Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Another silent earthquake

We will look back on today with wonder. It's not often that we are witness to a scientific discovery worthy of "era" status. But here it is. In 1971, Leon Chua published a paper that essentially ended the era of vacuum-tube computing and launched the era solid state computing. Consider that in the span of under 30 years - from the 1960's to the 1980's - computers went from warehouse-sized to desktop-sized, and in less than 20 years have shrunken to palm-sized. That's what Dr. Chua's paper did.

But that paper described a missing piece of the electronics puzzle. He described resistors, capacitors and inductors in that paper, and further postulated that there was a fourth element, which he called a "memristor." The details of what a memristor are found in the article (link below), but all Dr. Chua could do at the time was describe what one is. No one had ever been able to build one that actually did what he said it could do. The memristor remained a theoretical possibility until today.

H-P announced that they have discovered a way to build a working memristor. This opens up amazing possibilities for miniaturization, for power efficiency gains, and for speed gains. If they can scale the manufacture of these devices, then it will do for electronics what the transistor did for electronics. This is really, really exciting stuff!

The Article in InformationWeek can be found here: Link to Article

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Open Source Critical Success Factors

A paper recently published by a few professors claims to uncover the secrets of open source development success. The results are anything but startling.

Their findings mirror the critical success factors of any project: internal team cohesion is directly correlated to success, moderate camaraderie among external stakeholders is important to success, and that moderate amount of skill-set diversity among team-members should be pursued.

The really good news coming out of this is that the factors are ...
Controllable and

A good team lead can guide their group to a place of reasonable cohesion, though shared vision, motivation and objectives. They can bring together external stakeholders in a systematic way, tuning their cohesion to the ideal state. And finally, they can assemble a moderately diverse set of skills on their team, allowing the variety of perspectives to challenge firmly held - but ineffective - ideas and methodologies.

Credit where credit is due: Network Effects: The Influence of Structural Social Capital on Open Source Project Success by Param Vir Singh, Vijay Mookerjee and Yong Tan

Friday, April 18, 2008 and Google

A very quiet earthquake occurred this week.
Google released an extensive integration with According to the blog post (which seems to have supplanted the press release - more on that in the future), access Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, and Google Docs seamlessly from within Salesforce.

This is a big deal... and it probably caught the Redmond gang very much by surprise. If you chose Salesforce over Microsoft CRM, then this development should help you feel better about that direction. It opens another communication channel between customers and salespeople (live chat), with the added benefit of integrating the long-running conversation into the CRM.

This also pushes Microsoft further into the background as a supplier of the basic tools of work, but not of the specialized business solutions. I don't know whether they'd be happy about this turn of events, but it is what's happening in the world.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mapping standards

On April 14, the technology behind Google Earth and Google Maps was accepted as the international standard for the visual display of geographic data. Keyhole Markup Language (KML) was already used by Microsoft in its inferior product, and this step will mean that other software firms will have an easier time integrating geographic data into their applications.

What does this mean to you and me?

It means that sticking a useful map on a web page will now be easier than ever.
It means that rendering geo-demographic data on your reports will be easier and easier.

This is a quiet, but significant advancement for commercial real estate developers, for traffic engineers and for transportation professionals. The real estate guys will soon be able to understand what is really around their properties. And that information will get updated with far greater frequency than before. Why? Because a standard format means predictability... which makes just about everything easier. Traffic engineers will be able to model new movement patterns more easily as the format standardizations enables developers to create new capabilities for road design. Route planners for delivery firms, emergency planning and operational staff in government agencies and maybe even first responders will find that this event will impact their lives.... though it's likely any will ever know why.

Another big winner is the advertising industry. Media that have a geographical component, like print, direct mail, billboards, broadcast radio, and mobile web, will be able to take advantage of richer mapping content. There will be opportunities to make buys more efficient. And response data will be reported (as long as it's tracked) in a geographic context (as in... a map).

In the short run, Google loses a royalty income opportunity.
In the long run, Google no longer has to bear the burden of defending, maintaining and improving the standard all by itself.
And I would say that, within a year, the geographic presentation of data will be in a lot more places.