One of the persistent features of the user programmable systems I was blabbing about yesterday is visual programming. The idea here is that users have pictograms that they can move around on the screen and connect to each other. Each symbol on the screen represents one of the software components in the system and/or some transformation to apply. This is the second time in the last few months that visual programming has come to mind. Last time was when I was fooling around with Scheme and realized that there seems to be a much more natural mapping for functional languages to move to visual composition. Visual programming is another of those areas that seems really simple when we talk about it, but must have some really thorny problems that have yet to get sorted. It’s an area that I don’t have very much experience with in general.
I’ve been taking some time to try to step back a bit and consider the role of technology as a whole. Already a pretty popular topic, many of the currently popular bloggers mix politics, sociology, psychology, and technology into their own editorials. But I’m not taking quite that big of a step back. I’m thinking more in terms of the overall productivity that technology brings. I find it very easy to fall into the trap of striving for a technical hack for no reason. When I see a problem sometimes I just want to solve it. Probably a pretty healthy overall attitude, but like anything too much is bad thing. So I have a bunch of toys now: a good hosting plan for my main site so I can run what I want, a PDA with bluetooth and 802.11 interfaces, a new cell phone, a GPRS plan with no data limit. So it was time to take a deep breath and think about what that means instead of just running off in search of the next gadget.
I agree with the response that Russell Beattie has to a recent article in Newsweek. Although there are some points that I disagree about. I do agree that asking Palm about the future of mobile devices is awfully one sided. Although from what I’ve read, Jeff Hawkins is a stunningly smart guy with a great grip on technology, I do think the wireless mobile vision of PalmOne is seriously suspect. Jeff might be able to help out there, but their track record is far from stunning when it comes to network devices. I do agree with Russ that Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, etc. are probably better places to look. However, I think this is one of those often sprung technologist pitfalls. Having the better technology, and being of more use to the user, isn’t a sure recipe for success. Yes, Palm does have a proprietary operating system, and just about any platform technology besides PalmOS looks like a good alternative to the developer. However, what does the standard user see? I’m not sure that the better technology of Motorola and Nokia within the mobile space is going to be enough to overcome the brand recognition and existing sales channels that Palm has. I would LIKE it to, I’m just not sure it’s going to happen. When it comes to the average user, they need to be sold on the package as it exists when it comes to them. They don’t and probably never will care about the platform. Even though the choice will seriously impact them somewhere down the line.
There’s a thread from the Linux Kernel Mailing List which seems to have gotten picked up all over the place. Most sources seem to be including the quote:
Lots of times I groan at the statements that come out of the MIT Media Lab, but TheFeature has an interview with William Mitchell, director of the MIT Media Lab and I really liked what he had to say at the end of the interview.
After reading about communities tied to one technology in Many2Many I spent a bit of time wandering around in the CommunityWiki in general. I ran across some stuff by Lion Kimbro a little while ago, and I see his name and what seems to be the mark of his ideas throughout the wiki. That’s a good thing, I liked what I had read. And the community wiki seems to be very enlightening. I would like to make a few comments about wikis in general before I get back to reading through that stuff. There’s been a lot of interest in wikis lately, and I’m not sure how much information there has been that simply lays down why wikis have been garnering attention. If you’re a wiki guru, I know you could probably take issue with some of the definitions I end up giving here. I want to lay down in broad strokes what this wiki thing is all about however.
I’ve registered myself for The Art of the Start, a day long event by Garage Technology Ventures focused on educating entrepreneurs about successfully starting a company. A friend pointed out that if you’re an SDForum member you can get fifty dollars off on the registration. You just need to call up SDForum and get the promotion code to use, they have info on the Special Offers page. If you’re planning to be over there, drop me a line and we’ll meet up. I have a feeling I’ll be somewhat out of my element, but that’s fine. That’s why I’m going after all. I would eventually like to start up an entrepreneurial venture of my own and I know there’s a lot I still don’t know. Even though I’ve technically only been consulting on my own for a few months, I’ve met some very interesting people and run across some great ideas. It takes a whole lot more than just a good idea to start up a successful company however. Some people seem to be able to do it without thinking, others have to work at it to be able to see all the angles. I know I’m in the latter category. I’m just trying to front load as much of the work as I can, so that I’m not learning everything on the job later on.
I’ve added a link to the link blog up at the top of the standard view of this blog. I’ve been using it quite a bit again, cause it’s a convenient way to keep track of stuff I want to read without bookmarking it at whatever computer I happen to be at (probably not the same computer that I’ll be at later when I want to retrieve that bookmark). My link blog has the extra attribute of concentrating on links which render well on small screens - the stuff I chuck there is meant to be pulled up on my Palm for later reading. It’s actually a pretty decent set of reading in small-screen-friendly format.
I set up a discussion mailing list for PalmAtom. I’m probably going to hold off pushing out news about a release it until it’s actually usable as a normal tool. I’ve used the sample to post to Blogger, but I wouldn’t recommend it for most users. Just in case there’s some developer interest, I wanted to give them a place to chat.
It’s really more of a proof of concept than a first version, which is why I’ve given it the release number 0.1, but I have an app that I’ve successfully used to post Atom from a Palm device. I was feeling really creative, so I named it PalmAtom. It does lots of things wrong, but I’ve decided to release it anyway. There’s this credo of “release early, release often” that runs through open source in general. Problem is, developing for the Palm can be a real pain, so Palm projects don’t get all that much contribution. Palm doesn’t seem to really care for open source developers these days either, which has made some of the few remaining ones less than pleasant to deal with. But Treos are turning up all over the place here in the US, so I figured this might make for an interesting tool. I really do think this whole shift in media consumption style and production techniques is pretty important, as I mentioned the other day. And I do want to do something about it. I also happen to have this belief that these poor wireless and handheld devices currently available are second class citizens at best. So I’m trying to figure out what I can do to move the media revolution out of the office and into the streets.
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