Sunday Nov 28, 2010

A Retrospective on The Aquarium

Tuesday will be the 5th anniversary of the First Post in TheAquarium and I am using that as an opportunity to do a retrospective.

What is it?

The Aquarium is the official news group blog for GlassFish, modeled after news blogs like Gizmodo, BoingBoing and Autoblog.  It is, foremost, a periodica and it shares many traits with those in the traditional media, including the importance of quality writing, consistency, building and keeping an audience and deadlines.


TheAquarium has been one of the top three Popular Blogs at Blogs.Sun.Com for many years and has been the top blog for the last couple of years. That visibility and reach has been intertwined with the growth of GlassFish although the impact of TheAquarium goes beyond that as it helps keep the community connected and informed.

One way to indirectly track the impact of TheAquarium is through Google Trends:

That uptick at the end of 2005 aligns well the start of the TheAquarium. Causality between the two events is hard to prove, but I'll go ahead and claim that's the case.

As you can see, GlassFish grew very nicely for three years until it peaked with the launch of Sun's GlassFish Portfolio (the "E" flag in the chart). If you look carefully you can also see smaller spikes that correspond to the IBM rumor and the Oracle announcement.  After that the graph shows a decline, and later a stabilization. The next phase for GlassFish and TheAquarium will be the release GlassFish 3.1, the first new major release under Oracle, at the beginning of 2011.

Historical Context

The Aquarium was an evolution of our previous blogging experience, mostly at Java.Net at that time.  We had launched GlassFish at JavaOne 2005 and we were making good progress on the first GlassFish release but that progress was not visible internally or externally.  When Sun announced Red October I used that as a motivation to start The Aquarium.


The target audience for TA has always been external and internal.   Internally, Jonathan and other Sun execs were regular readers.  TA also helped with communication across different teams and geographies at Sun and, like the rest of Blogs.Sun.Com, TheAquarium led to much improved information flow, which led to better alignment, improved agility, and, eventually better products.

The Authors

For many years we were averaging between 2-6 posts each weekday.  We slowed down a bit last summer 2009 but even so we have more than 3200 entries.  To spread the cost of maintaining this publishing rate, TheAquarium was conceived as a group blog from the beginning. 

The original editors were Carla Mott, Rich Sharples and myself, with other editors joining and leaving over the years, in part driven by topic expansion.  Below is a recent list of posts by author; as you can see, we have many authors, but the authoring load has remained concentrated on me, and I've remained "Editor-in-Chief".

rtenhove1   dr1569142   treydrake2   nav3   arvindsrinivasan4   ripcurl6  
atul7   andi8   nazrul8   fkieviet16   qouyang17   bytor19  
Binod P G25   Giuseppe Maxia25   woodjr41   superpat48   arungupta63   carlasblog133  
sharps185   alexismp310   pelegri2272           


TA started focused on GlassFish but we expanded the topics over the years to cover the larger scope of the GlassFish Portfolio and new "friends" like MySQL.  This expansion was always a balancing act: we wanted to gain new readers and to expose new areas to our core readership, but we couldn't expand too fast or we would lose that core readership.  In the post-Oracle era, we have reduced our coverage and concentrated again on the GlassFish Server

The Formula

Like other periodicals, the content at TA needs to be timely and well researched, the entries need to come in a regular basis, and should be easy to read.  We have also followed a specific formula over the years:

  • Length - Posts are short, typically ranging from 2 to 4 paragraphs, although recently we have also included some longer posts.
  • Images - Each post has at least one image that relates to the content.  Sometimes finding a good image can take more time than composing the text.
  • Entertaining - Posts try to be easy to read.  We also regularly add jokes (you judge how good they are), often through the image in the post.
  • Highlighting Content - Most posts refer to content elsewhere so bloggers with smaller audiences can benefit from our larger readership.
  • Validated Content - We validate the content before advertising it, taking advantage that the TA authors are all in the GlassFish engineering team.
  • Correlated Content - We link to multiple sources and stories to give larger context to the news.
  • Tagged Content - Entries are tagged using the Roller machinery to simplify searches.

Writing is Hard

Writing is hard.  Fitting the story into a small budget of words - omit needless words - can produce a satisfying result, but it can take time and often you need to just move on and publish the entry.


As TA and GlassFish gained popularity we wanted to reach out into audiences that might not be very comfortable with news in English.  Since Sun had a strong culture of blogging, it was relatively easy to find volunteers to translate the content, and that is how we ended with 8 translations, although some of them were more active than others.  The activity of some of these translations has decreased significantly after the Oracle acquisition.


Over the years we have tried different variations on Weeklies.

We tried two variants (automated or manual) of a summary of the posts of the previous week. The automated version (e.g. this one) was cheap; we stopped it because the infrastructure bit-rotted.  The manual approach (e.g. this one) was better at capturing what happened in the week but is more resource-intensive.

We have also tried versions of a weekly catch-up post where we collect uncovered but important news in a single post.  This is much cheaper but less useful than individual posts.

Sharing the Load

The biggest challenge with The Aquarium has been finding the resources to continue to do it.

The ideal author needs to be knowledgeable of the technology and of its practical and strategic status, should know the teams involved in the relevant efforts, and should have the authority to write about these topics without having to ask for permission except in exceptional cases.  It also needs to have time to find and validate leads, write the posts, and then interact with the readers.  And should do this every day for years...  while holding other jobs.  This is not easy.  Also, the time an author spends writing posts for TA limits the time (and leads) available to spend in personal blogs - compare pelegri vs TheAquarium.

Finding translators is easier, the main problem there is that BSC authors need to be Sun employees.

Allowing direct community participation in TheAquarium could solve these two problems.

Using The Aquarium

TheAquarium attempts to record all important events.  This information is exposed via HTML, RSS, and ATOM using facilities described in here.  The information is then used in a number of ways:

  • As a daily, to stay abreast of events
  • For searching or browsing
  • To populate several pages, including the GF Wiki, the GF Admin Tool,, our FaceBook page, etc.

The Twitter Years

In the last couple of years we have seen a surge in micro-blogging, mostly twitter.  Although a twitter is much cheaper to create than a post, its value to the reader is lower.  To get the best of these two media we push news as-they-happen to @glassfish and then use TA posts when the story deserves it ... and whenever we have the time.

Still, I believe we have not yet figured out the best way to leverage twitter.

In Summary

I'd describe the experience with TheAquarium as a big success; although the time investment has been very considerable, I'm convinced GlassFish would not have been successful without it. I think the model is applicable to other situations, although it might be possible to adjust the approach to leverage better the community and new tools like twitter to reduce its cost while improve its reach even further.

Happy Birthday, The Aquarium!

Sunday Jun 13, 2010

Eclipse Community Survey - Hudson, EJBs, Spring, GlassFish, GIT, and more

Ian Skerret has announced the release of the 2010 Eclipse Community Survey (blog post, Report). The survey is based on a, self-selected, sample of around 1700 respondents from the Eclipse community. The report was done in April 2010, with respondents being mostly from small and medium-sized business, with some geographic bias towards Germany and France.

The report is a follow-up to the similar 2009 Survey, with a similar sample, conducted in April 2009, so it is possible, in some cases, to do some trend analysis.

Like with all these studies, the sample size, the selection process, and the overall methodology affect the results; with those caveats, below are some trends from the reports that seem worth highlighting and are consistent with other indicators I've seen (also see comments by Savio and Kevin). All numbers are percentages; the first one is from the 2009 report, the second from the 2010 report.

Change Management Systems/SCM
SVN (57.5% / 58.3%); CVS (20.0% / 12.6%); Clearcase (3.8% / ??); Perforce (2.7% / 3.0%); Git (2.4% / 6.8%); Hg (1.1% / 3.0%).
SVN is the clear leader, but 2010 shows a significant growth for Hg and, specially, Git (and Github).

Defect Management Systems:
None (22.7% / 21.8%); Jira (17.0% / 16.3%); Bugzilla (17.2% / 15.3%); Trac (7.2% / 10.3%); Mantis (5.3% / 9.1%).
Bugzilla has lost some market to Mantis and wikipedia, but this might just be noise in the sampling.

Build and Release Management:
Can't do a direct Y/Y comparison because the 2009 allowed to select only one option while 2010 allowed multiple selections, but here are the numbers within each year:
2009: Ant 33.4%; Maven 18.0%; Hudson 9.1%; None 21.7%; CruiseControl 4.7%
2010: Ant 50.4%; Maven 28.3%; Hudson 21.8%; None 16.1%; Make 15.7%; CruiseControl 5.4%
Comparing relative numbers within each year, the clear winner is Hudson!

jQuery (5.6% / 26.2%); Several OSS Ajax (22% / 9.8%); Flash/Flex (17.6% / 9.1%); Dojo (13.6% / 4.8%); GWT (13% / 8%); Eclipse RAP (3.4% / 2.6%); SilverLight/Microsoft ASP .Net AJAX (2.5% / 2.8%)
This one is hard to compare Y/Y because it is such a changing field, but jQuery shows huge growth (also see Google Trends). Both Dojo and GWT show lower adoption in 2010.

Server-Side Technologies
Again, direct Y/Y comparisons can't be done because in 2009 the survey asked for "all technologies that apply", while in 2010, it asked for the "primary" technology, but the numbers for each year are (in %s):
2009: Servlets 64.7%; Spring 48%; EJBs 38.3%; OSGi/Equinox 9%
2010: Spring 19.7%; EJBs 18.6%; Other 11.8%; Servlets 10.1%; OSGi/Equinox 5.7%
The drop for Servlets in 2010 is most likely because they are not the "primary" technology. Spring is on top for the 2010 Survey, but EJBs show the fastest growth. OSGi remains a small percentage.

MySQL (27.7% / 31.8%); Oracle (27.3% / 21.6%); PostgreSQL (9.9% / 11.%); SQL Server (6.2% / 7.2%); DB2 (6.3% / 4.1%)
Oracle now owns the high-end and the low-end. Some growth on PostgreSQL and (less) on SQL Server.

Finally, on Primary Application Server used in Deployment:
Tomcat (34.8% / 33.8%); None (25.3% / 30.8%); JBoss (12.7% / 10.5%); WAS (6.9% / 5.1%); Jetty (1.6% / 3.6%); Weblogic (4.2% / 3.3%); GlassFish (3.3% / 2.9%); Oracle AS (1.6% / -).
All the app servers, except Jetty and "none" lost market share in 2010 (at least for this sample). Jetty likely is benefiting from being part of the Eclipse community; "none" might be "deploy on Web Server", or "don't know", or ???. My take-home on GlassFish is that we have a huge opportunity for growth here, now that we have clarified the future under the leadership of Oracle.

Wednesday Feb 10, 2010

How Many Followers does Whole Foods Have... and other Twitter Numbers

I started collecting accounts and number of followers for a few IT twitter accounts as data for a second pass at the way we are using Twitter and FaceBook for GlassFish communication. The quick look became a bit of diversion (i.e. a time-sink...) and I decided I might as well write down what I found.

Below is a list of twitter accounts that piqued my interest for one reason or another, with the current number of followers; feel free to share other "interesting" twitter accounts in the comments.

IT Companies, Groups, etc.

Many others (techies, news, misc...)

Finally, according to TwitterCounter, the top two accounts by followers are:

Friday Oct 16, 2009

Oracle Style - Ads

Oracle OpenWorld gave us a bit of a window into (some of?) Oracle's customers and into their style. I just noticed they have a master index of all their current Ads; check out the Master Page, and these categories: Middleware, Applications and Sun.

As noticeable samples, check the 4 below.


Sunday Oct 11, 2009

Kick Butt... and Have Fun!


One of Scott's phrases is Kick Butt and Have Fun. I just finished listening to Scott and Larry (and John and James) at the Sunday Keynote at Oracle OpenWorld, and it is clear that Larry subscribes to "Kick Butt" - he fired a lot of shots at IBM, like Scott used to do... A sample of Larry's style is the Exadata Challenge.

The recordings of the keynote seem to be posted within a day of the event; for example, this morning's keynote is already available. To find them, go to the OpenWorld Live site, wait for the channel to start playing, then go to the menu and select from there.

Ah, and there is an updated version of the "Oracle on Sun" TPC-C benchmark result, see Oracle's Ad site and read the full details in Brian's post.

Friday May 29, 2009

Eduardo at CommunityOne and JavaOne

A, not as quick as intended, post with my whereabouts and some highlights for next week:

Unconference -
Sunday afternoon, 1pm-7pm I'll be participating in our Unconference, where Alexis plays MC. The Unconference is a very low key event and should be a lot of fun; register and join us... then we transfer to The Thirsty Bear for food, drinks and conversation from 7pm till 10pm.

CommunityOne -
Monday is the beginning of CommunityOne and I'll be there the whole day. The keynote is by Dave and John on Cloud and OpenSolaris; don't miss it as it will include several announcements, including the formal launch of OpenSolaris 2009.06.

Monday is also my only formal presentation this year (yeah! that means I get to enjoy the rest of the show): I will be talking about Sun's GlassFish Portfolio in S307894 (10:50am, Hall E 135 ). I chose to make the presentation a mix of Community status and Product overview because I think that synergy is what drives GlassFish. I will cover the adoption indicators for GlassFish and show evidence of its growth; I then talk about the projects and products in Sun GlassFish Portfolio explaining the value of moving from user to customer. I then do a very quick pass over the status of all the different projects. I will also include a couple of pre-announcements and clues of events later in the week.

The rest of Monday is full of sessions, many of them about OpenSolaris and Cloud. Two sessions I'm personally interested are Guido's S307145 on Python 3000 retrospective and Frank's S307160 Jython and Django. The day ends with the OpenSolaris party, which is the main party this year.

JavaOne -
JavaOne is as always, very busy and very good, and GlassFish, family and friends is very well represented. Below I'll just highlight a handful of events; for additional links, check Arun's series of short videoblogs (great idea although I am not there because we could not align our schedules), and his list of sessions plus my Additional Links.

Each day has its own keynote and all of them seem worth attending; not just for what they say but how they say it, specially after the oracle announcement. Of course, Tuesday morning's Sun keynote is a must attend, with Jonathan and "a special guest or two", so get there early. The afternoon technical keynote with Bob includes several demos from our team, so don't miss those either! The rest of the Tuesday is full of sessions and BOFs; as usual it is very hard to choose which ones to attend, so I'll just highlight Jerome's TS-4923, with an great technical overview of GFv3.

Wednesday starts with the Ericsson's keynote in the morning; Ericsson is our main partner with SailFin and we share the same vision of converged SIP/HTTP applications. The afternoon keynote is Eric on JavaFX and its a good time to see how that story looks like now. My highlights are for Kohsuke's TS-5301 (Hudson in the Cloud and the Swarm) and BOF-5105 (Hudson Community), Jacob and Vivek's TS-4921 (Scripting on GlassFish). Wednesday also has a Roberto and Bill's BOF-4483 on JavaEE 6, and a Java EE 6 sneak peek event - drop by the GlassFish pod to get an invite.

Thursday has the (first ever!) keynote by Microsoft on Software + Services: The Next Application Platform, and the afternoon is by IBM on Extreme Transaction Processing and Elasticity. My GF highlight for that day would be the BOF-1721 (meet the GF team), we will all be there - and I believe there will be handouts there.

Friday has James' traditional toy show; always very entertaining (for geeks!). And Ludo lucks out with one of the last but certainly not least! sessions TS-5055 (Eclipse and GlassFish).

Hope to see many of you next week!

Wednesday May 27, 2009

Great Players, Great Team - ¡Visca Barça! Go GlassFish!


Barcelona FC did it again... and now they are Triple Champions. It's not just great players, but they are playing incredibly well as a team.

Today there are articles about the win all over the web but my favorite picture is this one, by Nick Potts/PA (via Associated Press, seen at NYT). I think it captures very well the team spirit and the personality of Pep Guardiola. Big smiles all over; a sense of a job well done. Go Pep!

... and the same goes for our own GlassFish Team; very proud of being in the same team with all of you!

Sunday Dec 14, 2008

Partial Results of SOA's Reader's Choice - Dec 14th, 2008

Last week there was a big change in the Sys-Con's Readers Choice positions; so this weekend I am doing a snapshot (like I did on August 31st) in case I later want to refer to it. Below are the top vote getters for each category as of 2:50pm PT, Sun, Dec 14th, 2008.


AppServer - GlassFish (720), WebSphere AS (639), WebLogic (266), JBoss (236)
Automation Tool - Rational Funtional Tester (565), Hudson (563), Oracle Enterprise Manager SOA Management Pack (201), Parasoft JTest (144)
OpenSource SOA - OpenESB (585), IBM WAS CE (572), JBoss SOA Platform (272).
IDE - NetBeans (707), Rational Application Developer (514), Oracle JDeveloper (222).
Framework - Metro (691), WebSphere Business Services Fabric (685), FUSE Service Framework (264).
Portal - WebSphere Portal (643), SJS Portal (514), JBoss Portal (191)
Security - IBM's DataPower Security Gateway (567), OpenSSO (477), Oracle WS Management (207), Metro (166)
Integration Tool - Java CAPS (437), WebSphere Integration Developer (539), Fiorano (269), LegaSuite (236), Oracle JDeveloper (206)
SOA Platform - Java CAPS (480), WebSphere AppServer (469), Fiorano SOA (237), Oracle Fusion (211)
SOA Tool - Java CAPS (585), (note - collation error, ignore the rest) WebSphere (572), SOAPUI (272)
WS Utility - JAXP (590), WebSphere Feature Pack for WebServices (539), SOAPUI (247)
XML Parser - JAXP (816), WebSphere AppServer XML Feature Pack (568), Intel XML Software Suite (153)

All GlassFish and Friends projects are on the first position except for Hudson (behind IBM's Rational Functional Tester) and OpenSSO (behind IBM's DataPower Security Gateway). If you have opinions, you can make your vote count.

Saturday May 24, 2008

Adding Prolog Support to NetBeans

I have very fond memories of learning to program in Prolog, having learned it from Philippe Roussel while he was visiting Universidad Simon Bolivar. Prolog is a logic language and it was a good mind-strecher after the traditional algorithmic languages.

That's why the series by Hulles showing how to write a Prolog Module for NetBeans 6.1 made me smile (thanks for the tip Charles). Check it out, from Part 0: About the Project to Part 8: Creating an NBM.

So, a toast to Prolog, Philippe, Jorge, all the other USB folks... and to NetBeans! :-)

Sunday Sep 02, 2007

MySpace is over; Facebook ... might not last much longer

Front Cover of NYTimes Magazine

The NY Times Magazine sometimes has very interesting articles. This week it included The Music Man, a piece on Rick Rubin, a very influential music producer that was named co-head of Columbia Records earlier this year. The music industry is in trouble and Rubin's charter is to rejuvenate it.

Some excerpts from the article...

Reporting on some focus groups with some college students

... a) no one listens to the radio anymore, b) they mostly steal music, but they don't consider it stealing, and c) they get most of their music from iTunes on their iPod. They told us that MySpace is over, it's just not cool anymore; Facebook is still cool, but that it might not last much longer; and the biggest thing in their life is word of mouth

On priorites...

The most important thing we have to do now is to get the art right...

On the challenges facing the music industry and Columbia...

... we will have the best record company in the industry, but ... we might have the best dinosaur.... until the paradigm shifts, it's going to be a declining business...

Other bits from the article worth mentioning: he started a "word of mouth" department, is a fan of The Beatles (like everybody else?), and I learned about Paul Potts ([YouTube], [WebSite]).

Overall, an article worth reading. Some of the comments about the music industry remind me a bit about the software industry (but there are a number of key differences), and some of the visionary in Rick reminds me of Jonathan :-)

Thursday Aug 30, 2007

Back to Using this Blog


I mostly blog at The Aquarium but that format is only useful for short entries. Every now and then I want / need to write longer pieces, so I'm resurrecting this blog for those cases.

Now I only need to find the time to do the writing!




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