Monday, March 10, 2008

Google Sites 0-100 Test Drive

A couple of weeks ago I got some email from Google /a folks telling me what I wanted hear for a while. They announced Google Sites. I spent an hour tonight playing with a Test Site on

(hunny...that logo just happens to look like the dash of the 2005 Acura RSX I picked up in Maryland a couple weeks ago...just looks like it)

Last year as chief engineer in Sun Learning Services I pushed hard (to say it mildly) to lead Sun Services teams away from email world and a human transactive memory platform to Web 2.0. For a variety of reasons we selected Atlassian's Confluence. Confluence is a solid read+Write platform (though lacking in the user experience). We looked at many cloud services providing Enterprise 2.0 collaboration solutions including Ning but Ning's identity integration solution was absent (as I recall) still many features missing at the time. The latest personalized cloud service from Google really ties it all together and this first release is very impressive. Comparing it to Microsoft Sharepoint as some have is a failure to see the forest through the trees. If Google Sites team can deliver iterative improvements like we have seen with Google Docs (including APIs...please please please) I think that organizations may find a threshold of value that cannot be ignored - though GMail and Calendar and Docs should be enough. I say "may" because until Google /a can incorporate a workflow services into the cloud they will not be easing the majority of enterprise pain. I do hope I get an notification from Google /a by early of 2009 that they have a beta cloud service like Jira integrated as slick as Remember The Milk's uber hack of GMail. The Lists content object page type is too simplistic currently.
Both personal and have been on Google /a for a while. I tried to remain in the user experience of Google Pages for /a and it really was non-trivial to get something together for StevensFive in time for the Christmas card. While Google Sites does not let you use DHTML directly ("Unsafe HTML Tags") like object and script I still think that there is enough formatting features and sufficient templates so that you can have something looking good without dealing with your own DHTML. If there is something you need you can make your own Google Gadget and get a little farther with that.

In comparing with Confluence I think one of the best features in Google Sites are the Announcement content objects (site pages). This is the News diary/blog format in Confluence. One thing I like better about Google Sites is that you can create any number of Announcement/blog resources within a site. In Confluence you could have one News/blog per Space. Speaking of spaces, the "sites" (pural) in Google Sites is very similar to Spaces in Confluence as Jive's Clearspace. What I think is missing in Google Sites are some of the proven Enterprise Wiki Patterns including personal sites. There should be context reserved for people sites or a way to have sites indicated as being a person site. Dealing with this "who" dimension is essential. Another thing which can be easily improved are more Google Site specific widgets which can deal with intra and inter site aggregation. There are a few like an aggregator for recent announcements - but there cannot be enough of these. The only glaring issue I see is that lack of tagging - unless I totally missed it. Tagging is fundamental to resource metadata, searching and content aggregation. Really weird that tagging is missing.

Friday, March 07, 2008

New and Old

Is it a sign?

I just noticed this morning wait for the 8:04 R5 inbound this
interesting juxtaposition of new and old and it was thought provoking.
Could have been the caffeine too - in either case I think other
commuters thought it a little weird that I was taking a picture of the

What this picture shows is the very end of the new track installed by
Amtrak along the Mainline. You look East and you see the modern
concrete railroad ties and to the West you see the old wooden ties.

All day long I can't get the imagery out of my head. It seems like a
stark change yet I didn't notice it for a month. If you are seeing the
ties you see a difference. If you focus on the rail you see just a
uniform feature. I just noticed as I type this that the balast looks
different to the West - stained by preserative on the ties.

The ties are a foundation, an infrastructure to the rails - the rails
an infrastructure to the trains. The rails decouple the trains from
the ties. The rails are the same while the infrastructure has been
changed out. Is the new infrastructure an improvement? Heck yeah! I am
typing this at 100 Km per hour and that was impossible prior to the

When do you change infrastructure?

When do you change the implemention details?

Can you make the change at one layer while preserving certain existing

What is the cost and value of the infrastructure change?

This like this change I see.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Do not WISH for Apple TV

Surely Apple TV is just using YouTube GData APIs under the covers so
why would this not be working on my home network?

After a few hours with Apple Care support yesterday and an hour in the
insane Apple store in KOP Mall today after Costco grocery shopping, I
spent an hour browsing through the DI-624 and DIR-655 routers to see
WTF was up. I isolated the problem to be the inner subnet on the
DIR-655 (Costco special). During the Apple Care call, to be fair, the
front line guy suggested jacking the Apple TV into the hub with
Ethernet and ruling out the wireless. He was right and I shouldn't
have lazy just because I didn't have a long patch cable handy.

So there is this feature called WISH enabled by default on the
DIR-655. "WISH is short for Wireless Intelligent Stream Handling, a
technology developed to enhance your experience of using a wireless
network by prioritizing the traffic of different application"

Well I WISH the engineers at DLink were a little less aggressive maybe.

Disabled WISH on the DIR-655 and now StevensFive TV and all our Apple
DRM is online.

Apple TV Debugging

This is what didn't work on our Apple TV. Nothing under the YouTube
menu worked. Trying to hit public feeds like Favorites or Most Watched
and even Search failed. Attempting to login to StevensFive YouTube
account failed. While we could browse and preview all of iTunes
stores, we could not authenticate with our Apple IDs. Thus all DRM
music and movies were unavailable after syncing to local iTunes on
Vista box.

Yesterday I was three hours with Apple Care support through to support

Right now I am in the Apple Store in KOP Mall and they are trying to
reproduce on the LAN here. Identity is THE hardest nut to crack.
Still, it is quite odd that the public channels on YouTube were
offline especially when Flickr access was fine.

I don't know what will be worse having an explicit bug in Apple TV or
if I have some nuance with home LAN over the FiOS connection.

Walter is back. Seems like its my network problem. Good grief.

What a pain in the ass.