Ted Leung on the air
Ted Leung on the air: Open Source, Java, Python, and ...
Thu, 22 May 2003
"It's all about being the McDonald's of Software"
Dare Obasanjo provided the title for this post. Please remember that Dare works for Microsoft, so that automatically makes him evil ;-).

Last night's blogger gathering at Crossroads was about a quarter the size of the previous one. It was probably not publicized that well. At least that's the impression I got from talking some of the folks there tonight. There also may have been some competition from the monthly Seattle blogger meetup mentioned at seablogs (go look at the site -- there's a great map of Seattle and blogger locations, and the map is even big enough to show little old me out to the west on Bainbridge Island.

Lack of quantity doensn't imply lack of quality. I got a chance to spend a bunch of time with people that I didn't get to talk to at the last gathering.

Joshua Allen and I were the first to arrive. Joshua brought his 2 year old daughter Megan to the gathering. Here's her picture (Hi Megan).


Joshua and I talked about kids and speaking Chinese. His wife is Chinese, while my wife is Caucasian (I'm "Chinese American" or whatever the latest PC term is). I also learned that Joshua and Dare are the PM's for the core XML support in .NET. Joshua and I didn't talk much about that, but Dare and I sure did. He also related a few of his adventures as one of the first Microsoft bloggers.

Dare was the next to arrive. We spent some time talking about RSS Bandit, the history of how it came to be, the things that need to be done, as well as feature requests. I believe that RSS Bandit is the aggregator to watch. Why do I say this? Dare and Torsten are almost at feature parity with SharpReader. There are two of them (plus a few kibitzers) while there is only one of Luke. The RSS Bandit sources are on gotdotnet.com. The SharpReader sources are nowhere, although Luke is planning to open source SharpReader soon. Unless that happens soon, Dare, Torsten, and crew are going to pick up the people who are interested in hacking on an aggregator. It will be interesting to see what happens with this.

After we got done with RSS Bandit, the discussion turned to XML. I enjoyed this conversation immensely. Dare and Joshua are doing the same stuff for .NET that I was doing for XML parsing in Java. It was very interesting to see that our opinions have developed independently, but are quite similar: we both think that SAX and DOM are bad API's for XML. As I've posted before I think that the pull based readers that are in .NET are very nice. We also both hate XML Schema. I was astonished to find that the Microsoft Schema WG reps were also not part of the dev team working on the parser. This was also true when I was working on XML Schema at IBM. We'll all be paying for this in the years to come. Both of us share a disillusionment with and suspicion of the W3C and standardization processes in general. As a take off on this, I explained my frustration with the JCP and offered my "let a thousand flowers bloom, and the best will remain" theory of how we can let open source do what standardization has failed at. One of Dare's replies was basically that he's grateful for the JCP because it's slowing Java so that .NET can catch up (I think his actual words were something like "Every day I pray that Sun will last one more year"). Actually, if you look at the XMLReader stuff and the XPathNavigator and ObjectXPathNavigator stuff, it looks to me like Microsoft is passing Java, not catching up. I don't know if this is happening in other places in the platform, but its definitely happening in the XML core. It gets worse too. Erik Meijer is a part of Dare's team, and has written a very interesting paper on how to integrate relational tables and XML into C#. If this work actually makes it in to C#, its going to make a monkey out of Java. In order for this stuff to make it into Java, there'd have to be a JSR for it, and by the time that got finished, I might be a grandparent. If Sun doesn't open up Java in a way that allows it to match innovations at the same velocity as C# and CLR, then Java is going to be in trouble. All this talk of Sun stewarding Java is going to result in a platform that can't compete with C#. And that's *before* Mono gets into the act.

One last tidbit from my conversations with Dare. Somewhere in there we got talking about open source, and Dare mentioned the infamous Dave Stutz memo. He said that one of the things that resonated with him was the idea that the world is moving to a loosely coupled, component style of usage, while a big part of the Microsoft value proposition is integration. Dare was talking about the length of time it takes to do a release at Microsoft. The fully integrated value proposition means that MS releases infrequently, because it takes time to do a good job of building a fully integrated product. The open source / loosely coupled model allows the release early / release often style of development that allows the developers to get feedback and steer the development of the product in much smaller time intervals. Dare's working on API's and he get a chance once every 18mos-2yrs to deliver something based on the feedback that he got on the previous iteration of his product. This is like the difference between Agile and Heavyweight processes. The ability to steer and react quickly is important. In fairness, I should point out that Sun has been following a similar pattern with Java and J2EE. While in principle the various pieces of J2SE and J2EE are described by independent JSRs, they are usually not delivered independently. So Sun is also suffering from an inability to react quickly.

Simon Phipps was the other non-MS blogger at this one. I didn't get to talk to him much -- he was talking with Robert Scoble and John Porcaro about blogs, community and publishing. He was toting a Titanium powerbook, though. Last time I saw him (at ApacheCon) he was toting a recently kaput Windows XP box (I think). Since it takes me so long to get to Bellevue I usually try to piggy back another activity on top of it. This time I took a trip out to the new Apple Store in Bellevue that everyone's been writing about. I hadn't had the chance to go into one before and I was curious. I looked at the PowerBook G4's, since I'm in the market for a laptop. The 17" PowerBook is just too big for me. I know from experience that a 6lb machine is the limit of what my body can schlep around for any period of time. The 12" PowerBook was too hot. Literally. I think I was getting burned. The 15" Powerbook was just right, but I still can't get over the Carbon layer thing (it not being open source, that is). So I guess I'll probably get another Intel based laptop. I also looked at the new iPods and the Bose noise reducing headphones. I wish there was a way to try out noise reduction headphones in your anticipated environment. They're too pricey to take risk on if they don't work, although they seemed to be doing a good job in store -- but I'd like to know how they work on crying babies. The iPod industrial design doesn't appeal to me at all. But the controls seemed functional, and 30GB is a lot of storage in a cigarette pack size.

Back to the blog party. Last but not least, I met Robert Scoble on the way out. Dare, Robert, and I stood outside of Crossroads for another hour and a half. Dare was giving Robert some advice and explaining how things work inside of Microsoft. I found this to be a very educational discussion.

[11:18] | [computers/internet/weblogs] | # | TB | F | G | 1 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post
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I work at the Open Source Applications Foundation (OSAF).
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