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Permanent link to archive for Wednesday, May 17, 2000. Wednesday, May 17, 2000

Sun is a mystery to me

After talking with Michael Condry on Tuesday, I held no hope for Sun supporting SOAP any time in the near future. I said so on Scripting News. My hopes have been bobbing up and down in the last few days. Before Wednesday's shakedown session, while talking with a key technologist at Iona, up comes Anne Thomas Manes, Sun's director of business strategy. She told a story quite different from Condry's, and in-line with what Baker said on Monday.

She wrote a letter, that I have not seen published, but I assume will be shortly, saying that Sun has a full-time engineer working on SOAP and will make a submission to the Apache Group of a SOAP 1.1 server. I asked if she would say so at the shakedown session, she said yes. I didn't call on her because Sun was already represented on the panel by Condry, who was making more sympathetic sounds than I expected, based on yesterday's conversation, but his comments were nowhere near as positive and decisive as Manes. I wanted to save Sun the possible embarassment, and SOAP the confusion, of a public dispute between two Sun execs.

I'm confused. I've had the hiearchy explained to me. Baker works for Condry, but I'm not sure if Condry works for Manes. After the session, on the xml-dist-apps mail list, Condry posted several near-flames about SOAP. What is going on?? Either there's major news, or indecision at Sun. A clear statement of support by Sun of SOAP would be the last major milestone before quick deployment of early SOAP-compliant Web apps, the spell checker and JIT-SE.

It's clear that even without Sun's involvement, there is excellent support for Java coming from IBM. But Sun's involvement in the development and deployment process would be awesome.

What is a JIT-SE?

9/7/96: Floating Ideas. "Search engines take too long. By the time they index a story, I'm not interested it anymore. I want a 'Just In Time' search engine. One which indexes the top fifty news sites every thirty minutes instead of every sixty days."

2/21/00: An open proposal to Search Engine developers. "UserLand's focus is editorial systems. We do run a search engine for Manila users, but we'd prefer to partner with companies that specialize in search engines."

Is this what NGWS is?

osOpinion: Microsoft Gamble of a Lifetime. "The Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS) hatched by the crew in Redmond promises to deliver all Windows services to a browser near you. In fact, in the long run, you likely won't be able to buy Microsoft products in stores at all. Everything will be available online."

Pictures from WWW9

Martjin Peters of Digital Creations, the developers of Zope. We talked about security, spell checking, search engines. Martjin did XML-RPC for Mozilla.

Simeon Simeonov, chief architect of Allaire. He's from Bulgaria, I found out. We had dinner last night, and came to some conclusions on how we'll be compatible. I want to wait to write them up, when I'm less tired, and with a little coordination.

Ken MacLeod must have taken the red eye to Amsterdam.

This evening's BOF

I now know that we have enough readers in Amsterdam to have a big dinner party. Thirteen people were there, lots of Frontier people, one Manila newbie from IBM, the CTO for Weight Watchers in eastern Canada, Ken MacLeod, Andre and Andrea! (Who is a total cutie.)

We talked about a lot of things. How the IT industry works in Europe. How we could connect Pike to Lotus Notes. What a big market that would be. We talked about the complexity of SOAP relative to XML-RPC. On the walk back to the hotel I thought I should say that we're going to keep moving forward with XML-RPC while SOAP moves forward. But moving forward doesn't mean changing the spec, moving forward means writing validation suites to be sure our implementations are interoperable. All this work will pay off when SOAP gets to the level of maturity that XML-RPC is at today, which could be quite soon based on the conversations we had with IBM's SOAP engineers over the last two days. In the meantime I want to be sure that XML-RPC remains a viable option. This is the prudent thing to do.

BTW, BOF stands for Birds of a Feather, which is an informal gathering of people with similar interests. I see that WWDC has BOFs now, they didn't when I was going. They're good ideas. This BOF was only announced on the Web (someone took down my posting on the bulletin board in Amsterdam). The Web is powerful. I wonder where else we could have a well-attended BOF on such short notice.

The shakedown session

The XML protocols shakedown session was interesting, for the most part. There were a lot of statements to the effect that it should be done slowly, of course I said "Let's go now!" It's going to take a couple of days to process this event, we'll have another opportunity to discuss this stuff on Friday during the half-day distributed computing track.

Morning Notes

Welcome to Day 3 at WWW9. The shift key still doesn't work reliably, and we're still nine hours ahead of California, and my body still realizes it. The heatwave broke, it's actually chilly this morning, a welcome relief from the heat and humidity.

I went for a long walk yesterday afternoon thinking about today's panel, where I'll discuss the future of XML over HTTP, with people from Microsoft, IBM, Sun, and Ken MacLeod.

Talked with Michael Condry of Sun yesterday, and there doesn't seem to be any budge. My hopes are dashed! Oh well. Plan B is to build strong SOAP support in Java, and connect it up to EJB, so that Java can connect to everything in the SOAP world, the theory being that it will do such great things for Sun and Java that they'll eventually have to love it.

Went to dinner last night with people from Allaire and IBM (Andre was there too) to talk about very technical implementation details. Went to a cheesy Indonesian restaurant in Rembrandt Plain, then walked through the red light district and ended in a coffee shop on Dam Square. Didn't get in until 1:30AM, now it's 8:30, drinking coffee and trying to get awake so I can hold my own amidst the most intense industry politics I've ever been involved in.

Late Night Software: Script Debugger 2.0.

The SOAP story

So far the SOAP story has been pretty hard for users, reporters and analysts to understand, because we haven't expressed it in terms that make sense to them. I want to be sure that before everyone becomes immersed in Microsoft's vision for connected web apps that the rest of the industry has a chance to grab the opportunity to create a distributed multi-vendor network of connected apps. This is a lot like the vision we had for connected Macintosh apps in the late 80s and early 90s; and Microsoft's vision for COM and DCOM (same time period) with the key difference that it's not bound to any operating system or language, since it builds on the standards of the Internet, HTTP and XML.

Therefore my pitch for SOAP is pretty simple. We want to connect to Web Apps made by other developers. My two examples are the web-based search engine and spell checker. Simple first apps, no-brainers, easily monetized, and areas where user choice is essential. Imagine that a British writer might want to use a different spell-checker from an American writer. Makes sense? And a just-in-time search engine, an interface between the big SEs and the big CMSs. Every site is searchable. Build a relationship with the most innovative web writers. Only index the content, not the template. And do it in real-time, not based on a crawl. When a page changes it's re-indexed immediately, not some time in the future.

Search engines and spell checkers are user-oriented things, therefore should help users understand the value of technology that connects their writing to essential network services.

Scripting News/EditThisPage BOF

Happily, there are quite a few ETP users here. Looks like all the linking I did on xml-dev created a few converts. To me this is the biggest satisfaction, it's just like in the old days when I'd run into ThinkTank and MORE users at industry events. Manila is just like those products, it's for writers, and their feature requests are intelligent and literate, because they're intelligent people and they know how to express themselves.

I'm so bad with names! Yesterday, talking at the cocktail party with David Singer of IBM (I hope that's really his name) he has a Manila site and a list of requests, the last being "Let's have a dinner." So I went into the computer room and posted a notice of the dinner tonight.

"If you're at WWW9 come to the Scripting News/EditThisPage BOF/Dinner, 7:30PM Wednesday, meet outside the auditorium."

On arriving back at the party, Sally Khudari takes me aside and asks if I want to have dinner with Tim Berners-Lee tonight. Oy! I said I wish I could, but my users come first. People tell me that TBL would be in total agreement with what I say. I want to meet him, if only to shake his hand and thank him for creating the World Wide Web. I still hope to get that chance.


If you're in Amsterdam and want to join us but are not at WWW9, please come! The auditorium is part of the RAI, in the Congresscentrum complex. Shouldn't be too hard for an Amsterdamer to find (this Californian found it).

Next stop Italy?

Today's Wednesday. Tomorrow I'm having drinks with Adam Curry, who's an Amsterdam resident once again (this is where he comes from). I want to talk with him about the music business and see if there's something postitive we can do to create an environment where one or more music companies is comfortable meeting the culture and technology of the Web.

And on Friday we'll speak more about distributed computing with XML over HTTP and then my responsibilities to the industry are over, and I have a week to explore Europe, do interesting things, and see sights that I've only heard about.

I've never been to Italy. I think now may be the time. I want to see antiquities and ruins and art, and go swimming, and eat real Italian food and see if the Italian women are as beautiful as I hear they are. Where should I go? Where should I stay? This is the open travel agency. Could we do an impromptu ManilaPalooza in Italy? I could probably make a stop in Germany too.

Part of me wishes I had an itinerary all set. That's the part of me that's still in jetlag mode. The part of me that's in Europe is excited. 'Let's take a train!" I say to my inner child. "Will it be safe?" he asks. "It's just like New York," I say. (Knowing this is a bit of a white lie, but not too far from the truth.)

Sprezzatura: Go to Italy.

The role of Scripting News

Final notes, written at 3AM in Europe, 6PMish in California.

This has been an incredible week, the role that Scripting News plays is hard to underestimate. It's probably why I was on the shakedown panel, and it's also probably why I am in the middle of what I think is one of the most interesting technology stories of my career.

I'm in the increasingly less-awkward role of being both a participant and a reporter. I think that's what makes this site interesting, it's what makes all weblogs interesting. This is what the New Economy is about to me. An open-ness to your thinking process. Welcoming other people in. Creating value by inclusion, and using that to help perpetuate the process. No lines between reportage and politics, a routing-around of the stubbornness of the business and technology press to stick to their well-rehearsed stories.

Doing background work for today's writing I did a search on News.Com for UserLand and came up with nothing. A search for SOAP turned up lots of hits, promoting companies whose commitment and contribution to SOAP were smaller and more short-lived than UserLand's. How am I supposed to interpret this? I hope it's a route-around, closed-mindedness in the press, that creates opportunities to tell a story they won't tell.

All people who participate in open development processes will someday have weblogs. How do I know this? Because it vastly amplifies your effectiveness. What do you give up by running one? As long as you allow for off the record conversations, nothing. And in an open process how many conversations require it? Ideally none. If the technologies we're deciding on are as revolutionary as some think they are, don't we want to leave a trail behind of our thought processes, and when connections were made and how they came about?

I'm happy with this way of working, and I hope others do the same.


Last update: Wednesday, May 17, 2000 at 6:27 PM Eastern.

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