Thursday Sep 25, 2008

Want to Feel Like Royalty? Join an Open Source Project.

A Crown

Every open source project talks about how much they want your contributions. But do they really mean it? If you submit a patch, will they puke all over your work because they would have written it differently? Or because you indented your code with three spaces instead of four? Or just because you don't work for the right company?

Maybe. But not in most projects. I can guarantee that it won't happen in the area where I work (Project SocialSite). And I honestly think the same is true for most of Sun's other open source projects.

Why? Because these things shouldn't be Sun's open source projects. They should be open source projects in which Sun happens to be a very active participant. I think that most people at Sun understand and agree with that sentiment. So we'll bend over backwards to support outside contributions. Again, using SocialSite as an example, we would love to see any of the following coming from people who don't work for Sun:

  • Bug and RFE Reports
    • You just need a java.net ID to submit a bug or RFE in our Issue Tracker
  • Code Submissions
  • Wiki Updates
    • Anyone with a java.net ID can create and edit content on the SocialSite Wiki
  • Outreach
    • Mention us in a blog or a discussion forum--anywhere our project might be of interest

And when I say we'll bend over backwards to support you, I mean it. If your contribution could benefit from some changes, we'll work with you to make them. If you need more information before you can contribute, just ask and we'll provide it. Or if your goal is to become a commiter, we'll help you through the process.

One thing we can't do is suspend the rules. But the rules are simple and they serve a purpose. To become a committer, you first need to sign a Sun Contributor Agreement (SCA) and then submit a patch or two. That's pretty standard stuff in the world of open source. The SCA ensures that Sun has the legal rights to protect the project and its source code in court if necessary. And the patches don't have to be huge. They just need to be a positive change and demonstrate that you have a basic understanding of the project's code.

So please, put me to the test. Find something in SocialSite that you think could be better, and submit a patch. Or edit the Wiki. Or open a bug. And if we don't give you the support you need, let me know. It'll be my personal mission to find out why we failed and make sure it never happens again.

Monday May 12, 2008

Video: Project SocialSite In One Minute

As Dave noted a few days ago, we have a video that demonstrates Project SocialSite (by turning your MediaWiki instance into a social networking system in 1 minute, 8 seconds). I'm sure you'll all want to give the video a top rating (which helps us in a contest for the Enterprise 2.0 Conference). So I wanted to remind everyone that today is the deadline to submit your ratings. :)

Thursday May 24, 2007

Slynkr on JavaDB

The first question my boss asked after I got the Slynkr code released as a java.net project: where can I file an RFE for it to install with one click using a JavaDB back-end? Then, as if on cue, the first outside message on the project's dev aliases followed suit: "What are your thoughts about other support for other databases (ie, MySQL and/or Postgres)?"

I may be slow, but I think I see the message. People might just want to use a database other than Oracle (which is what we used for our initial development of Slynkr). Well, guess what? You can do it.

It's not yet a one-click install process (sorry, Eduardo). And I personally haven't yet tried things out with MySQL or PostgreSQL (sorry, Nick). But I do now have instructions for running Slynkr using a JavaDB back-end (aka Apache Derby). If you're wanting to get your own instance of Slynkr up and running, this is currently your best bet. After all, Oracle is a nice database but it's a lot of overhead for just trying something out.

So please, give it a shot. If you run into problems, let me know. Or if you see ways to make things better, update the instructions (that's why they're on a Wiki, after all).

Oh, and by the way... I think that at least MySQL support should be pretty easy also. Here at Sun, we actually have an internal Slynkr instance which is using MySQL. I just don't have instructions for it (yet).

Thursday Feb 15, 2007

Why is the Digg Community So Sensitive to Competition?

The Digg community is once again lashing out at a "shameless rip-off" site. This time their target is Yahoo, which has (in their own words) added "Digg-style voting" to their suggestion boards. There was a similar reaction months ago when Netscape.com re-launched itself as a voter-driven news portal.

Why do so many Digg users have a hair-trigger response against anyone who builds on Digg's ideas? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Imitation with due credit (as Yahoo provided in their blog post) is pretty-well beyond reproach.

Yes, Yahoo and Netscape took ideas from Digg. That's the way the world works. We build off of each others' ideas. If you can't accept that, you need to strip naked and move to some deserted cave. Every technology and idea we use today is a derivative of something which came before it.

If you think the "good guys" of the tech world sprang up from great new ideas, you're wrong (at least partially). The ideas may have been great, but they were never entirely new. So before you launch another campaign against a "shameless rip-off" of Digg, consider going after:

  • Linux, which shamelessly stole the design of UNIX.
  • Apache, which shamelessly stole the idea of serving web pages from Tim Berners-Lee.
  • Firefox, which shamelessly stole the idea of a graphical web browser from NCSA Mosaic.
  • Digg itself, which shamelessly stole the concept of voting from the ancient Greeks.
  • The paranoid members of the Digg community, who shamelessly stole the ideas of intolerance and isolationism from countless ancient tribes.

Yes, they're ridiculous examples. It's a ridiculous discussion. Building on the ideas of others is a fact of life. It's also a fact of Web 2.0, and it's time for lagging members of the Digg community to accept it.

Tuesday Jan 16, 2007

Lag Marketing

Could Facebook "grow up" to be a LinkedIn competitor? Alex Iskold thinks so. It's an interesting possibility, and reminds me of trends previously seen from the likes of Apple and Linux.

Basically, the idea is to reach your market before they are your market. Step one: build popularity with starving college students (where there is little or no profit). Step two: wait for those students to age into powerful and affluent corporate workers (providing significant profits, if they still think highly of your company/product). Apple did it consciously with discounts at college bookstores (encouraging more student ownership of Apple products) and to college IT purchasers (encouraging more Apple machines in computing labs and thus more student use of Apple products). Linux and other open source projects did it unconsciously by providing free software to technical students with an itch to tinker.

Per our formula, financial benefits came later. The students eventually graduated, and a portion of their increased income and corporate influence went to the benefit of vendors such as Apple and Red Hat. If Iskold's theory plays out, the same could soon happen for Facebook (given its enormous penetration into social networking for college students).

I think there is an obvious message here for Sun and anyone else looking to build up communities. A little foresight and patience goes a long way.

Friday Dec 15, 2006

Just say three-dot-NO

Ever love something but hate its name? You know, kind of the way you feel about your Aunt Mertalina. (Just kidding, Auntie--you know I love you!) That's how many people feel about Web 2.0: great ideas and fun to use, but stuck with one horribly hype-driven name.

I'm actually not in that camp (at least not any more). I'm willing to accept the idea that Web 2.0 has emerged as an example of useful jargon. It's been thrown around enough that most people who care know what it means. So we're stuck with it and there is no going back. I've accepted this and must recommend that you do the same.

Still, there is an undeniable dark side to the name. For one, any old fool now thinks he's brilliant if he slaps an integer-dot-oh name on some otherwise bad idea. Not good, but it can probably be survived. (For the nerds out there, at least we're only creating bad new terminology at a O(n) rate.)

But where things get really bad is the incrementing of the version number itself. So we'll not only be stuck with Web 2.0, but also the inevitable Web 3.0, Web 4.0, Web N+1 (aka Web I'm-Incrementing-Faster-Than-You-dot-oh), etc. And as we already noted, the arbitrary versioning craze isn't easily restricted to the "Web" term. That means we're bound to get similar version sprawl on all those other bad ideas mentioned earlier. Now we've got a problem (nerd update: generating bad terminology at a O(n\^2) rate). Yikes.

I see only one solution: the madness must stop here. There is a Web 2.0 (as we said, there is no putting that genie back in the bottle). But there is no Web 3.0, nor will there ever be one. Likewise, there never will be a Web 4.0 (much as I may appreciate a good rant). These terms are dead on arrival--no, make that dead before arrival. And it looks like I'm not the only one to think so. Sometimes there really is wisdom in the crowd.

Yes, there will of course be something fundamentally new and different after Web 2.0. But it should not be called Web 3.0. Call it by its real name, the Semantic Web (if that does end up achieving widespread adoption). Or if it's something else entirely, call it something else entirely. Don't propogate the unnecessary rise of bad terminology.

No one wants to hear your brilliant ideas for Web 3.0, 4.0, or 99.0 (and before you try, don't even think about some kind of stealth versioning with a Web 2.0 Service Pack 1 or Web 2.0 Enterprise Edition). The versioning madness must stop. And it must stop at 2.0.

Tuesday Dec 12, 2006

Kitsch 2.0

I've noticed that Sun's bloggers are exhibiting a disturbing lack of respect for our elders. We didn't invent the Internet, blogs, or streaming media. And we certainly have not taken these technologies to their highest use. It's high time that we paid proper tribute to these great achievements.

For example, a few quick searches of blogs.sun.com reveals:

In our untold thousands of postings, only this handful of references to such brilliant works of art? That's simply unacceptable, and could well get us into hot water with the authorities.

Of course, the search results noted above will quickly become outdated as Sun bloggers see the wisdom of my message and change their ways. No matter--that's the price you pay if you're late in reading this. As I have always said (beginning with an old and classic post): come hard to the Woodwork or don't come at all!

I'll be doing my part to bring some soul to Sun's blogs. Who's with me?

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woodjr

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