Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Larkware - ActiveGrid is the missing link from Access to Web 2.0

Mike Gunderloy of Larkware blogged about our MS Access to MySQL migration here. Mike is well known in the Microsoft community, although he has another blog, A Fresh Cup, that he bills as "notes from a recovering Microsoft addict," where he waxes eloquent on Ajax applications, Ruby on Rails and all things Enterprise 2.0.

The interesting point is that although there is a great deal of enthusiasm around Web 2.0 tools like Ruby on Rails, there are no Web 2.0 equivalents of the trusty drag-n-drop client/server tools like MS Access and PowerBuilder.

Face it, if you have to learn about Rails concepts like meta-programming and scafollding just to build a Web 2.0 app, your average VB developer is just going to continue taking a pass on this whole web thing and hope that it blows over.

Until there are Web 2.0 tools that provide a natural evolution from client/server development to web development, an entire generation of programmers will continue to hang fire. At a minimum, this will require drag and drop web development tools that don't require an entire bookshelf of manuals to get started building useful apps.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The portal to nowhere

David Precopio recently blogged here about Portals, wikis and other transitory technical phenomena. In 2000, portals represented a vision for how a new, user-driven web was going to develop - one which paradoxically required lots of new proprietary software and teams of developers.

Shortly after 2000, application server vendors looking for a way to boost sagging license revenues (what do you mean we can't charge a premium for a commodity J2EE product?!) glommed onto portals as a handy revenue extender/floor wax. They immediately shifted into high gear, selling the whitening and brightening qualities of their "collaborative" web products.

Into the middle of all this crept the real collaborative web products. Using social media as their proving ground, they pioneered user generated content, interactive UIs (remember those nice client/server UIs - they're back as AJAX) and web services (remember those nice objects - they're back as services).

We met a company recently that referred to their 20 person portal project as "our latest boat anchor." Portals are just the latest example that technology vendors often have the right idea about what the future needs but too often try to implement the tools of the future from the worn out components of their past successes.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Migrating MS Access Applications to MySQL and Web 2.0

The MySQL developer community just published an article I wrote on migrating MS Access applications to MySQL.

The Enterprise Web 2.0 revolution is happening at the edges of the organization (democracy always enters by the side door). As proof of this, a recent MySQL user survey showed that 20% of MySQL users are using MySQL to port MS Access applications (in fact, this is the largest single segment of MySQL users!)

This article came out of a Birds of a Feather session at the MySQL User Conference. It summarizes best practices, tricks and tips for turning “fat client” MS Access apps into open-source, Web 2.0 apps using MySQL and ActiveGrid studio. Stay tuned for a joint ActiveGrid/MySQL webinar in early October, to be followed by a seminar tool and a sitcom spinoff on YouTube.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Democratization of development

Shel Israel has a good post in which he interviews Chris Shipley of Demo fame on the significance of social media and Web 2.0. She says:

I do think that the rapid and broad dissipation of power/influence/control
that is at the core of social media (Web 2.0?) is as fundamental a shift as from
mainframe to mini and mini to PC. When power moves from central
control out to the edges, things change dramatically and forever. This
Genie isn't going back into the bottle. Full article here

This puts a pretty profound spin on the effect these technologies can have on how applications are developed in the enterprise. If Enterprise Web 2.0 tools allow more business-focused developers to be more effective in building business apps, IT can start to have a much more decisive effect on the business.

I would add to Chris Shipley's comment two additional predictions about how collaboration and Web 2.0 will drive business change:

  1. Collaboration technologies will improve the developer/user dialogue to produce a better understanding of user requirements
  2. Lightweight prototyping tools will enable more iterative development to product products that better meet business needs.

ps I got a chuckle out of this Web 2.0 love letter - who would have thought that all these wacky company names could be turned to such good use!?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Of babies, bathwater and enterprise web 2.0

Through my friend Peter Christy, I was recently introduced to Kent Beck, the godfather of Extreme Programming. In the ensuing email conversation, he gave a pithy example of why his thinking has been so influential:

It seems to me like the new generation of UI technologies creates the
opportunity for artfully simplifying tools. The general technology is incredibly
powerful and flexible, but the cost and complexity of using it is high. Along
comes someone with a version of the technology that can do 20 or 40 or 60% of
what the original can do, but that opens the door to many more people using it.
The trick is always discarding the right 40 or 60 or 80%.

Kent puts his finger on the challenge for the next generation of enterprise tools – how to democratize the development of web applications. The challenge will be draining out the bathwater (development complexity) without also dumping the baby (expressive power).

Extreme Programming 2.0 Anyone?