All entries for Tuesday 06 November 2007

November 06, 2007

Widgets, Badges and Gadgets

Dion Hinchcliffe;

  • The Web is Global SOA
  • Users are taking charge of their web experience. Web sites increasingly providing portable content
  • Atomization opf content – small pieces are easier to re-use
  • DIY web
  • The web as a “parts superstore”
  • Jakobs Law of the Web User: Users spend most of their time on other peoples’ sites
  • The most successful sites leverage this
  • Create open platforms
    – APIs, widgets+badges, syndication
    – re-use APIS etc from other organisations. Don’t re-invent the wheel
  • Widgets: Small applications or bits of functionality that can be embedded on the web; typically ajax or flash
  • Badges: Displays of content pulled under the covers from other websites. Less interactive than widgets
  • Gadgets: Widget models with specifications e.g. google, netvibes, MS
  • Key features of widgets:
    – supreme ease of consumption and distribution: copy/paste; one-line JS includes; object/embed tags for flash
    – connect to their underlying sites to provide value + control
    – have a business model baked deeply into it
  • Users
    – Consumers – moving content and functionality to where they need it
    – Developers and prosumers – easy to integrate with high-value functionality
    – Businesses – external sourcing of functionality and content
    – Web apps built “On the shoulders of giants”
  • Examples
    – google gadgets
    – MS live
    – WidgetBox (re-useable widget directory)
    – Myspace Widgets
  • Simple widgets get much wider use than complex ones
  • OpenSocial: OS gagets will run on every OS-capable site, and get social data from that site
  • Widget Stories:
    – YouTube video badge – uses the web as a content “billboard”; consistently drives user growth, video views, and traffic back to the site. Made it utterly simple to embed – show the code next to every video
    – Google Adwords Widget; probably the most successful widget in history; drives a huge amount of revenue for google. Good user incen tive, extreme ease of use, strong viral feedback loop.
  • Blogs, wikis are end-user IDEs
  • Recommendations:
    – small pieces, loosely joined
    – re-use if possible, but be aware that there are few SLAs
    – understand the implications for intellectual property
    – provide an absolute minimum of restrictive structure.

Short on Storage, Long on Cycles: The commoditsation of IT

Simon Wardley

  • 70% of effort is spent on “undifferented heavy lifting” – providing common utility services to software projects
  • Commoditisation: yesterday’s “hot stuff” becomes tomorrows “boring”. new=>leading edge=>products>utility service.
  • Nick Carr: “As IT becomes ubiquitous and common, it has no strategic value”
  • 2 Major trends emerging: Software As A Service; Utility Computing
  • Xaas (X={Software (;Framework (Ning, BungeeLabs); Hardware (EC2/S3, XCalibre)})
  • How do you deal with the risk of depending on an external provider?
  • Ideally, should be able to move from provider to provider (Fungibility of infrastructure)
  • The freedom/portability to move from one service provider to another
  • OVF – open VM format. First step towards support for this
  • (invention+discovery)>idea>innovation->commodification->common.
  • Predictions:
    1: Adoptions of commodity XaaS will grow with standards and open source – creating a competitive market.
    2: An increase in innovation in the web space
    3: More disruption in information-dependent markets
    4: XaaS will lead to organisational change because of the different methodologies needed for working at either end of the commoditisation scale
  • Fabbing (3d printing): fabathome, reprap – open-source 3d printing hardware/software – starting to become commoditised
  • Threadless – commoditisation/consumerisation of t-shirt design
  • Likely to see a greater participation of the consumer in the web space
  • Photo printing – didn’t stop with utility providers; consumers now print their photos at home. Could this occur in the web space? Tribler/Retroshare – community, P2P based infrastructure with built-in reward mechanisms
  • Web 2.0: Bad name. Fails to focus on the underlying trends. Suggests that the web has a Roadmap (web 3.0…8.0). Technology is just an enabler; web 2.0 is all about the public having more and power at their disposal to innovate and disrupt existing business models

On laptops

Laptop Feature good for conferences available on tecra M5 running ubuntu
long battery life Y N
fast re-charge Y N
wide screen N Y
reliable, fast suspend + resume Y N
Super-fast CPU N Y
Ability to do one-click installs of a wide range of development toolchains and services N Y
Light weight + compact size Y N

... I should have bought the MacBook with me…

Tom Coates: Designing for a web of data

Tom Coates

Designing for a web of data

  • Y! brickhouse – yahoo internal startup environment
  • “Interesting” new sites are basically data repositories / platforms.
  • The web is turning from a web of pages connected by links, to a web of data connected by APIs and services
  • Sites don’t need to own the data themselves; users can own it
  • Web pages are being designed in an increasingly data-centric way
  • Your site is not your product. c.f.
    – twitter; the site is only a very small proprortion (~10%) of twitter traffic.
    – Flickr: widgets, badges, cards, phone updaters, desktop clients…
    – many users almost never visit the site
  • In the future; the network and compute devices become more pervasive and ubiquitous
  • 3 kinds of things: data sources, data consumers, and data recombiners
  • nabaztag, ambient orb, wattson – physical devices that consume and produce net data
  • – could interact in all sorts of interesting ways with online services
  • Why open your data/services
    – drive people to your service
    – because people will pay for them
    – as advertising, or as positioning
    – to allow external developers to contribute and add value
  • Network effects – every new service can build on top of other existing services
    – Every service that’s added has the potential to make everything else more powerful
  • FireEagle – knows your location, and uses this information to geotag information that you put on line
  • You can never have too much data
  • building a datasource
    – open up a datasource you own
    – build one with your users
    – enhance one dataset with another
  • Scale: flickr has 1.88 billion photos, growing by 500 million in the last 6 weeks
    – how can you make a number like that comprehensible?
    – use metadata:
    + data created during production
    + data derived or inferred from analysis of the thing concerned
    + data that you can crowd-source from user contributions
    + data you can capture from behavioural analysis
  • Folksonomy vs. taxonomy. Don’t choose, expose both
  • Hierarchies can’t take the weight
    – Amazon top bar – went from 2 to 6 to 16 tabs, then finally back to 1 with a web-like search
  • Top navigation is just a jumping-off point.
  • From a visual design perspective; use visual hierarchies to suggest paths
  • “Perception of quality is in the edge cases”
  • A final word on design practice: Stop! collaborate and listen!
  • Organisations have dominant job roles; other roles orient themselves around the dominant roles.

Web 2.0 operations

Artur Bergman – wikia

  • Operations builds trust in a brand.
  • Ops is the stepchild of engineering – development gets the glory.
  • To do good ops, you need sysadmins manning NOCs etc, and engineers.
  • Good engineers * Detail oriented * Don’t aspire to work in development * Should work with development though, so that both sides can learn about each other
  • You must understand the product to run it successfully. Complexity kills
  • Rule 3: Look first. You must have good monitoring and good alerting.
  • Do not over-alert, and do not cry wolf.
  • Trending – long term capactity planning. Make alerts be timely – there’s no point alerting at 90% on a 10TB partion that grows at 1MB a day
  • Websitepulse – gomez alternative.
  • Nagios – doesn’t scale well for large installations; doesn’t keep state; over-alerts
  • Hyperic – looks much nicer
  • Cricket / MRTG / Cacti – impossible to configure
  • Ganglia – rocks – no configuration
  • load increase while running process stays the same – shows up blocking calls
  • custom gmetric scripts – can collect more or less anything
  • graphing stuff is a very good way of spotting problems.
  • tcpdump / wireshark – tells you where packets are going wrong.
  • rule 4: Divide and conquer. Look at the problems in turn, go in the order you suspect is most likely
  • change one thing at a time, and keep an audit trail. use version control
  • If you didn’t fix it, it aint fixed. If it goes away, it will come back and bite you later. Figure out what happened.
  • use strace/dtrace/truss/gdb
  • you need a little bit of process.
  • Design against complexity. Re-use components, define standards. Have a few machine images, re-image all machines periodically for the hell of it
  • MTBF is irrelevant. dealing with failure is more important. Target the right level of uptime.
  • Don’t kid youself. You don’t need 5 nines
  • The higher you aim for reliability, the higher complexity and cost you’ll get. If you need 2 nines and aim for 5, you’ll do worse than if you just aim for 2
  • MTTR – a much better metric. 1 minute downtime every week is still 4 nines
  • Problem management: Once a problem is found, start a phone conference. Use IRC or IM to communicate technical info. Have one person liase with non-technical people, and one person be in command.
  • Write down results of root cause analysis
  • Automation: All machines are created equal. If you manually make changes, you are wrong (usually)
  • Best practice: * Gold images * Centralised authentication * NTP time sync * Central logging * All applies for virtual machines too!
  • cfengine – ; puppet is much nicer
  • cobbler – linux version of jumpstart
  • datacentres: keep them tidy; label everything. have a switch in each rack if you can. Remote consoles / Remote power switches save a lot of pain.
  • Virtualisation: Use it. Managing becomes much easier. power consumption goes down, new test boxes can be quickly provisioned
  • Loadbalancers: Keep them simple and low level. LVS + Squid Carp. Log over UDP so you don’t block if the disk is full
  • Squid: Use for static stuff; use squid with a very short ttl (1 second) for non-logged-in-users and dynamic pages.
  • Databases: report slow queries. fear ORMs; understand what they are doing
  • If you’re small, outsource
  • : CDN
  • S3 for binlogs, datafiles, etc

Stowe Boyd: We build our tools, and they shape us


Marshall McLuhan – wrote about the way that mass-media was affecting society, and coined the term “global village” in the 60s to describe the way that society would change with the advent of worldwide communication networks.

Social Tools – as much of a revolution as email was 10 years ago

Lifestreaming tools – twitter, jaiku, facebook mini-feed. Hard to rationalise why these are appealing technologies; the only way is to try it.

Social == Me First. Social tools are primarily organised around self-interest, not altruistic participation in a community. Community, where it emerges, is a side-effect of the tools.

The Dunbar Constant (Robin Dunbar). An individual can only keep up with at most ~150 other people. Can technology increase that number?

In the US, since the 50s people have spending less and less time in social activities; the primary driver for this has been television. The internet has, to an extent, reversed this trend; as people switch from TV to social networking.

Lots and lots of skills are only learnable by spending time doing them, and can’t easily be achived by simply concentrating really hard. Stowe asserts that life-streaming apps, and immersion in the flow of social data, leads to a gradual change in outlook and capabilities, becoming better at socializing on the web.

Continuous Partial Attention: lack of personal productivity may be outweighed by the increase in productivity of the network as a whole.

Every time a new medium comes along, workplace management see it as an impact on productivity and resist it. This happened with phones, email, internet access, IM,... but eventually they give in and realise that people are smart, and will use the new tools to their advantage.

People will increasingly turn away from mass media and towards social networks as the primary mechanism for learning about the world; the media will move into social-scale applications to try to resolve this

Workstreaming – impact of social networking on the world of work. 2008 will be the year that stream-based apps move into business.

The War on Flow – there are lots of people who will argue against pervasive social networks; arguing that they’re less productive or less reliable (in information terms). Stowe believes that the rise of social networks, and the associated societal change (which will be every bit as disruptive as the effects of television, but much more positive), is inevitable however

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