antipaucity

fighting the lack of good ideas

modularity is great – if you commoditize the right complements

Google bought Android and made great things with it.

They also had an interesting audacity to announce an “open, modular” phone that ‘anyone’ could design from, and make components that would play nicely together (like IBM did with their initial ISA architecture releases back in the 80s). (Microsoft then flipped the tables on IBM and non-exclusively licensed MS-DOS to them, which meant hardware manufacturers could build entire replacement “[IBM] PC compatible” machines … that ran Microsoft software. )

But this only works if you’re Google – an advertising company that wants more eyeballs on its ads.

If you’re a phone manufacturer, like Motorola, the absolute last thing you want is for “anyone” to be able to replace all of the modules in your phone – because you’re not selling the OS, you’re selling hardware. As Joel Spolsky wrote 15 years ago,

If you can run your software anywhere, that makes hardware more of a commodity. As hardware prices go down, the market expands, driving more demand for software (and leaving customers with extra money to spend on software which can now be more expensive.)

Sun’s enthusiasm for WORA is, um, strange, because Sun is a hardware company. Making hardware a commodity is the last thing they want to do.

Motorola is a hardware company. They may want add-ons to be available to their base phone, but the certainly don’t want you replacing everything – unless it’s from them.

Jean-Louis Gassée notes these issues in his latest article, “Lazy Thinking: Modularity Always Works”,

In order to succeed, “disruptive modularity” needs a stable architecture with well-defined and documented boundaries. Module innovators need to be able to slide their creations into place without playing havoc with the rest of the edifice. This is how it worked in the Wintel PC world…sort of. In PC reality, as many of us have experienced, the sliding in and out of modules wasn’t so neat and often landed us in Device Driver purgatory. In the mid-nineties, one Microsoft director told me that the Redmond company actually spent more engineering resources on drivers than on Windows’ core software. …
Most important, strongly-worded theories are less interesting than exploring their cracks, where they don’t seem to work. This is how physics keeps moving forward and this is also how our understanding of business should advance. In the case of Project Ara, the unexamined consensual acceptance of Disruption Theory led many to believe that Modularity Always Wins meant smartphones would (and should) follow the same path as PCs.

I hope JLG (and I, and Joel Spolsky, and basic economics) are wrong.

But I doubt it.

how to turn a google+ community into a quasi “mailing list”

Spurred by a recent question from an acquaintance in town, I asked on Google+ whether or not you can enable emailed notifications for a Community. This led to the elaborate Settings page for G+.

It turns out that if you combine enabling a Community’s “Community notifications” vertical-ellipsiscommunity-settings (under the specific Community’s settings (which you find by clicking the vertical ellipsis button on the Community page) with the following tree in your general Google+ settings, Notifications -> Email -> Communities -> Shares something with a community you get notifications from, notifications-emailyou get a “mailing list” of sorts from your Community, which, niftily enough, also allows you to comment on the post via email (at least on the first notification of said post)!

my theory of social networking

I know lots of folks who like to have everything they share on one social network (eg Google+) magically appear on all others they use, too (eg Twitter & Facebook).

While I sometimes share identical content out to several networks, I rarely want precisely the same thing going everywhere all the time. In fact, while I love employing Buffer and IFTTT (including using the latter to push content from G+ elsewhere), I rarely like having the same posts (which aren’t links) appear anywhere else.

Why? To ensure I don’t miss some of the conversation or points raised by splitting my attention between, say, Facebook and Google+.

I find that the communities represented on the social networks I use, while overlaps occur, tend to be relatively distinct.

I see this problem occur in communities I belong to, too – such as the BGLUG. There’s a Facebook group, and a Google+ community. When events are scheduled, they get posted both places: which is great for publicity .. but not so much for keeping continuity of community.

Continuity of conversation and interaction is a Big Deal™, in my opinion.

Multiple conversation points are great – but fragmentation of discussion is not so great (eg comments on a blog post + comments on the social network link post of the blog post).

I asked a question about a subset of this problem a few years ago on Stack Overflow – and the best answer for integrating WordPress-to-Facebook commenting was to use a plugin. That’s awesome – but doesn’t begin to solve the problem of discussions across more than one network.

So, for now, I’ll continue to encourage all my socially-network friends, colleagues, family, and readers to keep conversations as separate as possible on the networks they frequent: improve your signal-to-noise ratio, and make the internet a better place.

posting from google+ to other services with ifttt

I’ve been using If This Then That (best part? it’s free!) for several months, and wanted to share a simple way to post updates from Google+ (or any RSS feed, but I digress) to your other social media services.

Currently I only use Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook – though I am sure this basic process will work for any other ifttt-supported social media service which you can access in a write form (they call them channels).

There’s a way to use email to post updates to Facebook and Twitter, but I kinda like the ifttt method more – it’s more intuitive to me.

Here’s the basic method (or you can use the recipe I shared that does this):

  1. login/authorize GPlusRSS with your Google account
  2. copy the RSS feed GPlusRSS gives you of your G+ public posts
  3. login to ifttt and enable/authorize (if you haven’t previously) the channel for the social media service you want to post to (I’m using Twitter for this example)
  4. create a new recipe
    1. click “this”
    2. click “Feed” (at this point you can post everything or you can post some things – I’m going to go the some route here)
    3. click “New feed item matches”
    4. in “Keyword or simple phrase”, enter something unique-ish (I use “#twt”)
    5. in “Feed URL”, paste the URL GPlusRSS gave you at parent step 2
    6. click “Create Trigger”
    7. click “that”
    8. click the social media channel you chose in parent step 3
    9. click “Post a tweet”
    10. click “Create Action”
    11. in “Description”, give it a good name, such as “post G+ updates to Twitter if tagged #twt”
    12. click “Create Recipe”
  5. done

If Google+ ever decides to open their API better, ifttt should be able to have a channel for them.

Until then, the above method works like a champ – I use similar recipes for cross-posting to LinkedIn and Facebook from Google+ along with Twitter.

decentralizing email

After several years of pushing all of my personal email into Gmail, I’ve decided that relying [almost] exclusively on one provider is just not the best idea ever.

Google is great. But, as with any cloud service, exclusively relying on just one provider is not the best.

Going forward, I am going to be relying on my own server (which I have been indirectly for several years), as well as Yahoo. And Microsoft Live for Domains (which is freely available the way Google Apps used to be).

I love cloud computing – right now, it’s a major component of my job function. But it’s not a panacea. Everything has its place, cloud computing included.

So, I am not saying “goodbye” to Google. I’m just saying “hello” to others 🙂

google apps: the missing manual by nancy conner

Google Apps: The Missing Manual by Nancy Conner was a great book. In 2008.

Today? Not nearly so much. So much has changed in the Google landscape in the last few years (or even months) that, sadly, much of the content is now quaint, or just out-and-out wrong.

It’s too bad – because the book is very well written. It’s accessible to a variety of audiences, and one I would love to recommend to anyone interested in, or currently using, Google products.

However, with the passing of Gears and the free edition of Apps, this text is not nearly so helpful anymore – at least to me.

And with the constant stream of updates to the online apps coming from Google, it’s not going to be much better than a primer for anyone else.

Maybe Ms Conner will do an update – I hope so, because I bet it’d be a great resource [again]. But if Google continues to change direction and policy as they have so far, it would likely again be out-of-date too quickly.

Printed books about technology are fantastic – when they cover something static like Microsoft Office 2010 or compiler design or data structures and algorithms. For web sites and apps? Not so much.