Sunday, November 18, 2007

My Blog, 2.0

I'm in the process of upgrading this blog. I'll move to my own domain, and most likely Wordpress, although I'm looking at Drupal and Joomla as well. Let me know what your experience has been with these CMS tools.

Posts will be few and far in between, so please bear with me and hang in there. I'm working hard to find a good theme and look and feel so you folks have a better experience.

This is the time to make your wishlist. Drop me a comment on what you'd like to see, or have me cover in this blog.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Google acquires Jaiku

Happened today, its likely that you have already read about it.

img courtesy: jaiku

Here's some FAQ&A on the deal and its implications.

Q: Why not Twitter?
A: Google probably thinks Twitter is overvalued (at USD 20 million). It is likely that they spent lesser on the Jaiku deal. Twitter recently closed a USD 5 million second round. And it is in Europe (read: ahead of the US on mobile technology adoption).

Q: But Twitter has more users, is more popular?
A: Sure, but Jaiku is more than just a micro-blogging or lifestreaming platform. It is an intelligent presence detection application, with their smart address book feature. Google is acquiring technology again, they can generate the user numbers, I suppose.

Q: Where does this all fit in the biG picture?
A: The New York Times reported yesterday that Google phone project is a mobile software project. So whether the Google offering competes with Microsoft (Windows Mobile) or Apple (iPhone) remains to be seen, but in the light of this, the Jaiku acquisition seems to make sense. A mobile software (platform, most likely) + mobile technology from Jaiku + mobile social network Zingku to promote it. All the right conditions for Google to continue to govern your life.

Q: Google, Social Networking? Remember Orkut, Dodgeball? Why will they take on Facebook and MySpace?
A: Because they are Google. Their social networking attempts have not taken off well - at least in the US - but there are rumors that there may be a third life (or should it be second, second life?) in the wings. Although Jaiku fits in nicely with their mobile strategy, its lifestreaming features is a ammunition for any Social Networking War (what an Oxymoron!) that it may be gearing up for.

Afterthought: MS should
really buy that stake in Facebook.

What do you think?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sowmya Karmali on Agile Development

... that was what the title said. Yesterday, I had a talk at the .NET User Group in Monrovia on Agile Development. It was a 90 min session excluding the break, thats a long time for someone to be talking. Thanks to the great audience, it was a breeze. My slides:

Part I: the ten commandments for an agile developer

Part II: Agile tools for .NET Development

Here are some interesting points raised by the audience. I'd like to see your opinion too.

(On TDD) What if you are enhancing or maintaining an existing version of a product that doesn't have test cases written? How do you convince management that you need that extra time to write those test cases?

(On build scripts) If your testing required some data in the database, how do you include that into your build script?

(On estimation) How do you estimate for an agile project? Especially when you say you aren't going to freeze your requirements in the first place.

(On FDD & Iteration planning) If you have a product that requires some meta data modeling, how do you plan to do it iteratively? You need to complete the meta model in order to have a complete design.

There were all the usual elements of a geek meetup: pizza, coke, books, oversized t-shirts...I'm glad some things don't change.

Monday, September 10, 2007

My talk on Agile Development

On 19 September, I'm going to deliver a talk on Agile development and Agile .NET tools at the San Gabriel Valley .NET user group meeting. Here's a link to the details. (Note: this link will go bad in about a month's time -- you'll discover why when you click on it.)

The first part of the talk is based on my earlier blog post on the 10 Commandments for an Agile Developer.

If you or any of your friends are going to be around in around Los Angeles, do drop by for the pizza and coke ;).

Friday, August 24, 2007

My Web 2.0 Business Models presentation

I made this presentation at the Bangalore Barcamp 2 in Dec, 2006. I looked at the stats on slideshare.

2000+ views, favorited 12 times. I feel good.

This presentation is special for me because it made me break away from the "bullet point" way of creating slides and delivering talks. I realized - post fact- that I was more comfortable using the simple, freeform style in my slides. It makes me talk with more conviction. Here's to Zen.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Zoho, Offline

I didn't intend to follow up one Zoho post with another, but this is too good to pass up.

Zoho docs are now available offline - a feature its competitor, Google docs & spreadsheets has yet to offer. Available on Zoho Writer, for now. Zoho's solution, ironically, uses Google Gears in its implementation. I think using Google gears is a super idea for 2 reasons:
1. Shorter release cycle -- don't re-invent the wheel (or gear, in this case)
2. Google Gears' universal appeal. If and when Google docs is available offline, they're likely to base it on Gears too.

Although the documents aren't editable offline for now, I'm told that the feature is just around the corner.

Zoho Writer has got more slick as well. You can now comment on portions of documents, and have a discussion style document review.

Nice going, guys!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Deep Dive: Zoho Office Suite

Zoho has been on my favourite companies list for a while now. This is a long promised deep dive into its popular online productivity tool set, called Zoho Office Suite.

Zoho is a product from a Chennai-based company, AdventNet, whose other LoB is software services. The Zoho Office Suite has a range of products, from an online document creator (Zoho Writer) to a CRM Solution (Zoho CRM).
The products are targeted towards small businesses and individual users - a segment thats rising in number. Zoho now has over 300,000 registered users, (Compare: Twitter has 200,000 registered users) and this number is increasing at a tremendous rate (Twitter's growing faster, of course).

Whats really commendable is that Zoho's got there frugally.They operate with a "We do not want any Venture Capital" mentality - which translates thus

1. All the development happens out of Chennai (quite expected)
2. Most of the Marketing happens out of Chennai (really cool, when your primary market is the US)
3. Very focused Promotions (Ads on some A-list bloggers, sponsoring key conferences, blogger evangelism)
4. Virtually no sales organization

This is why they can give away some products for free :), for individuals.

I Like
I've used Zoho Writer (the word processor), Show (online presentation tool), Sheet (online spreadsheet) quite extensively. Featurewise, they do pack a lot of punch into the tools, and you can see some really smart AJAX at work. Like the drawing tools, for instance. Drag and Drop, Rotate, selecting a region full of drawing - all these are very neatly done. Not as full featured as MS Word or Open Office, but it is quite enough for "normal" usage. The fact that you can share & collaborate on the documents more than makes up for it. The right comparison to make is between Zoho and Google Docs and Spreadsheets. Featurewise they are neck to neck, but the Google brand drives more users its way.

You must try out Zoho Creator. Its an online application creator. Means, you can have a simple UI+DB kind of application created within minutes (Did someone say MS Access? Nyaah!). Say you want your own expense tracker or maintain a record of who's borrowed your books, Zoho Creator is the thing for you. It also has a built in workflow engine. Thats a power pack!

Zoho Notebook will remind you of MS One Note. Doesn't matter. Few people know about OneNote. Notebook is a great freeform scrapbook tool that helps you collect your pieces of research, take notes in a meeting, doodle -- do whatever you do with a physical notebook. Whats more, there's a Firefox plugin for Notebook. Lovely. Now you can take notes as you browse -- copy paste from a website and it will paste the URL too. How many of us need that? (I do, for sure.)

Zoho was the first Office 2.0 vendor to open up its APIs to its users. The way they categorized their APIs makes complete business sense, and I think is a lesson for us Software Architects & Designers: They have one API set to access the Data alone, and one set to access the editor services. Neat.

Zoho was also one of the first apps to integrate with Facebook, and was recently in TechCrunch's list of 10 Favourite Facebook Apps. I like these guys. They really have their eyes and ears open. Imagine the 20-somethings collaborating on their term papers within FaceBook.

I Want
  • I wish they were more keyboard shortcuts. These aren't tough to do. Users are used to Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V and other common shortcuts. It makes adoption so much easier.
  • There are other features that require some loose ends to be tied up. (Why can't I change font size if I have clicked on a text area? Why do I have to explicitly select some text? Why can't I share my Slide Notes as well?)
  • Zoho should market Show (the presentation tool) more agressively. There isnt a similar offering from Google, nor is there any clear leader in that space. Show could use better drawing capabilities, more slide layouts or templates. More third-party integration, in true Web 2.0 style. For example, I would like to share my Zoho presentations on SlideShare. Co-brand if you will, but allow the cross-pollination.
  • Talking of integration, I'd like to see some amongst the different tools. For example: Zoho Chat integrated with Writer, Show and Sheet. That would be one productivity boost to people collaborating on a document. Another would be to integrate Notebook into Writer. You would imagine that the pieces of collected information within a notebook do get into more formal & structured documents. The users should be able to drag n drop or cut n paste from Notebook into Writer.
  • Better graphics. Really. Most icons and images look old fashioned. For a consumer toolset like Zoho, the snazziness of the user interface is critical (Only SysAdmins don't care what the icons look like). Specially if you are going to compete with Google, 37Signals and the like, you have to provide a sleek looking user interface.
  • Be a Salesforce + Google for SMBs. I mean, Zoho could create smart stacks of tools (packages, if you like) for business users - Office + Wiki + IM + CRM. Thats a very compelling offering, and no one in the market has it yet.

Zoho also has a Chat tool, Wiki, Meeting Organizer, Project Management and CRM tool, but I really haven't used those enough to talk about them in detail. Overall, a great product suite, something I would recommend you go play around with. Most of these are free for individual use. I'd love to know what you think.