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Preview: Alex Barnett blog

Alex Barnett blog


Platform Thinking

Fri, 09 Dec 2011 15:41:00 GMT

(am republishing this blog post as it automagically disappeared in a server upgrade I did recently, originally posted 13.10.2011) Last night I came across a rant from a Google employee (that was accidentally made public via Google+...doh!,) that provided not only good popcorn munching material, but I thought had some pretty interesting insights around what it really means to be a "Platform" company, not just a "Product" company. It's pretty dense stuff, but wanted to call out the snippet about the "mandate" that Jeff Bezos sent around the company back in 2002. So one day Jeff Bezos issued a mandate. He’s doing that all the time, of course, and people scramble like ants being pounded with a rubber mallet whenever it happens. But on one occasion — back around 2002 I think, plus or minus a year — he issued a mandate that was so out there, so huge and eye-bulgingly ponderous, that it made all of his other mandates look like unsolicited peer bonuses. His Big Mandate went something along these lines: 1) All teams will henceforth expose their data and functionality through service interfaces. 2) Teams must communicate with each other through these interfaces. 3) There will be no other form of interprocess communication allowed: no direct linking, no direct reads of another team’s data store, no shared-memory model, no back-doors whatsoever. The only communication allowed is via service interface calls over the network. 4) It doesn’t matter what technology they use. HTTP, Corba, Pubsub, custom protocols — doesn’t matter. Bezos doesn’t care. 5) All service interfaces, without exception, must be designed from the ground up to be externalizable. That is to say, the team must plan and design to be able to expose the interface to developers in the outside world. No exceptions. 6) Anyone who doesn’t do this will be fired. 7) Thank you; have a nice day! Ha, ha! You 150-odd ex-Amazon folks here will of course realize immediately that #7 was a little joke I threw in, because Bezos most definitely does not give a shit about your day. then... Over the next couple of years, Amazon transformed internally into a service-oriented architecture. They learned a tremendous amount while effecting this transformation. There was lots of existing documentation and lore about SOAs, but at Amazon’s vast scale it was about as useful as telling Indiana Jones to look both ways before crossing the street. ...Organizing into services taught teams not to trust each other in most of the same ways they’re not supposed to trust external developers. This effort was still underway when I left to join Google in mid-2005, but it was pretty far advanced. From the time Bezos issued his edict through the time I left, Amazon had transformed culturally into a company that thinks about everything in a services-first fashion. It is now fundamental to how they approach all designs, including internal designs for stuff that might never see the light of day externally. At this point they don’t even do it out of fear of being fired. I mean, they’re still afraid of that; it’s pretty much part of daily life there, working for the Dread Pirate Bezos and all. But they do services because they’ve come to understand that it’s the Right Thing. There are without question pros and cons to the SOA approach, and some of the cons are pretty long. But overall it’s the right thing because SOA-driven design enables Platforms. Nowadays, it might be considered conventional wisdom for "Platform Thinking", but to truly embracing this philosophy - and make it real - first requires the realization that in the long term, Platform companies beat Product companies every time. Realizing that, then Platform Thinking and Platform Doing should become second nature. The brilliance of Bezos was to realize this strategic insight long before web APIs became as popular as they have become.       [...]

You can start with the Customer Experience, but you need to stay there.

Sat, 01 Oct 2011 12:46:00 GMT

Although it my seem to be the most obvious design principle, the notion of "Start with the Customer Experience" can be, and often is, the thing that businesses and product development teams can forget about during the development phase.

In other words, just because you started at the Customer Experience, that doesn't necessarily mean you'll get the right end result. You need to stay there.

I've seen it happen many a time: teams start at the customer UX design - it's awesome, it's simple and it "just works" beautifully. Then it comes time to develop the technology and stuff behind the scenes to make it all happen. And during that process, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of design decisions being made that create opportunities to lose sight of the original experience design...questions around which standards to use, which stack to employ, the resources and skills available, competing priorities and resource allocation, complexity vs. simplicity of implementation, feature phasing and sequencing, time constraints, pressure to get to market, etc, can often become the most important things that teams spend energy in solving, rather than remaining true to the original design. And before you know it, you can look at the end result, compare it to the original vision and say: whoah! - that's a long way from the original vision! We've all been there.

The companies, product companies and experience providers that stand out and consistently deliver awesome customer experiences are the ones that don't compromise on the original vision and design. They start with the customer experience and they stay there. Apple, of course, is the leading example of this discipline. Reminded by Brad Feld, here's great clip from Steve Jobs a few years ago at the Apple WWDC in 1997...

Here he talks about starting with the customer experience and about how then they figure out the technology to make it happen.

But what he doesn't say but is plainly obvious, is not only how they start there, but how they stay there with the customer UX throughout, ending the development lifecycle with a product that is as awesome and true to their original vision as when they first set out on the design journey. That's the magic of delivering awesomeness, not just designing it.


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Messing around with Google+

Tue, 27 Sep 2011 11:12:00 GMT

I'm messing around with Google+ since it became more generally available, and finding it to be a little bit of a hit and miss experience. It's not a bad way to discover new content and interact with some interesting folks. Of course, it's probably only as good as your Circles, so find me here and I'll Circle you back!

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Me 2.0 (and how I got there)

Mon, 12 Sep 2011 20:05:00 GMT

A few days ago, I celebrated my birthday and was pinged on Facebook by friends and family congratulating me on being another year older (!). Along with those good wishes, I also got a few virtual pats on the back, commenting on how healthy I was looking in some recent photos and asked for details on how I achieved the progress I had made. Of course, it's awesome for people to take notice of the hard work you've put in and confess to blushing a little at the complements. This post is my response, sharing some of the things that have worked for me in the last 14 months or so in my journey to make a better me. Before I start, I want to stress: the following worked (and is working) for me. It's not meant as a prescription or a recipe for you. It is a bunch of things - given my psyche, environment and genetics - that worked for me. If you're looking to go on a similar journey (or already on your journey and looking for new ideas), feel free to take a little of "this", and a bit of "that", and plenty of none of "this"! So let's go to it... It's about making a decision and sticking to it. A few weeks ago I was at Boston Logan airport checking in when the the lady processing my boarding pass did a double take when she looked at my Mass driver's ID. She commented that I looked a lot different to the photo on the card. She asked how I lost all that weight. I told her that I made a decision a while ago and had stuck with it. She congratulated me warmly and gave me back my ID. (12 months - before and after not my actual ID pics!) In July of last year I made that decision. I was unhappy (and felt guilty) about my general level of fitness, I didn't like what I saw in the mirror and was feeling increasingly physically uncomfortable. And no that time I weighed 204 lbs (I'm 6ft), with an estimated body fat: of ~24%. I was doing no regular exercise and was on course to add another 5-10 lbs over the next year. Not good, at all. So I decided to change that. My goal (I'll come back to this later) was high-level. Maybe a little too high-level. It was to "Lose weight!". I didn't specify how much or in what time period, all I knew is that I wanted to reverse the trend, and given where I was I felt that was good enough. All the progress and achievements stem from that decision and deciding to stick with it. It has to be sustainable. I started slow. I thought about my goal in terms of two dimensions - 1. how much + what I was eating and 2. how much + the kind of exercise I was doing. On the food side, I stopped eating junk and started eating more "whole foods": unprocessed foods like salads, meats that hadn't been gunked with preservatives and crap, fruit not candy, etc. I wasn't measuring calories but I stopped snacking. On the exercise side, I wanted to actually do some but not over-do it too quickly. My body was badly out of condition and I did not want to injure myself and go two steps backward. So I started doing long walks and bought a cycling machine - 30 mins of walks + 20 mins of gentle cycling to start. Every day. Nothing dramatic. I did that for about a month and was already feeling the benefits. I probably lost about 5 lbs in that time. As I progressed, my resolve hardened. But I also realized that I wanted the good things in life too - to drink when I like and not give up delicious food. The trick was to find the right balance between the input (caloric intake) and the output (energy consumed) and to achieve a daily caloric deficit. Depriving myself of the things I enjoy (good food and drink) wasn't going to be a sustainable path to success. Psychologically, this sustainable path for the long term has been a core component to my being able to stick with the decision I made. For me, it was all about finding that right balance and since I made that decision, I've been able to eat delicious food that fills me and drink what I want when I want. But that has also meant doing the exercise required to balance it out. "If you don't measure it,[...]

Why OData Matters (IMHO)

Fri, 19 Mar 2010 15:24:00 GMT

Earlier this week I was in the MIX10 crowd as Douglas Purdy announced the Open Data Protocol (it was a great presentation - summarized here). I want to share with you why I think OData could be a very big deal…But before we go there...let's start with the basics... What is OData? Where Did OData Come From? To understand the history of how OData came to be, you need to understand how project "Astoria" came to be...I won't go over that again as this is already pretty well documented. Astoria OData has come a long way since. In a nutshell: Today, OData builds on a few conventions, popularized by AtomPub (see OData AtomPub Format), to using REST-based data services. These services allow resources, identified using Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs) and defined in an abstract data model (see OData URI Conventions, to be read and edited by web clients using simple HTTP messages (see OData Operations). An Open Data Protocol for the Web OData offers a standardized way for programmable data to be made available across the web and in turn allowing "consumers" of that data to rely on a set of conventions to be followed that in turn allows many interesting things to happen if widely adopted... ...And to this end: As announced, OData has been released by Microsoft under the Open Specification Promise (OSP) "to allow anyone to freely interoperate with OData implementations" . Since then, the W3C has invited the OData team to Bring OData to a W3C Incubator (I haven't seen a public response yet but I urge the team to do so.). OData is not a Microsoft-only thing and it won’t succeed if it is. The originating philosophy was about transparency in the design process, with an Open end-point as the goal - not a .NET lock-in play (“agree on standards and compete on implementation”). This approach has already yielded an initial set of clients, servers, services, and tools. Today, a number of OData SDKs and libraries are available for .NET, Java, PHP, iPhone (Objective-C) and more – and there’ll be more coming. There is a small but growing ecosystem of non-Microsoft "producers" and "consumers" - (where  OData "producers" include Netflix’s catalog as OData and the VanGuide (a social map of Vancouver Open Data) and Public data from the city of Edmonton as OData) and OData “consumers”  - standard web browsers, RIA "data explorers" – such as Sesame OData Browser, and the client libraries mentioned above – p.s. somebody build a javascript-only data browser please!) Where can OData take us? The clue is in the OData icon (next to the RSS feed icon. Can you see the similarities? The big idea here is that in the same way we have the "RSS" feed icon, we'll get used to seeing the "OData" icon on commercial and non-commercial websites everywhere (especially for government-related data). So in the same way you know today that the RSS icon means "get an XML feed for this content", the "OData" icon means "get this web data" - you'll know (and your client will know) what to expect in terms of how to read in, and navigate through and query structured web data sets - and in many cases write against them - using a common syntax. Q: Right, But So What? A1: Open Government OData. From Open Government Data Principles The Internet is the public space of the modern world, and through it governments now have the opportunity to better understand the needs of their citizens and citizens may participate more fully in their government. Information becomes more valuable as it is shared, less valuable as it is hoarded. Open data promotes increased civil discourse, improved public welfare, and a more efficient use of public resources. That’s great, but it needs to be practicable…And number 5 of the 8 Principles of Open Government Data sensibly states that the data should be (via David Eaves): 5. Machine processable Data is reasonably structured to allow automated processing. It'll be down to each government agency (and loc[...]

Apparently, taking the dog for a walk is worth about 200 Achievement Points.

Sat, 06 Mar 2010 15:07:00 GMT

Via Kevin Kelly, I found this talk by games designer Jesse Schell speculating on the future of games. Kelly summarizes the talk: "Schell begins his talk with very narrow concerns about Facebook games, which is not surprising since his audience here is other professional game designers. He makes the point that some of the largest and most profitable games today are not on game consoles but run on Facebook or other nonobvious platforms. He admits that most of these non-game platforms for successful games were unexpected -- even for pros like himself. In the second part of his talk he notices how many of these unexpected hit games have the common element of "breaking through the reality barrier." The Wii, Guitar Hero, Webkidz, fantasy football, and so on all have one foot in fantasy and one foot in the real world -- gestures, plastic guitar, stuffed animal, football games -- and so are part of a greater movement towards artificial authenticity. It's the last third of his talk where Schell really gets going. He offers a vision where ordinary life is gameified. Cheap tracking technology turns whatever you do into a "game" that accumulates points. As the gameification of life becomes ubiquitous, you go through your day racking up points and "getting to the next level." Instead of getting grades in school you graduate to the next level. It's a head spinning scenario, with lots to love and hate, but well worth considering." I've been a gamer forever and recognize the patterns Schell describes. Though I've not personally been playing some of the games cited, I do have fair exposure to things like Webkinz and Club Penguin though my nine-year old boy. I see how naturally his generation has taken to the social side of Xbox Live gaming. In particular, I see how obsessed he gets around his efforts to the "Acheivement Unlocked" crack. As soon as I finished watching the video, I got ready to take the dog for a walk and asked my son if he wanted to come with me. "No thanks", he replied. So I had an idea...I asked him a question: "If you came for a walk with us, how many Achievement points would the walk be worth?". He thought about it. "About 200..." "And then you'd come?" I asked... "Sure" I was floored. DS Games - E3 2010 - Guitar Hero 5 [...]

Connecting Clouds: Intuit Partner Platform and Windows Azure

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 16:33:00 GMT

How about I break my blogging “hiatus” by sharing some cool stuff the Intuit Partner Platform team has been working on for a little while that involves Windows Azure? OK, then…  :-) This morning, Intuit and Microsoft have announced very cool news for Intuit and Microsoft developers and for Small Businesses… From the IPP team blog post, Alex Chriss, Director of IPP (er…my boss): “Today, we’re thrilled to announce an alliance between Intuit and Microsoft that brings IPP a giant step closer to our ecosystem vision. Starting today, SaaS developers can access the beta of the Windows Azure SDK for IPP - a set of tools, code samples, and services, designed to make it easy for developers of SaaS applications developed on Windows Azure to federate those SaaS apps on to IPP and sell them to millions of Small Businesses in the Intuit Workplace App Center.” Connecting these two clouds has been fun and it’s just the start…the bits we’re releasing today is a beta…but fully functional: it provides everything an Azure developer needs to federate their apps on to IPP. In the v1.0 release of the Windows Azure SDK for IPP (expected to launch sometime in February) will also include built-in support for IPP’s Intuit Data Services, the web API that allows those SaaS apps to fully integrate with QuickBooks customer data and program against the common data model and cloud repository that all Intuit Workplace App Center leverage…this is how the SaaS apps from different vendors as well as Intuit’s SaaS offerings work together at the data level. So the developer story is pretty awesome. The other aspect to the news released this morning is about the plan to federate Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS) on to IPP and become one of the great set of apps available on Intuit Workplace App Center. BPOS includes a set of messaging and collaboration solutions hosted by Microsoft, and consists of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Live Meeting, and Office Communications Online. I recorded a short interview with Jeff Collins, Group Architect for IPP, and Jarred Keneally, Developer Support Engineer to talk about what’s in the SDK and what’s coming soon. Enjoy! Some more info links: Official Press Release at IPP Team blog post: Intuit Partner Platform + Windows Azure = Win for Small Businesses IPP Dev Center – Windows Azure SDK for IPP Intuit Workplace App Center -- Update - some reactions to the news coming in now: Dennis Howlett - ZDNet - Intuit and Microsoft partner: more PaaS to put in your aaS environment My take: Intuit is joining a growing band of apps vendors that see PaaS as a way of delivering all sorts of aaS functionality, expanding its reach, developing deep domain expertise and helping it accelerate growth. These are bold ambitions and fit well with the idea that a single cloud platform should provide the ecosystem framework needed to achieve these goals. There is no reason why the SMB market should not benefit from these initiatives so at this level it is good to see both Microsoft and Intuit step up to the plate of opening up access to a large group of developers. Ben Kepes - CloudAve - Intuit and Microsoft Sign Deal to Serve SMBs "This really is massive news for anyone involved in small or medium business – be it as a business themselves or in anyway selling technology products or services to SMBs....APIs are great – wonderfully valuable things that allow applications to work together. But a common data model of the sort that the IPP is built around, is even better, allowing applications to be built from the start around an underlying and consistent model of data." Sam Diaz - Between The Lines - Microsoft and Intuit become cloud partners "The idea, of course, is to link Microsoft’s business applications to the financial data that’s found within Quickbooks to help businesse[...]

Federated Apps on the Intuit Partner Platform

Wed, 03 Jun 2009 13:52:00 GMT

So what have I been working on since joining Intuit? A bunch of stuff, but something I wanted to shout about is the release of “Federated Applications” on the Intuit Partner Platform. Working closely with five new developers to Intuit's Platform as a Service (PaaS), VerticalResponse, DimDim, Rypple, Setster, and ExpenseWare, we've got some kick-ass apps federated into the platform. Some nice coverage so far this morning, including: Ben Kepes, CloudAve Intuit Launches the IPP Version 2 "After the briefing I have to say that it looks to me like IPP is finally offering to fulfil the promise of the end-to-end integrated small business software platform that I’ve been evangelising for a few years now – my catch cry of late has been that application integration should only be seen as the very first step in building a SaaS ecosystem. Much more important is the aggregation of applications. This may be data aggregation, UI aggregation, sign-on integration or billing integration – and ideally users and vendors would determine what parts of the integration they bought into." Leena Rao at TechCrunch - Intuit’s Partner Platform Goes Multilingual With Federated Apps “The “Federated Applications” functionality lets developers who have existing SaaS applications that are built with any programming language, database or cloud computing platform publish their apps on Intuit Marketplace. Applications won’t have to be rewritten to conform to QuickBooks but will instead go through a minor configuration process.” Phil Wainewright, ZDNet: Intuit makes two-pronged PaaS and SaaS push “The significant element of Intuit’s PaaS announcement is that it is a land-grab to capture mindshare among developers on other cloud platforms, who can take their AppEngine, Amazon Web Services or self-hosted applications and make them available using Intuit’s single sign-on, billing and QuickBooks integration infrastructure. Market reach being one of the key attributes developers look for in a new platform, perhaps the most appealing factor is that applications will be showcased within the Intuit Marketplace, with a potential reach to the four-million-strong installed base of QuickBooks accounting software customers and their estimated 25 million employees.” What I've found very cool about this new Federated Apps capability for IPP is that fact that these different SaaS apps are developed on a variety of stacks and hosted outside of the IPP platform.. One of the apps is built on Java. Another is built enirely on .NET. Another is a mix of RoR and LAMP. Another built of Flex (on their own hosting environment - not IPP). If an app was running on EC2, that would work too, as would an app built on Google's AppEngine. It doen't matter - the integration points for Federated Apps are just that and pretty lightweight (one of the partners was able to turnaround the work with 1 developer in less than two weeks, including time for the technical review of the app). We made a deliberate decision to make IPP agnostic to the technology that developers want to use. Yes, we have a "native" stack also, but the options we are providing developers now means there is no technology lock-in to speak of. Here is some more information on the details of federation and how you as a developer can get started. Oh, and a quick plug on the talk I'll be giving on how to federate applications to IPP at the Startups and the Cloud event next week in the Boston area. [...]

Startups and the Cloud: free event in Waltham, MA, sponsored by Intuit

Thu, 28 May 2009 10:41:00 GMT

This is an event I'm helping to organize...hope you can join! From the App Gap blog:

"On June 11th we’re organizing a gathering in Waltham, MA called Startups and the Cloud to talk about how starting a successful software business has changed now that cloud computing/ platforms have become highly viable, and in some cases, essential components of a startup’s strategy.

We’re keeping it compact at about four hours and we’ve been able to pack a ton of great content in. The agenda is here, but there’s a talk with Scott Cook, the founder of Intuit, a panel of local Venture Capitalists, and a panel of local CEOs. In addition, we’ll be hosting a social event where you’ll get a chance to meet some of the top thought leaders in this new wave of innovation. It’s a great group of tech leaders and, even better, it’s free!"

See: agenda and how to register.


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I should have probably blogged this earlier...

Sat, 28 Feb 2009 20:27:00 GMT

I should have probably blogged this twittering @alexbarnett


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7 Tips to a Successful Landing at a Large Company

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 02:13:00 GMT

Last week Tara Hunt shared the news of her joining Intuit Partner Platform team. Very cool...what talent! In her blog post, Tara mentioned the opportunity to work in a large corporate context as one of her motivations in joining the team. I was reflecting on this yesterday morning and recalled a similar decision I made a few years ago. Up to that time I had worked at small companies and start-ups. Although I thoroughly enjoyed those scrappy, fast-paced environments, I had wondered what it would be like in the "corporate world" and if I could cut it there. So when the opportunity to join Microsoft turned up, this similar motivation was one of the reasons I took the plunge. What's the point of this post? Well, I was going to email the following advice to Tara, from one person who is on the journey in the second large corporate adventure (me) to another who is about to begin their first (Tara). And I thought, hey - that could make a pretty nice blog post... Before I shoot, I do want to make clear that this advice is not specifically aimed at Tara at all, nor should this advice be intepreted as some kind of snide commentary about our team or my current employer (Intuit) as whole. It is simply advice that I could have used myself a few years ago, learned the hard way and want to share. Without further ado, here are my... 7 Tips to a Successful Landing at a Large Company 1. Drink the right water through the firehose Don't be like this little kid who didn't see what was coming. Large companies are complex beasts and in the first few weeks the sheer amount of information you think you need to absorb and the often critical decisions you need to make can easily overwhelm you. A good manager should help you filter what is important and what is not and help you navigate the info-storm, need get used to the fact that for some time to come a lot of things just aren't going to make sense to you that you really feel you should have a good grasp on. It's OK. Don't panic. Do avoid as much as possible the gazillions of meetings you'll be invited to...people love to meet the new peeps and influence early...and that's ok to a degree, but be very selective about the meetings you accept and don't be afraid to turn a lot of them down.  For those you do accept, insist on understanding clear goals up-front before hitting "Accept". Failing on good filtering here means less time on the things you absolutely should be focusing on in the first few weeks (e.g. the right water). 2. Don't try to figure it all out yourself Large companies cannot avoid process. And along with process goes the array of tools/apps you need navigate and use to get stuff done. Self-help is fine (praise the Google intranet search appliance!!) but at some point the effort to find out and learn for yourself (due to lack of obviousness) reaches the point of diminishing returns, fast. So save your sanity, swallow your pride, and ask a peer or your manager or your HR bod for the right pointers. You don't know what you don't know and that's OK. 3. Your first impressions count, so Ask Those Dumb Questions! Help break Groupthink. This is applicable when joining almost all new companies and teams, but this point is maybe even more pertinent in a large company and large teams. The wikipedia definition article is a great description of what I mean here: "Groupthink is a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas. Individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking are lost in the pursuit of group cohesiveness, as are the advantages of reasonable balance in choice and thought that might normally be[...]

Joining Intuit

Sun, 21 Sep 2008 22:02:00 GMT

Firstly - thanks to everyone who has reached out to me in the last three weeks via email, phone calls and comments since I shared the news of my pursuit for the next adventure - I have really appreciated everyone's support and interest in my next steps. The great news is I'll be joining Intuit as a Group Manager working in a fast growing start-up team responsible for leading the Intuit Partner Platform. Below is a snippet and some links to blog posts and articles that should give you a fairly good idea about where my focus will be a week from now. Although I'll be working from the Orem office (Utah) to start off with, the plan is to ultimately move to the greater Boston area - another new adventure. I've visited Boston three times in the last year or so and have loved it more and more with each visit, so watch out Boston! This is a fantastic opportunity for me personally - the team has ambitious goals and an amazing set of existing assets to leverage (see some of the numbers below) in becoming a significant player in the cloud computing space. I look forward to sharing stories of my new journey with you. Intuit Partner Platform Opens to Developers (Sept 15 2008) "The Intuit Partner Platform not only gives developers the opportunity to build Web-based applications, but successful SaaS businesses by taking the complexity out of managing infrastructure, hosting, user management, integration and billing. Now developers can focus on developing innovative on-demand software solutions that solve unique and important problems for the four million small and mid-market businesses across the U.S. that use QuickBooks and the 25 million employees that work in those companies. The platform-as-a-service offering allows developers to combine the powerful open source Flex framework and Adobe Flex Builder and the proven database of Intuit QuickBase to build rich Internet applications that work with QuickBooks data. They can also leverage Adobe AIR to provide additional desktop-like functionality in their applications, such as pop-up notifications, local file system access, local data storage, and the ability to create a fully branded user experience. "We have now accepted more than 1,000 developers into the program and it is exciting to hear their ideas and energy about what they want to build," said Alex Chriss, business leader for the Intuit Partner Platform. "Customers will benefit greatly from the imagination and expertise that developers use to solve problems facing their specific industries." " Web 2.0 Expo NYC - Intuit Connected Services (Sept 19 2008)Intuit Makes SaaS Play Guns For Salesforce (Sept 18 2008) Intuit’s flexy PaaS (Aug 14 2008) Intuit enters the PaaS wars (April 28 2008) Intuit’s Radical New Flex + QuickBase Cloud Platform (April 16 2008) [...]

The Great Bungee Jump

Thu, 28 Aug 2008 00:21:00 GMT

Well, the great Bungee Jump has come. Martin Plaehn, CEO of Bungee Labs has shared the news of the company the letting go of 15 regular employees and contractors. Unfortunately, I am among this set of affected Bungee Labs employees. A Voyage of Discovery As Martin explained in today's post, Bungee Labs has been on a voyage of discovery. There are many lessons for me and the company to take away from the whole experience of the last year or so, but the bottom line is that we were overly optimistic about what it takes to achieve the rate and scale of developer adoption - real traction - and therefore the development of killer apps by the developer community that would drive the platform and the business forward at the velocity that makes a VC-backed venture "interesting". So where does Bungee Labs go from here? Well, I think Martin eluded to the key clue: "Over the next several months, Bungee Labs will lay out the course for a business object solution framework for user configurable enterprise-class applications that demonstrate these principles" It'll be very interesting to see how this manifests and the impetus it will provide to the platform's adoption. No Regrets No regrets, none at all. When I considered the opportunity of joining Bungee Labs (and by doing so leave a relatively safe harbor in order to do so) I knew of the risks involved. Bungee Labs' mission was - and still is - of the kind that aims to "change the world". To have been a member of the team tasked with realizing the company's hugely ambitious mission has been nothing short of an entirely worthwhile and educational pursuit. In my mind at least, Bungee Labs has made its mark in the brave new world of cloud computing. It has opened the eyes to many in the industry about what might be and can be. It has made cloudy ideas and visions more concrete and helped to define the concepts a (Platform as a Service, or PaaS) and memes that are contributing to the next generation of cloud computing platforms. I've learned a great deal in the past 16 months working closely with a very talented, smart and creative set of teammates. And although it is probably unfair to call out individuals - for it implies those not mentioned weren't of similar caliber (which is not the case) -  I do want to thank Martin Plaehn, Bungee Labs' CEO in particular for his mentorship during my tenure at Bungee Labs' and from whom I've learned an enormous amount management and leadership. I'll also miss the inane banter with Ted in those podcasts we put together (and the "Shushee"  lunches). What Next? And so...on to my next adventure. What will that be exactly? Frankly, I have no idea yet...but whatever it is, I need to know I'll be trying to change the world :-) I'm open to if you have some, please get in touch. [...]

How ADO.NET Data Services came to be (formerly known as Project Astoria)

Thu, 21 Aug 2008 02:16:00 GMT

Pablo Castro has recounted some of his timelined memories about how "Project Astoria" evolved from a lunch time conversation to bits in .NET 3.5 SP1 and Visual Studio 2008 SP1 now known as ADO.NET Data Services Framework). Nice write up. Three memories of my own to add to the story: 1. I was reading up on the whole REST thing in the summer of 2006 - its origins, philosophy and design patterns. I knew there was something interesting going on and some potential dots to join, but I wasn't sure which dots...So I collated and circulated a bunch of research / links to the team, then blogged the links (I liked How I explained REST to my wife. More recently see Explaining REST to Damien Katz). I got a few proverbial (and some literal) blank stares as I shared my enthusiasm for REST, asking how we could apply the ideas to the various projects we were working on. It was Pablo, and (as Pablo attests) Britt Johnston (now a PUM for SQL Business) who were able to develop the initial conceptual leaps into something more concrete like a Think Week Paper and a prototype demo. 2. When it came to brainstorming the code name, the team agreed on a  "cloud" theme. A number of proposals were floated around along with their rationales, including "cumulus" and "cirrus". We were then advised that city and town code names were legal-safe. So there we were, struggling to agree on some city or town name we all liked (or at least not hate nor be confused by..."how about Nameless?"...), and then Mike Pizzo's proposal came in: "Astoria - hey, it's the cloudiest city in the USA!" (at least it was in 2006). Sold. 3. I think my favorite memory of all is the reaction Gary Flake provided (of Microsoft's Live Labs) to the prototype Pablo demo'd at one of the pitch meetings: "As God himself would have designed it!" Dr Flake exclaimed..."Cool", I thought to myself - "but does that mean no REST for the wicked?" [...]

I Am a Strange Loop

Fri, 15 Aug 2008 01:45:00 GMT

About 10 years ago a friend gave to me a book as gift. We were sitting on the deck of a canal boat on a Friday late afternoon set for a weekend of lazy meandering with friends and family along the Thames, when he handed me his own copy of Godel, Escher, Bach. "You'll love this" he said. Willem was was right. Godel, Escher, Bach not only tickled my penchant for self-referentialism and recursion ("It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take Hofstadter's Law into account"), it also reinforced an odd conviction I've held that "magic" happens where these oddities exist (all around and within us). Last week, (thanks to Nick Carr), I was alerted to Douglas R. Hofstadter's latest mind-bender, I Am a Strange Loop. The book arrived today, unpacked and on the table when I got back from work this evening...inviting me to another voyage with this great mind: "Deep down, your brain is a chaotic seething soup of particles. On a higher level it is a jungle of neurons, and on a yet higher level it is a network of abstractions that we call "symbols." The most central and complex symbol is the one you call "I". An "I" is a strange loop where the brain's symbolic and physical levels feed back into each other and flip causality upside down so that symbols seem to have gained the paradoxical ability to push particles around, rather than the reverse. For each human being, this "I" seems to be the realest thing in the world. But how can such a mysterious abstraction be real--or is our "I" merely a convenient fiction? Does an "I" exert genuine power over the particles in our brain, or is it helplessly pushed around by the all-powerful laws of physics? These are the mysteries tackled in I Am a Strange Loop, Douglas R. Hofstadter's first book-length journey into philosophy since Godel, Escher, Bach. Compulsively readable and endlessly thought-provoking, this is the book Hofstadter's many readers have long been waiting for." Interview with Douglas Hofstadter following "I Am a Strange Loop" Scientific American review [...]