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The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

Archive for Web 2.0

Abandoning Chrome until it supports WSR

I use speech recognition a great deal – and I recently switched to Windows Speech Recognition on Vista.  And I’ve been using Chrome exclusively for Google Apps, because I think it offers superior performance for JavaScript apps.

Unfortunately, Chrome doesn’t support WSR.  According to Rob Chambers this would be easy for Google to do, and I suspect it is just an oversight on their part (both in terms of making their software more accessible as well as following Windows best practices).

Google:  when are you going to put the effort into this?  The Chrome 2.0 Beta doesn’t do it either.

Rob Chambers: how easy is this really?  You also said that Firefox does support WSR – maybe it does, but not in Google Docs.

So now, I’m using IE8.  Google Docs with WSR works great there.

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Quick Thoughts on the SDS Announcement

While the changes coming to SQL Data Services (SDS) are not exactly news, I wanted to weigh in on it.

I was familiar with SSDS before I knew anything about Red Dog Storage Azure Storage.  When I found out about the latter, my initial concern was that Microsoft would confuse developers by offering two overlapping services. Such overlap isn’t too surprising considering that these two projects came out of competing parts of Microsoft.  At the time, there was a pretty consistent message that SDS would someday support relational operations, but to me that meant they should  hold off on SDS until that day came.

Microsoft often offers multiple technologies to solve specific problems — often this is a result of legacy technologies — in this case it seemed a shame to start off with such overlap.

Because of all this, I am very happy to see this clear differentiation between the Azure and SDS services.  This is a good decision for Microsoft, Microsoft developers, and given the roadmap for SDS, an excellent decision for Microsoft’s enterprise customers.

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Facebook backs down

Yesterday I posted about the change in Facebook’s TOS.  I thought they might back down, but I didn’t think it would be this fast.

The old terms are back in effect: delete your account and so goes your data.

A minor success for users everywhere – even those who don’t think this stuff matters.

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User-beware of Facebook

Plenty of people are up in arms about the recent Facebook TOS change. 

The change?  Before Facebook relinquished their rights to your data if you deleted your account.  Now they don’t. 

I don’t have a problem with this new policy.  I do have a problem with the new part.

Of course, I’m not arguing whether Facebook can legally make this change, but it does violate their user contract.  I’m not talking about a legal TOS, but of an understanding with their users.  What is the problem?

  • Facebook has just asserted ownership to something that they didn’t claim ownership to before.  And this isn’t future data, this is past data.  Data you already contributed to Facebook with an understanding that they wouldn’t keep it.

This is another example of what I call the user-beware contract – where the TOS can change at any time without notification. 

So, what is the user-aware way to make such a change?

  • Maintain their old policy for data in Facebook before the change.  This bifurcates user data between before and after the policy. Delete your account?  Old data goes away, new data does not.

OK, but this is still a user-beware contract.  What else should they do?

  • Require users to opt-in to the new policy.  If they opt out, either delete them or let them continue the old policy.

I’m sure Facebookians (and any one hosting a large service) is rolling their eyes at this point.  But just because being user-aware is inconvenient doesn’t make it infeasible.

And a shout out to Ned Sykes for prompting this post: no, I’m not concerned about Facebook stealing my tweets, but as a voice in user rights, I am interested in promoting TOS that are pro user.

BTW: The user-beware/user-aware terms are defined in my post User Contracts – Part II: User Beware.

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Live Writer 14.0.8064.206

I just recommended the new Live Writer for having a “check for updates” feature, but apparently that feature didn’t work.  From Joe Cheng of Microsoft:

Well… this is embarrassing. We just released an update that’s newer than 14.0.8050.1202. One of the two bugs it fixes, is that our “Check for updates” mechanism broke irrevocably in 14.0.8050.1202 and earlier builds. :(

If you download the new version from then “Check for updates” will work again. Sorry for the inconvenience!

So, if you aren’t at least at version 14.0.8064.206, then you should upgrade again.

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Live Writer 14.0.8050.1202

livewriteraboutI just upgraded to the latest Windows Live Writer. 

It looks better and now it renders my blog template correctly.  Maybe there are more features I’m missing.

It is worth upgrading it just to get the “Check for updates” feature.  So you never again have to figure out how to upgrade it (see Jim’s rant here: Sighcrosoft – Why Can’t I Just Love Live Writer Without Confusion?).

Strangely enough, its now easy to upgrade here:

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Voting for the OpenID Board voting closing on Christmas Eve, there is just over a week left to vote for the OpenID board.  Personally, I have been meaning to join the OpenID foundation for some time.  Having the opportunity to vote for the incoming board pushed me to finally do it.

Although I really like OpenID, I am critical of it.  Why?  Because trust is not baked-in. 

This makes it hard for a Relying Party (RP) to determine if an OpenID comes from a trustworthy Identity Provider (IP).  I believe this is the fundamental roadblock to the big services becoming RPs.  My eyes roll to the back of my head whenever I hear users criticize services for not accepting arbitrary OpenIDs. (More here: OpenID and the Relying Party Patchwork).

This roadblock is a problem for the OpenID technologists to solve. 

The confused users is another problem altogether.  While I am a bit skeptical of the motives behind demanding OpenID adoption without solving this trust problem first, OpenID does have a real problem with an inaccurate market perception. 

So, I decided to vote.  There are 17 nominees and each member gets 7 votes.  I have not decided who I will vote for, but my votes will go to those who see these as top priorities of the foundation.  I am mainly basing my votes on the candidate statements ( for members).  If you aren’t a member, you can see the complete list of nominees at ReadWriteWeb

Tentatively, here are my yes votes . . .

  • Nat Sakimura:  He lists Trust relationship and reputation as barriers to adoption.
  • David Recordon:  Unfortunately, aside from his obvious credentials he doesn’t say what he thinks are important for the foundation.  He has probably written this elsewhere — I’ll have move past his statement.
  • Same for Joseph Smarr and Scott Kveton
  • Johannes Ernst: He talks about “mainstream sites” and relying parties, not just users.
  • Chris Messina:  I respect his work and certainly like what he says about usability — he doesn’t mention relying parties though.

What am I missing (besides a 7th vote)?  Am I wrong about the priorities?  Should my votes go elsewhere? 

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Upgrade to WordPress 2.7

Love the new administrative interface.  Much cleaner and more configurable.

And I’m happy to say that the OpenID plugin finally works for me.  I don’t know why it started working, but I’m not complaining.

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Microsoft Windows Azure

imageMicrosoft’s long awaited cloud platform has finally been unveiled here at PDC 2008.  Late to the Internet, Microsoft hit it hard.  Late to the cloud, Microsoft is doing the same with Windows Azure.  Happily, this will put an end to all the guessing about what Zurich, Red Dog,, SSDS, Live Mesh, etc., actually are.  

Of course, now begins the discussion of how all these pieces fit together.  

This is not a simple approach like Amazon’s EC2 or Google App Engine.  Not to trivialize either, but they are certainly easier to understand.  Try explaining them to the proverbial grandmother — no problem, especially if you leave out virtualization and pythons 😉  (preemptive comment: I know AWS is much more than EC2 and that bigger and better things are coming from Google).

Regardless, the Microsoft Azure is multi-faceted.  In typical Microsoft fashion, there is a lot for a developer to choose from:

  • Azure Storage, Management, and Compute.  Run WCF/ASP.NET based services, with work queues and data storage.
  • Microsoft .NET Services, nee (wrote about here).  This gives you an Internet Service Bus, Access Control, and Workflow Services.  Messages and workflow in the cloud connecting other cloud and enterprise offerings.  Very big deal.
  • Microsoft SQL Services, nee SQL Server Data Services or SSDS.  Eventually a relational model in the sky, currently not too different from Azure Storage.
  • Live Services: Not too much detail on this today, but this is clearly what was “Live Mesh”: a rich synchronization framework, “live operating environment” for writing applications to across the Web and on user’s devices. 
  • Windows Live (Live Office, Live Sharepoint, Live Dynamics CRM, etc). In-cloud applications extensible by partners and users with in-cloud and in-premises solutions.

It all does fit together, and will be of immediate value to developers.  As Marc Jacobs of Lab49 said to me afterward,

We could make use of all of these services today.

Damned straight.  It is the openness of this platform, the ability of developers to mix and match the different components, and to do it between the cloud and in-premises solutions that makes this such a winner. 

This last point is an important one.  Microsoft is in a unique position to help enterprise IT bridge to the cloud.  While I don’t think Amazon and Google will cede that market to Microsoft, their current offerings aren’t a natural fit. 

Taking this all together — not forgetting Microsoft’s leading developer productivity story — it looks like a home run to me.

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Some thoughts on Chrome


Google releases a new browser.  The world declares “browser war” with some apprehension and  relish.  Web developers are cringing because browser compatibility is a major source of effort, cost, and frustration for software developers.

Q. Why would Google do this to us?  Just to take away Microsoft browser share? 

A. No.

Q. Are they doing this to extend the “Google OS” to the desktop in a way they control?

A. Probably, but that isn’t even their first concern.

Q. So, what is going on?

A. Well, I’m glad you asked.

Google is working to make their JavaScript-view of the Web as powerful as possible.  This makes sense given their enormous investments in JavaScript and in their own application suite.

Contrary to the approaches of Microsoft and Adobe with their Rich Internet Applications (RIA) frameworks, Google has focused on JavaScript. Where Microsoft and Adobe are building a better user experience inside of a container, Google is creating a better user experience through dynamic HTML and AJAX techniques.

Their developer model includes building out tooling to make it easier to author AJAX applications.  This includes the efforts made in the Google Web Toolkit (GWT) to enable modern IDE tooling for AJAX development. This allows developers to build maintainable object-oriented applications (in Java) that get converted and optimized to JavaScript.  Plus it promises cross-browser compatibility.

On the client side, they have Google Gears to enable local storage, improved caching support, and offline mode.

Q. So what have they been missing?  A browser? 

A. Not exactly.  They’ve been missing a JavaScript client runtime engine.

Google has made great advances in AJAX application development and tooling, but they have had to rely on others to provide reliability, responsiveness, performance, etc.

And that is what Chrome is about: taking control of the runtime engine for Google applications.  This makes the Google applications way more compelling.  More specifically, Chrome is about delivering that engine.  As Google says, they would love it if other browsers adopt the engine too.  I buy that.

Of course, by that time Chrome will be differentiated from its JavaScript engine.  By then Chrome will be about the Google OS.

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