Attention Efficiencies, Consistent User Experience, and the Labs

I came across an article the other night explaining how to create a daily post of your links on your WordPress blog ‘automagically’. I have been looking for a pre-fab way to do this for about a week and a half now and finally came across this article explaining experimental functionality in itself to do this.

This is one thing I’ve always liked about Cote’s blog, People Over Process. You can get a lot of interesting information from someones bookmarking habits.

Now that I have the posting created by daily, I have removed the link splicing from my feed that Feedburner has been providing. This follows my removing the Flickr feed splicing in my feed a couple of months ago when Tom the Architect had mentioned that he would get my pictures up to three times when I posted to Flickr, once in my main feed spliced in from Flickr, once from his subscription to Flickr to receive updates from his contacts, and finally when I decided to post a picture to the main blog. I also felt that having the links posted to the feed via Feedburner without appearing in the main blog seemed kind of inconsistent.

This change creates a huge attention efficiency for me in creating content (since I can do it as part of my normal daily activities), while at the same time makes the feed reflect the same content as the blog does, which I think results in a better user experience all around – as you don’t have to subscribe to the feed to get all of the information around what I’m looking at day to day. Increased transparency all the way around.

This activity is one of the reasons why I have been looking so diligently for a extension for Camino. I really like the Camino browser, but have lost the attention efficiency that the FireFox plug in afforded me. At this point, I have to change contexts in order to bookmark, whether it be via Cocoalicious, or itself.

Now I just need to find the time to dig into WordPress to find out why its stripping all of my CSS from pictures I choose to blog from Flickr so that I can cease the extra activity of re-editing posts created from Flickr. Hopefully I’ll be able to get to that soon.

The ultimate goal is to be able to expend the least amount of energy possible in order to increase transparency consistently across the blog, the feed, and any other piece of my life that I have outsourced to a third party.

DreamHost Sets The Bar For Corporate Blogging

I’ve seen this blog entry from DreamHost (my web hosting provider) referenced a few times on the network. I finally got a chance this morning to sit down and read it. I have to say, I’m impressed with both the honesty and the transparency that DreamHost provides to their customers.

I’ve been a DreamHost customer since 2001. I’ve had only a few issues during this time, all of which were resolved in timely manner by their friendly staff. The last three weeks for them sounds like they were pretty challenging, but to see a blog entry detailing every event is an extremely refreshing thing.

Wouldn’t it be great if every company were this honest with their customers? I know I get pretty frustrated when I know that the site is unavailable (you know, because of all the indispensable value it provides to you, the reader ;)), but actually hearing an honest account of what happened rather than vague excuses or blame just increases my loyalty as a customer.

Good job DreamHost! Keep up the great work. This is just one of many reasons I’ve been here so long.

Transparent Commodity Infrastructure and Web 2.0

Tom the Architect pointed me over to this article called Transparent Commodity Infrastructure and Web 2.0. Excellent piece.

I especially like this quote here:

Let me use an example: back in 1998 if you were building a web-based startup, you were probably running on Solaris/SPARC and using an Oracle database. You were also likely to be running on some sort of a Java servlet engine (though there were exceptions, this was again the leading edge). This huge apparatus usually required at least 1 of the following: DBA, sys-admin, release manager, and build manager– nevermind all of the consultants and vendor people that it took to solve problems that arose from trying to get everything working together.

Fast forward to 2005. Anyone still using Solaris/SPARC for web apps is either a moron or a depressed Sun shareholder. MySQL and Postgres are now considered “enterprise-grade,” and if you should be so masochistic as to still want to do Java development on the app-tier, you’ve got Tomcat, Jetty, and even JBOSS available to you on your platform of choice.

I couldn’t agree more. So many companies stuck in the 90’s … excellent article and worth a full read.

Application Level Reuse and Google Maps

I found this, once again, on Someone has used Google Maps to map out the casualties of the Iraq War. Each click on the (+) on the left of the screen shows 30 more casualties.

I think the reason I find this so cool is not because of what this application is mapping out (which is cool — don’t get me wrong), but the fact that it was able to be written at all. Software written this way leverages the Wisdom of Crowds concept, allowing software to be written that the original authors had no idea would be an application of the technology they were creating at the time.

More than even that though, we are seeing a lot of what I call “application level reuse”. The distributed nature of Internet applications such as Google Maps allows the application to be used as a subset of a completely different application that serves a specific, specialized purpose. Applications can be written stringing together multiple applications like this, creating something brand new and extremely useful.

I think corporate IT shops, in most instances, aren’t getting the concept. They continue to write software in a very closed, monolithic fashion, that force their view of the world on their customers and do not allow that view to change — unless they agree and make the change themselves, increasing their development costs. is another company that gets the concept. All patent issues aside, they were the first company that I remember that created a service oriented API to their application that allowed their customers to actually build their own store fronts if they wanted to. These APIs were used in ways Amazon wouldn’t even have thought of. The Amazon plugin for WordPress I use on the site is a really good example of this.

I think the world has already turned to this model of development and big corporations are missing it. Hell, even SAP, one of the most monolithic software applications in the world right now is getting it. The time has come where your customers want to use your software to make their own models of the world, that are specific to them. They want you to be transparent. They do not want your branding, they want the services you provide. Your branding has a place, but not everywhere.

I believe that customers are moving to the point where they just don’t want you to intrude on them. They want you to be invisible. Being able to integrate your software into theirs in a service-oriented fashion allows you to be invisible and to be integrated into the world they actually work in, rather than the world you think they live in (or worse, making them change worlds to work with you). The more you increase your transparency, the more you can be integrated. The more you are integrated, the more invisible you become. Pretty soon, you are used by default because you are part of your customers world , rather than a vendor that must be dealt with in an additional context shift.

Now, the problem with a paradigm shift like this is that it doesn’t come for free. Employees and business users have to be taught to think this way. Software has to be redesigned with this paradigm in mind. It’s not cheap — but I’m willing to bet its a lot more rewarding, from both a financial perspective, and a customer satisfaction perspective. Once the shift happens, you can stop worrying about “features and functionality” for the customer and start thinking about services the customers can use to make their own “features and functionality”. You can start focusing on the core services you provide.

The additional advantage is if you develop these services with customer use in mind, you can use them too. You can leverage the same services your customers use to constitute new functionality in your software. This also, can decrease your development costs.

This is how I see the world. But then again, who am I? I could be wrong. I doubt it, but I guess it’s possible.