Ruby, Rails, Box, and Gosling

Today Don is talking about Gosling’s anti-scripting rant. When Gosling wrote this, I found it rather “interesting”, since I had just finished having a similar debate with David (inventor of Ruby on Rails), and Anders (architect of .NET and C# among other things). David and Anders are both from Denmark, so they decided to hang out when David was in town, and I got to join the spirited conversation for a couple of hours.

Basically, David argues that Ruby on Rails is appealing, specifically because it limits it’s scenarios to attack a very specific set of problems. Attempting to address the last 20% of potential scenarios would complicate the platform by 80% — essentially this is the argument. David was quite eager to say, “if RoR doesn’t meet someone’s specific scalability, functionality, or whatever neeed — they should just use something else.” David argued that .NET has become too bloated and too complex, in an attempt to please too many masters.

This was striking to me, because Anders is famous within the company for “protecting the purity of the golden platform”. That is, Anders will fight tooth and nail to keep stuff *out* of the platform, if he feels that it disrupts the elegance or consistency. I recall many past frustrations trying to get Anders to approve my particular XML APIs, when he seemed more concerned about elegance and purity than the number of customers I could bring to the table.

Of course, I grudgingly accepted and understood the reasoning — but the point here is that I always saw .NET as a glowing example of a Dane’s quest for elegance; so it was interesting to see Ruby positioned as an opposite. David clearly hasn’t looked at a lot of Win32 code (or Linux code, for that matter).

The uber point is about specialization, though. When *Gosling* talks about specialization, I think he means something different than David, although I suspect that Gosling took his cues from hearing David speak or reading some of David’s writing. In fact, I think David is talking more about “willfully ignoring nice, but inessential features”. While Gosling is talking about “lacking essential features for many scenarios”. And it should be clear by now, where someone draws the line and where someone decides to spin, is rather subjective.

1TB Moonshot?

Scoble lists five ways to save Microsoft. My thoughts on each:

  • 1TB Free Storage for everyone: Is that really a moonshot? 1TB costs less than $1000 now. 1TB sounds big to people like us who grew up when 64k was a lot of RAM, but I don’t think it’s going to impress the second-life generation.
  • Dual monitors for everyone: Maybe. I don’t use monitors; I just use my laptop. If I need to use a PC, I just connect using my laptop screen.
  • Accountability for marketing decisions like product names: HELL YES!
  • Public compensation changes: The good teams at MSFT already operate this way. A good manager makes sure that everyone on the team knows who is going to be promoted and why, long before the promotion happens. Some teams have title structure that lets you know exactly what level (and rough compensation range) a person is at, simply by looking at the title.
  • Slash the red tape: always a good idea

Personally, I think MSFT is already going through a pretty serious moonshot right now. We are attempting to shed a bit of our historical “platform” bias, and focus on creating seamless end-to-end experiences (or something like that).

Now, if I were to propose a new moonshot to replace “a PC on every desktop”, I would start by tracking the inevitable. “A PC on every desktop” was an inevitability, although few people saw it at the time.

Another inevitability, which is rather more obvious, is ubiquity of virtual community and semantics. Our vision should be, “four billion people, playing together and expressing themselves, all in a single seamless virtual environment”. Of course, that doesn’t mean “provided by MSFT”, just as we didn’t actually build the PCs that went on every desktop. My 3D world in Halo 2 should have connections and portals to my World of Warcraft worlds, which should connect with my e-bay auctions, and so on. I would also stipulate that the “virtual world” should touch and merge with the “real world” like a transparent overlay. Robert is right to be excited about second life. I recall a similar project nearly 10 years ago, called “Virtual Worlds”, which was run by Lili Cheng (now at MSFT). And there was a time before ICQ when it looked like 3D worlds would be the next big thing (it just took a bit longer). But I would also point out that the “virtual world” includes things which do not involve computer monitors or graphics; people with a pantechnicon in their pockets should be at all times in touch with the ambient information flowing around the ether.

President Hu at Microsoft

Here is a video of Chinese Employees from Microsoft welcoming President Hu Jintao outside my building (taken by a Chinese employee). “Huanying” (welcome) happens about 10:20 in. Employees from Shanghai and Beijing tend to be very suportive of the government’s policies. A handful of protesters are assembled across the street. The same scenario played out at other places.

People more likely to read stories with sex in the title

Today BBC is reporting that sex cues ruin men’s decision-making abilities. This is news? I thought it was the oldest story in Judeo-Christian history. Several of the advertisers in BBC use this fact to their advantage. In fact, I suspect that BBC ran the story as a way to get clickthroughs, rather than to present any real news. It’s like running a story with the title “People More Likely to Read News Stories with SEX in the Title!”, and a body that says “Sucker”.

The story also says, “Researchers have not yet found visual images that will make women react similarly”. This is bizarre. Advertisers have a whole repertoire of images that affect women’s decision-making ability (and lots of research to back it up).

People-Ready Gears

Marc Canter poked some fun at Microsoft’s People-Ready Ad Campaign. Yes, the point of the ads is that the people are the most important part of the picture.

Today on CNet, I saw a disturbing example of people fitting into business process. The ad is full flash animation, of a man in business dress bouncing around between the gears of some machine as he falls infinitely toward the ground. The person in the model uses ragdoll physics, so the arms flail around realistically as the man’s head crunches against some gears, and his torso is wrapped around another set of gears. Now is that a people-ready business?

Today the Microsoft ad is not showing people templates, but instead implies that you can master infinite topics. That’s quite a nice trick; I need that software!

First Experiences with Dodgeball.com

Dodgeball.com is a fairly simple idea: whenever you go somewhere to hang out, you send a message to the dogeball.com service, and then if any of your friends are in the vicinity, it will tell you and you can hook up.

So I finally decided to try it out, and signed up yesterday.

So far, I’m unimpressed. Nice idea; poor implementation. This is definitely a tool that is suited for only a narrow subset of geeks (in Seattle, it looks mostly alumni of NWRaves); not general population.

  • NONE of my venues are in there. Having to maually enter venues, when they exist on hundreds of other ratings and reviews sites, is lame. How can we make venue data a common shared resource, so sites like dodgeball can crawl it? Supporting adr, is a good start.
  • Manually re-enter your friends again. I already did this for Orkut. Both tools are owned by Google. WTF?
  • Usability: When you manually add an entry, and hit submit, you don’t have any opportunity to correct typos. You just have to e-mail and ask them to correct the venue name. Some links just don’t work. Not too intuitive: there is “prefs”, “profile”, and “manage” — which does which? When you do search, and it doesn’t find the venue, then correct the name (e.g. Shiro/Shiro’s), it adds the new name, it doesn’t search again.
  • No easy way to switch cities. At least, not that I could tell. The assumption seems to be that you live your dodgeball life in one city, where my assumption woul be that you are more interested in serendipity when travelling.
  • Check-in is to an e-mail address, not SMS. That doesn’t make sense to me. Doesn’t that cut out a whole pool of people who can vote for American Idol but now can’t register at dodgeball?
  • When you sign up, it doesn’t automatically add the friend who invited you. That took me a day to figure out. Nice.
  • When I finally tried to check-in at a venue, it sent me back an e-mail saying “you must first register with Dodgeball”. So I still haven’t been able to use it. Yes, I am registered with the right e-mail. Too bad.

I suppose that for people who take the time to enter their circle of friends, and get past the initial hurdles, it’s good for finding parties and finding friends at the lounges. But that’s a pretty small demographic. I was expecting something a bit more accessible to broader population.