Always a favorite marketing guru around here, Seth Godin has a quick quiz with a surprisingly telling answer. Instead of trying to win over the whole world, you should aim for a select niche of customers.
True, you might have a smaller customer base as a result – but you will have greater loyalty amongst those few. Let’s take a glance at some fields where this works:
The “Twilight” fiction franchise – The majority of people just don’t get excited about vampire stories. So what? This series appealed to tween / teen girls with a vivid and somewhat macabre imagination. And now they’re rolling in the dough.
Ethnic restaurants – Sure, not everybody likes (or even understands) Mediterranean food. So what? When you want falafel, hummus, and babaganouch, you just aren’t going to get that appetite satisfied at McDonald’s.
Hot Topic – The mall-based clothing and gift franchise focuses on the “Goth” and “punk rock” demographic. The rest of the teens head for more traditional fare, but the headbangers and rivitheads all flock here.
Web designers, why, oh why, do you hate poor little Internet Explorer so much? It seems almost like it did something to you. Did a web browser bully you as a kid? Oh well, whatever the founding incident was, it’s good to see you all working your aggression out with these hilarious images…
IE fails on Jeopardy – We don’t even know how it qualified for the show
Microsoft tries to make it up to us – And fails, because it fails everything.
Microsoft’s error report process – Apparently they get a lot of duplicates?
Four web browsers at a drive-thru – And I want to go to this restaurant!
Browser-tans line-up – Apparently IE is a “butterface”.
The only reasons to use IE. – …and it’s a short list.
A Spanish example – Because IE is so hated, it gets insulted in every language!
Bonus buck! – A whole website dedicated to beating the death drum for IE.
But this is without a doubt one not to miss. HTML5 is sweeping the Internet. Both the desktop and mobile platforms are looking at the day when they need to upgrade their website code base to be up to date with the current web technologies. While it’s of course true that old websites will still function in HTML 4.1 and XHTML, web owners will want to stay competitive. And adoption is happening with surprising speed.
Assuming there *is* a 2012, that is, what with all the hugger-mugger about the Mayan calendar and the usual end-of-the-world predictions. Matt Cutts, Google blogger, asks for our 2012 wishlist. Oh, we could think of a few – but we’re going to think really off-the-wall:
A way to invert search results. So the lowest-ranking pages show first. Hey, sometimes we want to find out what the Z-list has to say!
A way to turn off second-guessing and mutations. Dangit, there was a time when you could type in anything and Google would only show pages that contained every single one of the words you’d typed in exactly as you’d spelled them. Oh, how we miss those times.
Bring back cache-view. In fact, make it automatic for every page – when a website is down, we want to just read what we came to find out and move on.
Better image search? We know, this is a developing field. We can’t wait for the day when we can find the bloke who stole our image even when he ran two filters on it and scaled it down.
How about using regular expressions? Yes, we know, most users would scream in terror, but those of us techies would love to be able to narrow searches down by clicking a regexp switch.
We were scanning this fascinating write-up over at SEOMoz about “author/agent rank” when this thought occurred to us. See, the idea is that as social media gets more sophisticated and more data is tracked, search engines could learn how much weight to give an individual’s opinion based on their past web activity.
Don’t miss the “Google Person Theory” on that link. Your hair will be blown back.
Now imagine Google’s search database plugged into a Rogerian psychoanalysis script, similar to “Eliza“.
The big story lately is how tech investment and business is fixing to blow up another bubble, right up to where we were at the turn-of-the-century. Can somebody find that Pets.com dog puppet again? He’s the web-bubble mascot now.
Our latest hand-wringer is Techi.com, saying the tech 2.0 bubble is here. And you know what? Bring it on! Now, why do we say that?
As any economics student can tell you, bubbles and busts are part of any business. One growth and shrinkage doesn’t make an industry very legitimate, but now that the web business world is old enough to start showing some patterns, that tells us that it’s a little more predictable than anybody thought. It’s only the first fall that hurts you.
On a related note, Time thinks 4chan invented LOLCats. There’s published books of cat pictures with funny captions from the 1960s, at least.
There’s a website called ‘refreshthing’ that automates Google-bombing. Or at least (if you’re reading this a few days from now), there was.
4channers can’t hack for a damn.
This is a good time to look at web culture. It’s the street we do business in; being streewise is a good thing. It’s important because we’ve seen this scary glimpse into Internet mob mentality, and what basically amounts to Internet street gangs, and that tells us things about the future. It tells us that even greater control of the web frontier is in the future. As always happens, the hooligans of today will age into the uptight, conservative nannies of tomorrow. Coupled together with the moral panic over Internet bullying, we’re going to see a future where the overkill of the cure is worse than the disease.
Our favorite blogger who specializes in the human side of technology, Jeff Atwood, has brought to light the distressing story of how many candidates who show up for programming job interviews can’t program. He, and many of the comments appended, marvel at this phenomena. But it’s not so surprising, when you stop and think about it. They’re wannabe “hackers”.
Nobody wanted to be a hacker at first. Then trashy movies like “War Games” and “Hackers” came out, and people got the idea that hackers get to have sex with Angelina Jolie and start their own nuclear wars, so hence must be “cool.”
It’s a phenomenon older than civilization itself. It’s the same mentality that leads people to call themselves “geek” because they saw “Star Wars,” or call themselves “gangsta” because they wear their baseball cap backwards, or call themselves “bikers” because they wear a leather jacket, or call themselves “bi,” “poly,” or “kinky” because that’s the kind of porn they download.
Quite a few commenters on that site and others have down-played the vulnerability, saying things like “Meh, who uses 16-bit anyway?” Which goes to show that the home user doesn’t think like a hacker. Guess what? Most of the programs to exploit Windows security holes are 17 years old, too! In fact, if you were a hacker (we know, the correct word is “cracker,” but English is changing) downloading security-cracking software, you’d have more of a real problem getting updated software than you would getting legacy software.
Any website developer knows the drill: you put up anything requiring a login, and people are usually going to pick the laziest possible weak password. As documented in Ars Technica’s lament on the failure of the password model, this problem has existed unabated for 30 years. Users are still just as sloppy about password security as ever.
Future web application designers might need to start thinking beyond the password. For instance, what if we tried some other methods of user authentication along with the password:
manageStar, a business software firm in Walnut Creek, Calif. is among a growing number of commercial software firms looking to blend its commercial software with Open Source practices to better meet customer needs.
manageStar’s flagship software suite, Harmony, is comprised of modules that help businesses automate some key internal and B2B processes, including asset management, employee services, contract management, lease management and facilities management. Automating these types of practices in software can often require manageStar to customize the base modules, as one might expect.
To help contain costs and speed deployment of these customized solutions, manageStar engineers in 2001 hit on the concept of bring Open Source principals to their software — and their customer base. The ability to let customers “tweak” its core Harmony package is supported by the manageStar’s Equal Source Initiative, which execs say simply boils down to a simple idea — a balancing act between commercial and Open Source offerings that lets the customer use the right tools for the job.
In an interview with OET, Jason Henriksen, server technologies lead at manageStar, describes the balancing act at manageStar this way: “I’m responsible for code that is useful in a variety of software applications. However,” he added, “I am also responsible for the implementation of very client-specific solutions. Equal Source helps my team gain the advantages of Open Source for generic libraries, while maintaining tight control over the work that our clients would like to remain private.”
Lokitech Inc., a small software security firm in suburban Washington, D.C., has crafted an Open Source-based security solution for credit card processing that will run with .NET and Java enterprise systems.
Lokitech’s approach allows a business to store encrypted credit card lists and other sensitive information, says the company’s CEO, Serge Knystautas. Lokitech developed the encryption solution for an Internet-based casino project, involving teams in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Costa Rica, but the resultant easy-to-deploy two-way encryption platform is finding a larger audience, taking the risk out of using Open Source solutions for securing mission-critical data.
“We needed a way to store credit card numbers and account information without making the integration between different teams overly complicated. The technique we came up with allowed us to ensure that backups and communication were secure without adding significant costs or complexity,” Knystautas added.
Lokitech also needed to find a method that would help eliminate developer error. Company engineers hit on a solution that, with a little re-engineering and some Open Source libraries, moved the encryption function from the application layer to the data layer.
The encryption/decryption libraries are available as Crytpo++, an Open Source (and free) C++ Class library for encryption. To make the transfer of the encryption logic to the database layer, Lokitech wrapped the C++ encryption code inside extended stored procedures of an off-the-shelf SQL database (in this case, the casino used Microsoft SQL Server). Using the .NET Framework Class Library, Lokitech took advantage of many encryption APIs that can be called from any .NET-capable language, such as VB .NET, VC++ or C#
IBM is borrowing some important pages from the Open Source playbook in its pushes to re-architect its most valuable software assets, including Websphere and Tivoli.
OET speaks with Doug Heintzman, head of IBM’s Community Source program, to learn more about what Open Source approaches Big Blue finds the most valuable as they move from tightly-coupled to component-based appdev.
IBM software execs have aggressive goals in place to convert many of their core software products, including Websphere and Tivoli, from tightly-coupled offerings to a collection of integratable loosely-coupled component-based apps.
To get their software inventory to that destination, IBM managers have invoked some tried-and-true software development practices from the Open Source arena. The result: IBM’s aptly-dubbed “Community Source” Program. Doug Heintzman, director of Technical Strategy for IBM Software Group, said Community Source has been in existence for more than 2 years and now involves just over 10% of IBM’s 25,000 in-house developers, and involves more than 100 projects.
How Open Source is Helping IBM’s SOA Sea Change Heintzman conceded that Community Source has been “like turning a big boat,” as far as getting long-time IBM programmers to update how the think about, design and do appdev. But, with the “sea change” coming from SOA and composite apps, it’s an important turn for Big Blue’s boat to make.
The Open Source desktop app sector is gaining another player, as the Xara Project speeds towards a 1.0 release. The Xara Xtreme project is focused on building an Open Source version of a commercial-standard vector graphics. The team just released its Xara LX 0.5 for Linux, and is available under the GNU Public License.
“Linux needs a top-tier commercial-standard graphics program,” the team wrote in the release announcement. “The Linux desktop has come on leaps and bounds in the last year or so, but it still lacks any vector or general purpose graphics program to genuinely compete with Windows and Mac commercial products. And although desktop Linux is evolving at a rapid rate, the platform is behind in the graphics market. We intend to change that,” the team added.
So what can Xara 0.5 do now? The list of functionality is pretty impressive:
MySQL CEO Martin Mickos is always looking to the future, and not one to bugged by the past. OET had the chance to speak with Mickos about the immediate and long-term future of MySQL. Among the topics: relations with Oracle, a growing MySQL partner network, the dramatic uptake in MySQL 5 in the enterprise, and even his views on the webification of the enterprise. For a quick read and a great interview, read on.
An Open Enterprise Trends Interview with Martin Mickos, CEO MySQL AB
OET: What is this theme MySQL would like to put forward for 2006? Mickos: I think the overall theme is that we are building something fantastic for the online world, and that the whole world, the enterprise and everyone, is going online.
OET: So, the message is that it takes MySQL to go online? Mickos: To really get ready for the online world it takes a strong LAMP stack with partners. This year was great for MySQL’s partners. The [MySQL User Conference] was oversold and huge. My first LinuxWorld was smaller than what we had this year. And it’s just little us.
OET: Speaking of partners, things seem to be getting a bit better between MySQL and Oracle? Can Oracle be both a partner and a competitor? Mickos: Yes, the world was a little bit shocked when Oracle acquired Innobase. . And yes, we thought there might be negative impact on our company and our users. But, we come out of it all even stronger. We have renewed our contract for innoDB with Oracle, and we even nominated them as a MySQL Partner of the Year.
OpenVZ operating system virtualization software will be included as part of the latest commercial distribution product from Mandriva (formerly MandrakeSoft) Mandriva Corporate Server 4.0.
With virtualization technology, a Linux server running either Intel or AMD CPUs, can effectively be split into many small ones, each running its tasks so that the whole server is utilized more efficiently.
Mandriva is the publisher of the popular Mandriva Linux, which is used by IT departments in enterprise, government, and education. OpenVZ is OS-level server virtualization built on Linux, which creates isolated, secure virtual environments on a single physical server.
“Embedding the OpenVZ technology directly into the Mandriva kernel will give Mandriva customers unparalleled virtualization functionality,” said Kir Kolyshkin, manager of the OpenVZ project.
As a result of the partnership, Mandriva users will see greater server utilization and availability with fewer performance penalties. Further, bundled OpenVZ virtualization will let Mandriva admins ensure that applications do not conflict, and allows apps to be re-booted independently. Read the OpenVZ Project’s blog on virtualization.
Enterprise IT managers concerned about costly or proprietary data backup and recovery now have an Open Source option.
Start-up firm Zmanda Inc. has optimized the Open Source Amanda data backup project for academia with new enterprise-class features. Zmanda has also hired many of the Amanda Project committers, and has thus become the de facto commercial arm of Amanda, Zmanda CEO Chander Kant told OET.
[Initially developed at the University of Maryland in 1991, Amanda has been in use as an Open Source data protection project by academia for more than decade. Now in all major Linux distributions, Kant estimates there are more than 20,000 deployments of Amanda worldwide.]
“At a time when protecting corporate data is becoming a top priority for all businesses, most data protection solutions are simply too costly and too complicated,” said Chander Kant, CEO at Zmanda. “Zmanda gives businesses proven, enterprise-grade data protection at a cost savings of up to 90 percent over proprietary solutions. The data protection market is ripe for commoditization, and Zmanda now offers a low-cost, simple and secure open source alternative to help drive this.”
Sun Microsystems continues to push capabilities for its Open Source NetBeans IDE, expanding web services support, and adding support C, C++ and Mac devs. Far from feeling crunched by Eclipse’s continuing progress, NetBeans execs claim Eclipse’ success is just making NetBeans better. In fact, Sun is working with an Eclipse member to optimize Project Matisse for Eclipse.
OET runs through the highlights of the news, and gets comments and perspective from Dan Roberts, , Sun’s director of developer tools marketing.
NetBeans Gains C/C++ Source Code Plug-in Support — Sun released a preview version of the NetBeans C/C++ Development Pack, which allows devs to edit, compile, and build C and C++ applications on multiple operating systems, including Solaris, Linux, and Windows. The preview Pack includes a variety of features to support the C and C++ developer, including editor syntax highlighting, easier code browsing via hyperlinks between invocation and declaration, a makefile wizard, and templates for building C/C++ libraries and applications. The Pack also extends the Netbeans project system to support C and C++ projects and support for multiple project configurations. This plug-in is supported in NetBeans 5.0 and preview versions of NetBeans Enterprise Pack 5.5 across common platforms, including Solaris10, Linux, and Microsoft Windows Operating Systems.OET: What about broadening NetBeans to the C and C++ worlds, what is that about?
Despite recent storms over the resignation of Massachusetts CIO Peter Quinn, prospects are bright that state MIS execs in 2007 will adopt the OpenDocument Format (ODF) as a way to “open up” Microsoft Office documents. So says Sun Microsystems’ standards manager Doug Johnson.
Johnson told OET the ODF effort remains “steady as she goes,” despite Quinn’s resignation, who was one of ODF’s most high-level and high-visibility supporters. “I am feeling optimistic,” Johnson told OET. “For the first time in a long-time, Massachusetts is not on fire anymore.”
Johnson admits that Quinn’s resignation initially raise storm clouds throughout the pro-ODF community. “Everyone we look at as our natural allies might look at this [resignation] and say, ‘This is kind of nasty. Peter explicitly said he left because of the huge political controversy that surrounded this ODF decision,” Johnson told OET
EnterpriseDB, a commercial distributor of Open Source PostgreSQL database for enterprise use, has developed a DBA dashboard in partnership with the commercial Open Source reporting firm JasperSoft.
The idea behind the dashboard is to provide DBA critical database performance and configuration information for any EnterpriseDB or PostgreSQL environment, Astor said. The JasperReports DBA Dashboard for EnterpriseDB, will enable EnterpriseDB admins to monitor database performance, and to identify configuration issues across an unlimited number of servers.
EnterpriseDB CEO Andy Astor told Open Enterprise Trends that his company’s work with JasperSoft underscores an important factor in enterprise acceptance of Open Source: visibility and manageability of Open Source software needs to be easier.
More than half of all XML developers are working with XQuery, and another sizeable group expects to start before the end of the year.
That’s according to a DataDirect Technologies survey just released of some 550 “XML developers,” (which DataDirect defines as including a wide range of XML and database professionals). Specifically, the survey found 52% of XML developers have already started working with XQuery in the last 12 months and another 33% have plans to start using XQuery before years’ end.
“That one number was of the most dramatic findings for me – that XQuery is already happening, and in a much bigger way that I would have expected,” Larry Kim, DataDirect’s XML Programs Manager told Open Enterprise Trends. The survey interviewed some 550 developers and other IT professionals across a number of different industries. “The survey data confirmed what we’ve known all along – that there’s a tremendous interest for an alternative to the tedious, low-level methods presently employed for querying, manipulating and transforming XML data,” Kim added.
Recently, the analyst firm IDC announced they are forecasting the market for servers running Linux will exceed $9 Billion by 2008. If you think about it, that’s really an amazing statement.
It means that in the next few years, big hardware companies like Sun, IBM and Dell are going to sell literally billions of dollars of servers specifically for Linux. A billion dollars here and a billion dollars there, and suddenly we’re talking about serious money. But, Linux is just part of the story. There are literally thousands of others Open Source applications, and their growth is also accelerating — dramatically.
So what new issues or surprises are waiting for us in 2005 with respect to Open Source? Here are a few predictions:
The stars are aligning for 2005 to be the “breakout year” for XML’s next wave technologies, including XQuery, according to ISVs and toolsmakers watching the XML space.
Perhaps most bullish among the outlooks comes from DataDirect Technologies, who say that are getting growing interest from architects and devs to learn more about how XML can speed integration for data and documents, and even set up complex, multi-database queries on-the-fly.
“This is the year XQuery is going to happen,” Jerry King, general manager for DataDirect’s XML products told Open Enterprise Trends. “Developers are architects are asking us two questions,” King added:
A growing number of Open Source sysadmins and developers are working on web services projects, and are finding themselves mixing their Open Source and commercial software to deliver innovative solutions.
Massimiliano Panchi, a system administrator at an Italian financial software company, needed a way to monitor and log uptime history for a number of Oracle applications in a high availability configuration. Using PostgreSQL as his backend, Panchi built a Perl-based system that would check the status of his applications, populate the PostgreSQL database with these results, and send alert messages if something required human attention.
Now, this innovative solution left Panchi looking for ways to solve his management of his new blended commercial/Open Source software.
After his company evaluated proprietary (and expensive) solutions such as HP OpenView, Panchi wanted to look elsewhere, noting that commercial packages were too expensive and way over-engineered for his needs. OpenView “had a few too many great features that didn’t really address [my] specific problems. It was a bit too wonderful,” Panchi told Open Enterprise Trends, noting OpenView’s sophisticated GUI as an example.
Controversy may be giving way to simple heads-down hard work when it comes to BPEL4WS, the proposed orchestration standard for web services supported by both Java and .NET vendors. The leading J2EE app sever vendors BEA and IBM have jointly proposed extensions to BPEL (Business Processing Execution Language) to make it more easily implementable within Java/J2EE environments.
Further, a BEA executive close to their BPEL work told Open Enterprise Trends that BEA intends to provide a reference implementation of BPELJ to the Java/J2EE community, and may even provide this royalty-free and as open source.
“BEA will write and provide a reference implementation of BPELJ. Depending on demand and the evolution of the specification, we will also consider making this implementation open source and royalty-free. We’re very serious about it. We want this to be very portable across the Java platform,” said Stephen Hood, BEA product manager for WebLogic Integration.