# Tuesday, 14 September 2004
I've got six three, if anyone wants one.
Tuesday, 14 September 2004 11:52:53 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Tuesday, 07 September 2004

By now everyone has heard that WinFS (the new SQL-based, meta-data driven file system) won't be shipping with Longhorn.  It's not really surprising.  Not only is it a fairly challenging technology, but the surrounding behavioral issues are, IMHO, an even bigger deal, and will take a good long while to resolve. 

The reason meta-data based solutions haven't dominated the world have nothing to do with technology.  RDF works just fine.  So do XSD and Web Services.  So does SQL server, so I'm convinced that the technical hurdles to achieving WinFS are solvable.  The trouble is getting people to use it.  People just don't get it.  Nobody uses RDF, in part because it's way to complicated, but also because most people just don't get meta-data.  It's hard enough to get people to use proper keywords on their HTML pages. 

Similarly, the reason that Web Services have yet to revolutionize the world of B2B eCommerce have nothing to do with technology.  The parts of the technical picture that aren't solved by SOAP/WSDL are quickly being addressed by WS-*.  The real issue is schemas.  The barrier to real B2B isn't security, or trust, or routing/addressing, or federation even.  It's the fact that no two companies in the entire world can agree on what a PO looks like.  The barriers are institutional, not technical.

The same thing applies to WinFS.  Even if the technical side can be made to work reliably (of which I have no doubt given enough time), it's the institutional issues that are hard.  What do you call the tags that get applied to your file system?  If any applications are going to take real advantage of them, they have to be agreed upon in common.  Anyone remember BizTalk.org?  It's not easy to reach consensus on what seems like a simple problem.  What do you call the meta-tags that are applied to your data?  It's great that you can arbitrarily add new tags through the explorer, but if no application besides explorer supports them, is it anything more than a great new way to do sorts? 

I think in the long run it's that problem that has delayed the release of WinFS.  There has to be a plan in place for handling the institutional issues in place first, or MS will end up with another great piece of technology that no one knows what to do with.

Tuesday, 07 September 2004 12:55:56 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 

Many who know me know that I'm a long-time member of the SCA.  For the rest of you, it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, 'cause I'm just that big a dork.  Anyway, we just found out this weekend that my wife Vikki (or Svava as she's known in SCA circles) will be getting her Laurel in January (assuming she doesn't blow it between now and then :-) ).  For you non-SCA types, that's equivalent to Knighthood, only for Arts & Sciences.  In other words, a big deal.  She pretty much rocks.  Actually, she totally rocks.  You go honey!

I realize 99% of you reading this probably neither know nor care what I'm talking about, but I couldn't resist the opportunity for the shout-out.

Tuesday, 07 September 2004 12:43:34 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 

Despite the lack of technical content here lately, I do actually still work for a living.  I've been working on some implementation stuff lately, and have been struck by something that I've known for a while, but always comes home in a big way when I have to use someone else's UI.  There's no substitute for use cases!  I'm working with an API right now that was obviously designed by someone who thought it seemed like a good idea at the time, but didn't spend any time thinking about how this API was actually going to be used in the real world.  The end result is that to actually use it, you have to go through way to many steps, each of which takes a different set of parameters that you may or may no already have.  It's very frustrating. 

I'm working with Scott on most of it, and from the very beginning of our involvement he predicted that we'd end up spending 6 hours a day reading docs and 2 hours coding to achieve the desired end result.  It's actually been more like 7/1.  I spend all day reading docs and trying to figure out how the API is supposed to work, then write 20 lines of code to solve the problem. 

My own solution to this problem when I've been on the API writing side has been TDD.  If I can write a test case, it at least forces me to think about how the API will be used enough to avoid some of the major pitfalls.  On a larger scale project, the only solution is full-blown use case analysis.  Write the use cases first, then figure out what the API should look like.  Too often a hard-core technologist designs the API in the way he feels best exemplifies the underlying data structures.  The problem is that the users almost never care about the nature of the underlying data structures.  They need high level methods that answer questions, not CRUD based data exposition.  At the very least, TDD forces us to think through what some of those questions might be.  It's easy to miss some, however, so you really need to do use cases to find out what all the questions are before you write the API.

Tuesday, 07 September 2004 10:34:26 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Thursday, 02 September 2004

My wife and I snuck away from the children last night long enough to see Hero, the new Jet Li martial arts film directed by Zhang Yimou (of Raise the Red Lantern, Red Sorghum, Ju Dou fame).  It was fantastic.  Easily on par with Crouching Tiger... but with a much different pacing.  The martial arts were fabulous, and very well filmed.  And Mandarin is a beautiful language to listen to, so I'm very glad they didn't dub it. 

The costumes were very well done, and correct for the period, at least on par with those in The Emperor and the AssassinMy favorite part was that much of the film consists of the same events being recounted with different emphasis, and each of the retellings features a different color scheme.  There are blue, yellow, red, green and white scenes, and the cinematography was captivating. 

Well worth seeing in the theater, since the colors and overall cinematic grandeur play a key role.

Thursday, 02 September 2004 10:07:45 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, 01 September 2004

It's been quiet here on the old blog lately.  Partly because I've been pretty busy, and partly because I spent 10 days on vacation in SoCal.  I've got to say it pretty much rocked. 

I hadn't been to Disneyland since I was in high school, and this time I got to take my kids (who are 6 and 9).  It was fabulous.  There are a bunch of new rides, and many of the old rides from when we were kids are gone to make room for them, but all the new ones were pretty great.  Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones, etc were very cool.  My kids had a great time, and it's a lot of fun to see that kind of thing through them.  We spent three solid days at Disney (2 at Disneyland and 1 at California Adventure) and that was just about the right amount of time.  One of the new crazes that's sprung up since I was a kid is getting the characters to sign autographs.  Both my kids had a good time hounding people in big fuzzy suits to sign their books.  It gave them a goal that kept them focused on moving around even when they were tired.  If you're kids are into autograph hunting, it's worth checking out some of the "character meal" opportunities.  There are several restaurants around the parks and hotels where the characters hang out, and will come by your table and chat (in pantomime) with the kids, etc.  We went to "Goofy's Kitchen" at the Disneyland Hotel (where we staid) and "Ariel's Grotto" at California Adventure and both had pretty good food and lots to entertain the kids, although be prepared for some sticker shock, they aren't cheap.  Some pretty groovy, although less kid-friendly dining was to be had at the "Blue Bayou" which is actually inside Pirates of the Caribbean.

This was the first time I'd been to California Adventure, and I was really impressed.  I had heard that it was more adult-focused than Disneyland, but I didn't find that to be the case.  Both my kids loved "Soaring over California" and there was lots of kid related activity in the Bug's Life area.  The rides were pretty cool.  My son drug me on California Screaming twice (the big roller coaster) and I coaxed him into going on the "Tower of Terror" with me, which was pretty dang fun.  My daughter really like the Redwood Creak Challenge Trail, which is basically a big forest-ranger-themed play structure. 

After our three grueling sun-up to well-past-sundown days at Disney we hit Legoland, the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, and last but not least my son's big requested attraction, the La Brea tar pits in LA.  And somehow we still managed to get in most of a day at the beach in San Juan Capistrano. 

All that's behind me know and it's back to work.  Not only is there plenty of work at work, but I've got a new Web Services class coming up, and then SellsCon in October. 

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Wednesday, 01 September 2004 09:53:43 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  |