Alex Barnett blog


August 2008 - Posts

The Great Bungee Jump

Well, the great Bungee Jump has come. Martin Plaehn, CEO of Bungee Labs has shared the news of the company the letting go of 15 regular employees and contractors. Unfortunately, I am among this set of affected Bungee Labs employees.

A Voyage of Discovery

As Martin explained in today's post, Bungee Labs has been on a voyage of discovery. There are many lessons for me and the company to take away from the whole experience of the last year or so, but the bottom line is that we were overly optimistic about what it takes to achieve the rate and scale of developer adoption - real traction - and therefore the development of killer apps by the developer community that would drive the platform and the business forward at the velocity that makes a VC-backed venture "interesting".

So where does Bungee Labs go from here? Well, I think Martin eluded to the key clue:

"Over the next several months, Bungee Labs will lay out the course for a business object solution framework for user configurable enterprise-class applications that demonstrate these principles"

It'll be very interesting to see how this manifests and the impetus it will provide to the platform's adoption.

No Regrets

No regrets, none at all. When I considered the opportunity of joining Bungee Labs (and by doing so leave a relatively safe harbor in order to do so) I knew of the risks involved. Bungee Labs' mission was - and still is - of the kind that aims to "change the world". To have been a member of the team tasked with realizing the company's hugely ambitious mission has been nothing short of an entirely worthwhile and educational pursuit.

In my mind at least, Bungee Labs has made its mark in the brave new world of cloud computing. It has opened the eyes to many in the industry about what might be and can be. It has made cloudy ideas and visions more concrete and helped to define the concepts a (Platform as a Service, or PaaS) and memes that are contributing to the next generation of cloud computing platforms.

I've learned a great deal in the past 16 months working closely with a very talented, smart and creative set of teammates. And although it is probably unfair to call out individuals - for it implies those not mentioned weren't of similar caliber (which is not the case) -  I do want to thank Martin Plaehn, Bungee Labs' CEO in particular for his mentorship during my tenure at Bungee Labs' and from whom I've learned an enormous amount management and leadership. I'll also miss the inane banter with Ted in those podcasts we put together (and the "Shushee"  lunches).

What Next?

And so...on to my next adventure. What will that be exactly? Frankly, I have no idea yet...but whatever it is, I need to know I'll be trying to change the world :-)

I'm open to if you have some, please get in touch.

How ADO.NET Data Services came to be (formerly known as Project Astoria)

Pablo Castro has recounted some of his timelined memories about how "Project Astoria" evolved from a lunch time conversation to bits in .NET 3.5 SP1 and Visual Studio 2008 SP1 now known as ADO.NET Data Services Framework). Nice write up.

Three memories of my own to add to the story:

1. I was reading up on the whole REST thing in the summer of 2006 - its origins, philosophy and design patterns. I knew there was something interesting going on and some potential dots to join, but I wasn't sure which dots...So I collated and circulated a bunch of research / links to the team, then blogged the links (I liked How I explained REST to my wife. More recently see Explaining REST to Damien Katz). I got a few proverbial (and some literal) blank stares as I shared my enthusiasm for REST, asking how we could apply the ideas to the various projects we were working on. It was Pablo, and (as Pablo attests) Britt Johnston (now a PUM for SQL Business) who were able to develop the initial conceptual leaps into something more concrete like a Think Week Paper and a prototype demo.

2. When it came to brainstorming the code name, the team agreed on a  "cloud" theme. A number of proposals were floated around along with their rationales, including "cumulus" and "cirrus". We were then advised that city and town code names were legal-safe. So there we were, struggling to agree on some city or town name we all liked (or at least not hate nor be confused by..."how about Nameless?"...), and then Mike Pizzo's proposal came in: "Astoria - hey, it's the cloudiest city in the USA!" (at least it was in 2006). Sold.

3. I think my favorite memory of all is the reaction Gary Flake provided (of Microsoft's Live Labs) to the prototype Pablo demo'd at one of the pitch meetings: "As God himself would have designed it!" Dr Flake exclaimed..."Cool", I thought to myself - "but does that mean no REST for the wicked?"

I Am a Strange Loop

About 10 years ago a friend gave to me a book as gift. We were sitting on the deck of a canal boat on a Friday late afternoon set for a weekend of lazy meandering with friends and family along the Thames, when he handed me his own copy of Godel, Escher, Bach. "You'll love this" he said.

Willem was was right. Godel, Escher, Bach not only tickled my penchant for self-referentialism and recursion ("It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take Hofstadter's Law into account"), it also reinforced an odd conviction I've held that "magic" happens where these oddities exist (all around and within us).

Last week, (thanks to Nick Carr), I was alerted to Douglas R. Hofstadter's latest mind-bender, I Am a Strange Loop. The book arrived today, unpacked and on the table when I got back from work this evening...inviting me to another voyage with this great mind:

"Deep down, your brain is a chaotic seething soup of particles. On a higher level it is a jungle of neurons, and on a yet higher level it is a network of abstractions that we call "symbols." The most central and complex symbol is the one you call "I". An "I" is a strange loop where the brain's symbolic and physical levels feed back into each other and flip causality upside down so that symbols seem to have gained the paradoxical ability to push particles around, rather than the reverse.

For each human being, this "I" seems to be the realest thing in the world. But how can such a mysterious abstraction be real--or is our "I" merely a convenient fiction? Does an "I" exert genuine power over the particles in our brain, or is it helplessly pushed around by the all-powerful laws of physics? These are the mysteries tackled in I Am a Strange Loop, Douglas R. Hofstadter's first book-length journey into philosophy since Godel, Escher, Bach. Compulsively readable and endlessly thought-provoking, this is the book Hofstadter's many readers have long been waiting for."

Join me at Web 2.0 Expo New York - Building in the Clouds: Scaling Web 2.0

I'll be taking part in one of the Cloud computing panels at Web 2.0 Expo New York this September, details below. If you want to meet up, let me know.

Web 2.0 Expo New York 2008

Building in the Clouds: Scaling Web 2.0

Jason Hoffman (Joyent, Inc.), Alistair Croll (Bitcurrent), Alex Barnett, Dwight Merriman (10gen), Jinesh Varia (Amazon Web Services)

10:30am - 11:20am Thursday, 09/18/2008

Performance & Scaling
Location: 1A23 & 24

Cloud computing is self-serve outsourcing for web companies. Clouds give even the smallest startup access to world-class infrastructure that can grow as needed. And developers build apps faster because they start with the building blocks of online applications: authentication, storage, messaging, and the social graph.

But the range of Cloud offerings is daunting. From self-contained development tools to virtual “bare metal,” selecting the right layer of Cloud offerings fundamentally changes how you run your business, what tools you can use, and ultimately how much control you have over your future.

Join this panel of Cloud computing innovators for the silver linings—and dark sides—of the Cloud.

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