Information and decisions

Tom Davenport makes an excellent point in his most recent post about the challenges of decision making:

We have lost much of the connection between the supply of information and the demand for it in decision-making. Despite the fact that companies often justify IT projects on the basis of better decisions, there is seldom a direct tie between the information a particular system produces and the decisions that are supposed to be based on it.

Google wins.

Seriously. Who the hell wants to pay for SharePoint when you get this for free? With about 40 seconds configuration time to boot?

Google Sites (based on JotSpot) ups the ante considerably on Google Apps Team Edition. Arbitrary file uploads of up to 10MB with a minimum 10GB cap will provide a huge, huge boost to its popularity.

Now, if Google could just provide OpenID support instead of emails for login, I would have a close to perfect federated collaboration system :)

xpatch - a proposed XML diff format

UPDATE: Also see my follow-up post on an alternative method for replacing nodes.

Joe Gregorio asks about available XML diff formats, and based on some Googling, there really isn't anything robust and/or readable out there.

In particular, most formats seem to hard code differences by node number, which doesn't hold up at all well if you may want to merge diffs from multiple sources from a single code base a la traditional diff merging in code bases.

Given the enormous amounts of XML being processed, it seems incredible that nothing has been defined no standards have emerged so far. So here's a possible option. It's based heavily on the Mozilla XUL Overlays pattern, but generalised for any XML.

Producing consistency in complex environments

(An edited version of a post to Bob Lewis's Advice Line)

CMMI has evolved to handle the complexities of trying to standardize processes across a large enterprise.

Beyond a certain size, even finding out the current state of play is difficult, let alone trying to co-ordinate standards through a centralized body. Attempts to do this include Enterprise Architecture, CMMI, Six Sigma etc etc.

The problem is that "one size fits all" can easily turn into "one size fits none". Innovation is easily stifled when all changes have to go through layers of bureaucracy (which I presume CMMI imposes).

Chyrp

Following on from my post on Vanilla, Chyrp just squeaks by the Web 2.0 bullshit-name-meter, but seems to be a nicely engineered, extensible blogging engine.

It has a Wordpress-clone admin interface, which nicely reduces the learning curve for people interested in switching. The biggest drawback with it at the moment is that there's no way to intermix text, images and videos (they are all different "feather" types), but perhaps that reduction in complexity is a good thing.

It's already got a strong community building extensions and add-ons, which is a also an excellent sign.

Vanilla

Just when I thought that forum software had dropped off the perch, I find Vanilla. Rocketing up the charts to #3 on Google (although I see that Yahoo! and Microsoft Live search aren't with the program) it's a refreshing change to the same-ness of phpBB and its derivatives, spiritually or otherwise.

It's built to be extensible, and from a quick look at the code, seems pretty well thought out. There are over 300 extensions registered to date!

As some have noticed, it can be thought of more as a live web/blogging tools rather than a forum, since it's permissions are quite granular and customizable.

Live update of local news stories

Now that Google News allows news searches by geographic location, we can combine this with a tweak of the Google Reader embedding code to get a live feed of local stories in our area.

First, let's craft our geo-specific query. From Advanced Search at http://news.google.com, we can work out that it's the geo=xxx parameter that determines our geographic bias. So a Canberra local feed is

http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&geo=canberra

Picking incompetent managers

This article from FastCompany.com had my head nodding. In reality, most of them boil down to one of three categories:

  1. Avoiding change of the status quo
  2. Seeking a political advantage
  3. Inability to recognise what's important

Read the whole list. It's worth a look.

Google Forms

As everyone knows, Google develops or buys lots of different types of applications.

Even after a successful product is launched, Google is always tweaking and adding new features. Sometimes these features flop. But sometimes, a new idea which is so simple comes along that you wonder why everyone hasn't done it.

Web-based office suites get mixed reviews, let's face it. But Google, to its credit, is facing up to the challenge of creating a product that really takes advantage of being online. For example, you can now create a survey which saves its results to a Google Spreadsheet in literally 5 minutes.

Bringing it all together

I've always kept half an eye on the progress of the long, long, LONG awaited Perl 6, and more specifically on its cross-platform, dynamically typed VM at its base, Parrot.

One of the more exciting features of Parrot is its advanced language parsing features which make implementing a new grammar almost trivial -- the Parrot Grammar Engine (PGE). A humorous, but practical example of using PGE can be found in this LOLCODE implementation.

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