Tuesday, December 27, 2005

JSR-170 support?

Its not trivial to change an existing software's architecture and philosophy just to be "JSR-170 conform". While its easy to be level-1 compliant (that means certain read-only methods exist), its a lot harder to implement level-2 (meaning you can write data as well).

However, claiming you support level-2 is easy if you just use an existing repository to store some arbitrary data that is generally irrelevant (i.e. you can add jackrabbit to your jars and claim you are level-2 conform while you are not using it).

Marketing-wise, everybody will be JSR-170 12 months from now. (just look at the ridiculous JSR-170 "support" you get with alfresco, jboss portal or websphere).

Thats the problem with all standards - when JSR-168 was final, you could buy JSR-168 compliant portal servers - just that the sales person would tell you " if you use this in JSR-168 compliant mode, you will not get feature a,b, c and e-z".

Of course, openCMS will support JSR-170, too. They will have to or they will die the slow death of an aging customer base. But changing openCMS to truly use JSR-170 is a rewrite of their software.

Here is my suggestion: simply use Magnolia instead.

Monday, December 19, 2005


Today I have won a major contract in the USA - I am really happy about it because it is a very interesting project with lots of integration work of other applications with Magnolia. It will be a great playground for JSR-170, and has large potential for our business process navigator. It will provide for a lot of extensions to Magnolia in the realm of community management. It also includes developer training, support and hosting - what more can one ask for?

The amazing thing is that the very nature of open source development comes in handy when you start offering services globally - we already know how to work with a distributed mutli-cultural team living in different time zones, speaking different languages, working on different parts of the same application. Thats just what we need for a project that takes place many thousand kilometers away from our place, where we will be working with client's staff as well as our US partners.

I am really looking forward to this one.

Entwicklung Schweiz

For the last 18 months I have been part of a network called "Entwicklung Schweiz" (Development Switzerland). Our humble aim is to create more jobs with a higher value creation within Switzerland and its border areas.

On Dec. 9th we have held our second public innovation event, this time in the "Haus Konstruktiv" (English website available) in Zürich. I was a speaker on the subject of outgoing open source as a innovative business oportunity, and about building communities, which is what we try to do with "Entwicklung Schweiz" - here we think of cross-functional, cross-corporate communities.

The event was well received, lets see who of the participants will join forces with us to move on - we are in the process of building clusters, and I will joined the project management cluster, where we will combine best-of-breed tools with the extensive project management knowhow of the network.

Anyways, the Haus Konstruktiv is a cool place, go visit it the next time you are in Zurich.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Next week sees our Magnolia training partners hold a Magnolia training in Los Angeles again. This time they rented a room in a hotel called Aliso Creek Inn in Laguna Beach. Guess what the name of the conference room is where the training is held? Its called Magnolia Conference Room.

I just love these oddities of life. If you do, too, you might also be interested in the the coincidentist blogg - a collection of coincidents from a dear friend of mine, Francisco.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Its the community, not the source

"What's really interesting about open source companies is not particularly the fact that we give away our source code. It's not the source code that's magic here. What I think is real impressive is the community and the value of that community." says Mike Olsen, CEO of Sleepycat in a recent interview. That fits well with the article I have written for the EOSJ - its exactly the argument I make when I discuss what the community is and how enterprises can evaluate communities.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Happy birthday, Oliver

When I was a kid, we only had one phone, and it was my dads business- as well as our private number. It had one of these round analog dials, no redial of course. I could never talk longer than a few minutes because the phone was mission critical to my dad's business. We had a three digit number ("420" for those that are into these details). This has been the only means of communication besides face-to-face conversation or writing letters until I finally had access to email at the university - which was of little use initially, since everyone else I knew who had access to email was sitting next to me in the same computer lab anyways.

Today, my 3 year old daugher is using one of my three iPods, our 12-year old has his own mobile, we have wireless lan, 2 fixed lines phone (ISDN), a couple of mobile numbers, skype, and iChat AV. My brother lives on the other side of the earth, and I am working with an international community to create free software that is downloaded to the thousands every month from all over the planet.

I just talked for about 45 minutes on Skype with my brother in New Zealand - his birthday today, but our thoughts were with the world's most pressing problems no less. So while we are busy consuming 20 tons of material per capita and year (thats for the USA, not Switzerland, ok?) and talk about a simpler way of sustainable living, he is currently host to Alexander von Fegesack, director of the vitra design museum in Weil - thats just 5 minutes by car from where I live, but he is at my brothers place, which is roughly 18'000 kilometers away from here, in Auckland, NZ.

Later our mam joined in a skype conference call and we sang "happy birthday" - once around the globe.

It never stops to amaze me how much the world - and our lifes - have changed in the last 25 years. What will we be doing 25 years from now?

Monday, November 14, 2005

past events and coming attractions

Since my last blog entry, three intensive weeks have passed. I have worked on an article for the Enterprise Open Source Journal about open source community evaluation, which is where all my writing energy went for the last weeks. I will update this entry as soon as the article is published.

In addition, Alex - new committer to the Magnolia project -- was in Basel for a week of in-depth work on Magnolia, getting to know the team and - together with Sameer - hacking away on incrementational, transactional activation. In plain words, this will allow Magnolia's subscription mechanism to be guaranteed and have a much smaller footprint. Since activation mechanisms are pluggable, its cool finally somebody makes use of it!

The week with Alex was great fun - if you have read my introduction of Alex on the dev-list, you guess how it ended - a great Friday night out with Sameer, Philipp, Alex and Yours Truly. I guess it was especially worth it for Philipp, since he transmogrified to Father of a little girl a couple of days later, and I just have the feeling that going out will not be high on his list of priorities in the immediate future.

So Alex is back to Rumania, and last week saw Nicolas coming from Japan to join us on defining workflow integration of openWFE and Magnolia. John from openWFE joined us as well for a day, and I was busy doing other things - what a pity, since openWFE integration is a brainchild of mine.

Both Alex and Nicolas are great additions to the Magnolia community. Now I am contemplating the idea of formalizing these events - along the lines that one person from the community joins obinary for a week to work on a specific project. Call it "Nerds in Residence" and try to find sponsors (I already contacted one hotel about it, lets see what they think of the idea). It seems like a great way to build up the core community - there is a lot of potential in the idea. Think cultural exchange, bringing Basel or Switzerland closer to the hearts of an international community, doing good for those from contries far away that could not otherwise finance a trip outside their country. It should be possible to find a few sponsors that agree that this is pretty cool - Basel has a long history if sponsoring, especially in arts - its kunstmuseum (a magnolia site, of course ;-)) is the first ever public municipal museum.

In the meantime I have launched the first productive installation of the software that shall become "Magnolia For Electronic Form Workflow" one day - much to the customers delight. This application is not quite ready for prime time, too many things are specialized for the customers need, but the GUI of the web-based form builder is pretty powerful, and the connection of Magnolia with openWFE and a flexible GUI form builder makes it possible to do pretty much anything that requires forms and a workflow in a fast and elegant way.

Finally, last Wednesday saw the installation of Magnolia For Business Processes at a new customers site - we have changed quite a few parts once more, and I have to say that it finally is getting into a very usable and understandable state. I am looking forward to that release!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Go East

I have been in discussion for a while with several people in Asia, specifically in Japan and China regarding Magnolia. Its nice to start seeing people there reference Magnolia - not that I understand what the sites are talking about, but it sure looks great. As an example check this blog entry (I hope they like Magnolia)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Underworld goes Magnolia

Tomato has done it again ... Ant is so cool he'd wear sunglasses in hell. Check out another great site built with Magnolia: http://www.underworldlive.com

Rewrite this!

There is a big discussion on the magnolia mailing list about how everything should be rewritten with some great new technology. We have had the discussion for along time - and its a valid discussion, and a very interesting one. Lets have some facts:

Magnolia has originally been written by obinary (my company). On the first team were Sameer (still the core developer) and Sala. Sala wrote the GUI for 1.0. Later Sala left and Enz joined. Enz really redefined the way that Magnolia works. When he left to join Day , we were looking for the most talented developer for the task at hand - understanding what has happened so far, and bringing us up to the next level. Philipp has done a tremendous job, and he loves what he does. He has written several frameworks and knows not only Java but also .Net - he is an outstanding developer in many ways if ever I have seen one. I am honored to work with Sameer and Philipp.

Now back to the issue at hand. What we have technically is not perfect, but some parts are pretty well thought out, and we know where the weak spots are. We have the option to either move to a new technology (JSF has been a favorite candidate due to our philosophy of using standards where sensible) or further improve what we have done so far.

Now, its not all black and white. There are great technologies out there, and I have a couple of favorites myself. I would never have used JSP or JSR-170 in the first place (I love webobjects). However, both choices have proved valuable. JSP is great for templating (which is what it was made for). I am not saying there is no better stuff out there (Erik for one has done a great job of making me want to use velocity - he is really a great guy). But JSP works fine, especially if we provide the right tags to make things easy - like the simple navigation tag which lets you create lots of navigation as well as a site tree - with a simple tag and some CSS. We will keep it for templating. But for our controls (others would call them widgets) this is another matter altogether. The major point lacking (besides documentation) is validation. We could add apache commons validation to solve it, but in doing so, some effort would be needed that could otherwise be spend in introducing JSF.

But of course, everyone has his own favorite opinion. Kayle, who did some great stuff to Magnolia, finally decided that sharing his code might after all be better than maintaining it alone, certainly has a point when he asks to look at Spring. Well, these days if you don't look at Spring, people would think you are blind. It sure is great stuff. But so is Rails. Or ...

And what will it be next year? In five years? Shall we rewrite forever just to be fashionable?

Markus put it well - "... mean major efforts, binding lots of developer resources, probably cause a lot of instability for the next releases (both API wise and in terms of runtime stability, as mature, well tested code gets replaced by new code)." He also added what he thinks is missing most - documentation, versioning, locking and link management.

More than 100'000 persons have already downloaded Magnolia, that's quite an achievement. If we want to make the next 100'000 downloaders happy, we better do what Markus said instead of wasting our lives hunting for the latest trend in technology.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Trying out the mail to blog stuff

OK, I just digged into Blogger a little bit deeper, found out how to add an RSS feed -- trivial, you just have to find the setting for it, add the URL and upload an Atom image, change your template manually and thats really all there is too it. OK, maybe it could be slightly easier, but anyways it works (check out the ATOM button). And now this: post to your blog via email. Thats just what the doctor ordered!

Magnolia For Documents

We released Magnolia For Documents today. The demo is up, the download is ready, the press release written and posted in a couple of places. After more than 2.5 years of investing everything we have into Magnolia, this is the first commercial add-on to our otherwise free and open source offering. I am pretty excited about it - after all, this is the moment when we will see if our concept will work - have a great open source offering and sell related products.

While I was amazed how much work it was to give something away for free, its also amazing how much work it is to try to sell something. Just different work - make sure that people have to accept your license before they download the software. Have forms to capture leads. Think about pricing. Think about different pricings for NGO's, academic, open-source projects ... it adds up. A thing that should be simple is hard to keep simple. One price for all would be such a nice concept.

Anyways, lets see whats next. We'll release 2.1.1 any time; then Magnolia For Business Processes. EForms is coming along great but will still be some time before prime time. The community is growing like hell, its more like exploding. I guess we did something right, right?