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Reporting Crime is all about Insurance Claims – Damn !! March 26, 2006

Posted by poseidongroove in Mashup SOA, Police/Crime, Politics, Spark, Weblogs.
2 comments

I'd already written most of the post I wanted to publish this week as a draft email in my in-box. I often do this as I commute to work on the train. Most of my blog entries often start like this. Unfortunately, my laptop, PSP and a few games were stolen in a pub a few days ago.

When you loose something as personal as a laptop, it takes time to realise how much our life revolves around technology. The last major back up I did of my laptop wasn't that long ago but I still lost about three weeks personal work. I don't think I lost any company related work which is good. It has disrupted how I organise my day. I usually commute to work listening to podcasts on the PSP or stuff to keep the mind ticking along. I've also lost my most recent game saves on the PSP.

So the Falcon pub, Clapham Junction where the incident occurred, Victor and I were directly under a CCTV camera. I thought okay, at least the police will be able to nail the thief. I went straight to report the incident within 10 min's. When I got there, the policeman taking notes wasn't really interested nor did he give me any encouragements that the case will be looked at.

Two days later, I rang the police, "guys have you checked the CCTV yet", oh no, we're busy with other stuff. I was really livid. I then asked the policeman a question. Where is the incentive for citizens to report crime when you're doing this. I thought the whole idea of what I was doing was helping prevent crime by someone viewing the CCTV to prevent this guy re-offending. According to the pub landlady, the recording is very clear as we were sitting directly under the camera. She was just as frustrated as you can imagine, it's giving her pub a bad name.
The police reacted and promised to look at the case, I've not heard back from them since then and don't really expect to. I've told my insurance company. It seems reporting a crime is simply about paper work for insurance claims. What a bloody pain. I'll think twice before reporting a crime again.

My laptop bag containing my passport was found by the manager of Levante Lebanese Wine Bar, Foods in the trash bin in front of his house. Apparently, whoever, put it there did so in a hurry under a few cardboard boxes. I guess, I should count myself fortunate, my passport, keys, bank details and other stuff were still in the bag !!

I planned to write about Dynamic languages today but will have to do this later.

Before, I stop, there is a very interesting post by Phil Wainewright here at looselycoupled

The one about "What will spark ignite" It seems finally people including Microsoft are starting to see beyond the whole web 2.0 and focusing on the practical implications as I've been suggesting. Of course, I'll not make all my ideas public just yet. One person I know personally involved in Sparks is Richard Veryard. I worked with Richard at Texas Instruments. At least, I know he's good at seeing beyond the hype.

So Mr Thief, if you think you and your eBay friends have taken away my most valueable. Think again. I've got my brain and all the content is spread across cyber space. I just need to assemble things again. Thanks to box.net, mindshare, del.icio.us and Wizz RSS, It doesn't take that long to get back to where I was. A lesson for everyone. Alway use offline backup. 

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Stuff I’m Working On, Mash-UP SOA for the Intention Economy March 17, 2006

Posted by poseidongroove in Apple, Chaos, Collaboration, e-WorkPlace, Edge Thinking, ESB, eWorkPlace, Graveyard Portal, iTunes, Mashup, Mashup SOA, Microsoft, SOA, Social Software, Web Services, Weblogs.
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I feel vindicated that Ray Ozzie was on the Gillmor Gang articulating some of what I’ve been saying again, on the Gillmor Gang (WIKICalc Gang) that there is value in Web 2.0 beyond media content, Podcasts and shared calendars. A full expose on this will come later, been reading Doc Searls article here on Intention Economy Great read. It’s pretty much describing some of the ideas I’ve been working on and articulating, it’s called Collaborative Services Description Language – I’ll describe it as an extension to Web Services Description Language and BPEL. However, CSDL goes beyond mere description of network services and simply wiring plain old business processes in a sequence for execution. If you’re wondering why not just use Business Process Execution Language, (BPEL) It’s because we need to get away from the straight-jacket of Business Processes described only in the context of IT Users alone and UDDI directories and allow for web mash-ups by real users to happily co-exist with business applications that have a social context of use. So maybe we extend BPEL !!! As long as your grandma can interact with it, that’s okay!

Think of a software agent that’s using underlying messaging workflows and rules engine on an ESB to connect multiple websites together to fulfil a composite transaction. So a Super Paypal might be the one that mediates the payment between intermediate sites that are part of this multi-step transaction.

So CSDL from an architecture perspective describes discrete events and services that any end user can easily orchestrate from a SOA or Mash-Up perspective, the important thing here is you allow chaotic services to happily co-exist with Business Processes. Loosen up that nasty straight jacket in Enterprise Applications which is really engineering user disconnect from enterprise applications. The most important thing is that some recognisable icon needs to exist to allow users interact with services in a fool proof manner from their browser. This icon, like the RSS feed icon that you, the end user can configure a personal agent. Okay, we’ve got enough acronyms to worry about, the important things is let’s provide a standard way of doing it.

For example, find me the cheapest multi stop flight to Hawaii from Paris, Book a Sea View room at my stop over hotel in Florida, Create a Watch List Agent that notifies me of any location on my specified route where I can watch Bon Jovi live or similar bands from liveplasma This mash-up spans a typical user browse session. In fact, it could be saved as a “Personal Holiday Agent” that other’s can clone or consume for a Service Bookmark Site!!! Imagine, this can complement the Lonely Planet Guides; you can just clone the experience. This is possible using Enterprise Service Buses with their messaging capability and routing capabilities but we need to build interaction services on top of them to make them useable. So where the money exists on the Web is not Attention Economy, it’s the Intention Economy, we’ll happily part with our hard earned cash if anyone can give you an experience or service that can take the burden off you !

  • The browser UI Interaction can be completely written in
    AJAX whatever given the interactive nature of these services,
  • Provide for a standard interface that describes these first class objects and their properties Forums, WIKIs, Blogs, Documents, Media Content, a Tag-able Content from an abstract perspective, therefore, If company a ships over the wire a WIKI objects and all it’s properties from IBM to MSOFT, Oracle or BEA’s collaboration platform, the stuff is created without any problem,
  • Give semantic meaning to user interaction/transactions in a social network context, as well as making it meaningful to computers and competing social networking or collaborative platforms,
  • Provide a unified social networking services or so called mash-up SOA,
  • Allow different platforms to exchange collaborative data/services in a structured manner,
  • Combine SOA Services and Social Network Services(Web 2.0) transparently from an end user perspective,
  • The primary aim of CSDL is to provide a means to unify the semantic web and provide a Create, Read, Update and Delete invocation mechanism in XML
  • Enable a standard metaphor to organise bazaar applications,

So whilst everyone is focussing on Apple and iTunes, calendars, Digg, Newsvine, and Flikr. They’re really missing the whole point. Web 2.0 is the first time we really made an effort to empower end users, yet everyone is wetting themselves on shared calendars. Its companies and services that provide a compelling service and infrastructure around helping us spend our money in a way we feel good those are the real winners in this new world.

I thought, I’d have time to walk through the XML Schema tonight, However, I’m struggling to stay awake now. Will post later. Goodnight.

Architecting e-WorkPlace Applications for Participation March 10, 2006

Posted by poseidongroove in Bazaar, Chaos, Collaboration, e-WorkPlace, Edge Thinking, eMail Management, eWorkPlace, Mashup, Mashup SOA, SalesForce, SOA, Social Software, Web Services.
2 comments

I’ve had a very busy last few weeks practising what I preach. Before I launch into my muse, a friend asked me why I don’t go deep and dirty into technical details on the blog. If anyone else is wondering, it’s because I also have a business audience trying to understand our thought process as it relates to application design, expressed in a way they can grasp(Even though sometimes, I forget about this). So I’ve been integrating Salesforce.com into a Global Marketing Collaborative WorkSpace for an Investment Bank in the City.
In summary, the sales guys use salesforce.com to create sales opportunities on the road with multiple devices, (Micro View). Managers and sales support team use their Global Marketing Collaborative team rooms to review, approve and discuss the macro issues related to each specific marketing request (behind the corporate firewall).
The integration piece is relatively straight-forward, I call it “Right Coupling” Salesforce generates an email of the captured opportunity in simple xml tag name value pair format as each request is being created.

Each unique request is sent by email to a specific context in the Global Marketing Workspace. The context, in each case, is a regional dashboard of Marketing Requests RFP e.g. Japan. A Jython scripting event is subscribed to each context listening for incoming emails. The event is simply a “Search Agent” looking for anything that matches specified criteria.
The Jython event picks up the incoming XML name value pair metadata in the email and creates a team room for that specific opportunity using the values in the email as attributes.
The team room includes a discussion forum, document templates and task list. All cases are viewable in a dashboard. They can be sorted/filtered by status and whatever else anyone fancies.
This simple integration solves a problem most companies might be facing today when faced with integrating several applications that on the surface have similar features. As an architect, you need to pay attention to the following:-

  • Context of Use – What categories of users love using a particular application and why? You simply can’t implement new technology for technology sake. It also applies to design patterns. If email is sufficient use it.
  • Macro/Micro View – It’s important to appreciate where detail and summary information needs to reside. In this case, it was obvious that it needed to be in SalesForce.com The managers only need access to summary dashboards, sales support need access to emails, tasks, documents and everything else related to the case.
  • Confidentiality – Even though On Demand platforms are brilliant at what they do, there is a segregation of duty between externally hosted applications and internal applications. In the case of banks and pharmaceutical, it’s easy to tell what belongs where.
  • Creating a Context for Exception Management – Very few companies pay attention to exception management when implementing applications. This is where the most value is created and significant knowledge about process exists. A collaborative environment is better suited for managing the conversation thread around any exception that relates to that opportunity. Think of forums, WIKI, and Document Templates Library.

Why am I writing about this? I’m a big fan of top heavy command and control architecture, reference architecture name it as James McGovern described it in a recent post. However, what I’ve come to appreciate in my entire career in IT is that creating an inclusiveness culture in application design invariably makes them pervasive. You will quickly realise a return on your investments in these assets. I’m not talking about machines when I say assets, I mean people. People in companies increase the value of the brands. You need their collective assets, Organisational Memory to give meaning to your business. It therefore follows that you need to architect for participation. An environment where thoughts and ideas can flow sits comfortably with command and control applications such as ERPs, CRMs and Sales Force Applications.
For this customer, it would have been easy to say use an ESB/Web Services/SOA whatever to mediate the messaging between the two platforms however, as with everything else in our sphere of work, a pragmatic approach might often be a better approach. It’s also possible that the customer wants to move to a more secure alternative that assures guaranteed message delivery.
Everyone including moi knocks emails. As you can see in this example, email is not only a powerful medium of communication; it’s also a low cost and effective integration mechanism.
When architecting enterprise applications, think about barriers of entry for end users. User adoption and user participation invariably decide how pervasive any application is. Our mission now is to take SOA beyond UDDI directories to become browser icons. My next post is on Collaborative Services Description Language. (CSDL) an idea I’ve been working on that I believe will enable end users to compose and orchestrate services from their favourite applications. (At least that is the hope). I would also call it a unified service interface for social networking. AKA mash up SOA!

Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up Approaches To SOA. No! There is a Third Way. February 24, 2006

Posted by poseidongroove in Bazaar, Chaos, Collaboration, e-WorkPlace, Edge Thinking, ESB, eWorkPlace, Graveyard Portal, Mashup, Mashup SOA, SOA, Social Software, Web Services.
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I was passed a link to a Gartner Report report (Sorry you need to have an account to view the report) recently by my CEO, Dan French. The Gartner article claims there is a process war being waged by a “Top-Down Brigade” who are process centric, that see SOA as a framework that underpins the notion of representing business processes in composite applications, that access functionality decomposed into a set of services. The other group, “Bottom-Up” camp are essentially the integration brigade. They see SOA as an improved way for creating interfaces between application. I think I’ll describe this category as adaptive vendors or companies that started off flogging EDI, EAI, Web Services technologies. You might also include Application Server Vendors trying to move up the food chain with so called Enterprise Service Buses.

The article also goes on to compare the two camps as the battle between the purist versus the pragmatist, the value generator versus the cost saver and the Business Evangelist vs IT implementer.

Even though the two camps have good points they still don’t get what SOA really means. Rearranging the Powerpoint Diagram is not enough. I have to take anything Gartner says with a pinch of salt. I don’t respect any company or bunch of analyst for that matter that constantly rig their reports based on which vendor pays the most tip. If they don’t rig or be easily swayed by particular vendors, how the hell does a bunch of unrelated APIs by any vendor suddenly become Enterprise Service Bus or Enterprise Content Management Hence, I call it the “Magic Quadrant Syndrome” I’m glad I’m not the only one that is suspicious of Gartner, James Governor has also bemoaned the problem caused by groups like Gartner and their “hommie” relationship with vendors. If you want any evidence of rigging, checkout this post and the threaded comments from a few years ago. Funny enough, I think the most lucrative job in IT might be Vendor Qualification and RFP/RFI Consulting. I think I’ve decided to go into this line of work!

The challenge that is facing us today is missing in this whole arguement. Where is the third way? I’ll repeat this again. Until SOA grafts on collaborative social networking services it’s going to stay in IT. Hard core processes locked into SAP, Siebel, PeopleSoft are meaningless. The word process drives me nuts. Even when they’re broken we persist with them. No wonder creativity is dying in organisations today.

SOA needs to bring that mash up revolution outside the firewall inside the enterprise and into our homes !!!. The Process Brigade need a social context. e.g. make mash ups become services in SOA, The fact that an activity is undefineable doesn’t mean it can’t be called a process. If you’re looking for good examples, you only need to look at Government Department IT Projects. Total waste of our taxes. There is no real process in government departments. All they really manage is exceptions. How can an exception become a process. You’re more likely to need to converse with a human being somehow to resolve most exceptions. The Bottom Up Brigade need to recognise that Integration for it’s sake is useless unless the integration brigade delivers the services into pervasive end user technologies forget it. A possible reference platform for this mash up is already out there checkout ServiceMix Talk about being Open Source and built from ground up to be Service Oriented. A word of caution, just like App Servers were plumbing so are platforms like ServiceMix. However, the potential exists to build something pervasive on such an open platform. My ideal reference services architecture looks like this. I think this is a starting point.

nextgen-eWorkPlace.GIF

Next Generation Services Reference Architecture

Here’s a checklist of the Third Way:-

  • Focus on Context of Pervasive Use not UDDI, RSS didn’t become useful overnight. It wasn’t until the word didn’t matter that it had a context of use.
  • End User Presentation Services will drive adoption of SOA technologies. How? By infiltrating everything they do at play, at school and at work.
  • Manage Chaos. Social Software and Mash-up needs horizontal and transparent means of control especially behind the corporate firewall. Remember, there can be Order in Chaos. SOA can be just that. If you focus on what people can’t do you’ve already lost the battle.
  • Build Trust not suspicion, Security Groups in Enterprise IT are out of control. They’re stifling innovation.
  • The word SOA Governance in SOA is being abused. So is the word compliance!
  • Aggregation Services are not as useful as they seem. If they were useful enterprise portals will not be Graveyard Portals today behind your company firewall.
  • Focus on multiple channels of interaction, e.g. email, fax, sms, etc can be service oriented as well. If I can orchestrate in Blackberry or iTunes you’re on to a winner.
  • Mash Up SOA needs an appropriate orchestration language similar to RSS, Something users can click on, browsers can orchestrate, what ever, I call it Collaborative Services Descriptive Language. (CSDL) a possible combination might be a more useful version of BPEL, I’m not comfortable with all the implementation examples I’ve seen so far because it’s not expressed in a typical grandma Josie or Uncle Harry’s context of use.
  • Uncle Harry, for example would like to create a multi step mash up service that monitors the cheapest and best locations based on specified criteria for his next cruise holiday. Think about car hire, guide, villa, golf, flights etc. These types of service need to be available for end users. Not some lonely sandal brigade UDDI Flunkey kicking tyres at an Order Process Orchestration!!!.
  • If you can’t affect the price of fish forget it. Metaphorically speaking.
  • I passionately believe in the vision above hence, I’m diligently going to pursue this vision with or without any help until I see it come to pass.
  • We need a Mash Up SOA Icon like the Universal RSS Icon, The RSS icon now easily recognisable, SOA needs to become like that!!!

Epistemic Arrogance – Opportunities and Threats in Software Development February 10, 2006

Posted by poseidongroove in Absolutism, Chaos, Collaboration, e-WorkPlace, Edge Thinking, ESB, eWorkPlace, Graveyard Portal, Magic Quadrant Syndrome, Mashup, Mashup SOA, Social Software, Web Services.
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It’s not often you listen to a podcast two or more times except, it’s a music mix. I found myself replaying an excellent podcast by Nassim Nicholas Taleb titled What Do We Know – The Scandal of Prediction from the IT Conversations Feed. I listened to the podcast several times today as it brings to the fore something I often remind myself. We’re prone to making assumptions and are more conservative than we’re prepared to admit in the software business.

I like to ask myself frequently what do I not know? What I don’t know now might be relevant in affecting a significant change in my design pattern or an accepted architectural orthodoxy. Therefore, I cannot make a prediction that what I know now is the only and best answer for the problem. I guess, that’s why I’m not hung up on any specific software platform. It’s also meant, I’ve worked on several platforms in my career. We can’t afford to be arrogant about what we think we know.

Once, we’ve come up with a design pattern or architecture, we think job done and there’s not much else to add. The edge thinkers are more or less excluded once the mainstream conventional thinkers have had their say. It’s this predictability that makes the Magic Quadrant by Gartner and such likes a bore. Once Fortune 500 companies have looked at it and decided the supplier based on analyst predictions end of story, innovation isn’t coming from anywhere else.

The freshest thing about the social networking phenomenon is the ease with which ideas can be shared, learned and debated. I’ve never known a time when application development was such an innovative activity. As an Architect that specialises in Collaborative Technologies and Web Applications Development it’s fascinating to see that finally, we can eliminate the “limits of scale” of organisational intelligence as described by Tom Gruber the inventor of Intraspect now owned by Vignette.

It’s with this in mind that the edge part of my brain didn’t like Web 2.0 and SOA as mutually exclusive technologies or what ever you wish to call them. The collaborative part of my brain and the Enterprise Architecture part tell me that SOA is meaningless unless it has a social context and is a means to this social end. That end is as a consumable service beyond UDDI Directory to end user at home and at work in anything from cars to Media Players.

Social Networks are viral. SOA can become viral and useful in an organisational and Web 2.0 context. I’ve been working on an Idea I can only describe here as the Collaborative Services Description Language (CSDL). I’ll develop this in another post. There is a fantastic opportunity for IT to finally become a “necessary good”.

SOA must become pervasive. Our conventional thinking right now means we’re building Enterprise Service Buses expecting UDDI to be relevant beyond the IT department. I think not. Right now, were building or thinking more of hard core business processes. Very little attention is paid to exceptions to the process. These classes of activities that fall through the design crack are actually the ones we need to be conscious of the most. They are the ones that end users will most benefit from. It’s also where the social context exists. They are very coarse grained e.g. Dispute Resolution Team Room between suppliers, an Ideas Generation, Document Approval Process, Brand Management, Drugs Discovery, etc.

These class of processes are not best served by hard edged SAP, eCRM type applications such as salesforce.com, it’s only possible to create such applications using a class of platforms that have agile written all over them.

Would it not be nice if we had a common language that allows Business Processes and Collaborative Work Processes to be orchestrable and re-useable regardless of CRM, ERP Platforms. This means, a create Team Room or Document Approval Request can be propagated from SAP to the e-WorkPlace application bundling the meta data associated with the request, an event message to the SIP compliant platform, a bunch of documents and video files associated with for example, an Invoice in Dispute into an RSS Feed. SOA patterns sometimes describes it as Workflow Automation. I think this is a cop out. Oh It’s too amophorous lets leave it out !!

Folks lets stop the bigoted arrogance of our conventional thinking, we got work to do.