2.22.2010

Fascinating interview with a Nigerian scammer

I'm not sure I believe everything the scammer says in this three-part interview with Scam Detectives, but this is interesting nonetheless.

Read all three parts:

Part 1: January 22, 2010

Part 2: January 26, 2010

Part 3: February 2, 2010

2.20.2010

Happy Birthday, SD Times!

We don’t aspire to be the next Industry Standard, Release 2.0, Fast Company or Wired. We simply want to be your favorite newspaper. The only paper that reports on what is happening in our growing, fast-moving industry—the software development industry. We’re Luddites of a sort, hoping to bring you the best in handcrafted journalism and reporting on the business of software development and what it means to you.

Those are a few words written by Ted Bahr, the other co-founder of BZ Media, in the premier issue of SD Times. We're celebrating its 10th anniversary this week.

That debut issue of Software Development Times came out on Feb. 23, 2000, and was succeeded by the Mar. 15 issue. We’ve published on the 1st and 15th of each month thereafter – and have just come out with the 240th issue.

What a wild time it was! When we were setting up BZ Media (the publishing company behind SD Times) in late 1999, the dot-com market was roaring. When the first issue of the newspaper appeared, stocks were at or near their all-time highs – led by the red-hot technology sector.

A few weeks later, the dot-com bubble popped. I’ll tell you, that was a scary time to have poured your life’s savings into a startup media company covering the high-tech industry. Yet here we are ten years later, still publishing a print newspaper that’s more popular than ever. (Naturally, you can also read SD Times in a digital edition or on the Web.)

Help us celebrate SD Times’ 10th anniversary. Checking out the current issue (Feb. 15, 2010), which contains a special photo spread on pages 16-17 with some priceless old memories. Download it as a PDF here or as a zipped PDF here.

Then, join us down a walk through the past. Read the Feb. 23, 2000, debut issue of the newspaper. In some ways SD Times has changed a lot – but in other ways, it’s the same newspaper we publish today, Download it as a PDF here or as a zipped PDF here.

Thank you for your support of SD Times. We look forward to serving you in our second decade.

2.09.2010

Facebook FAIL and the helpless of using SaaS platforms

Wow, did Facebook blow it with its latest redesign. The new, simpler navigation system, unveiled on Feb. 4, was intended to make it easier for people to stay updated, discover content and interact with applications. Instead, the new nav structure is a “bag of hurt,” to borrow the phrase that Apple’s Steve Jobs uses to describe Blu-ray media.

Yes, as a heavy user of the system, I’m quite annoyed at Facebook. With the new nav system, it is apparently impossible to get a comprehensive and consistent listing of your friends’ status updates. The recommend method, to use Friends -> Status Updates, yields a list that mysteriously skips many friends, even from one moment to the next. And what’s with the new default view of “Top News,” a seemingly random collection of old updates that aren’t even in chronological order?

You blew it, Facebook. And not for the first time; the company regularly changes privacy settings and terms-of-use policies, settings off storms of customer protests.

Within their failure, however, demonstrates the weakness of SaaS. Any change to a Software-as-a-Service platform will make some users unhappy. It may also make some users happy, but that’s cold comfort for those who don’t like the changes but are helpless to do anything about it.

That’s true not only of social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, but also of business-style SaaS applications. Every time the oh-so-clever programmers add a nifty feature, redesign a menu, change a default or delete a function, they’re forcing all their customers to change as well. SaaS platform changes can disrupt productivity and really annoy end users and administrators, especially if takes away key functions or breaks third-party add-ins.

Contrast that with standard shrink-wrapped software. If you don’t like Microsoft Office 2007, you can stay on (or roll back to) Office 2004 forever. If you don’t like Apple’s Aperture 3, you can remain on Aperture 2. If you find that there are plug-in problems with the latest version of Firefox 3.6, you can downgrade to Firefox 3.5 or even 2.x. Heck, I’m running Photoshop 8.0 and QuarkXPress 6.52, and see no reason to upgrade.

Users of SaaS applications generally must upgrade whenever the platform owner dictates. Some SaaS vendors, of course, are more customer-centric than Facebook, and allow users to try out a beta of a new application version prior to roll-out and send feedback. Some also allow users to choose when they migrate; often there’s a deadline, but they give customers some control over their software environment. I’ve seen some SaaS vendors allow their customers to say on the “old” platform for a year or longer before forcing a migration.

There’s a cautionary tale in the latest Facebook fiasco. SaaS vendors, especially those with a very large user base, should be very careful when making platform changes that are imposed on unwilling customers. Whenever a company says, as Facebook does, that the changes make thing “easier,” beware. Easier for whom? In this case, not for many frustrated and confused Facebook users, going by the overwhelmingly negative feedback. Let’s learn from their mistakes, and not turn our SaaS customers into helpless victims.

>> Update 2/11/2010: Andrew Mager from ZDNet has posted a workaround that helps you fix your Facebook news feed to be chronological. It appears to help somewhat. Thanks, Andrew!

2.05.2010

Super-excited about the SharePoint Technology Conference

We're racing toward the finish line for SPTechCon San Francisco, BZ Media's SharePoint Technology Conference. It's next week, Feb. 10-12, at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport in Burlingame. And it's going to be huge… here's why.

• So many people! This year's attendance is much higher than the 2009 SPTechCon SF — at least 33% higher. Registrations are still pouring in, even though the conference is less than a week away.

• So many great speakers. We've got an incredible conference faculty, from the keynote speakers to the teachers at our workshops and technical classes. This is the biggest and best collection of SharePoint experts ever.

• We sold out the exhibit hall. Twice. The first time it sold out, back in October, we started a waiting list while I went back to the hotel and said, "We need more space!" The Hyatt found us another ballroom to use for expo space, and we filled that one too. I believe the final tally is 52 exhibitors.

• Sponsors, sponsors everywhere. Check them out. Not only do we have many corporate sponsors, but also tons of participating media sponsors — print and PDF publications, newsletters, portals, associations and user groups. We've never had as many sponsors for a BZ Media event.

• We've got so many fun things going on. Our first-ever show daily. We had so many signups for our "Tell Me Something I Don't Know (About SharePoint)" event that we had to split it into two rooms. I'll host one room while Dave Rubinstein, the conference chair, hosts the other.

• More fun things. There's our "Ask the Experts" program, a "Pizza & Answers" session and a tweetup to benefit the Children's Defense Fund. We even have “The Big Honkin’ Silicon Valley/Bay Area SharePoint User Group Meeting,” and yes, that's really what it's called.

I'd like to congratulate the crew that worked so hard to make SPTechCon a success: Dave, Stacy, Kathy, Jill, Mara, Viena, Erin, Craig, Carl, the sales team, the editorial/production team, the IT team, the marketing team, everyone. Oh, and Ted, of course.

It's going to be a great week! I hope to see you there.

Learn why SD Times is the print-publishing leader

An article in Media Business quotes my partner Ted Bahr in an overview of business-to-business publishing in the technology sector. It says,

… an upstart brand, BZ Media's SD Times, has become a print leader in the sector. “That kind of left the market open for us,” Bahr said of Dr. Dobb's withdrawal. He added that SD Times' booked print advertising for this year is running about 33% ahead of 2009.

“Smaller companies are nimbler,” Bahr said as partial explanation for SD Times' success. “They are able to act on opportunities faster than bigger companies. They don't have to write a business plan, and it doesn't have to be approved by a board.” (BZ Media has a staff of about 20 people.)

There's a lot more to the story than that, of course. Read the entire piece, "The State of B-to-B Media," which appeared today in Media Business.

2.02.2010

Google fights the good fight against old browsers, spaghetti code

Old browsers are a pain in the butt – not just for users, but for Web application developers that must keep supporting them. Sometimes that means dumbing down Web apps by avoiding new standards and capabilities. Sometimes that means spaghetti code workarounds, including browser sniffing and branching, to avoid a browser crash.

Supporting old browsers means lots of regression testing when rolling out new Web features. It also means tech-support headaches and customer complaints, even with that regression testing.

The challenge isn’t the tech-savvy consumer. It’s a combination of low-tech consumers, who use old hardware, old operating systems and old browsers, along with corporations that choose not to upgrade their employees. Those companies have good reasons not to move: Browser upgrades take IT staff time, might require system upgrades, and might break in-house Web apps built to use old versions of, say, ActiveX components. Still, we can't remain on an IE6-compatible Internet forever.

The situation is intolerable. Something must be done. Thus, my hat’s off to Google for publicly ending support for old browsers in applications like Docs, Sites, Mail and Calendar. Yes, this will inconvenience some consumers, business users and others who can't or won't upgrade – but it must be done.

Here’s what Google said yesterday:

In order to continue to improve our products and deliver more sophisticated features and performance, we are harnessing some of the latest improvements in web browser technology. This includes faster JavaScript processing and new standards like HTML5. As a result, over the course of 2010, we will be phasing out support for Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 as well as other older browsers that are not supported by their own manufacturers.

We plan to begin phasing out support of these older browsers on the Google Docs suite and the Google Sites editor on March 1, 2010. After that point, certain functionality within these applications may have higher latency and may not work correctly in these older browsers. Later in 2010, we will start to phase out support for these browsers for Google Mail and Google Calendar.

Google Apps will continue to support Internet Explorer 7.0 and above, Firefox 3.0 and above, Google Chrome 4.0 and above, and Safari 3.0 and above.

Starting this week, users on these older browsers will see a message in Google Docs and the Google Sites editor explaining this change and asking them to upgrade their browser. We will also alert you again closer to March 1 to remind you of this change.

Google is going to take some heat for this, but on behalf of Web developers everywhere, I applaud this bold action. The sooner we get rid of IE 6 and other non-standards-compliant browsers, the sooner we can all move forward with better Web apps, and also begin unraveling years of gnarly spaghetti workarounds. Thank you, Google!

2.01.2010

Ex-Borland Auction for Haiti Relief

I'm pleased to pass along this message from my friend Michael Swindell, a long-time Borlander who now works at Embarcadero Technologies. There's lots of cool stuff on their eBay auction site, and of course, this is for an important cause. I've got my eye on a few things...

Borland Memorabilia Auction for Haiti Relief by ex-Borlanders has started. Bid early and often. The first 60 items are listed now. All net proceeds go to Haiti Relief (Clinton/Bush Haiti Fund). We'll be listing more items over the course of February.

Please pass this on. The more people who know about the auction the more we can raise for Haiti relief. Thanks!

And if you're an ex-Borlander like we are, we've placed a donation bin in the main lobby at 100 Enterprise Way (formerly Borland Way) where you can drop off any cool or unique Borland historical items or memorabilia you'd like for us to include in the auction. If it's an expensive item and you'd like to hand it off directly just drop me a note. We've received some great stuff and really appreciate all the donations so far.

Click here on on the picture for the auction site.

About Me

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Co-founder and editorial director of BZ Media, which publishes SD Times, the leading magazine for the software development industry. Founder of SPTechCon: The SharePoint Technology Conference, AnDevCon: The Android Developer Conference, and Big Data TechCon. Also president and principal analyst of Camden Associates, an IT consulting and analyst firm.