Fifteen Things That Rock in Plone 3.0

Alex Limi’s session on Friday at PloneConf 2006. Goal is for release in Mar 2007. I am capturing it as Alex is speaking.  Plone is the most powerful CMS, I know. You can find  more info about this conference in PloneConf Wiki.

  1. Versioning (History of modifications, replaceable backend, reverting rivisions, diff between revisions)
  2. In-place Staging( Lets you to work on one piece while another is live)
  3. Locking (Uses WebDAV semantics, stealable locks, tells you who locked it, and how long ago)
  4. Easier Sharing (simplerUI)
  5. Link Integrity (Tracks internal link dependency, warns if you delete resources used by other resources)
  6. Generalized Previous/Next (on documents and other resources)
  7. Fieldsets (
  8. Content Rules Engine (Pluggable, UI for admins to respond to events, really cool for categorizing content etc)
  9. Portlets Engine (UI for managing portlets, infrastructure to write advanced portlets)
  10. Indexing support for Word/PDF (out of box)
  11. OpenID Support(decentralized loing/identity system, lets you use URL as a login, in use by sites like LiveJournal, Technorati, plugins for WordPress, MediaWiki)
  12. Workflow improvements (Workflow control panel, web publishing, community, intranet and internet workflows)
  13. All new features using Zope3 (Alex says Plone3 loves Zope3)
  14. Better markup support (wiki syntax support for all markup, New formats Textile, Markdown)
  15. AJAX Support (in-place editing, inline validation, improved UI and widgets, makes Plone more efficient to work with)

Notes
Portlets in Plone currently are just templates. Folder,User, Group

Google Custom Search and Google Marker

Google creates a tool for creating your own contextual search engine. And an addition tool to customize it incrementally. You can create your own, here.

You can customize it in two ways:

  • By specifying a set of keywords
  • By specifying a set of websites (the search can be limited to these sites or just used for emphasis)

There are a couple of nice features.

  • Google Marker allows you to add sites to custom search engine easily. This way you can keep refining your search
  • The keywords are used as hints to the search engine. I hope Google will use it simply as a way to establish context to your searches.
  • You can allow others to contribute to this search.

I created one for XML for testing it. Works great. I will keep refining it.

Here are a couple of wish list items:

  • A recommendation service where new related topics and sites are recommended from Googles database of searches
  • An RSS stream for results
  • More ways to customize search results

Here is the link to Google’s Blog Entry.

Programmers Must Be Toolbuilders

The effective programmers instinctively know this. They get bored doing the same thing over and over again so end up builidng their own tool to automate the boring part of their work. From Phil’s Technometria:

As programmers, we ought to be tool builders. Anytime you find yourself doing something more than once, build a tool. Doing so pays big dividends in increasing personal productivity.

Doug Engelbart often talks about the co-evolution of tools and human capabilities. From a thread on blueoxen discussion.

  • Co-evolution is the capability of evolving both human and tool capabilities
  • Humans make tools
  • Tools augment human capabilities
  • Augmented humans make better tools and so on

It is the cycle of innovation that is fostered by thinking, inventing, using, improving and thinking about improving.

Mashups and Wikis

There were a couple of sessions on wikis in the MashupCamp2. First I could not figure out the connection between wikis and mashups. So I decided to attend these sessions. I am glad, I did.

The first one was Twiki as an Application Platform.  Peter gave a good talk and the session was very interactive. Peter covered the concept of using wiki as a canvas for building mashups. This got me interested in going to the next session on QEDWiki as an Enterprise mashup tool.

It is fascinating to watch different tools for building mashups. The approaches are slightly different but people are finding innovative ways to build mashups. I plan to explore Twiki. QEDWiki is not available now.

Outlook As An Idealog

I tried different ways to keep track of ideas. I experiment with a few tools. I started with a simple Word document. I used a simple template and entered the idea. It had five fields:

– A name

– A brief description

– Date

– Inspired By

– Notes

I kept this up for a while. It worked fine. Then I found a personal wiki. I started entering list of ideas in a table format. I made a slight change. I would make the idea name a WikiWord (a wiki word is two words collapsed together, both capitalized). If you know about how wikis work, a WikiWord form a new page link and I can enter more information about ideas there.

More recently I switched back to using Outlook. I create a special folder and post to that folder. One of the nice things about Outlook is that you can insert items (email messages, files, calendar items etc.). I will try this for a while and see how it works out. Here are the reasons I use as an IdeaLog.

  1. Since it is my default email client, it is always open. So entering an idea is as easy as switching to Outlook and making a post in a special folder.
  2. Some of my ideas originate from the email I receive or something I read in a mailing list. I can simply link to this item using the Insert Item capability of outlook.
  3. I can assign tags to my idea using a Categories capability associated with every new post.
  4. I can easily mail an idea to my colleagues and it becomes the start of a discussion thread
  5. Ideas get archived along with my email. So I do not have to back up yet another file or folder
  6. I can schedule some time to think about some of the ideas using the calendar capability. All I need to do is to drag the idea, drop it on a calendar and set some time.
  7. I can set up reminders to take the next steps using the Task Manager in Outlook.

The real power in Outlook is the integration of all these capabilities. While I also use Yahoo Mail and Gmail, I do not find them as convenient (since they are not available when I am disconnected from the internet).

I just wish Outlook would support WikiWords ( introduce a page type called WikiPage in the setup). Life would be more fun. May be in Outlook 2007.

Tracking Tech Trends

If you are a developer, development manager, a software company, a tech startup or an investor, you need some way of tracking short/medium/long term trends. The Google Trends introduction last week made me think about the tools available.

1. Google Trends

This is a great tool for tracking search trends. You can type a single phrase like "venture funding" and get a trend graph. In addition, you can get information about the Top 10 cities, regions and languages for the search. You can also type multiple topics like "venture funding, bootstrapping" and see the relative trends.

2. Alexa Web Search – Top 500

Alexa is an Amazon service that tracks the popularity of web sites. Their traffic rankings method is described here.

Alexa computes traffic rankings by analyzing the Web usage of millions of Alexa Toolbar users. The information is sorted, sifted, anonymized, counted, and computed, until, finally, we get the traffic rankings shown in the Alexa service.

I mostly watch the Top-100 sites, but it may be interesting to track the Top-500. Here are a few tips on how I use it. The rankings give you a sense of who the movers and shakers are. Do a bit of extrapolation based on which industries they belong to and you get some ideas on what is going on. For example, many web 2.0 companies – myspace, facebook etc. are moving up. Alexa provides RSS feeds for many of its services.

3. Blog Trends with Technorati

Type a search term, say "Java" in the search link. Then click "more" below the chart displayed on the left of the page. You will get to a page like this. Now you can refine the search a bit using the various options in "authority" and blog type. This is a pretty neat tool. Till I tried it out, I did not even know that bloggers are ranked by authority.

Technorati also publishes some interesting white papers on the emerging trends on use of blogs.

4. PubSub

Another very useful resource is PubSub. You can subscribe to keywords/phrases and receive alerts. My favorite part of this site is PubStats.

PubSub monitors millions of feeds. By generating a list of all the URLs contained in entries of each feed, it's possible to determine a site's relevance just from the number of incoming links it has. LinkRank goes one step further and calculates a score for each linking site. Sites are then scored based on the score of the sites that link to them.

5. Del.icio.us

Del.icio.us is a collaborative bookmarking service. It allows people to store their bookmarks and tag them. As a user, you can retrieve your own bookmarks, popular ones and others' by using tags. The level of activity and popularity provide you with an idea on some of the short term trends.

6. Diggdot.us

Diggdot.us combines Digg.com, Slashdot and del.icio.us to provide an integrated site for tracking the most popular technology related posts.

7. Tag Clouds

Over the past year or so, tagging is gaining popularity. Several services including Yahoo, Technorati provide tag clouds. A tag cloud is a list of tags displayed in a box. The tags used more heavily have bigger fonts. Here is an a tag cloud on Web 2.0 from technorati.

Tag clouds provide great visualization for popular tags. There are tag cloud animations that show you how the tag popularity increases over a period of time. Here is one of the most popular tag cloud animations from Jon Udell.

There are various other methods:

– Tracking mashup activity,

– Following TechCrunch and eHub,

– Tracking booklists,

– Using Google/Yahoo alerts,

– Watching user group activity

Ultimately the velocity of information in the media will give you a pretty good idea about the really short term trends.

Tech Mining

I have been a reading a book  called Tech Mining. I was planning to write a few blogs after finishing the book. But the whole purpose of my learn log is to (b)log as I learn. So here some information from the first couple of chapters. 

According to the authors, various types of Technology Analyses can be aided by tech mining.

1. Technology Monitoring(also known as technology watch or environmental scanning) – cataloguing, characterizing, and interpreting technology development activities.

2. Competitive Technology Intelligence(CTI) – finding out "Who is doing what?"

3. Technology Forecasting – anticipating possible future development path for particular technologies

4. Technology Roadmapping – tracking evolutionary steps in related technologies and, sometimes, product families.

5. Technology Assessment – anticipating the possible, unintended, indirect, and delayed consequences of particular technology changes.

6. Technology Foresight – startegic planning(especially national) with emphasis on technology roles and priorities

7. Technology Process Managment – getting people making decisions about technology

8. Science and Technology Indicators – time series that track advances in national (or other) technological capabilities. 

We do a bit of the first activity with our product InfoMinder, but have a long way to go in provide the other capabilities mentioned above. We do plan to help customers set up Information Portals to store the tracked information and do some automatic linking. 

Fluid Intelligence

What is Intelligence? There are several definitions. Here are a couple of them.

Intelligence is the ability to comprehend; to understand and profit from experience.

Intelligence is effectively perceiving, interpreting and responding to the environment.

I would suggest a slight modification to the first definition. Change "experience" to "information and experience".

The definition page (search result from Google) also provides various related links to intelligence. The one that caught my attention was fluid intelligence. Fluid intelligence:

The first step is gathering intelligence. There are several ways to do this. Fuld & Company defines an Index for Internet Intelligence. In addition, they list a variety of sources to obtain the Information needed.

The next step is to tag, categorize and map the information. You can do this, using a variety of tools. You can use Google Bookmarks or del.icio.us to keep track of web resources and tag them. You can use a variety of mind mapping tools to map the relationships between different items of information.
The final step is to correlate the information and derive the intelligence you need. The best tool for this is the human mind.

Once you have identified your sources of information, mapped the relationships obtained the intelligence you need, you can use simple tools to keep track of the information. The speed with which information changes and the type of changes may provide additional clues. This in turn may provide additional intelligence.

Google Page Creator

The pieces are falling in place one by one. An online database, a portal, a page creator, a blog hosting service. What will be next? A wiki? Backed by a set of APIs the elements required to build online applications, websites and portals are taking shape at Google.

I had some difficulties in creating a page with an image. Hopefully will be fixed soon. Here is my page (I spent a couple of minutes).
Search Engine Watch has an article on the product here. TechCrunch has a mini-review.