It's Snowing on my Deck!

One of the countless things I need to get done before moving out of Minnesota is to build a deck onto my house. Mike Vath, an old buddy, has been kind enough to lead me in this endeavor as I've never built a deck before. As you'll notice in the photos we just got our first snow. We got probably about 60% of it done last weekend in the pleasantly warm (no I'm not being sarcastic–this is MN) 45 degree weather. We hope to complete it this weekend, but I hear we're likely getting more snow. I'm pretty pissed that this bloody deck is going to be significantly nicer than the one this house had when we bought it, which was promptly tore off when water damage caused by improper installation of the deck was discovered a month after we moved in. I'm pissed it's going to be so nice because in the year and half we've lived in this house I've never been able to enjoy the deck! And now there is going to be a kick ass one and I'm moving.

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The specs on the deck are 10'x12'. We've built the frame, mounted it to the house, mounted the stringers in the frame, and have mounted them to the deck feet. All we have left to do is square it off, lay the decking, build a railing and mount the stairs, et Voila! It's been an educational experience. Without Mike, God only knows what I would have built out there. I had a completely different idea about how I was going to build the thing. It would have been baaaad. "Mike do you have one of those liquid-bubbly-thingies?"

Update: PST

Well, the deck is still not done; although, as you’ll see in the photos below it’s come a long way. We haven’t gotten any snow since Dec 21, which is just plain bizarre for Minnesota. However, we’ve had rain. Rain! Rain in December? Crazy. As you can see, all I have left is the railing. I had hoped to get it done this weekend, but we’re expecting more rain.

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Minnesota Children's Museum

Minnesota's Children Museum is cool. We checked it out earlier this week. The museum is designed for children from 6 months to 10 years. Ashby had fun and she's not quite a year old. I can see it being a blast for kids in 2-6 range. They have a bunch of cool interactive exhibits. There was a mock town where kids could dress up as police, fire, or postal workers (among other things). And a mini-grocery store they could go shopping in. Also there was a really cool play factory they could work. As you can see below I had some fun with the giant bubbles. Apparently they rotate exhibits based on the season, etc; so, the museum likely doesn't go stale very quickly.

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"Going to CA with an Aching in my Heart…"

Balboa Park (15)Tara and I flew out to San Diego for a long weekend in search of a new place to live. As previously mentioned here we're moving back to my homeland. Ashby stayed with her MeMa (Brenda). Other folks from work  flew out as well, these included: Roy, Pete, his significant other Marianne, Corey, and his significant other Pam.

Tara and I spent all day Friday and Saturday checking out different condos downtown. We looked at around 15 condos. I liked one on Banker's Hill that was a block away from Balboa Park and a couple blocks from Hillcrest. It was really nice, but Tara didn't feel as comfortable in the neighborhood because the foot traffic was limited. When you are smack downtown you have people everywhere and the throngs give you a sense of safety that you don't have when there is not a lot of foot traffic, which was the case with Banker's Hill. Unfortunately we didn't find a place. However the wonderful people at City Center Properties are helping us find a place (to rent) remotely. They've been very helpful and I recommend them highly.

 Anyway, I'm favoring Little Italy. Tara likes the Gaslamp, and Marina districts. I don't think we're going to find anything we can actually live in and afford in the Marina district though. And to be honest I think the district is a little too sterile, even though you're easily within walking distance of everything else. Gaslamp is cool, but nothing beats Little Italy. I didn't see a single corporate restaurant. It is, by my estimation, the most authentic of the communities we've looked at. Also, I've been told it has the active community association.

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I'm really looking forward to living near Henry and Glenda. Henry and I have known each other since kindergarten. Back in June at Tom's wedding I swore that we would live near each other again in the next two years. Turns out I was right. 

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At any rate, Tara and I have lucked out and found, who appears to be, a very qualified renter for our home in Minnesota. Our realtor introduced us to a fellow who happens to be an M.D. who is moving from Virginia to Minnesota. He'll be moving into our home Feb 1. So, we'll be back in the homeland in just over a month. We have so much to do! I'm half way through building a new deck on the house, which was..uhh…cold and have had countless other household tasks to get us ready for the move. We have so much left to do. It's daunting.

Wikis in Government

I presented at the Minnesota Government Information Technology Symposium today. Jeese that's a long name. I promised that I would post my presentation and supporting materials online for everyone and I have done so at OpenGarden here. If your read the OpenGarden post the rest of this is useless to you because it's almost entirely a repost from OpenGarden.

It was nice to be back at this event. I spoke last year on general use of open source applications. In my talk last year I talked about open source CMSes, blogs, and wikis. This year it seems the attendance has almost doubled. My session was well over twice the size, which by Mark's count was well over 200 people. Last year I took a quick poll of the audience and I did the same this year. This is, in no way, scientific; in fact, I doubt I even worded the questions the same and I surely did not count all the hands, but the results were very dramatically different and very interesting.

  • How many feel like they understand open source?
    • 2005: more than half
    • 2006: looked like 100%
  • How many of you are scared of open source?
    • 2005: maybe 15% (really guessing here, I barely remember)
    • 2006: one dude who looked like he was scared of me
  • How many do not know what a wiki is?
    • 2005: approx 60%
    • 2006: 3 people out almost 250 people

Astounding really. Another interesting poll I took was this:

  • How many of you are using Sharepoint in your departments?
    • Probably 30-40 people raised their hands
  • Now, how many of you are really, and I mean actively, using Sharepoint? Not just those of you who have it deployed.
    • I think there was maybe two people hands up.

I thought that was funny. 🙂

Anyhow, this conference is cool. The audience is great and well educated and the event seems to be growing. The facilities were ridiculous though. It is held at the RiverCentre. There was no open WiFi and the facilities wanted a couple hundred dollars just for an access code to their WiFi! That's insane! I've never heard of such a thing. Aaahh….Min-eee-sooo-tah…

TIES Educational Technology Conference

I presented at the TIES conference earlier today. I promised the audience that I would post my PPT and supporting research here.

As I discussed in the presentation, feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns. As stated I'm very passionate about education and will gladly provide whatever assistance I can.

Gilbane-Boston Content Management Conference

As previously mentioned here, I was in Boston last week at the Gilbane Content Management conference. The turn out for the conference was strong with more than 1,200 people in attendance. However, the timing for me was bad because Tara and Ashby both were sick and Ashby’s final X-ray for her hip dysplasia was on Thursday. I missed the last day of the conference in order to make it back for Ashby’s doctor appointment. The flight was about 30 minutes late; so, by the time I made it there Ashby and Tara had already gotten her X-rays, but we had to go back in for another couple shots because the first were obliqued. Good news is: everything looks great with my little tree frog. Her hips have a 30 degree alpha angles and the femoral ball is deep in the acetabular. Dr. Quanbeck, our orthopedist, gave us some recommendations on doctors in San Diego. I thought it was odd she actually knew, from memory, several doctors in San Diego. Perhaps not. Guess how many medical doctors there are in the United States. Guess…ok it’s only ~350,000. GilbaneBoston_2006 (9)Seems like there should be a lot more with approximately 296 million people living in the US.

So, Gilbane. That was fun.
We won the crown of best wiki at the Wiki Idol contest. More on this in a moment. Also, I was on a panel with several executives and founders from other wiki companies. The panel was tasked with discussing wikis as they are today and where they’re heading tomorrow; at least, I think that’s what it was supposed to be about. Some of the panelists presented dense and lengthy Powerpoint slide decks that were more focused on their company. I had expected that Ross Mayfield was going to be there. He is one of the founders of Socialtext (competitor) that some allege is a pioneer in the use of wikis in enterprise/business. Some also allege his company is open source. I always find people who are self-proclaimed experts or pioneers on software, but don’t write code…well…amusing. Why is it that these same people always seem to be prolific bloggers? I guess this makes them an expert. Perhaps it makes them open source too. I should start blogging on nuclear physics, I use electricity from nuclear power plants–I’m an expert, nay a pioneer! Perhaps I could get a job at the energy department.

Anyhow, Ross didn’t show. Instead it was their GilbaneBoston_2006 (8) VP of Professional Services (Matt I think) who presented. I squirmed as he cited his company as being ‘best of breed’ and ‘open source’. There are wiki companies out there that, in my experience (and opinion) give people a poor opinion of the technology because their product is just crude. On the topic of open source…well…you may recall what I wrote previously on this topic here. You may now understand who I was referring to when I stated: "Moreover, I personally find it offensive when companies slap open source contributors and companies in the face by claiming the title of open source while, in some cases, selling (distributing) for years while not releasing their source code or providing any transparency and then when they finally do release their source they create a non-OSI approved GilbaneBoston_2006 (21)license." Perhaps by using open source components they are open source? A side of me regrets not calling drawing attention to the lack of accuracy on this fellow’s statements, but I was concerned that most in the audience would have no idea what I was talking about anyway; so, I let it lie.   

I met some really great people from competing companies that were on the wiki panel with me, Cindy from Customer Vision, Jon from Atlassian (met again), Ani from eTouch and others. Cindy is just wonderful. Her company has been around longer (doing wikis in business/enterprise) than any other that I know of. I was disappointed that Mike from Atlassian wasn’t there. He is a riot. We first met at Office 2.0, man that guy has a great sense of humor. Jon, his sales or marketing dude, was there in his stead and he seems alright for being a sales/marketing/whatever dude. However, the other guy who presented with Jon during wiki-idol (explained below) seemed like a bit of a lackey though. I know he got very uncomfortable whenever I GilbaneBoston_2006 (3) got around his pod on the exhibit floor (not Jon the lackey looking fellow) as if I was going to steal away his prospects or something. I wish I could remember his name–large balding fellow.  

The highlight of the Gilbane conference was the Wiki Idol contest. It was setup such that each competing wiki company would be introduced by a fellow who would ask a couple questions about what the presenters’ names were, where they were from, etc. Then the demo would start and each company was allotted six minutes. At the end of the six minutes three judges essentially attacked the demo, presenting style, product, etc. Finally, the audience voted for their top two favorite wikis. I have no idea how many people voted of the 1,200 in attendance at the conference, but I can say the audience was overflowing into the main exhibition hall and people were jockeying for a view of the presentations. When the votes were tallied MindTouch’s Wiki won best wiki!!

GilbaneBoston_2006 (22)I was surprised with how folks have devd their wiki applications. They’ve definitely taken a decidedly structured/complex CMS-like tack. In some other cases we saw again how some companies are attempting to replace desktop applications with web based ones, which–big surprise–blew up in their face when they demoed and lost connectivity. I’ve made my opinion clear on this tack previously. In general it was clear that these applications were intended to be replacements to other applications rather than embracing and extending existing applications in way that makes them significantly better.
We stood out during Wiki Idol and the executive panel for several reasons. The main reason is that I spoke (really for the first time at lengthGilbaneBoston_2006 (24) publicly) about how I see wikis. Wikis are an aggregation and integration framework. They can, and should, be used to provide a simple and usable interface to more complex applications. In a way, this would make wikis a high level middleware that non-technical people can interact with directly that can then be used as glue for more technically complex applications and data stores. This solves the data silo problem for applications like ERP, CMS, KM, home-brewed Intranets, etc, SaaS applications like your CRM, web services, files servers, databases, email, AND proprietary file formats like: Visio, MS Project, whatever. In this world users will publish content (actively or passively) to the wiki, edit it, permute the data to suit whatever the needs are and extract it to whatever application is most suitable. I suppose this makes wikis a kind of application and knowledge XML based substrate. In order to achieve this the wiki has to, at the very least:

  1. Adhere to open standards
  2. Have a service oriented architecture
  3. Be open source 

Yes, wikis are wonderful for creating and editing webpages, simple information sharing, etc, but they can, and will be, so much more. This seems obvious yet I’ve not heard anyone talk about this. For a taste of what I’m talking about, take a look at my presentation at DemoFall or glance at the fancy graphic I have embedded below. We’ve not yet seen the end of the beginning for this wiki thing.


MindTouch Enterprise Deployment


We headed north to the in-law's place who reside just north of Duluth, MN on Lake Superior. It was eventful to say the least. Anyhow, Brenda and Tara made a spectacular meal. Toby and I threw down some "Gears of War," which is a pretty impressive game. Tara is now feeling under the weather, which is going to make her time difficult alone with Ashby while I’m in Boston for the next couple days at the Gilbane Content Management Conference. Enjoy the pics.

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Made in America

I've been reading (listening) to Bill Bryson's "Made in America." This is the second Bryson book I've read (listened to). Previously I read Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything," which I thoroughly enjoyed even though I have read some claims his accuracy borders on dubious on some of the topics he covers. I think it's more likely that many experts in the fields of science he covers likely find his catechumen understanding and summary of their fields a tad caustic. I can understand where they're coming from. Take this screen shot Steve sent me the other day.


I guess this is from some television show titled "Jericho."(?) That’s a fancy IP. Anyway, I thought it was lots of fun and informative, at least with respect to the personalities that have shaped science. Also, it was amazing to me to learn how little we really know and how short a time it's been that we've known it. I guess I never thought about why the salt levels in the ocean are not rising to the point that they cannot sustain life.

"Made in America" is a cursory look at the etymology of American English and U.S. history. I'm about 80% of the way through the book. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in etymology, I am very much so, or is into history (ditto). Keep in mind this is not an in-depth look at the etymology of America's English, but provides more of a sprinkling throughout. Bryson is informative, jocular (a word he uses frequently), and clever in relating this (brief and mostly culturally focused) history of the United States. As usual with Bryson, it's a really fun read. I do, however, think "A Short History of Nearly Everything" was a better book; so, if you’re going to pick up a Bryson book for the first time, start there..

Open Source?

David Berlind posted an article titled: "Are SugarCRM, Socialtext, Zimbra, Scalix and others abusing the term 'open source?'" in which he opines on the prevalence of non-OSI approved licenses among Web 2.0 companies that are alleged to be open source. Actually, strike that, Berlind doesn't actually seem to say anything beyond: Gee-wiz everyone seems to have a point. In my opinion he almost seems too scared to state an opinion for fear that he may anger dozens of alleged open source Web 2.0 execs or OSI. If anything he speaks snidely of OSI with statements of "'allegedly' keepers..", etc. I suppose this makes it all too clear who has the power here.

If you're reading this you almost certainly understand that OSI (Open Source Initiative) maintains the official definition of open source and is a standards body that all open source license authors turn to have their licenses ratified as meeting the requirements of the open source definition. This is a very important organization that has done a lot to maintain innovation in software. Also, it is hugely significant because it helps to prevent confusion about licensing.

When we were selecting licenses for DekiWiki and Dream we considered many licenses. The one thing we knew for certain was that we would select a license that was OSI approved. We did this for the same reason that we launched OpenGarden, released our source, and made our bugs database public all before we began selling a product. Because open source is a process. It's not an event. It's not a tick in a feature matrix to get funding. And it's certainly not about getting free labor. For us it has always been about Free Knowledge and rapidly evolving the best damn software application possible.  I’m making this point because some of these same companies that Berlind is talking about have actually spent years selling a product while not making their source code publicly available and then when they did release their source for the time they did so under a non-OSI approved license. This makes them decisively not open source.

Allow me to share my opinions on this topic further. As I state on our licenses page: every time a new "open source" company comes along and creates their own open source license it muddies the landscape of open source licensing. As we all know there is a significant amount of FUD in this space. By creating new licenses it only creates more confusion, which by definition breeds fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Moreover, I personally find it offensive when companies slap open source contributors and companies in the face by claiming the title of open source while, in some cases, selling for years while not releasing their source code or providing any transparency and then when they finally do release their source they create a non-OSI approved license. It's asinine and inexcusable. In short, that's fine if you want to use these licenses, but do not claim to be open source unless OSI has approved your license. Nor should you claim to be open source when you’ve not even released your source code.

Companies that claim to be open source without OSI approval weakens OSI. I now hear that OSI is actually considering these 'attribution' licenses for approval. Going back now and approving them would greatly diminish OSI's legitimacy. As mentioned, take a look at how many of these companies have developed their software. Open source is clearly an event for them and not a process. For them it's about free labor, press, and a tick in a feature matrix. If OSI approves these licenses retroactively or doesn't, at some point, do something to discredit these claims that these companies are open source I, for one, will lose a great deal of respect in the organization. 

Selling My Car

2002 Honda Accord V6 Leather VTech

47,500 Miles, excellent shape. Fully loaded–Every feature offered by Honda, including:

  • Leather seats
  • Powered Seats, Sun Roof, Windows, Mirrors, locks
  • Front and side air bags
  • 4 wheel disc brakes
  • Anti-lock brakes
  • V6 Vtech engine
  • 6-Disc CD Changed
  • 6 speaker stereo
  • Low Emissions Vehicle
  • Great gas mileage
  • Traction Control System

The car is in great shape. Has 2 new tires (all four great) and new brakes.
It's excellent in the snow because it's front wheel drive and has traction

NADA: $16,875

Asking Price: $15,000 / obo

If you’re reading this blog, you likely know Tara, Ashby and I are moving. We don’t need two vehicles being that we’ll be living in downtown San Diego, which is why we’re selling the Accord.


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