Sunday, February 25, 2007

Future of Web Apps... London 20-22 Feb 2007

Finally posting about the Future Of Web Apps conference put together by Carson Systems last week... It was really a good show. Seems to me to hit a more down-to-earth audience than other shows, and the single stream of collective consciousness also helps (everyone experiences the same presos and they stay on time since there's Ryan there to kick speakers off on time).
There were many talks that I really enjoyed... Khoi Vinh (NY Times Design Lead) had some really strong late slides which abstracted the difficulty of web/ui design that I really could relate to. Bradley Horowitz (Yahoo) was really great (sans his rather low-blow comparison of YouTube and Flickr - where he got to choose the content to compare - a kick-boxing monkey video versus some really clean professional images - sad part was, for all humanity, the kick-boxing monkey got a rise from the crowd more than anything else)...Funny, that during Bradley's talk on Pipes, I was alerted to a post where someone uses Google Spreadsheet as an input stream to Pipes as a cure for OPML streams....
Simon Willison gave an incredible, information-packed talk on OpenID that could be turned into a full-day course.
I spoke at this one... about Google Docs & Spreadsheets (of course). I tried to make it targeted to a developer audience without making it technical (so I wouldn't embarass myself ;) and focusing on "lessons learned" during the development process.
Anyway.... I think it was generally well received... some liked it and some did not. But the highlight of the conference for me was meeting some incredible people. The founders of Citzen Agency - Tara Hunt and Chris Messina - are just great people, who also have great ideas and strong values - and a large following of fans. I also got to know a bit of Simon Willison, Natalie Downe, Ian Forrester, Jeremy Keith, and a host of others... including Chris Wilson of Microsoft who taught us all about the history and future of IE. I owe him 5 GBP .... not for his great talk (that really was worth more than 5 quid), but for paying my way at the Geek Dinner! Oh, and then there was that hysterical incident at the underground ticket vending machine...
Thanks to the Carson Systems team for a great job putting on this one....

Friday, February 16, 2007

Putting Spreadsheets to Work: Timesheets

I've spoken to many individual and business users of Google Docs & Spreadsheets and there are definite themes in how people are using the product.
Timesheets are often mentioned.
Roto Meier has some ideas in this space and wrote a great post about it in his blog .
He also seems to have become very resourceful with the Google APIs and written a whole Timesheets application which he makes available online.
When I get a chance to actually install his tool and try it, I'll write more about it.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Mashups are like chili...

...anyone can make one, and most of them are pretty good... or, should i say, different... but sort of the same... with only a couple of stand-outs... You get the idea, right? no?
I went to a "chili party" this weekend, which, to me, was really cool... Every one brought a homemade chili dish (note, I didn't say "their favorite chili dish"), and we all voted on the best one and the best name and a few other goofy things...

Now, I really only make chili once a year - for this annual party - but I start with a recipe I find on the web and I touch it up a bit... add some stuff... delete some stuff... give it a cool name... and voila! Chili 2.0 ! This year, i think mine was pretty good... but, really - it was sort of lucky. In fact, most of the chili brought was pretty good!

Well, web mashups are in such an early stage that they seem to follow a similar pattern.
- Easy to make
- Start with something you find on the web.
- Add a few things, delete a few things.
- takes a few hours to make a real one.
- It's pretty good - but you wouldn't make it (or use it) all the time (or even more than once a year).

Soon - when the ingredients and the cooking tools catch up, the best chefs will stand out - as will the best ingredients... for now - have some fun. Make some chili, even if you're not a chef (or a programmer).

Friday, February 9, 2007

mash it up with news and book search...

If you're looking to add interest to your web page or blog, you gotta check out the new features added to the Google Search API... You can now have a live (can you say 'ajax') custom news search bar or Book Search bar on your page...
These are truly professional looking features which can be added with practically zero programming skills... the results are incredible... The releveance here is that you can practically turn your blog or web page into a custom/vertical product itself...

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Forrester analyst comments on Google Docs & Spreadsheets

I thought this was worth linking to...
Charlene Li of Forrester Research gives a summary of how she's using Google Docs & Spreadsheets in her daily life (all over the place) and uses that as a basis to opine on Google's strategy in relation to competing in the office productivity tools space... She even mentions (in her "Bank of Mom" example) that she can "easily access it on her balckberry" (since it's a simple spreadsheet)...

...and... what about the blog name?

Since an "Audiophile" is defined as "a person dedicated to achieving high fidelity in the recording and playback of music" (according to wikipedia)...

...we can, therefore, define a productphile as:
"a person dedicated to achieving high
quality in the creation and usage of Products"
I guess I can be described as a productphile... (it says "dedicated to achieving" not "who has achieved" - so I'm safe ;)

Of course, there's also the annoying play on words - "product-file" - which can be thought of as a place to file all sorts of useless info about products... nah... too annoying...

BUT... since there's another "phile" that was just too horrible to have be even remotely close to my blog name... and since what i write will probably be described at some point as a "Pile".... we get ProductPile.... nice...

The intention of this Blog

Maybe I should have stuck to my original intent to name this blog "A by-product", which, according to wikipedia would define it as a "secondary or incidental product deriving from a manufacturing process or chemical reaction, and is not the primary product or service being produced. A by-product can be useful and marketable, or it can have severe ecological consequences"... Not entirely inappropriate, as the intention of this blog is to be a by-product of other products... to inform and opine and, in some cases educate readers (a deeper form of simply informing) about various web products. Yes, I will likely focus on Google products more than others, a natural consequence of my involvement with those products, but more so due to my belief that there is an extrodinary level of hidden value in many products on the "Google / More" page and Google Business Solutions page (not to mention the advanced usage of search and Ads products). I also believe that non-expert users of the web, including self-employed people and small businesses (and medium-sized, and rather-large-sized businesses) can get tremendous value from many web products if they only knew that the products existed! Just a small amount of information and education and Bam!, they're turned on, wide-eyed and thinking differently about what's possible for them, their friends, their families, their businesses, their employer, their world.

The discovery process seems random - and unfortunately, this blog will likely add to that randomness... but I wanted a place to record and share some thoughts, ideas, methods related to products i know or products i discover... I'll apologize in advance if too many posts relate to Google Docs & Spreadsheets (particularly spreadsheets) - but, again, a natural consequence... and just my extreme connection to the grid as a natural interface to information collection and sharing and presentation... spreadsheets just work for me... ok, 'nuf said.