if Assaf has seen the above video or not, and if not, whether the video would further sway him one way on WADL or not...anyone else have thoughts on what's in the video or tool demo'd, or WADL itself?

What I'm reading...

There are a whole bunch of interesting posts / stuff I find on the net that I bookmark on (at least, I think they are interesting). Over the years I've been experimenting with different ways of sharing these with you. My most recent solution has been to include my links within my feed as seperate items. The problem with this approach is I haven't had a permalinked way of publishing these to my blog with a way to easily edit prior to publishing...also, having the daily summaries format in a feed is lame.

So I going to try something new. Instead of having the daily link summaries published as RSS items within my Feedburner feed, I'm going to publish these as blog posts. It should make things more economical from the consumption point of view (I don't think the "Links for 2008-01-20 []" blah blah feed item titles are pretty). To do this, I have:

  • disabled the feed syndication from Feedburner (the Link Splicer)
  • have installed Josh Leggard's Insert Feed Content plugin for Windows Live Writer - this lets me populate a draft blog post with the latest items from any feed (my feed in this case - I'll still use the service for bookmarking) that I can then include / edit / add more commentary before I post to my blog - along with a custom post title.

Better me thinks. I like Harry Pierson's and Assaf's Labnotes style of providing links with commentary...over time I hope to emulate these.

So here goes - this first effort will be larger than future posts like this...shorter in the future.

OpenID - Getting Traction

Cool UI / Vizualization and Useful Bits

SaaS Stuff

Developer Cults and Dataheads

Uncategorizable But Good.

  • Lessons from Star Wars
    Johnnie Moor's pointer: "Stephen Anderson shares his presentation about what designers can learn from the making of Star Wars."
Podcast interviews - smart people in the world of the web

One of the fun parts of my job at Bungee Labs is to partner up with Ted and interview some smart people in the world of the web. We publish these as a podcast series (the Bungee Line - podcast feed here) over on the BCDN blog.

If you have ideas about someone you think we should interview, let me know! We're focusing on topics we think web developers might be interested in the worlds of software as a service and web app development, in particular profiling web apis. Related topics are good too.

I've listed out below our most recent podcasts below...plenty more in the works (previous podcasts are listed here). Hope you like :-)

Bungee Line podcasts

Alan Lewis on eBay Desktop and eBay APIs

"As product manager for eBay Desktop, Alan Lewis relies on the same web APIs that eBay makes available to all developers. In this edition of the Bungee Line, Alan tells us about what the eBay Desktop is, how it came about, and various details about eBay’s developer program and web APIs. We ask Alan about eBay’s position Oauth and on open source."

 Toby Segaran on “Programming Collective Intelligence”

"Since the publication of his O’Reilly book Programming Collective Intelligence: Building Smart Web 2.0 Applications, Toby Segaran has become well noted for his ability to explain easily-understandable algorithms for the kind of deeply complex problems involved in social applications. Toby joins Alex and Ted to discuss some of the high-level concepts that he tackles in his book."

Jon Aizen of

"Jon Aizen joins Alex and Ted to explain how provides a no-fee tool for making almost any structured web site data accessible via a REST API. In a past life, Jon was involved in creating The Internet Archive. Jon also helps the Bungee Line introduce romantic intrigue into the podcast.

Punditry Alert! At the end of this show, Ted and Alex speculate a bit about Android, Google’s open source mobile device platform, the Apache License, and whether Robert Love is involved. Please consider this as another demonstration of Ted’s idiocy, brought to you by the Bungee Line."

Jeff Barr on Amazon Web Services (Part 2)

"In part 2 of our interview with Amazon Web Services evangelist Jeff Barr, Alex and Ted ask Jeff about Flexible Payment Service, virtual user group meetings in Second Life, the Startup Project, and pry at Jeff’s views of possible futures of technologies that developers might anticipate."

Jeff Barr on Amazon Web Services (Part 1)

"Developer evangelist for Amazon Web Services, Jeff Barr tells Alex and Ted about how he became a native Amazonian, his recent visit to “The Business of API’s Conference,” and a bunch of stuff on Amazon Web Services, including: Mechanical Turk, EC2, and S3. Additionally, Jeff explains the newly announced S3 Service Level Agreement*."

BillG - last full day at Microsoft has come and gone...

The chances are you've already seen the video below - "Bill Gates Last Day at Microsoft". If not, it's worth a watch.

I was still at Microsoft when Mr G announced his retirement and was present at his announcement to employees in Redmond. It felt like a big deal at the misquote Vinnie Jones, "it was emotional".

BillG's last full day at Microsoft has come and gone, off to even bigger and greater things. I wish him a load of luck in his new and worthy adventures.

8 Trends in Software as a Service Platforms

To kick off the new year, I presented to around 40 or 50 members of Utah Technology Council (UTC) last week. The title of the topic they asked me to speak about was "Trends in Software as a Service Platforms". I searched around for some ideas and came across two recent posts predicting trends in SaaS for 2008, one by Phil Wainewright "Eight Reasons SaaS Will Surge in 2008" and Jeff Kaplan's post "Top Ten Reasons Why On-Demand Services in 2008". I decided to borrow liberally from these (thanks Phil and Jeff) and mash these two together (along with a couple of thoughts of my own) and present "8 Trends in Software as a Service Platforms" to an audience made up of CTOs and VPs of engineering and development for software companies in the Utah area.

In preparation for the presentation, my boss (Martin Plaehn) at Bungee Labs suggested I write up my presentation as notes blog them afterward, so here they are.

8 Trends in Software as a Service Platforms

  1. SaaS is just part of the web mega-trend
  2. Mainstream opinion says “Yes” to SaaS
  3. Software vendors stampede into SaaS
  4. All is being virtualized
  5. Explosion of Web APIs
  6. Economic factors favor SaaS
  7. Enterprise and SMB IT embraces SaaS
  8. SaaS platforms proliferate (PaaS)

1. SaaS is just part of the web mega-trend

Most of us have witnessed and many of us have been a part of the transformation in the way goods and services have been digitized, virtualized, delivered and consumed. Software, the data behind that software and the functionality that software provides is no different - software is subject to the very same transformational forces.

Just think about how even a class of product that is natively digital - such as software - has been transformed in the way it is delivered and consumed. For prosperity's sake, I've still got a few of those ZX81 software cassettes stashed away somewhere, gathering dust, looking ever more antiquated with each passing year. How will today's mode of software delivery and use look to us in a few years from now?

The web wants to connect things, and that's interesting. But connecting and interacting with "live" data, information and remote functionality make things more interesting.

At the fundamental level, the web connects things. It connects people to people, businesses to businesses, and people to businesses. Since the early 90's, the web has enabled the connection of so many things to so many other things at an ever accelerating rate, and yet we crave even more connectivity. But we increasingly also want the ability to interact with those things.

And it is the nature of these connected things that have changed since the early internet. The early web was good at connecting to static views of information and accessing limited and rigid functional services, very much a read-only mode. Then, as we learned a) the ability to read more dynamic-type information - at least regularly updated, and b) access richer remote functionality, we created whole new opportunities for ourselves. Next, we grew our ability read and write against dynamic, near real-time data and information and to program against remote functionality to create a new class of web applications leveraging those capabilities - and hence a new order of business and experiential opportunities have emerged. Some label this as "Web 2.0".

At its essence, it is the "liveness" of these real-time read-write data, information and functional sources available as "always on" services and the increasing ease to connect to, interact with - specifically change those resources available as live, programmable services that allows us to create new value out of those resources, opening up brand new market opportunities for businesses and the compelling, rich "live" end-user experiences of tomorrow.

2. Mainstream opinion says “Yes” to SaaS

Not surprisingly, Wall Street loves the the predictability of subscription services. It's good for cash flow, forecasting and business planning.

The venture firms also relish the opportunities that are opening up in a software as services-oriented economy. The ability to circumnavigate the incumbent software players with new disruptive technologies and propositions that are significantly easier to try and access for prospective customers compared to traditional software evaluation, along with usage and subscription-based business models verses the old licensing model makes investing in services-based software companies very compelling propositions from the venture firms' point of view. We should also see healthy M&A activity based on these similar opportunities in the coming year.

And then there's the trend for offshore / IT business process outsourcing. These providers will surely get in the game and make their plays through investments in and acquisitions of SaaS vendors that align well with their current core businesses.

Add to that the excitement we're reading about the SaaS space from the IT Analysts, journalists and bloggers, plus the new book by Nick Carr (author of “IT Doesn’t Matter”) -  delivered by Amazon to me last week: “The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google”. I think there's little doubt Carr's excellent analysis of the computing industry as an analogy to the electricity industry's shift to a utility model will be on business bestseller list for much of 2008. His messages resonates with corporate executives and end-users agree with him:

  • IT is a needless hassle,
  • it should be as easy as electricity and
  • be as reliable as a utility

3. Software vendors stampede into SaaS

The Big Software Players are following the early SaaS successes

CRM as a case in point. If you've been following the CRM software market, you'll know about the noises Oracle-Siebel, SAP and Microsoft started to make in the 2007 about what they are are lining up for the 2008 in terms of CRM as a service. Their efforts to emulate's success delivering CRM as SaaS will be key strategic bets from the incumbents' point of view - and loud, price and functionally competitive propositions from the point of view of their existing and prospective customers.

CRM is just one of the multiple horizontal solution categories to transform from on-premise with traditional licensing model to a service-based delivery and subscription-based revenue model. ERP, supply chain, e-commerce, HR and many more...the horizontal solution list goes on. And then there are the vertical solution players...

Here's another data point to consider regarding the move by traditional software vendors to a SaaS model:

“15-20% of application ISVs have already either begun new skunk works initiatives or gained access to SaaS assets and development experience through M&A activity”

(Source: Key Trends in SaaS: 2008 and Beyond, Saugatuck Technology)

4. All is being virtualized

Virtualization is a technology trend.

Virtualization enables hardware as a service. The demand for virtual machines met by hypervisor software (VMWare, Xen, Hyper-V) and the success of Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) in the last couple of years point to a continuation of further virtualization of applications and hardware. Virtualization is accelerating the move from traditional on-premise software to services.

Virtualization is a business trend.

We continue to become a mobile workforce. The younger entrants into the workforce in service-oriented economies expect and want to be always connected. It's very hard work, if not impossible to get your traditional on-premise applications and centralized servers sitting behind a firewall to serve today's mobile workers. SaaS and managed services meet the needs square on.

5. The explosion of Web APIs is upon us

According to, there are 559 commercial and public APIs available today, most of these are new and there are plenty more to come. How many will we see go live this year? And how many private web APIs are there and will be developed and consumed in the coming year?


Data from 

6. Economic factors favor SaaS

  • On-premise software requires upfront capital investments
  • To lower costs, many companies hold back on their capital investments to mitigate their risks, especially in recessions
  • Adopting on-demand services on a pay-as-you-go basis will be a perfect sourcing strategy for businesses seeking greater cost-controls and flexibility – the utility model

All well and good, but the real economic value of SaaS is that fact that it unleashes new value of previously isolated data silos and functionality.

7. Enterprise and SMB embraces SaaS

When it comes to IT, who doesn't like

  • Low-maintenance?
  • Low cost?
  • Low-resource profile?

IT and business folk like these things, and externally delivered SaaS applications deliver these benefits.

8. SaaS platforms proliferate (PaaS)

The more mainstream SaaS becomes the more the large vendors will be forced to offer effective platforms for ISVs,  enterprises and SMBs.

If the move by the software vendors from traditional on-premise software to a services model is to be successful, they will need to provide programmable interfaces - not just end-user interfaces - to their services for their customers. Customers need and want the ability to access, intergrate and create new value out of live, programmable data, information and functionality living in the cloud. And in turn these same customers will want their custom-developed composite applications and integrated data available as programmable services - yet more APIs.

Customers want to unleash new value of previously isolated data silos and functionality through the development of their own applications programmed against those resources. And in turn these same customers will want their own custom-developed composite applications and newly integrated data available as end-user interfaces and as programmable services - yet more APIs. These customer needs will drive the software market to provide platforms to provide businesses and developers with with end-to-end:

  • programmable services and data integration
  • application development, testing and collaboration tools
  • deployment and scalable delivery

...all as a service with a utility model.

(hey...I needed to mentioned Bungee Connect just the once ;-).

2008 will mark a the proliferation of such offerings as "platforms as services" (or PaaS) through 2009, where then the consolidation will begin. Interesting SaaS and PaaS times ahead.

Update 2/20/2008: see "Time to Define "Platform as as Service" (PaaS)


The presentation seemed to go down pretty well and we had lots of interesting discussion throughtout. One of the topics we discussed was data security in a SaaS world. Don Kleinschnitz (VP, Development at Symantec) followed up with a mail linking to his blog covering Security 2.0 topics.

Again - thanks to Phil Wainewright and Jeff Kaplan for their post and to Martin for suggesting I blog this.

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