Sep 17

Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

Jon Udell Interviews Bill Gates

Fascinating interview of Bill Gates by Jon Udell at the PDC. My favorite quote: "There's only really one metric to me for future software development, which is -- do you write less code to get the same thing done?" By that metric, Microsoft ought to be following Ruby on Rails closely! (For that matter, they should be putting more emphasis on all of the so-called "scripting languages", which have been demonstrated to do more with fewer lines of code.)

A lot of good discussion of the importance of RSS. One great bit--Jon notes that "somebody had a nice quote that RSS is the human face on Web services. I kind of like that a lot and related to that is something that I've said a few times, which is that human beings are the exception handlers in all workflows." Very nice. (By the way, does anyone know who the someone was who said that originally? I tried googling for it without immediate results. I'm sure I'm going to be quoting it again, and I'd love to acknowledge the original source.)

Also some fascinating discussion of the future of RSS. Gates: "Corporation A puts an RSS notification on the directory of Corporation B, there's just too much data. You don't want to send all that data. Every data thing in the... People are acting like -- oh, this is all solved. We'll just put subscriptions onto every piece of data in the company. Well, the amount of stuff that's going to flow and the need of IT to be able to log and filter and have rights and all that stuff, it's just not going to work. So there's an RSS naivete today that is wonderful, but cannot last."

On that, I'm not sure I agree with Gates. In the next paragraph, he himself refers to the battle between C and Pascal, where the Pascal proponents were saying this untyped stuff can't last, but we know who won that battle. The web succeeded because it broke the rigorous connectivity assumptions of the original hypertext theorists. Loosely coupled works for a class of problems that bog down under the weight of complexity when you try to manage everything. I do believe that there is a need for a richer notification technology, but I also believe that there will always be a place for simplicity. There are cases where you want coordination and specificity, but in many other cases, where there are massively redundant data sources and possible connections, "good enough" is good enough.

That being said, I'm totally with Gates that mechanisms for helping us choose what to pay attention to are critical for the future of the net. In fact, attenuation, focus and attention is the theme of the next O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference. (David Beisel, whose blog led me to the Gates interview, has more to say about attention and personalized communication.)

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Comments: 5

  Antonio Rodriguez [09.17.05 08:02 PM]

This interview was the __best__ Gates interview I've ever heard. I think the most compelling part about it is the depth to which Gates is engaging in the subject matter at hand (RSS, interapp, dev. productivity). My memory may be failing me here, but I don't remember him being this clear on anything during Web 1.0 after his famous Tidalwave memo in 95.

I think we can expect Microsoft to have gotten on the Web 2.0 cluetrain a little earlier this time. I wonder where it might lead...

  Tim O'Reilly [09.17.05 08:10 PM]

Antonio -- I agree. But you also have to credit Jon, who is one of the smartest and most thougtful people in our industry. I can't imagine anyone else who would take an interview with Bill G to this level of detail.

  Zarathustra [09.18.05 12:14 PM]

""There's only really one metric to me for future software development, which is -- do you write less code to get the same thing done?" By that metric, Microsoft ought to be following Ruby on Rails closely!"

Maybe they ought to be looking at pipes and the tool philosophy? in the last 30 years nothing has been able to beat the expressivity and power of a Unix shell pipeline.

It's a shame that all this webservices thing is throwing to the trash one of the greatest discoveries of the history of computer science:

"Write programs to handle text streams, because that is a universal interface." -- Doug McIlroy

XML is _not_ a text stream, because parsing a XML stream is intricate and
convoluted problem you need thousands and thousands of lines of code just to
get to the data inside an XML stream.

How sad when all the lessons of Unix have been forgotten and people incessantly pursues new square wheels made of glass and shining stones.

What used to be possible with a single line of AWK, now requires thousands and thousands of lines of code. XML is such a monster that we see hacks like "GMarkup", which not only break interoperativity with XML(which I guess is the only reason to use XML), but still can't be parsed easily by AWK! What is wrong with key=value pairs?!?!

And don't tell me about the limitations and mistakes in Unix, because someone already overcame those long time ago.

Sad days indeed for those that love simplicity and power.

  Search Engines Web [09.18.05 08:49 PM]

This Video Interview was made about a week ago.

There are number of replies on the Channel9 Forum.

  peter renshaw [09.18.05 11:05 PM]

Is this it?

Wainewrights blog entitled gives a hint .... Giving the Web a human face

Giving the Web a human face

"... "Where are the business advantages in becoming a 'faceless third party'? Even if you're the most reliable faceless third party in your particular application niche?" asks Leigh Dodds while letting off steam about UDDI.

Because the Web runs on computers, we sometimes forget that the most important nodes in the network are the people who sit in front of the computers, tapping away on their keyboards. They make business decisions based on all kinds of parameters, many of them as yet unmapped by science, and few of them fully encapsulated in software.

As Esther Dyson has noted in a much-quoted article in the latest edition of Fortune, "When you put up a website, you're not erecting a billboard, you're opening a door, and people come crowding in. You have to have the staff there ready to greet them." The only web-based business processes that are worth thinking about are those that enhance and enrich those human interactions.

Back to Leigh for the last word: "While I agree that a web service framework that enables more automated business processes across the web is desirable, I don't think we're ever going to be in the situation where you're going to be working with faceless third parties. It's not in their interests, and it's probably not in yours."
posted by Phil Wainewright ...'

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