- Liquid Feedback — MIT-licensed voting software from the Pirate Party. See this Spiegel Online piece about how it is used for more details. (via Tim O’Reilly)
- Putting Gestures Into Objects (Ars Technica) — Disney and CMU have a system called Touché, where objects can tell whether they’re being clasped, swiped, pinched, etc. and by how many fingers. (via BoingBoing)
- Real-time Facebook ‘likes’ Displayed On Brazilian Fashion Retailer’s Clothes Racks (The Verge) — each hanger has a digital counter reflecting the number of likes.
- Foldit Games Next Play: Crowdsourcing Better Drug Design (Nature Blogs) — “We’ve moved beyond just determining structures in nature,” Cooper, who is based at the University of Washington’s Center for Game Science in Seattle, told Nature Medicine. “We’re able to use the game to design brand new therapeutic enzymes.” He says players are now working on the ground-up design of a protein that would act as an inhibitor of the influenza A virus, and he expects to expand the drug development uses of the game to small molecule design within the next year.
What's interesting isn't software as a thing in itself, but software as a component of some larger system.
One of Marc Andreessen’s many accomplishments was the seminal essay “Why Software is Eating the World.” In it, the creator of Mosaic and Netscape argues for his investment thesis: everything is becoming software. Music and movies led the way, Skype makes the phone company obsolete, and even companies like Fedex and Walmart are all about software: their core competitive advantage isn’t driving trucks or hiring part-time employees, it’s the software they’ve developed for managing their logistics.
When I look at what excites me, I see a much bigger world than just software. I’ve already argued that biology is in the process of exploding, and the biological revolution could be even bigger than the computer revolution. I’m increasingly interested in hardware and gadgetry, which I used to ignore almost completely. And we’re following the “Internet of Things” (and in particular, the “Internet of Very Big Things”) very closely. I’m not saying that software is irrelevant or uninteresting. I firmly believe that software will be a component of every (well, almost every) important new technology. But what grabs me these days isn’t software as a thing in itself, but software as a component of some larger system. The software may be what makes it work, but it’s not about the software. Read more…
Salesforce's recent investments suggest it's building a developer-centric suite of tools for the cloud.
Have you ever seen Salesforce’s “no software” graphic? It’s the word “software” surrounded by a circle with a red line through it. Here’s a picture of the related (and dancing) “no software” mascot.
Now, if you consider yourself a developer, this is a bit threatening, no? Imagine sitting at a Salesforce event in 2008 in Chicago while Salesforce.com’s CEO, Marc Benioff, swiftly works an entire room of business users into an anti-software frenzy. I was there to learn about Force.com, and I’ll summarize the message I understood four years ago as “Not only can companies benefit from Salesforce.com, they also don’t have to hire developers.”
The message resonated with the audience. Salesforce had been using this approach for a decade: Don’t buy software you have to support, maintain, and hire developers to customize. Use our software-as-a-service (SaaS) instead. The reality behind Salesforce’s trajectory at the time was that it too needed to provide a platform for custom development.
Salesforce’s dilemma: They needed developers
This “no software” message was enough for the vast majority of the small-to-medium-sized business (SMB) market, but to engage with companies at the largest scale, you need APIs and you need to be able to work with developers. At the time, in 2008, Salesforce was making moves toward the developer community. First there was Apex, then there was Force.com.
In 2008, I evaluated Force.com, and while capable, it didn’t strike me as something that would appeal to most developers outside of existing Salesforce customers. Salesforce was aiming at the corporate developers building software atop competing stacks like Oracle. While there were several attempts to sell it as such, it wasn’t a stand-alone product or framework. In my opinion, no developer would assess Force.com and opt to use it as the next development platform.
This 2008 TechCrunch article announcing the arrival of Salesforce’s Developer-as-a-Service (DaaS) platform serves as a reminder of what Salesforce had in mind. They were still moving forward with an anti-software message for the business while continuing to make moves into the developer space. Salesforce built a capable platform. Looking back at Force.com, it felt more like an even more constrained version of Google App Engine. In other words, capable and scalable, but at the time a bit constraining for the general developer population. Don’t get me wrong: Force.com wasn’t a business failure by any measure; they have an impressive client list even today, but what they didn’t achieve was traction and awareness among the developer community. Read more…
What does winning look like? No enemy has been vanquished, but open source is now mainstream and a new norm.
I heard the comments a few times at the 14th OSCON: The conference has lost its edge. The comments resonated with my own experience — a shift in demeanor, a more purposeful, optimistic attitude, less itching for a fight. Yes, the conference has lost its edge, it doesn’t need one anymore.
Open source won. It’s not that an enemy has been vanquished or that proprietary software is dead, there’s not much regarding adopting open source to argue about anymore. After more than a decade of the low-cost, lean startup culture successfully developing on open source tools, it’s clearly a legitimate, mainstream option for technology tools and innovation.
And open source is not just for hackers and startups. A new class of innovative, widely adopted technologies has emerged from the open source culture of collaboration and sharing — turning the old model of replicating proprietary software as open source projects on its head. Think Git, D3, Storm, Node.js, Rails, Mongo, Mesos or Spark.
We see more enterprise and government folks intermingling with the stalwart open source crowd who have been attending OSCON for years. And, these large organizations are actively adopting many of the open source technologies we track, e.g., web development frameworks, programming languages, content management, data management and analysis tools.
We hear fewer concerns about support or needing geek-level technical competency to get started with open source. In the Small and Medium Business (SMB) market we see mass adoption of open source for content management and ecommerce applications — even for self-identified technology newbies.
The UK government is fighting for open standards, but it needs help.
Influence, money, a bit of drama — not things you typically associate with open standards, yet that’s what the U.K. government is facing as it evaluates open options.
- Apollo Software — amazing collection of source code to the software behind the Apollo mission. And memos, and quick references, and operations plans, and …. Just another reminder that the software itself is generally dwarfed by its operation.
- t (Github) — command-line power-tool for Twitter.
- Habits of Mind (PDF) — Much more important than speciﬁc mathematical results are the habits
of mind used by the people who create those results,and we envision a curriculum
that elevates the methods by which mathematics is created,the techniques used
by researchers,to a status equal to that enjoyed by the results of that research. Loved it: talks about the habits and mindsets of mathematicians, rather than the set of algorithms and postulates students must be able to recall. (via Dan Meyer)
"Code Simplicity" author Max Kanat-Alexander on the elegance and utility of simple code.
Simple code is born from planning, discipline and grinding work. But as author Max Kanat-Alexander notes in this interview, the benefits of simple code are worth the considerable effort it requires.
Designing data products, five tough health care lessons, lean startup for publishers.
This week on O'Reilly: We looked at a four-step approach for designing great data products, Andy Oram shared the lessons he's learned about health care, and we learned about a competitive advantage that publishers aren't seizing.
Hadoop deconstructed, the value of unstructured data, and a Moneyball approach to software teams.
This week on O'Reilly: Edd Dumbill examined the components and functions of the Hadoop ecosystem, Pete Warden gave a big thumbs-up to unstructured data, and Jonathan Alexander looked at how a Moneyball approach could help software teams.