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rwandering.net

The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

Things I miss in C++

I have been working on the Attention recorder for IE 6/7 for the AttentionTrust in my “spare” time. I’m using C++/ATL for this.

I am enjoying working in C++ again (most of my development these days is in C#), but it has brought out to me my personal likes / dislikes about the two languages. I know this post is about 3 or 4 years late, but I wasn’t blogging back when I started with C#.

Things I miss in C++

  • Const pointers: The ability to declare that the data referenced by a pointer will be accessed read-only is quite useful. I never liked that this isn’t supported by .NET; though, I understand why it was.
  • Macros: This one still gets me. The macro support in C# is nearly non-existent. Why would you want macros? Doesn’t this violate the strong-typedness of the language? Yes, but stringizing and token-pasting is very useful to build maintainable code. I really wish C# supported this.
  • copy constructors: Having a default implementation of the copy constructor is quite useful.

What I don’t miss in C++

  • Header files: When I used to work in C++ I remember enjoying the distinction between the declaration and the implementation of classes and methods; however, now I just feel like it is an annoyance. The C# approach of leaving this up to the tools is much easier.
  • NULL: Back when true and false were added to C++ as language elements, I wished that null had been added too.
  • global scope: At first I didn’t like that C# has no global scope (outside of classes), but now I look at C++ and don’t like that I have to put methods that are clearly associated with a class implementation, but static, outside of the definition of the class. Certainly this can be handled with namespaces, but that doesn’t quite do it.

Of course, I much prefer the richness of the .NET Framework to the hodge-podge of class libraries required in C++ to do anything modern: ATL / MFC or WTL / MSXML, etc, . . . I also prefer the overall environment of garbage collection and pointer-safety delivered by a managed environment.

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Dave Winer’s Berkeley Blogger Dinner Recap

And a thanks to Dave Winer for organizing the event. Sorry to say, I still haven’t met the man. Had a good time at the dinner last night — met many interesting people:

  • Scott Mace: working on the swamp of calendar formats so we can actually have shared calendars that work.
  • Scott Rosenberg: look for his coming book (in November) on the Chandler product.
  • Sylvia Paull: talked about what to blog and what not to blog; what to look forward to as a parent; and about nerdliness.
  • Jay Cross: talked about all sorts of things . . . he pointed out that Vista is going to be a bonanza for training companies.
  • Steve Hill: has a cool idea for geographically distributed events.
  • Edward Piou: cool to talk to a FreeBSD user for a change. FreeBSD rocks!

And a shout out to the enigmatic Dr. Chadblog (aka Chad Williams) — didn’t get a chance to talk this time.

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Google gives AOL what?

I have posted several times about the Microsoft / Google debate, making the point that the trust / faith people give to Google is beginning to wane. The news in the NYT about the AOL / Google agreement brings me back to this same point.

Like many, I am surprised at the deal Google struck with Time Warner for AOL. It isn’t the $1 Billion for 5% of AOL. That seems like a lot, but hey, they print money at the “plex”, don’t they?

But, preferential placement for AOL content throughout the Google services?

What?

One of the things that got people to trust Google in the first place was their stance on preferential treatment. So Google search users will get directed to AOL content instead of more-relevant content? John Batelle reports that (essentially) sponsored AOL links won’t be marked as such. (For those who don’t subscribe to the NYT, Nicholas Carr excerpts some of the article).

Google taught us that sponsored links should be marked; and so, have trained us to trust them. With AOL, they will violate this trust — go against what they have trained us to believe.

So, can we trust Google search if the AOL deal is consummated?

Can we trust it now?

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Blogs disconnected from the real world?

In his post, Off to go to Dublin, Disconnects between Blogosphere and Real World, Robert Scoble asks if there are disconnects between blogs and the real world.

He cites as an example the outpouring of enthusiasm for the Visual Studio / SQL Server / Biztalk launches and the lack of blogging about these products. I know I did it (VS drink menu, anyone?).

But Robert, there are easily hundreds of bloggers that have hyped up these launch events and blog about these products every single day.

Maybe these don’t appear on the general blogger “radar” because the vast majority of these Microsoft-focused bloggers are not tagging nor are they really interacting with the Web 2.0 blogosphere.

If I am right, Robert could do a great service to Microsoft and its Web 2.0 push by helping to better integrate the vast Microsoft blogging community with the rest of the blogosphere. For example, there are several siloed Microsoft-enthusiast blogger communities. Wouldn’t it be cool if those sites made it easy (or automatic) for their users to tag their blogs with Technorati tags? Couldn’t this increase the awareness of the general blogosphere about Microsoft and all their cool development tools?

Robert, what you think?

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Time is on our side

Steve Gillmor posts provocatively about attention, standards, timing, and Office, in Time is on our side.

I posted before that the work that the AttentionTrust is doing is very interesting with powerful connotations.

One valuable, pragmatic, insightful (and inciteful) thing they’ve done is to put together a way to track attention without standards bodies. Sure, those can come along, but nothing revolutionary happens through standards bodies. First you show it is interesting by doing real work (e.g., the AttentionTrust Extension, ATX; or ROOT Markets). Then let the interested (and threatened) get involved. Even in this case, the first format for attention data will soon be superceded by OPML.

I do want to point out, though, that I wasn’t slamming Steve for saying office is dead, exactly. It was I who brought up Office at the TechCrunch party. I was trying to poke fun at Steve about Office “already being dead”. This came from our earlier argument at the Berkeley Geek Dinner. He has been arguing this and Robert Scoble refutes it. I think what it comes down to is that Steve is saying that Office is dead (see Office Dead) meaning that the writing is on the wall for Office. I don’t think he isn’t saying people won’t upgrade to Office 12 (though he probably doubts that the numbers are significant); however, I see plenty of sales and opportunities for Office for both Microsoft and ISVs regardless of the Office Live strategy. In the mid+ enterprise.

Anyway, I think that Steve’s post supports that he views time differently then many. For example:

. . .when someone tells you how long something is going to take to make a difference, divide by 10. 10 years, 1 year. 5 years, 6 months. A year, a month and a half.

Most of us think in opposite terms: we tend to under-estimate how long something will take to make an impact. And I think the difference is, again, that Steve is talking about the implication of the “something” versus the practical, mass adoption of that “something” (or irrelevance of the alternative). I’ll leave that to him to refute, agree, or ignore.

And, I wish I hadn’t brought up Office, because we were having a much more interesting discussion about attention . . .

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“Anti-Microsoft” is a buzz-word?

One thing striking at Web 2.0 events is the absence of people using Microsoft software development tools. Of course, that isn’t news. Many of these startup companies go for the free tools and steer away from Microsoft. When we were starting out, we signed up for the Microsoft Empower program for startups. It is essentially free and provides all the Microsoft development tools. I suspect Microsoft needs to promote this program more. Free Express versions help, but it is too early to tell what the impact will be.

At the TechCrunch / Riya party, I did hear only one thing that made me bridle:

On the way to the ePlatform demo, we walked into the end of a Podcast of John Furrier of Podtech.net interviewing a fellow podcaster. She was pushing her site (I won’t mention it here). She said something like:

We are all buzz-word compliant. (list of terms), anti-Microsoft, (more terms) etc.

So “anti-Microsoft” is now a buzz word? It isn’t enough to be Java or Ruby on Rails or PHP or pro-Google or Sun, etc? Not liking Microsoft is one thing, but encapsulating that dislike into a buzz word is too simplistic for me. It is just another way people put blinders on isolating themselves and narrowing their view.

It isn’t about the hardware, software, OS, development tools . . . it is about what you create with them.

IMHO.

Update: I think I’m still not being clear on this: I would also bridle at “anti-Google” or “anti-Java” as attaining buzz-word status. It is just to cliqueish for me — am I alone on this?

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TechCrunch / Riya launch party

I attended the TechCrunch / Riya launch party last night. Pictures on Flickr are here. It was a good time — thanks to Michael Arrington for hosting the party.

Some people I met or reconnected with:

  • Steve Gillmor. We talked about the AttentionTrust a bit; I’ll blog more on that soon. Unfortunately I jokingly raised the “Office Dead” topic with him and Robert Scoble again and found myself in a minor repeat of the Geek Dinner / Parking Lot discussion (described here in a previous post).
  • Of course, Robert Scoble — he brought his son. Seems like a nice kid.
  • Zach Coelius of Triggit. Zach, it looks like you jumped on FeedBurner after our discussion!
  • Ramana Kovi of ePlatform. Robert Scoble first blogged about ePlatform here. I sat in on a demonstration that Ramana gave to Steve. Kind of a Web portal allowing parents to manage the whole family’s Internet experience. All on .NET, too.
  • Many of the Meetro guys. They all moved out here from Chicago a few weeks back to setup shop in the Valley.

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John Powers interviewed at WindowsHPC

John Powers, the President of Digipede (my company) was recently interviewed by WindowsHPC about the Digipede Network, how it fits into the distributed computing market, and how it is a good fit with SaaS providers. We designed it with SaaS in mind. After all, we came from a company where we had a SaaS product (and enterprise products) that needed scale-out (I mention the product briefly in my previous post).

You can read the full text of the interview, here: An Inteview with John Powers, President of Digipede Technologies.

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Contrary Evidence to SaaS

In his post Contrary Evidence at the SLC, Sam Ramji of the Microsoft Emerging Business Team is surprised by big CIO resistance to SaaS pricing models. No surprise, really, that CIOs want the best of all possible worlds (a ceiling on price with lowering price as appropriate and lowest overall cost).

He makes some good points about confusion surrounding standard (or lack of standard) pricing models and conflation between value-based and usage-based pricing. I certainly agree that pricing models are getting more complex. There is a real need for simplified / standardized pricing as well as licensing agreements. This would be a real help to all types of software vendors.

Back in the Web 1.0 days, my former company Energy Interactive sold SaaS to large energy providers (both vertically-integrated electric utilities and deregulated energy suppliers). Of course, we called ourselves an Application Service Provider (though SaaS is a better term).

At the time we sold the hosted product as a one-time setup fee plus annual bundle of license, maintenance and support. We also sold the product as installed software with a perpetual license + maintenance and support. There was a direct correlation between the size of the customer and their level of comfort with the SaaS model: the bigger they were the more they wanted to just buy it and install it themselves. Truthfully, we didn’t want to sell it as an installed product for the typical reasons (i.e., it was much easier for us to maintain and support it if we had direct access to it, etc.).

Again and again we had to convince the large prospective customers that it made sense for them to go with the SaaS model then for them to host it themselves.
Of course, times have changed: SaaS is more accepted. Small customers (both individual users and small to midsize companies) certainly benefit from it; however, Mr. Ramji has detected that this is still the case for large enterprises. Certainly there are the financial and licensing issues to be resolved, but this will continue to be a hard sell for the large enterprise that is used to having absolute control over their brand, operations, IT environment, security, etc.

I don’t have the answer to question, “will SaaS fail to penetrate large enterprises”, but I do think it will continue to be a hard road.

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Dave Winer’s Geek Dinner for Scoble

Last night, Dan and I went to the geek dinner Dave Winer hosted for Robert Scoble. While I’ve been to many parties and dinners full of geeks, this was my first “geek dinner.”

There was an interesting mix of people: entrepreneurs from Web 2.0 startups, various software developers, many bloggers, and other assorted geeks.

The highlight of the evening for me was the discussion that started just before the restaurant closed. We adjourned to the parking lot to continue until it became too cold and too late (although, apparently Robert and Steve Gillmor kept it going for another hour and a half, see Geek dinner Gillmortastic). It was a little challenging to get Steve Gillmor’s entire point, although I guess Robert finally got it after we all left.

The conversation was, I think, a typical one: why Microsoft doesn’t get Web 2.0 (i.e., how Google will beat Microsoft). Steve Gillmor has some pretty strong views about the mind share that Google has regarding applications. Yet he believes that Office will lose (or has lost) the battle. It appears that he wants to see AJAX-enabled interfaces to everything. All browser-based, all thin-client.

I think the major point of disagreement between Gillmor and many others in the crowd had to do with the utility of browser-based software models. For example:

  • Gillmor wants to do all of his RSS reading on the Web. I don’t. I prefer a model with the advantages of a smart client (rich UI and disconnected operation) that also allows me a surely Web-based interface. Newsgator is a perfect example of this. Both Robert and I use NewsGator in Outlook and from the Web. I also use it from my WM5 device. Even better, they are all synchronized.
  • Gillmor wants to write all his articles in e-mail. He said something to the effect of “e-mail will supplant the use of Word in the next six months”. This comment nearly resulted in a wager. I believe he is talking about a very small group of technologically-savvy early-adopters.

If Gillmor prefers Web-only, then more power to him. And he is right, there are many like him who feel the same way. But there are also a huge number of people (and these are not just corporate users) that prefer the installed-software model.

Google has enjoyed a great deal of popularity as an answer to Microsoft’s dominance. They have a stockpile of goodwill and trust from people simply because they are not Microsoft. This is not permanent. The bigger they get, the more profitable they are (if that’s possible), the more people they piss off with their own kind of over-reaching, the more this is going to wane.

And Microsoft is not standing still. Certainly, they’re concerned about Google (and I hope more concerned about supporting different models of user interaction than just Google). Next year is going to be a big year for Microsoft. I am not ready to count them out of this “Web 2.0” market.

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