Thursday, August 31, 2006

Free as in Peer

Laurence Lessig's writes an interesting column Wired magazine. His latest entry is titled "Free as in Beer". The column starts off talking about free, or more accurately Open Source beer. It is a good read however towards the end there is the following discontinuous comment:
Although peer production is profitable for business, writes Benkler, "we are in the midst of a quite basic transformation in how we perceive the world around us and how we act, alone and in concert with others." What he calls nonmarket peer production is a critical part of this transformation. (sic)
Beer Peer? We all know that to appreciate beer you need to open the source, and that after appreciating beer you become a pee'r, but it is not the knd of thing that needs to be talked about.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The BIRT Strategy

Software is fascinating stuff. Compared to any other engineered product it is completely ephemeral, yet at the same time it is becoming the thing that makes almost every engineered product work. Software also has a meme-like quality where certain software systems become the standard that everyone gravitates to use, however good or bad it eventually turn out to be. It seems that the trick to creating successful software is to make it really, really successful.

I got to thinking about this after listening to Paul Clenahan, VP of Product Management at Actuate Corporation and member of the Eclipse BIRT Project Management Committee talk on "Eclipse BIRT: The Open Source Reporting Framework" at the SDForum Business Intelligence SIG. BIRT is a component of the Open Source Eclipse project that provides a Business Intelligence Reporting Tool (hence BIRT).

BIRT consists of an Eclipse plug in that allows you to design sophisticated reports, a standards based XML definition of the report and delivery mechanisms that allow you to deliver reports as either HTML or PDF documents. As Paul mentioned several times, it is also very extensible, so if it does not have the capabilities that you need, you can easily add them. BIRT is Open Source software that is available under the relatively unencumbered Eclipse public license that allows commercial exploitation of the code.

From the presentation and demo, BIRT seems to be a well designed, easy to use and fully capable reporting system that is free. In fact, as the presentation wore on, the one question in my mind was why Actuate has devoted 8 developers to developing this wonderful new Open Source reporting system. What is in it for Actuate? I think that it has to do with broadening the marketplace.

While reporting tools are widely used, many more developers roll their own reports rather than use a reporting tool.
Paul mentioned in his presentation that he asked a large group of developers at a conference whether they used reporting tools and the vast majority did not. Providing an easy to use Open Source tool that fits into the popular Eclipse development environment brings developers into the reporting tool fold.

Reporting tools are not rocket science. Low cost reporting tools have been around for a long time. While Actuate has excellent reporting tools, their core differentiating competence is a scalable platform for delivering reports, something that other reporting tools do not have. So broadening the market for reporting tools also widens the market for report delivery tools. If they are successful and BIRT catches on in that meme-like way, Actuate will have a much larger market to sell their products into. Open Source and an Eclipse plug-in dramatically lowers the barriers to using these tools.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Blogger Upgrade

Blogger, home of this blog is going to get an upgrade. I have used Blogger for the last couple of years as it suits my text mostly blogging style. So far my only complaint has been about Google's segregated indexing (and a spell checker that seems to work against both Blogger and Google). Many others have been less patient.

The bad news is that the new Blogger will be integrated with Google Accounts. Recently, I wrote about how I had been forced to give up my identity to Yahoo. Now, it looks like Larry and Sergey are going to get a bit of my identity as well. Barry Diller has a piece of me and Rupert has all my kids nailed down in their own little spaces. Whatever happened to freedom?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Short Post

Everyone including the media is talking about the idea of the long tail. To me it seems like last years idea. On the other hand, this is the silly season so maybe that is all they have to write about.