July 27, 2003
@ 12:58 AM
Corporate Secrets

Robert Scoble recently posted an entry on corporate secrets. He points out some reasons why certain [technology] companies tend to keep product information secret including
  1. To keep your competitors from copying you
  2. To prevent killing sales for your current product by announcing killer features in the next version
  3. To build excitement and expectations in the marketplace
  4. To reward top journalists and "influentials" by leaking the information to them at the right time.
  5. To let the "influentials" know that something is coming.
  6. As part of a marketing strategy.
Scoble's points are a slight variation of the central theme of Joel Spolsky's Mouth Wide Shut article which I believe I sent to Scoble shortly after he was assimilated into B0rg Central. In the "Mouth Wide Shut" article Joel compares two different approaches to diseminating product information
When Apple releases a new product, they tend to surprise the heck out of people, even the devoted Apple-watchers who have spent the last few months riffling through garbage dumpsters at One Infinite Loop.

Microsoft, on the other hand, can't stop talking about products that are mere glimmers in someone's eye. Testers outside the company were using .NET for years before it finally shipped.
Like Joel, I personally dislike the B0rg approach of hyping products several years before they ship [as exemplified by folks like Scoble]. However it is hard to quibble with the results. The following quote from WinInformant seems to say it all
"Switch" One Year Later: No One Switched
A year after Apple launched its high-profile "Switch" ad campaign, the company has nothing but lost market share, fewer users, a dwindling third-party developer pool, and, of course, the lovely Janie Porche, who saved Christmas. But as companies like Dell, HP, and IBM continue to distance themselves, sales-wise, from Apple, it's become increasingly clear than nothing the company does--ad campaigns, cool portable MP3 players, a rock-solid operating system, and even the debatably fastest PC on earth--is going to reverse its eroding usage share. With over 1 billion people using PCs vs. just 25 million using Macs, the numbers sort of speak for themselves. I think the big question now is whether Apple can remain viable as a niche player in the market. My gut feeling is that they can, but then I was an Amiga fan years ago, so maybe I'm not the right person to ask.

Apple's Financial Struggles Continue as Profits Decline 41 Percent
Apple Computer sold just over 2 percent of all computers in the quarter ending June 30, as year-over-year Mac shipments fell yet again for the company. Apple sold 770,000 Macintosh computers in the quarter, down from 880,000 in the same quarter a year ago, a decline of 12.4 percent. But from a financial perspective, the situation is even more serious: Apple's profits nosedived 41 percent year-over-year to just $19 million on sales of $1.545 billion; the last time the company's revenues were that high, its profit was over $40 million, or more than double.
I guess this just goes to show that my gut instincts would make me a poor business man. :)


Reach Out and Touch Someone

I recently read an article on K5 entitled Reading What Best Matches Your Bias which laments the fact that despite the wide range of diverse information resources available to people on the Internet many people end up reading information that best matches their biases thus reinforcing them instead of opening their minds to alternate viewpoints.

I remember reading essays in the early days of the Web about how it would become "the Great Educator" and bring enlightenment to the masses. I scoffed then because I had read similar essays from the turn of the century about how Radio and then Television would do the same thing. One essay in particular talked about how Television would allow the proletariat to enjoy aspects of the fine arts that were only available to the rich such as opera. Nowadays television is the "boob tube", "the idiot box", a vast wasteland of trashy talk shows and shitty reality television. Although one can find insightful commentary and culture on the Radio (e.g. NPR) and on Television (e.g. PBS) they are typically avoided by the average viewer/listener.

The Internet amplifies this by giving people an entire planet full of people to find those whose biases mirror theirs. No matter what your biases are it is likely that even though they may be unique in your locale you'll be able to find a virtual community of likeminded individuals online.


The End of Eclectic

In Leigh Dodds post about why he is ending the XML-DEV blog he states
However I think the main reason is that the conversations seem to be endlessly spiralling around several recurring themes ("permathreads"). This makes for very tedious reading as the trenches rarely shift very far in either direction. This has greatly reduced my tolerance for keeping up to date with the list. In the past I've tried to remain as impartial as possible, but once you've blogged about a topic for the nth time it starts to get tedious fast.
I have to agree. I've probably been subscribed to XML-DEV just under 2 years but it already seems like I've seen every argument a dozen times probably because the "permathreads" show up like clockwork every other month. Funny enough, the arguments tend to be about stuff that regular users of XML have already moved on about. XML-DEVers act like they are stuck in a time warp and love to argue about issues from from 3 years like whether XML Namespaces are a good idea or whether CSS is better than XSLT.

Most of the people I know who work on XML at B0rg Central have subscribed to XML-DEV at one time or the other then unsubscribed because it seems so full of irrelevance. I see folks arguing about problems and API issues we either solved years ago or have moved on about because there are some issues you just bear with instead of ripping up the pavement (idiosyncracies in the XML syntax or the complexity added to XML technologies that use XML namespaces).

As Leigh said there are definitley people working on cool shit with XML but they now tend to gather on technology or API specific lists or discussion forums. When I look at stuff like BEA's XML Beans, some of the stuff from the folks at Werken or interesting projects like Jeni Tennison's delclarative language for datatypes in XML it is clear that there is lots of new and interesting stuff to discuss in the XML world.

Sadly XML-DEVers would rather go on about old crusty APIs like DOM and SAX or bitch about how having datatypes in XML is evil instead of embracing or seriously considering new ideas.

Bah, I need some Bacardi Silver O3 to cheer me up.


Strongly Typed XML Infosets

I've read Ted Neward's article on Building Strongly Typed XML Infosets in .NET about five times now and still am of two minds about it. On the one hand here's an acknowledged Java guy writing about the .NET Framework and our XML technologies on the other hand I completely disagree with the approach used in his article.

The problem his article tries to solve is basically how to have your cake and eat it too when it comes to XML and objects. He wants to be able to map XML to strongly typed objects in much the same way that is done using .NET XML Serialization yet still be able to access the XML as an XML Infoset so one can do things like query it using technologies like XPath.

My quibbles with the article range from minor nitpicks such as the fact that he describes the DOM as a representation of the XML Infoset when in fact it is not to significant issues such the fact that his approach means modifying your classes to subclass DOM nodes to get the behavior he wants. There is also the fact that he talks about using XML namespaces as a versioning mechanism when in fact it is anything but.

So how would I have solved the problem he posed? I'd have built an ObjectXPathNavigator which enables you to treat an arbitrary object graph as an instance of the XPath data model. There are some issues with the implementation in the article such as the fact that it doesn't handle nested XML in the way people would expect (e.g. if your class has a property of type XML node) and the fact that one can't customize the XML view shown by the ObjectXPathNavigator (for example by annotating the class with attributes from the System.Xml.Serialization namespace).

Methinks this is a fine idea for a follow up Extreme XML column.


Obligatory Link of the Day

That Adorable Device


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Disclaimer: The above comments do not represent the thoughts, intentions, plans or strategies of my employer. They are solely my opinion.