Just Shelley

Slipped out of time

My favorite place is not at home in front of the computer, or out on some trail somewhere, taking photos. It’s not in any city or town, in the country, or along the water, though you get close with the latter. I am in my car, but being in my car doesn’t make it my favorite place. And the place loses its magic if someone else is with me.

My favorite place is the car wash. In the middle of the car wash to be exact. I love the car wash. But before you start with, “Lady, you need a life”, give me an ear, an eye, and a sec of your time.

The excitement of the car wash starts when I move my car on to the rail and put it in neutral; I have lost all decision making power at this point except which wash I want. Do I want the wash with the pink, yellow, and blue foam, or just the pink and yellow? Do I want that clear liquid rinse they say is a wax, but how can it be when it isn’t waxy? Does my underbelly need washing? I don’t know, is my underbelly dirty?

After this decision, though, I am free from any further need for action as soon as the car starts moving forward until I respond to the bright green DRIVE light at the end.

I am isolated in the car wash. The radio is off to prevent interference with the wash sensors, and the cellphone doesn’t work through all the equipment. The wash is too short to start any task, no matter how small or trivial. If it was a bit longer, I’d feel guilty for the ‘wasted’ time, and probably whip out a notebook or some such thing, in order to do something useful. But the wash is over before this activity can be made worthwhile; so I sit and do absolutely nothing.

Nothing except watch the two young people scrub my front and back bumper and windshields to remove the corpses of tiny little creatures who zigged when they should have zagged. After that is the water spray, and I am moved to hum a note or two from “Singing in the Rain” during this event. The excitement begins to build within, anticipating what’s to follow.

First comes the big soapy strips that move back and forth across the car and take off the initial layer of dirt. They remind me of great dark blue tongues, bigger than a cat’s, even bigger than Mick Jagger’s –reaching out and licking across the glass and the metal, the tips lingering on the warm metal at the end. Following these is another shot of water, for the initial rinse, but it’s nothing to get excited about; mere foreplay made more mundane by what’s to come.

The car moves past tubes set into the wall and bright white, pink, yellow, and blue foam squirts out all over the car; pulsing to some internal beat; swirling together into a purple color that slowly drips down the sides of the windows; softly teasing small bubbles, sparkling in the light, glide past me as I look out. Always bright white, pink, yellow, and blue. Never all white, or all pink. I imagine a study was made in the past and the car wash people discovered that people respond better to different colored foam. I know I do — it wouldn’t be magical if the bubbles were all white.

But the moment doesn’t end when the foam ejection finishes. No, next comes the lighter blue yarn like threads that spin around very fast, along the the sides and top; following the contour of the car in a passionate but surprisingly gentle grasp. They start in front of my car and part ever so reluctantly as the car moves slowly forward, never losing the grip they have on the sides as they glide compellingly towards the back. At the end, they give a saucy little flip to the rear, a pat of appreciation and familiarity in passing.

Of course, once the blue threads are finished, the fun part is almost over and the excitement begins to wane. The car is rinsed with one clear water rinse and then another, followed by the wax, and though it’s pleasant, it doesn’t tingle or give one a thrill. Still, there are those fun little fans at the end, moving up and down and across the car, chasing water droplets across the hood and the windshield. A final fun and piquant moment before the green light comes on and I’m booted out.

What’s best about the car wash is that all during this experience, I don’t have to think about what tasks need finished, or what improvements need to be made in my life; who I have pleased or disappointed or let down. I don’t have to read the opinions of this wit or another, alternately cheered and depressed, calmed and angered. I don’t have to hear the bad news on the radio, or listen to even sadder news on the phone. I am slipped out of time.


Web 2.0 just like Web 1.0 before we got clever

I’ve been reading some of the articles associated with Web 2.0 (Jeremy Zawodny has several dumps of these) , and I’m not sure that I’m particularly impressed with what I’m seeing. The consensus seems to be that Web 2.0 is really about lightweight services and open source functionality, but we had that at the very beginning of Web 1.0, before a bunch of people got clever.

Ten years ago the web was new and lightweight. A year or so after it was born, the web got a little heavier with CGI and business use, but still managed nicely. Then about six years ago, thanks to Microsoft and Sun, and IBM to some extent, the web ballooned out into these fat infrastructures and architectures like J2EE and ASP.Net and using bloated technology like Web Sphere.

I agree that these fat technologies are the work of people who were being clever and perhaps a bit greedy, but not very smart. And I am ashamed to admit I helped these efforts with my own, starry eyed participation. But I is all growed up now.

I now look back on the use of application servers in the companies I worked in and in all cases – all of them – there wasn’t a company or organization that needed an application server. None of them had the performance issues. It was more a matter of ego than anything else…

Hey, we’re going to be big! We have to think big! Bigger is better! And to scale we have to have all this iron just to make it work. Because we’re going to be big!

I can agree that we’re now learning that we can probably rip out the application servers from 95% of the companies that used them and replace them with something simple and lightweight and most likely open source and the companies would thrive and the applications would thrive and it sure would be easier to find people to work on the apps.

But we’re doing the same thing thing again – being clever rather than smart– with the concepts of podcasting and platforms, and the newest batch of ‘look at us, we is inventing now’. God, we just don’t want to let the glory of the dot-com go, do we? Well, I can understand why, and it’s not just about money: it’s about capturing that feeling of positive energy. Damn, those were glorious days.

Edd Dumbill writes about what is hot and not in the new Web 2.0, saying that what’s hot are intellectual property issues, transformations and data integration, and network engineering; what’s not hot are complicated web service and frameworks. I can agree, 100%. But what’s hot or not isn’t a matter of technology for technology’s sake, as much as it is our interacting with technology. Rather than huge applications and passive users, we’re looking more at a partnership with the technology, each providing 50% of the work. That’s a goodness…but it isn’t sexy, and it doesn’t turn heads.

We’re also looking at more than just a partnership between tech and people –we have to start finding some common ground with each other beyond just our accidental connection through the wires. For instance, Intellectual property law is spread out too thin between the extremes of those that believe that everything should be contained and copyrighted and controlled and those who think that everything should be free. How can we can work towards a solution that will please everyone when there isn’t any level of compromise among the participants in the discussion? There are a hell of a lot of cultural issues to work through before copyright can be effectively addressed, and the cultural shift has to occur on both sides of this fence.

I gather that Cory Doctorow believes if we just let EFF deal with all of these issues they would all go away. That we should have never let Intel et al determine what the tech industry wants. But what makes him think EFF would do any better? Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Fractionalized effort at least brings in its own checks and balances. At this time, we need many efforts on many fronts – centralized efforts led to problems in the past that we don’t need to duplicate.

(I’ve dealt with the zealots in the open at all costs camp, and there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that I would say, “Oh sure, you go ahead and be my voice.” )

As for transforms and data integration, well this is one I do particularly like and hope that we’ll see more of. That’s the whole reason I tied on to RDF and OWL; it certainly wasn’t because I found the specs to be fascinating late night reading. We don’t annotate our material on the web nearly as much as we could, and if we did, we could do some amazing stuff.

Still, having a means and a method won’t help with transformations if the different business entities don’t agree on the data models underlying the business. We had EDI and other data transform and integration efforts years before the Web happened, and the problems we found weren’t so much in the technology as it was to get people to agree on what represents a basic data model of a business.

So I create a vocabulary for poetry and you create one, and they don’t agree. How do we work these through? Most used vocabulary wins? But what if the most used isn’t the best? What if the most used was supported by a bigger name than the better vocabulary? What technology helps to correct for the buzz effect? This is going to be the killer issue of the next decade: how do we support standardizations on, and promotion of, the ‘good’ data models?

But I’m not the only one to see that this issue is more one of the people than the tech. As Edd Dumbill writes in his essay:

There’s also another lesson I’d like to draw, which is about where people who believe in the fundamentally decentralized and open nature of the web should put our attention. We ought to be careful not to be seduced by the new platforms of the web. We fought long and hard not to have the web become Microsoft Internet Explorer, and we should fight equally hard not have it become Google. In the first wars, our weapons were the HTML and CSS standards, in the latter, they may well turn out to be the vocabularies and ideas of the semantic web.

I’ve no idea what the people at the Web 2.0 conference are talking about, but this is my notion of what the next web is: more of the same. The real shift isn’t in the web, but in the businesspeople’s perception of it.

Absolutely right on. But then Edd wasn’t at the conference, and neither was I, and neither, most likely, were you. So much for Web 2.0.


Emerging Tech Proposal

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I decided, what the hey, I wanted to put my Emerging Tech proposal online. I’m rather fond of it myself. I may actually build something on this for the upcoming IT Kitchen.

Proposal Information
Title: I, Poet

Conference: O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference 2005

Type/Duration: 45m

Audience Level: General

Audience Type: This session is focused on a general audience, including technologists such as SysAdmins, developers, managers, and educators. There is enough geek to satisfy the coders; but enough speak for the rest.

As the universe of the internet expands, the inner core of the innovator compresses until now those seeking to find the newest incarnation of the web, the Semantic Web, circle around each other in a fast spinning wall that forms both a barrier to those watching from without, and a burden on those within.

In plain English, we haven’t reached the ‘Oh yeah, we need people, too’ epiphany among all of our technology efforts.

This talk focuses on the schema related innovations and the need within each for a critical mass: enough participants in the schema to generate value above and beyond each individual’s contribution. It explores the difficulties inherent with reaching critical mass for new schemas, especially as they relate to what is known as the ’small s, small w’ semantic web–the bottom up approach to the next generation of the web.

It covers several schemas that have achieved varied success in reaching critical mass, and explores what propelled each out of the hands of the geek, and into the hands of the poet.

The session also looks at what we can do to interest not only the poet, but the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker; without them, the semantic web is just so much hot wire.

Description Short:
The semantic web extends beyond the schemas and the wiring to run them; it also requires the participation of people more interested in finding a poem that uses a bird metaphor than on building the next generation of the web. But what lure can we build to capture a poet?