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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Going to Snapvine

I left Jobster last week, and am now working for Snapvine. Snapvine is a small, web 2.0 company - specializing in voice applications. Their most popular application right now is the VoicePlayer - a widget that goes on any web page that allows visitors to the site to call and leave messages and the message appear on the page. Instead of typing comments, you can leave audio for everyone to hear.

It's very popular for social networking sites, like MySpace or Bebo.

Snapvine's page on MySpace

The demographic of the Snapvine user tends to be younger, hipper, and more social than the average internet surfer.

The next generation has many differences than the current one, and it takes a little getting used to (if your older than 30). Here's a great article about Kids and their attitudes in the internet age.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Starfish and the Spider

Just finished another book - the Starfish and the Spider: the unstoppable power of leaderless organizations. The subtitle is a bit of a simplification - I think this book is really just more about the power of networks - they are more stable that centralized organizations. This topic is covered much better in other books - notably Mark Buchanan's book, Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Theory of Networks.

Even so, there were a few interesting tidbits - like how to fight a leaderless organization (like eMule). The benefits and problems associated with being one and how to find the middle ground to maximize profit - as Apple and Skype have done.

The UI of programming languages

I've started to run unit tests and functional tests in Ruby on Rails. This is a milestone. I haven't done much of this in the past - as this is usually a "core developer task", but I have found with Ruby, that many of the tasks that traditionally have been devided by Front-end and Core dev has become much blurrier. And, I found out I like writing test cases.

I am a pretty traditional front-end developer - HTML, Javascript, Scripting languages (JSP, ASP, PHP, XSLT), and CSS. Throw in Ajax and DHTML if you want to cut up the Javascript area further. But now, with Ruby on Rails - the ability to do the controller logic, model development, and TestCase development has opened it up so I can contribute at a much deeper level. I still don't get into the trickier SQL or performance issues, but it's clear to me that with Ruby on Rails, and specifically the improvement to the Application Developers User Interface that is writing code - it is easier to understand the process and to develop the application in a shorter period of time - that I am able to accomplish more where before I would have had to work with a core developer. I assume this is also true for the core-developer. With all the built in "helper" functions in RoR, it's very easy to make a web page look great and use all the latest Web 2.0 gadgets.

This is pretty interesting. Donald Norman's book "Things that make us smart" included examples of everyday tools that make you feel smart or powerful - like the calendar or road map.

The Ruby on Rails development environment has a similar effect. You just feel like you can do more, cover more ground, in a shorter period of time. I suspect this is similar to the feeling early Java developers got in 1995-1996 when Java started to be used for large-scale web applications.

I expect we'll go through another leap in usability in the future - maybe 10-12 years from now - one that will allow more people that want to, to create a web application. Putting this power in the hands of the artists and authors, skipping the developers, seems like the ultimate goal.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Stamps

39 cent stampI went to buy stamps today - 39 cents each. $7.80 for book of 20 and I wondered - why do the write .39 cents on the front of the stamp and lock it into a specific value? When I go to the post office, I think I'm buying the right to mail 20 first class letters when I buy 20 stamps. Shouldn't I always be able to mail a first class letter with one of those stamps? Or is it really just conveniently-sticky currency? I'll ask next time...

Multiple domains - one application

On Grovr - I recently implemented a feature I'm pretty happy about. I can now support multiple domains. Normally, this is pretty trivial, but I wanted the 'root' site to be tied to the domain. So all uplinks for any site within the domain would link "up" to the correct site and the root site would show the right site.

For examples of this check out http://www.grovr.com and http://www.flatball.com. Both point to the same ip address, but I look to see what the domain of the current request is, lookup that site (the object in the database) - if I find it, that becomes the root site. All other sites under this domain now link "up" to this site. Simple, but I can't say I've seen this anywhere before...

So - if you expand this out to it's ultimate conclusion - I should be able to host a significant portion of the internet (if not the whole thing) on grovr. All for $15 a month.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Urban Spoon

A nice restaurant directory site called Urban Spoon was created by a couple friends and ex-Jobster dudes. I visit it regularly and use it to look up good places for lunch or dinner.

The best thing about it - it's being made by just two guys - Ethan and Adam. With a low overhead and simple concept, they have a great chance of becoming self-sustaining quickly and becoming a valuable property. We've all heard the story about Plenty of Fish - a great example of a single individual creating a valuable property on the web. The future looks bright for small teams creating inovative, new ideas as well as competing against the larger, established companies. After all, once the concept is established and proven by a large company, it's trivial for a micro company to create something similar for a niche. Many times, it can be made better with the latest, more powerful, and less expensive tools.

For an individual (or two) with skills in development, design, and deployment, a whole new set of possibilities are opening up to compete and succeed on the web.