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Patently Silly

Following up on an earlier patent post, I came across this mention of Patently Silly, the blog for a comedian who gets his material from patents.
"It can take a long time for inventions to catch on. At first, each invention can undergo a long period of mockery. At Patently Silly, I try to be the first one to ridicule, so that this phase of the invention's life can end sooner. Then, hopefully it will grow up and change the world."
Not much in the way of software patents, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time.
via BoingBoing

Cubicle Inventor Disowned Cubicles

There's an article this month in Fortune on the cubicle inventor and his disowning of the concept with a discussion of how we ended up with today's unpleasant work environment:
Economics was the one thing Propst had failed to take into account. But it was also what triggered the cubicle's runaway success.
Nobody suspected that the unintended consequence of asset depreciation schedules would be veal pens for office workers. Leading to my favorite quote in the article:
they became the dystopian world that three academics described as "bright satanic offices" in a 1998 book, Workplaces of the Future"
Let this be a lesson to you. "Tax relief" = more incentive to shove you into a smaller box.

To be fair, his original concept was good. In some ways the current setup is preferable to the bull-pen days. I've worked in those environments and most of the time I'd rather be stuck in a gray-lit fabric box. We IT workers are sometimes better kept isolated, often behind a red door.

Google Slowly Getting into Business Intelligence

Google is slowly adopting elements of the business intelligence world. Today it's a competitor to Yahoo Finance called Google Finance with features like zoomable time period charts, headlines linked to charts, etc.

Just recently Google bought Measure Map. What's Measure Map? A dashboard for blogs. No more mucking around with crufty clickstream log analysis software to get at the data points important for a blog. A neat idea and worthy addition to Google since it matches up with Blogger. I've used Blogger for three years and I really like its ease of use.

Web 2.0 or Star Wars Character?

My score on the Web 2.0 or Star Wars Character test was a lowly 28, only "too much kool aid".

I've been enjoying all the backlash against the web 2.0 moniker this year. The back channel chatter
(neat visualization at the above link) at Etech this year would fall into periodic web 2.0 marketing bashing, some of it funny. Since I couldn't attend, I lurked on the channel a lot to hear what people were saying about the sessions and to figure out which audio/slides to download when they're available.

Tool Support for Open Source Databases Increasing

Support for open source by commercial vendors in the BI/DW space has been accelerating. Supporting the two most popular open source databases (MySQL and PostgreSQL) is the current push, now that many vendors support Linux. Business Objects came in a while back with MySQL support, both on the reporting and ETL fronts. Now MicroStrategy certified the latest version of its software to work with both MySQL and PostgreSQL. (By "now" I mean last month, I'm very behind in writing these days). Other vendors are adding support for open source databases as well: Embarcadero supports both MySQL and PostgreSQL, GoldenGate and iWay are both supporting MySQL, and others are indicating support will be added this year.

We're also seeing open source used inside some of these products, like Tomcat and Jboss being shipped as options for web application servers, or Business Objects' inclusion of MySQL for use storing metadata.

IBM has been a supporter of open source, but the contributions have been calculated to have minimal negative effect on their commercial software revenue. As such, the contributions in areas like databases and BI have been sketchy. Oracle hasn't been sitting back. They bought Sleepycat a while back, and the acquisitions of Jboss and Zend (creators of PHP) have been floated. Most of the acquisitions and contributions by commercial software companies are not in areas that have much impact in the BI/DW world. This will probably change as the market accelerates.

Why Focus Groups Suck

I read "Blink" and enjoyed it, with a few reservations around oversimplification or over-generalizing some concepts and their applicability. I liked this post on his keynote at an advertising conference on why focus groups suck.

To summarize: Focus groups are an attempt by management to reduce risk (and with it, potential reward). Gladwell says that management should instead trust their creative people, be patient, and tolerate uncertainty.

Some good points in the comments too.

Patent Stupidity

I'm interested in the negative impacts the patent system is having on the software industry so I was drawn to the book Math You Can't Use. Chapter 6 is available at the book website for download.

The primary thesis of the author is that patents are a very poor means for protecting personal or corporate investment and research in software. The patent system was set up with a centralized industrial mindset which is very unlike the software business, where only 32% of the market is composed of companies that produce shrinkwrapped software as their business. It was also set up at a time and for products that had different timeframes than software.

Now we're facing a crisis due to the ongoing devolution of a broken system. Which brings me to my personal favorite asinine patents (non-software): displaying boxes of cereal and pouring milk in cereal. I heard about these beauties at Free Culture, a worthy site for information on the patent and copyright wars, and things related.

Addendum: I forgot about this item on patents I had saved up from another time. Richard Stallman wrote an essay for the Guardian on software patents and compared them to ideas in writing. I like his comparison because the literary equivalents he draws are so obvious, just like the concepts covered by software patents:
"You might think these ideas are so simple that no patent office would have issued them. We programmers are often amazed by the simplicity of the ideas that real software patents cover - for instance, the European Patent Office has issued a patent on the progress bar, and one on accepting payment via credit cards. These would be laughable if they were not so dangerous."


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