It’s time for reader nominations for the SD Times 100, when we recognize the companies, organizations and open-source projects that truly make a difference in our industry. Reader nominations are open through March 30, 2013. You can fill in the nomination form here.
Who are the leaders and innovators? Leaders lead, and the industry follows. Leaders create new technologies. Leaders solve problems in interesting and novel ways. Leaders start movements. Leaders destroy paradigms. Leaders write great software, they develop methodologies, they create platforms, they release tools, they start projects.
Leaders and innovators matter. People talk about them. People want to try their tools, technology and services. People try to emulate them. People want to partner with them, or become compatible with them. People worry about competing against them.
If the only people using an open-project are its sponsors or the contributors to that project, it’s not a leader. If the only people talking about a company are its employees and PR agency, no, it’s not a leader. If nobody is following the organization’s work, sorry, it’s not a leader.
The SD Times 100 are decided by the editors of SD Times, but we want to hear from you, our readers. Tell us who you follow. Which projects you believe in. Where you see innovation. Where you see the boundaries being pushed. Where you see thinking that’s so far of the box that you can’t even see the box. Where you see the best of what software development can be.
Posted by Alan Zeichick at 6:39 AM
So began one of the most important technical artciles published by AI Expert Magazine, during my tenure as it editors: “The Calculus of Fuzzy If/Then Rules,” by Lotfi A. Zadah, in March 1992.
Even then, more than 20 years ago, Dr. Zadeh was revered as the father of fuzzy logic. I recall my interactions with him on that article very fondly.
I was delighted to learn that Fundacion BBVA, the philanthropic foundation of the Spanish bank BBVA, has recognized Dr. Zadeh with their 2012 Frontiers of Knowledge Award.
To quote from the Web page for the award,
The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) category has been granted in this fifth edition to the electrical engineer Lotfi A. Zadeh, “for the invention and development of fuzzy logic.” This “revolutionary” breakthrough, affirms the jury in its citation, has enabled machines to work with imprecise concepts, in the same way humans do, and thus secure more efficient results more aligned with reality. In the last fifty years, this methodology has generated over 50,000 patents in Japan and the U.S. alone.
The key paper, the one that started it all, was “Fuzzy Sets,” published by Dr. Zadeh in June 1965 in the journal “Information and Control.” You can read the paper here as a PDF. I wouldn’t call it light reading.
Congratulations, Dr. Zadah, for your many contributions to computer science and software engineering – and to the modern world.
Posted by Alan Zeichick at 1:58 PM
Data crunching and data correlation isn’t new, of course. That’s what business intelligence is all about. Spotting trends and making predictions is what business analysts have been doing for 40 years or more. From weather forecasters to the World Bank, from particle physicists to political pollsters, all that’s new is that our technology has gotten better. Our hardware, our software and our algorithms are a lot better.
Admittedly, some political pollsters in the recent United States presidential election didn’t seem to have better data analytics. That’s another story for another day.
Is “Big Data” the best term for talking about data acquisition and predictive analytics using Hadoop, Map/Reduce, Cassandra, Avro, HBase, NoSQL databases and so-on? Maybe. Folks like Strata conference chair Edd Dumbill and TechCrunch editor Leena Rao think not.
Indeed, Rao suggests, “Let’s banish the term ‘big data’ with pivot, cloud and all the other meaningless buzzwords we have grown to hate.” She continues, “the term itself is outdated, and consists of an overly general set of words that don’t reflect what is actually happening now with data. It’s no longer about big data, it’s about what you can do with the data.”
Yes, “Big Data” is a fairly generic phrase, and our focus should rightfully be on benefits, not on the 1s and 0s themselves. However, the phrase neatly fronts a broad concept that plenty of people seem to understand very well, thank you very much. Language is a tool; if the phrase Big Data gets the job done, we’ll stick with it, both as a term to use in SD Times and as the name of our technical training conference focused on data acquisition, predictive analytics, etc., Big Data TechCon.
The name doesn’t matter. Big Data. Business Intelligence. Predictive Analytics. Decision Support. Whatever. What matters is that we’re doing it.
Posted by Alan Zeichick at 2:00 PM
Today’s word is “open.” What does open mean in terms of open platforms and open standards? It’s a tricky concept. Is Windows more open than Mac OS X? Is Linux more open than Solaris? Is Android more open than iOS? Is the Java language more open than C#? Is Firefox more open than Chrome? Is SQL Server more open than DB2?
The answer in all these cases can be summarized in two more words: “That depends.” To some purists, anything that is owned by a non-commercial project or standards body is open. By contrast, anything that is owned by a company, or controlled by a company, is by definition not open.
There are infinite shades of gray. Openness isn’t a line or a spectrum, and it’s not a two-dimensional matrix either. There are countless dimensions.
Take iOS. The language used to program iPhone/iPad apps is Objective-C. It’s pretty open – certainly, some would say that Objective-C is more open than Java, which is owned and controlled by Oracle. Since iOS uses Objective-C, and Android uses Java, doesn’t that makes iOS open, and Android not open?
But wait – perhaps when people talk about the openness of the mobile platforms, they mean whether there is a walled garden around its primary app store. If you want to distribute native apps to through Apple’s store, you must meet Apple’s criteria in lots of ways, from the use of APIs to revenue sharing for in-app purchases. That’s not very open. If you want to distribute native apps to Android devices, you can choose Google Play, where the standards for app acceptance are fairly low, or another app store (like Amazon’s), or even set up your own. That’s more open.
If you want to build apps that are distributed and use Microsoft’s new tiled user experience, you have to put them into the Windows Store. In fact, such applications are called Windows Store Apps. Microsoft keeps a 30% cut of sales, and reserves the right to not only kick your app out of the Windows Store, but also remove your app from customer’s devices. That’s not very open.
The trend these days is for everyone to set up their own app store – whether it’s the Windows Store, Google Play, the Raspberry Pi Store, Salesforce.com AppExchange, Firefox Marketplace, Chrome Web Store, BlackBerry App World, Facebook Apps Center or the Apple App Store. There are lots more. Dozens. Hundreds perhaps.
Every one of these stores affects the openness of the platform – whether the platform is a mobile or desktop device, browser, operating system or cloud-based app. Forget programming language. Forget APIs. The true test of openness is becoming the character of the app store, whether consumers are locked into using open “approved” stores, what restrictions are placed on what may be placed in that app store, and whether developers have the freedom to fully utilize everything the platform can offer. (If the platform vendor’s own apps, or those from preferred partners, can access APIs that are not allowed in the app store, that’s not a good sign.)
Nearly every platform is a walled garden. The walls aren’t simple; they make Calabi-Yau manifolds look like child’s play. The walls twist. They turn. They move.
Forget standards bodies. Today’s openness is the openness of the walled garden.
Posted by Alan Zeichick at 9:36 AM
- Alan Zeichick
- 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.