FILive: Jeff Atwood – I fought Atwood’s Law

Jeff Atwood, author of the CodingHorror blog, Stackoverflow creator and generally opinionated guy did the Thursday morning keynote.  A few random thoughts to start out:

  • Stackoverflow was an answer to Experts-exchange.  Experts-Exchange had lots of cool stuff, but it was stuck behind a paywall.  Slightly frustrating when google returns enticing results, only to not be able to see the answers.  I can vouch for that.  I actually used to use free points and stuff I’d scrounged to find answers off of it.  Never paid for it though 🙂  And yet Stackoverflow and derivatives seem to be very commercially successful. 
  • Web 2.0 meant “javascript now works” 🙂

A little on Javascript:

Javascript has won not by technical merit particularly, but by default. It was there.  With every computing platform having one or more browsers, Javascript was there.  Browser makers had an incentive to make it FAST, and even open source like Google’s V8 javascript engine which is the runtime for Node.js.  Plus, it’s cool since you can always view the source for stuff coming down to the browser.  That’s true “open source” in at least one meaning of the phrase.  And Javascript forgives you too.  Pretty low barrier to entry.  All that adds up to a nice recipe of becoming incredibly popular.

Everybody wants a law named after themselves.  It’s human nature.  So here we go – Atwoods law:

Instead of the traditional “All software grows until it can read email”, Jeff believes  “Any application that can be written in Javascript, will eventually be written in javascript”.

So is javascript ok for mobile devices?  Based on the charts he showed, browser and device performance is doubling still, unlike desktop performance and is in his opinion good enough even now. He also argues native is problematic because of the pain in finding, updating. Do you agree?

Of course, this XKCD cartoon on native apps is very appropriate, although I like it better from a usability antipattern example:

Jeff was looking to scratch an itch not scratched by StackExchange.

  • Stack exchange is optimized for learning, not hanging out.
  • Discourse is designed to allow conversation.  Open source forum sw.  He calls it a “discussion platform”.
  • Jeff was looking seriously about using javascript for the whole thing. Here’s an interesting quote: “It’s fun to be a polyglot, but shifting gears!”  
  • Node.js was definitely a front-runner, but for him the show-stopper was that Node lacks packaging.  Jeff really likes Ember.js for the client side.

So the question would be, did he use javascript for the whole project in question?  No, Ruby on Rails.

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Future Insights Live 2013

New York New York
I’m here at Future Insights Live for a few days this week. This year it’s at the MGM Grand, (right across from New York, New York, which I find much more interesting to photograph) taking a floor in their conference center. A few folks from my company are at IBM’s Impact event down the street at the Venetian. Since I’ve been to both, I have a bit of an opinion on what makes Future Insights a better fit for me this year.  Not to say I don’t see value for both.

I’ll speak in generalizations.  Impact first off is a large conference, attracting what seems like mostly employees from larger companies.  Sessions are mostly face forward, with lots of slides on the IBM product at hand.  Think Rational Application Developer, BPM, App Server, etc. Smarter Commerce might be a little more practical, but suffers in other ways.  I think IBM suffers from the same issues any large company deals with in that it becomes very easy to focus on the products being sold and not the solutions the customer is trying to solve.

_DSC3142Future Insights Live seems to strike a nice balance in that they attract great speakers for keynotes, have 5 tracks all the way from Design to Development to Business.  There’s a difference in the audience.  Lots of designers, entrepreneurs, app developers. The ratio of tattoos per person is high. People talk in the keynotes.  Lots of international presence.  I ate lunch with 3 folks from Brazil, one from Quebec, and a guy from Palo Alto.  It’s a very nice vibe.

One feature the conference has picked up on that I’ve seen a few times is a graffiti wall and artist to depict some of the tidbits attendees tell her they learned.  Fun touch.

Mural tools

Posts from the conference are going to be a little slower in coming since the 50 minute sessions have forced speakers to shove a lot of info into a short timeframe.  More to come.

Of RSS Readers and such

I find a lot of value professionally and personally in staying up with current happenings in the Information Technology field.  My interests are fairly wide-ranging, from programming languages and development methodologies to team dynamics and even hardware.  So the question would be how to best utilize the limited hours in a day to keep up?  Some methods can be like drinking from a firehose.  I’ve had coworkers who actually try to stay current by reading Slashdot and Reddit.  That wouldn’t be my choice.  Of course, there are topical sites that aggregate the news.  For Software Development topics, I used to find a lot of value in reading TheServerSide or InfoQ.  Somewhere along the line, RSS (and ATOM) was born and popularized, and I quickly latched on to BlogLines as my reader of choice.  Google Reader eventually eclipsed BlogLines in terms of capability and ease of use, and that’s about where I’ve settled to date.  It’s gotten better over time for sure.  However, there are still issues:

  1. It’s still difficult to curate a list of blogs to read from regularly.  Many of the blogs I subscribe to have been there for years, with few new ones added.
  2. I still tend towards information overload, subscribing to blogs that post way more than I can read.  I have a hard time prioritizing blogs appropriately so I can regularly read the important blogs, and only read the less critical ones when time allows.
  3. Google Reader is going away.  Fortunately, this problem has been solved in Feedly, a very worthy replacement.
  4. I don’t have any stats, but it seems that interesting people are blogging less.  That’s understandable since it’s a pretty big time commitment.  We’ll see how this goes.

As a sidenote, I have seen value in aggregators like the Wall Street Journal.  They seem to do a really good job of distilling the day’s news into a short list for times when I don’t have much time.  Also, even though some people knock it, I find TechCrunch a very rich source of information, and higher quality than many.