How NOT to do Web 2.0 – No Cork is not near Drogheda

Web 2.0 is great – it allows users to get involved on your website.

Allthetopbananas.com shows not how to do it. Just be lazy and not bother to tell your website that Cork is not near Drogheda (for our non-Irish-based readers, they’re at opposite ends of the country, about a 4-5hr commute!).

Why should I bother to report to you that ‘Cork is not Drogheda’ if you haven’t done your basic research and looked at the map? Save your ‘wisdom of crowds’ stuff for items that you can’t find anywhere else.

The last Rails For All mail you will ever get, maybe

Most websites do one thing : grab information from the user, and store it in a database.

For these simple websites , using Enterprise Java is like using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut – you’re much better off using a solution like Ruby on Rails. Off course, once you go off the usual path (e.g. to implement complex business rules and workflow) things become a lot more difficult. That’s how we make a living – a post for another day.

So, if you’re a business person looking for a web site ‘that has to be done by the end of the week‘ or a technologist looking to solve the pain of ‘I can’t believe building web sites is still so difficult‘, then it’s worth checking out Ruby on Rails.

Rails for all inon

A good place to start is Rails for All, which has recently moved home to Google Groups, and. The official announcement is below.

Rails For All – No more RFA email Hello everybody, This may be the last email you will get from Rails For All. You loved our email updates you say? Well, we have created two Google groups for your reading pleasure – one for discussions and one for announcements. Good stuff. Tell all your friends.

See you there!

Sincerely,

Robert Dempsey

Founder Rails For All, Inc.

—————

Promoting Ruby on Rails to the developer and business communities

More posts on Ruby

Barcamp Presentation Summary – Enterprise Web 2.0

A quick summary of the Barcamp talk on Enterprise Web 2

Until now, innovation has stopped at the corporate firewall, with most of the Web 2 activity taking place in the personal and consumer space. With blogs (slowly) coming to the attention of the business mainstream, what is next to be taken up? Why should large companies bother? How will they implement it, or is Enterprise Web 2 just a fancy name for stuff they are doing anyway? More importantly, will anybody make a living out of it?

Any thoughts / comments / suggestions on what people what like to see?

Barcamp Dublin Logo

The Irish Times schizophrenic attitude to blogs

I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while, but am I alone in thinking that the Irish Times has a very schizophrenic attitude to blogging?

On one hand, it’s one of the key players ushering blogging into the mainstream, with writers such as John Collins bringing the read-write web to the attention of a wider audience (not to mention their coverage of the blog awards). I presume John is freelance , a distinction that will become important in the next paragraph.
Irish Times Logo

On the other hand, some time back I asked for a link from their ‘blogs‘ page. I expected more of a ‘who do you think you are, we have 100,000+ daily readers, and you have exactly how many?’

Instead I got this strange reply…

You can place a link from your website to ours, but we request that you
include a credit to ireland.com/The Irish Times and a link to our home
page at: http://www.ireland.com/
Further information on copyright is available at
http://www.ireland.com/about/copyright/

We do not currently provide a page from which we link to other sites.
Thank you for your interest in ireland.com

Fair enough about not linking to me. But telling me exactly how I should link to you is a bit 90’s.

Which is a pity as if they took the same approach as another publisher (O’Reilly books) they could get some great user generated content, and be a real hub for the masses of Irish non-bloggers.

Update: John Collins has just let out the news that Ireland.com now has several bloggers on it. They even let you post comments.

What is Adobe Apollo?

Update: Apollo has since been rename AIR – Adobe Integrated Runtime. Personally, I Preferred the ‘Flex’ name.
What is Adobe Apollo? You know, Adobe , the people that give us the PDF reader.
Is Apollo the new Java for this Decade? Will it replace Atlas and .Net? Is Apollo an answer to problems we have in building web sites that all users can see? Will Apollo replace Ajax , Flash and plain vanilla HTML? Does it play well with Ruby and JRuby?

apollo.jpg

I don’t know. And neither does the Financial Times Tech Blog. But it does say

Adobe (and incidentally eBay) looks like it has a winner – if only the company can find a better way to explain what Apollo does.

I do know that Apollo may fix the pain of cross-platform web development. So, I’m over to the Adobe Labs site to find out more. Ajaxian has the demo. Mike Chambers (Adobe product development) has the slides. According to Mike:

Apollo is a cross-operating system runtime that allows developers to leverage their existing web development skills (Flash, Flex, HTML, Ajax) to build and deploy desktop RIA’s.

Translation into plain English:Powerful web pages,easy to build , loads of pretty colours. If it’s delivered as promised

Dear Bruce Eckel : Hybrid Java, Google Web Toolkit and Adobe Flex

Dear Bruce,

First up, thanks for the book. Yes I’m saying thank-you about 8 years too late. ‘Thinking in Java‘ is what got me going in the language and in my mind is one of the best Java books written (sorry Tim). Giving it away free only cemented your reputation as the Bono of the Java world. OK, Bono without the Guitar, the Stetson and with a couple of overloaded constructors thrown in, but a man of stature nonetheless.

Thinking in Java Front Cover

Secondly, I’ll forgive your flirtations with Python, on the basis that I’ve been having an affair myself with JRuby. I now understand the pain that you’ve been having at home, the endless repetitive arguments to get simple things done, and the temptation of a newer, younger, more flexible model.

So , I think you’re onto something here in your blogpost. I can feel the pain, the need to deliver Rich clients to users over the web. I think that Ruby / Google Web Toolkit / Struts 2 / Name your web toolkit has further to go than you may think , but eventually these ‘heroic efforts‘ (nice quote) will run out of steam. On the basis of your recommendation alone I’m willing to look at Adobe Flex, but I’m not sure if this is going to solve all the problems.

Now , a lot of us Java guys don’t like change (and as if you needed proof, just look at the comments on this O’Reilly blogpost on the Google API’s). All the same , we have a problem that gets worse every passing year. 6 Years ago we could have been sure that 90% of web sites were running Internet Explorer 4. Now we’ve got IE, Firefox, Safari (in all their different versions) as well as an explosion of mobile devices. The Windows Vista launch is only going to fragment things further with yet another platform to support.

No one web solution is going to display the same in all of these browsers. We’re not going to get a single solution from Microsoft / Sun / Adobe that everybody from developer to my Granny is going to install. So we’re going to have to take the ‘least bad’ route – something that looks great, but degrades gracefully to standard HTML on less capable devices. Excuse my ignorance, but I don’t know (yet) if Flex does this.

Yes Hybridizing open source Java is the starting point for the solution. Unfortunately we’ve a long way to go yet, and Flex is perhaps only inspiration along the way.

Yours sincerely

Paul

Build your Web2 site quicker – Free Ruby Book

Ruby has a lot of buzz around it. The idiots version of what Ruby is:

  • It’s a programming language (like Java) that allows you to tell computers what to do.
  • Used with the Rails framework , it allows you to churn out your latest Web 2 site faster than you can pitch it to your friendly VC.

InfoQ has a good link to a Free Ruby Book that has just become available. The author of the book (Jeremy) blogs here.

Free Ruby Book Link

We have two main reasons why we’re interested in Ruby:

  1. Java is great for scalable , Enterprise systems used by thousands of people. Sometimes we just want something quick and dirty to try out an idea.
  2. If your idea proves successful , you want a migration path (i.e. not to have to throw away all your original work). Ruby gives you this as the way it is organised means it is less likely to fall into a heap (Object Orientated)
  3. So Why not PHP (the way this blog, using wordpress, is built)?  Ruby has a companion tool called JRuby. This means that you can run Ruby code anywhere you can use Java. Anything that Java can do , Ruby can do as well.

We’re also going down the free book route on Enterprise Web 2.0. Only it’s taking us a lot longer to get there. Currently the problem is a techie version of writers block.

Google Spreadsheets Mean the end of Java

Or to be more accurate ‘Google Spreadsheets mean the end of Java as we know it’.
Google Spreadsheets Logo
Think about this. Who pays your wages Mr Java-Developer-who-has-just-had-a-couple-of-years-at-the-top-of-the-pile? Clients, or if you’re in a larger organisation , the business folks (i.e.’internal’ clients). Do you think any of them care about Java? Do any of them know what Java is? All they want is to get things done, quickly , and with as few mistakes as possible.

These business people would be happy to run their organisations on Spreadsheets. Do you remember the cartoon where Dilbert convinced the pointy haired boss that he could fly the plane using Excel? There’s more than a element of truth to this. I know of at least one US Fortune 100 company that (until recently) conducted most of it’s operations on little more than Microsoft Office and duct-tape. It worked, not very well, but it worked.

Until now , the next line would be ‘Excel (or any other type of Spreadsheet) is not secure / scalable / sharable / not web friendly’. That was until Google launched their Docs and Speadsheets. It’s an online version of Office with some spreadsheet functionality. Play with it a bit and you’ll see that there’s plenty missing. But this being Google , I’m willing to put good money on

  • (a) new features rolled out (think steamroller) and
  • (b) These Spreadsheets being massivly scalable / secure / sharable.

This being Google, there is also an API (developer page here). It’s got massive holes in it (e.g. you can’t yet use it to create a new spreadsheet). But when Microsoft bring out their version of online spreadsheets (and they will) not only will they clone the Google API (to get market share), they’ll need to go one further and introduce new features / remove the usage restrictions in order to compete.

So, secure, scalable, sharble online spreadsheets are here to stay. So lets take a look at Mr. (or Ms.) Pointy haired boss thinking about their new project:

  1. Hmm, I think we need to be able to gather which health plans our employees are enrolled in.
  2. OK, I’ll throw together a spreadsheet to show people what I want
  3. Before I’ll give to our friendly Java developer and let him ‘do’ a website from it.
    Soon I’ll just share this on Google.
  4. Great , Loads of people are now using it, I’ll just the (Ruby / PHP / Insert other language here) guy to add one or two extra features.
  5. Most Excellent. Why don’t we spin this off as a Web 2 company and sell it to EBay??

There you have it, Massively scalable , Highly secure websites (see Google Authentication API), without needing to know anything about EJB, JMX , JBoss, JDBC or any of the hard won knowledge that us Enterprise Java Developers have built up over the last 7-8 years. I’m exaggerating, but not much.

What do you think? Is Enterprise Java dead, or is Web 2 just another boost and a slightly different way of doing things for us Java people?

Other Java Posts from Technology in Plain English

Some other notes:

This article was originally published on the O’Reilly books OnJava Website.

Alternative nominations – 2007 Irish Blog Awards

For the consideration of the Academy , here are our Irish Blog Award nominations. We may or may not vote for them (!), but I’d like the Irish Blogging public to consider some of the alternatives to the usual big A-List bloggers (who are fairly safe to get nominated anyway :-). Also pretty sure to be nominated are last years award winners. Now , if only I can figure out how to work the award nomination form ….

Blog Awards Logo

  • Best Blog Post – David McWilliams on something even more important than blogging (!) the impending property market crash.
  • Most Humorous Post – Bifsnif. For having the best cartoons available on the web , of which this is only one sample.
  • Best Photo Blog – Ireland from a Polish perspective. Not a dedicated photo blog, but the images are as good as any that I’ve seen on the web.
  • Best Blog – Red Cardinal. He’s angling for the ‘Best Newcomer’ spot, but I think he’s worthy of ‘Best Blog’ consideration (a) Because he’s got good content and style and (b) He blogs about something relevant to all bloggers – how to get noticed by Google.
  • Best Political Blog – Dominic Hannigan. You may or may not agree with his politics (Labour), but he’s one of earliest politicians to blog, and deserves kudos for his suggestion to mail dog s**t to the Meath county manager.
  • Best Group Blog – IQ content who have just been accepted into the 9Rules network (a sure sign of blog quality if ever there was one)
  • Best Personal Blog – The Swearing Lady. But only because I’m afraid of her.
  • Best Use of the Irish Language in a Blog2 Years in a row for Conn? , even if an lionra has just ended. Damien has just told me that you can’t both sponsor and be up to win the award. I suppose it would be a bit awkward for the photo’s.
  • Best Contribution to the Irish BloggersphereDamien Mulley. He stuck his neck out and organised the 2006 Irish blog awards when nobody was sure it was going to take off. Despite the huge increase in workload, He’s organising the 2007 awards.
  • Best Technology Blog/Blogger (you mean, apart from ourselves 🙂 Justin Mason. A one man anti-Spam fighting machine. Kudos for his work on Spam Assasin ,but he’s also quite a good technical writer.
  • Best Designed Blog – Ken McGuire(Creative Imaginations). A very visually appealing blog, andmanages to get a lot of information and content across without appearing cluttered. AFAIK Ken doesn’t do freelance word press work , but if he did , you’d want him to design your blog for you.
  • Best Specialist Blog – Brian Honan, Security Watch. You mightn’t know it from his blog, but Brian does have a personality :-). A single minded dedication to security makes his blog a ‘must read’ for anybody who uses a PC.
  • Best Newcomer – A lot of the people that are newcomers , don’t look like newcomers (i.e. the quality of the blog is so good you thing they’ve been blogging forever). Perhaps this list might give you a few suggestions. My vote goes to Pat at Roam4Free.
  • Best Business Blog – McGarr Solicitors. Maybe not the best business blog, but worthy of your consideration as one of the first traditional (i.e. non tech business) bloggers out there.

We’re not nominating Best Music / Best Podcast / Best Podcaster / Best Videocast / Best Arts and Culture blogs. Maybe we should get out more.

More Posts on the Irish Blog Awards.

Update: With Conn out of the way perhaps Blunt Cogs could be the surprise Entrant. No, somebody else is going to have to nominate them.