Thursday, October 26, 2006

The SOA Horror Picture Show

Quote:

CIO Today, October 24th, 2006:

"In its second service-oriented architecture blitz of the year, IBM has detailed a range of products and services aimed at helping companies (mk) extend their service-oriented architecture deployments.

Six months ago, IBM released 11 new SOA products, 20 product upgrades and eight new service offerings. This time around, IBM delivered four new products, 23 product upgrades and 11 new service offerings".

End Quote.

When I first read these paragraphs my brain panicked. I suspected it was a modern mutation of the decade old "Snow Crash" virus, this time aimed at damaging the already distorted brain of SOA architects. But a colleague of mine thought it was nothing but a harmless, hilarious joke, better than The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Spinal Tap combined!

25 years of absolute pleasure

To bypass this disagreement, where one is convinced that the announcement is a virus and another thinks it's a joke, we agreed to undress the message from its wordings and to stick to the naked figures:

IBM SOA Portfolio, Q1-2006:

No. of existing SOA Products: 20
No. of new SOA Products: 11

Total SOA products, Q1 2006 : 31

No. of existing SOA service offerings: unknown
No. of new SOA service offerings: 8

IBM SOA Portfolio additions, Q4-2006:

No. of new SOA products: 4
No. of new SOA service offerings: 11

Totals:

SOA products by IBM: 31 (Q1'06) + 4 (Q4'06) = 35
SOA service offerings by IBM = 8 (+?, Q1'06) +11 (Q4'06) = 19

Conclusion:

It's a viral joke. '25 years of absolute pleasure' guaranteed.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Desktop Regions: The Real My Space

Desktop Regions, by Dibau Naum H, is a thematic flickr set that caught my attention a while ago, but it's only recently that I figured out what does it mean for me. It's a human-centric, multi-layered work that captures three different worlds and two competing desires. I think of it as a Web2.0 Schizophrenia.

The following is my personal interpretation of this interesting work.

Iceland Region 10

Desktop Regions is a personal, private and introverted version of a metaverse. It's a world that exists only inside a single, personal computer desktop (i.e. there's one and only one instance of this world, inside one and only one personal computer – Dibau's computer).

The Desktop world is divided into regions. Each region is numbered - region 19, region 32,… - and labeled with a known location name, such as Greece, Japan and Eiffel. Same region can hosts different physical locations, but only in different timestamps. Each photo in the flickr set is a representation of a single region at one point in time.

Desktop Region is a tripod, a converging place for three worlds: the physical, the virtual and the personal. The physical world is represented by landscape & people images; the virtual world - by images of gadgets, widgets, and desktop application's parts. The personal world is represented by both the location of the metaverse – inside a personal computer's desktop - and by private desktop icons



Champs Elysées Region 11


Eiffel Region 9

This artwork is extreme. It goes against the browser's metaphor, i.e. the social, impersonal, public space and public place. In the Desktop World there are no shared notes on public white boards, no friends, no buddies, just me.

And yet, representations of this private, walled garden space have been published in Flickr. That's the schizophrenic nature of our time: being anxious about our privacy, and being desperately in need for a private space, while at the same time voluntarily and eagerly disclosing any aspect of our Identity and inviting anybody into our private spaces.

We are all struggling these days in understanding and re-establishing our place in the confluence of physical, virtual and personal worlds. This is why Desktop Regions is such a contemporary work of art.


Kyoto Region 1


4 Comments

By Anonymous dibau, at 2:09 PM  

:)

What a great honor & privelege to get such fascinating review of my work!!


Thanks!


Some minor correction: current available technology doesn't allow me to divide the desktop to regions. It's only the camera (i.e., capture software) that define ad-hoc regions.

By Blogger Muli Koppel, at 2:20 PM  

my pleasure

By Blogger Fez Rutherford, at 3:41 PM  

Interesting... You do invent a new virtual disability here...
One that I did not think about yet...

I put it on my blog!

Thanks
FEZ

By Blogger Muli Koppel, at 7:21 PM  

Thanks FEZ.

There are many projects and explorations in Second Life, but your project, 2nDisability: creating and living a real virtual disability stands out in its humanism and its educational potential. This is a most important project and I wish you all possible luck

muli

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Friday, October 20, 2006

On Facts and Dragons: From Google's Blog Search to Reuters' Second Life

Around this time last year, when blog posts were still legitimate citizens of Google's Great Master Index, I happened to read a bunch of articles that were discussing the frustration of innocent users who have fallen prey to a horrible mischief, namely 'Blog noise'. Although they were googling for "facts", the returned result sets contained an awful lot of non factual, personal opinions from the blogosphere. "These weblogs are not facts" exclaimed one of the interviewees, "and they should be banned out of the main index". Another article went even further in its expressed hostility, with a subtitle of "Pollution Control" followed by a rhetoric question: "Sick of blog noise polluting the Google search results?"

"What a crap", I thought. "This has nothing to do with 'facts'; Do they really believe that "official" information is more factual than blog posts?"

Shortly afterwards, though, Google introduced Blog Search (Sep. '05), and since then "facts" are returned from the main index, while non factual, "personal opinions" are to be looked for under the subordinated, blog search index.

Can this categorization of knowledge keep up for a long time? I suspect it can't, and Second Life is a great catalyst for the removal of this artificial distinction between factual and non-factual, as can be seen from the latest Reuters-SL announcement.

Last week Reuters, a century-old company renowned for its real-time delivery of world facts, announced that Second Life is from now on an official news region, along with the other 196 regions that Reuters covers in RL (real life). From now on, ladies and gentlemen, you'll get ubiquitous, real-time information from both Nasdaq and the SL Currency Exchange; you'll get breaking news from both the middle-east and the middle-earth.

I assume that some Reuters' customers will rant about this new blend of real-world facts and metaverse' nonsense. "This is not serious", they'd say, or "It's nothing but a gimmick". But for the new generation of kids and teenagers, this news mashup will be the most logical and natural thing (and see the amazing story of Udi Bauman about his 3 years old son trying to drink a chocolate straight from the metaverse: "When he said he was thirsty, I offered to bring him his bottle, but saw that he wasn’t referring to the real world, rather just wanted to buy a glass of cocoa from one of the vending machines").

***

"I met a man the other day who did not believe in fairy tales", tells G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) in the opening of his witty, anecdotal and amazingly relevant story, "The Dragon's Grandmother".

Here's a short excerpt:



I broke out beyond control. "Man," I said, "who are you that you should not believe in fairy tales?" ...
Look at these plain, homely, practical words: 'The Dragon's Grandmother,' that is all right; that is rational almost to the verge of rationalism. If there was a dragon, he had a grandmother. But you--you had no grandmother! If you had known one, she would have taught you to love fairy tales.

Well, I hope this will leave you with a taste for more: G.K Chesterton, "The Dragon's Grandmother"

1 Comments

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:14 PM  

Exquise nouvelle de Chesterton. Merci pour le lien "mordant" et la fraîcheur

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Monday, October 09, 2006

The Shoe as a Platform ( The End of Shoes as Usual )

On our way home, my daughter told me that I must see the new collection of Crocs' boots. She then took my hand and pulled me over to the local store, where the display windows have been completely redecorated with piles on piles of unbelievably bulky, ugly and tasteless Crocs' boots.

georgie, by Crocs

A couple of hours later, as if by pure coincidence, I stumbled upon the following newsbit:

CROCS, INC. ENTERS INTO DEFINITIVE AGREEMENT TO ACQUIRE JIBBITZ, LLC.

The article gave some more details about Jibbitz, a family owned business based in Boulder, Colorado, that had the idea of manufacturing decorative add-ons that can be plugged onto the Crocs' moon-like surface. The Jibbitz decorations tipped so fast, that one year in business (if I'm not wrong) had sufficed for an impressive 20M$ exit.



While reading the Crocs-Jibbitz story a tune kept playing in my head; it was Jason Fried, the CEO of 37Signals, explaining why Basecamp (the Crocs of the Project Management software... well, at least from a look & feel standpoint) has been deliberately "crippled". As Fried put it, "it wasn't about competing with other products on a feature by feature by feature basis, it was about competing with less features".


Crocs, like Basecamp, competes with less features. As strange as it may sounds - this is a critical success factor (and I'll elaborate on that later on). Nevertheless, "just" less features is not enough: great products are designed in such a way that an eco-system, which serves as a viral distribution mechanism, can be easily evolved around them. The members of the eco-system are the salesmen and the connectors that distribute the buzz and make the product tip. The phenomenal success of the Crocs-Jibbitz mashup should be therefore attributed to the fact that Crocs is not only a shoe, but also a platform, that inherently communicates an invitation for participation.

And now back to the "less features" principle: a platform that wants to succeed in its invitation for participation can have neither a rich set of features nor a dominant "character" (personality), as participation and innovation can occur only in a leveled playing field. You cannot tell the following to your customers: "We have a wonderful and well-thought product that we are proud of; it consists of dozens of exciting features, gathered through our close work with fortune 100 companies; our top notch engineers, who are ex-professors from the most acclaimed universities, thoroughly designed it to meet the most demanding conditions. And now, dear customer, we invitie you to innovate; you are welcomed to participate". With such a story, most of the customers would feel initmidation, rather than invitation.

The End of Shoes as Usual


I recommend visiting both the Crocs and the Jibbitz web sites. It's a fascinating demonstration of web1.0 vs. web2.0. While Crocs communicates business as usual with a traditional site layout (products, company, shop...), the Jibbitz site provides an excellent example of a straight (add to cart & checkout placed right on the home page), simple, personal ("Jibbitz - Personalize Your Crocs"), DIY [Do it Yourself] and social [blog, Flickr] commerce site. It is refreshing to the point that you start considering joining the party. But, hey, for that I should first buy a pair of ugly and bulky Crocs. Hmm... I'll leave it to my daughter.


Notes:

Jason Fried's lecture, Basecamp, can be found here

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Internet Is Using Us


"We didn’t create the Internet for our own benefit but basically it used us to create itself, to spread around the planet"

Dr. Susan Blackmore








Click to listen: The Internet is using us!
29 seconds (449 KB) from Dr. Susan Blackmore's lecture at Pop!Tech 2005

A Meme Machine using an Audio-Memes Injector in the pre-iPOD era



Are you subscribed to more than a 100 feeds? Are you switching RSS readers because their refresh rate is not fast enough? Do you have a Blackberry? Are you seriously considering upgrading your iPod, because 60GB is really ridiculous? Do you watch movies only in a fast forward mode? Have you already killed all your spare time?

Do you feel free, as in freedom? No? Well, Dr. Susan Blackmore has an interesting theory that might just explain it all.

Humans are machines. We have been created and evolved to serve as containers for an external, immaterial substance called meme, which can be translated into any of the following: thought, idea, or the smallest chunk of meaningful, replicable information.

Our function, as meme machines, is to receive, store, reproduce, replicate and distribute memes to other meme machines (that would be you and me).

When a new idea pops up inside a human's head, it either means that a meme has just been successfully transmitted from the outside into the brainy container, or that a mash-up of previously existing memes occurred. This compulsory mash-up happens as part of the evolution forces driven by the memes. In other words, there's no "innovator's dilemma", because we – the meme machines – invent nothing at all. The most we're capable of is remixing some pre-existing memes.

Genes and Memes work in accordance with each other. Genes are in charge of creating the infrastructure, the machine (the body), while the memes are in charge of filling in those machines with content (the mind, consciousness, soul). Both genes and memes are selfish, i.e. they do what they do because of how they were designed. These parasites have neither desire nor hate; they are unsentimental.

Unfortunately (for the memes) there are more memes and genes than meme machines. Therefore, natural selection happens, i.e. the survival of the fittest. The memes that don't tip go through mutation processes – inside our brains - and then get redistributed.

Now let's talk business: what has been described so far is Mother Nature's business processes: production, reproduction, replication, distribution, mutation and so forth. And just like any business, the goal of evolution is to shorten time-to-market, while making these processes perform in a faster, better, cheaper fashion.

The entire human evolution could, therefore, be seen as serving this faster, better, cheaper of selfish memes' propagation. Languages, tapestry, paintings, printed books.... telegraph, telephone, tv… boats, cars, airplanes – these are all memes' distribution mechanisms that were pushed forward by the memes themselves.

And so, following this evolutionary path, the memes have made us create the ultimate memeplex – the Internet. Just think how cost-effective it is from a meme's perspective: the entire stack of meme machines is voluntarily connected into a single, global memeplex. Memes no longer have to travel and find meme machines; ideas can spread and evolve in an unprecedented pace and "at the fraction of the cost".


***

Regardless of the validity (what's that?) of the Memes' theory, I find that it explains few things, such as:

- Why the web has become social?
- Why information has been liberated from web sites?
- Why the information river has been created and why rss feeds were invented?
- Why our bodies will soon be connected to the Internet?
- Why real-time will never be fast enough?
- Why will we always seek faster cpus?
- Why storage space will always increase?

and finally…

Finally, it explains why we feel like shit (aka existential angst) about all this. It's because we're not free (as in freedom). We have been enslaved to the memes' factory line.

Here's what Dr. Blackmore has to say as a final note in her Memes, Creativity and Consciousness:

Free will and consciousness are wonderful delusions, and I know now that there is really no one inside here who is writing the books and articles, or looking at the world. It is all the pointless universe doing its stuff.

***

So Information is not as innocent, passive and beneficial as we've been trained to think. Information is a selfish, active, and immaterial substance that insatiably seeks to reproduce, replicate and distribute itself.

Thinking of it, I couldn't resist an automatic memes' remix, with a biblical touch.


Genesis; the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve; Two "no access" trees: the tree of life and the tree of knowledge; the original sin; and then the expulsion, mortality and an endless suffering.

We thought that the only harm done was the violation of God's arbitrary prohibition, for which we have been punished. Nevertheless, through these painful events humans gained the greatest treasure of all - knowledge.

But from a memetic standpoint, God's prohibition was far from being arbitrary: there was something evil in that tree. By eating from the tree of knowledge we have become infected by information parasites. Memes are overloading us, pushing us toward building more meme hosting facilities and faster meme processing technologies. The endless information river has become a never ending Via Dolorosa for us, and these are the real consequences of the original sin.

Well, this is just a meme - don't take it too seriously...

Notes:

1. Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point describes the complex structure of salesmen, connectors, mavens, contexts and so forth that are used by the memes to get hold of our brains.
I'm not sure, though, that Gladwell will support this description.

2. Susan Blackmore's lecture at Pop!Tech 2005 can be found here.

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