Mashing Up, Jamming Together

April 4th, 2007

There have been some mentions and bit of buzz about my Secure Ajax Mashups article at IBM:

On an entirely different topic, I’ll be playing the drums tonight at Zemra‘s regular wednesday night jam session hosted by Brian Allossery. The meaty stuff starts at about 11 p.m. and I’ll be taking the odd turn until about 12:30 a.m. if you care to drop by. It’s an open mic thing, so if you sing or play, put your name on the list at the bar and let’s jam!


New Ajax Mashups article, Ajax Experience 2007

April 3rd, 2007

IBM Developerworks has just published my new article “Shaping the Future of Ajax Mashups”, wherein I explain that browsers are still not well equipped to enable mashups that integrate input from multiple sources without falling prey to serious security and/or scaling issues. I then discuss some of the potential solutions to the problem and call for the development community to get involved.

I’m also interviewed by IBM’s Scott Laningham in a short podcast promoting the article.

One good way to get involved is to mix with the top people in the Ajax world – the browser manufacturers, the folks who create the libraries and APIs we use to build our Ajax apps, the big players in the industry. Ben and Dion at Ajaxian have just made a call for speakers for their Ajax Experience 2007 show slated for July 25-27 in San Francisco. Having established some great contacts and communication at the two previous Ajaxian shows, I can tell you without doubt that this is the one Ajax show of the year not to miss. It’s an opportunity to spend a couple of days rubbing shoulders with the people in the industry who can actually influence the future of the tools we use to build and use the interactive net.


Enterprise Ajax Book

March 15th, 2007

Dave Johnson has posted a sample chapter from the upcoming book called Enterprise Ajax, written by Dave and his Nitobi colleagues Alexei White and Andre Charland.

I did the tech review on this book and I can tell you it’s filled with high quality writing and insight taken from some pretty serious experience – Andre and Dave started up EBusinessApps (which became Nitobi last year) at least 5 years ago doing Ajaxy stuff well before it was de rigeur.

The book should come out in early summer – you can pre-order a copy now.


Javascript – the Web 2.0 developer’s Babelfish

February 12th, 2007

In the post-demo schmooze at Toronto DemoCamp 12 last week, I was discussing Ajax-y things with a few people and I found myself articulating a notion that has been rolling around in my head unformed for a while – that of Javascript as Babelfish.

If you look some of the popular Javascript libraries and frameworks, an important aspect of their design is to make one’s Javascript code feel more like another environment that better suits the application or in which the designer (and ultimately user) is fluent.

To be precise, GWT is actually written in Java, so it doesn’t fit exactly but continues to demonstrate the trend of people wanting to stay in the environment they understand but have Javascript do the work.

Javascript is remarkable in its flexibility of expression that allows you to apply it to various idiomatic styles. I can’t think of another language that would be quite so accomodating.

Is this trend indicative of Javascript’s power, or the ingenuity of developers who are stuck with using Javascript in the browser when it differs from their environment of choice?



December 20th, 2006

Via Simon Willison, I see that Dave Winer demonstrates how remarkably far out of touch he is with the state of internet programming.

JSON has been promoted for a couple of years now, and has been visibly gaining traction among the net programming community for at least 18 months. It’s quite telling that it has only recently filtered through Dave’s navel-focused gaze.

And before any analysis, he’s quick to dismiss and belittle it:

God bless the re-inventers

Gotta love em, because there’s no way they’re going to stop breaking what works, and fixing what don’t need no fixing.

…and to show us the particular shade of his sunglasses:

I figured, sheez it can’t be that hard to parse, so let’s see what it looks like, and damn, IT’S NOT EVEN XML!

As Dr Phil asks — What were they thinking?

Sheez, Dave, maybe they were thinking “I don’t care to use XML” – those presumptuous philistines. Let the XML infidels be slaughtered:

Who did this travesty? Let’s find a tree and string them up. Now.

Chief infidel Douglas Crockford’s comment is worth framing:

I liked the part where Dr Phil said “What were they thinking?” I asked the same question when I first saw XML being proposed as a data format. There were obviously better alternatives.

The good thing about reinventing the wheel is that you can get a round one.

Dave leaves the best line for last:

Silicon Valley is made up of little boys pulling their puds, constantly making love to each other, pretending the world revolves around them.

…the all-too-easy inference of course being that it actually revolves around Dave Winer, chief pud-puller, making love only to himself.


GMail on Path to Perfection

December 13th, 2006

Michael Arrington thinks that Gmail Just Got Perfect with its new Mail Fetcher feature. Jackson West demurs to that notion, citing almost-there and missing features that make Gmail fall somewhat shy of perfection.

Either way, GMail continues to impress me. I’ve been using it extensively over the past couple of weeks since I turned my main domain mail over to Google Apps for Your Domain.

I’ve used Outlook Express (OE) as my mail client for a long time. I’ve avoided the full Outlook client because it doesn’t give me access to raw messages for debugging, and well, OE gives me almost everything I need without any of the bloat and dreck.

One of the (very few) drawbacks to avoiding Outlook is that OE doesn’t support the meeting invitations that people who use Outlook and Exchange send around. I get a badly formatted text version of the invitation and have to manually respond.

I got just such an invitation yesterday in my GMail inbox. I responded manually, but later in the day I noticed that my Google Calendar had been populated with the meeting and upon opening the calendar slot, I was given a form to respond to the invitation.

So, maybe GMail’s not yet perfect, but it’s really coming along.


Key patent originality test to be subject to ruling

November 7th, 2006

My friend and mentor Greg Vincent (no link yet) sent me a link today to this article that explains how an upcoming Supreme Court case could make it extemely difficult in the future to invalidate patents due to obviousness.

The gist is that the test would be interpreted to require prior publication of discussion of the obvious feature to prove obviousness.

But opposing a patent on those grounds can be harder than it sounds. According to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the U.S. Patent Office or the challenger of a patent must produce written documentation that someone suggested the substance of the patent before it was filed. That test “forces litigants to search through reams of technical papers for a document in which someone, somewhere, bother to state the obvious”…

The quagmire thickens…


A Patent should pass a test of Obviousness

November 5th, 2006

A link from Techdirt to my recent post about the Script Tag Remote Scripting patent has got a lot of comments, mostly variations of the theme “I’ve just patented the definite article ‘the’ – you all owe me a squillion bucks!”.

In case you’re unclear on it, as some commenters seem to be, the point is that this is not just an application, this patent has been *granted*. The patent holders if they so choose can now start wielding injunctive power over those who use this technique.

Of course it’s not quite as simple as that. One commenter with more than a smattering of working knowledge of the patent process points out a couple of useful observations:

Without commenting on the actual validity of the patent, two observations: First, the issued patent claimed priority to a provisional “placeholder” application filed on Dec. 1, 2000 – this means that the patent examiner at the PTO evaluated the merits of the patent application based on what was available before that date. If the examiner did not find evidence that anyone was “doing” what the patent applicants claimed as of Nov. 30, 2000 or earlier, he or she would have come to the conclusion that it was novel. This seems to be shored up since Brent said, “Numerous people have ‘discovered’ and exploited the value in using the script tag to get code and data on the fly since that time.” (emphasis added)

Second, Brent wrote, “It’s an obvious logical use of the functionality for which it was designed.” Apparently, this is where the obviousness assault should have been levied by the examiner. It could be that this is where any successful invalidity challenge in court would occur. Brent correctly notes that the patentee “has the upper hand;” an issued patent is presumed valid and can be found invalid in the face of clear and convincing evidence that it was not novel or it was obvious. This is a tough standard to meet, but note that more than one patent litigation has terminated very early if there is clear evidence of prior art which renders a patent invalid.

So, it could well be that this particular patent will not survive if challenged.

I responded with a comment of my own:

I think the obviousness argument in this case comes down to this:

If the patent process is working properly, the general public’s first understanding of this technique should come from reading the patent itself, since it is the expression of a unique unobvious patentable idea.

The fact that this particular technique is in wide use and has been for 5 years means that either:

a) everyone’s knowledge of the technique has come from the revelations contained in the patent


b) it was obvious enough than many other people arrived at the same technique without having been exposed to the patent.

If b), then the patent should be found to be invalid by reason of non-obviousness.

As a person who has taken great interest in this field since 1998, I contend that b) is how it played out.

I had absolutely no knowledge of this patent application until late October 2006, however I had working knowledge of the technique since as far back as 2002, and many people claim to have independently arrived at this technique during that time. I haven’t polled all of them but of the ones I have spoken to, none claim any foreknowledge of this patent.

Let me iterate that I’m not aware of any instances of this patent being enforced against anyone using the script tag transport technique. Again, I’d be happy to hear from anyone who is aware of any such efforts, and anyone who can come up with prior art to go along with the obviousness argument should anyone decide to try to enforce this patent. As Peter Bromberg points out, we wouldn’t want to see this turn out to be yet another patent parking fiasco.


Update: the patent attorney who commented as quoted above (Gary Gex from MorganLewis) points out that the patent holders don’t hold injunctive power without a court granting injunction through litigation at which time the patent would be subected to the scrutiny we desire.

After seeing the NTP vs RIM case, where despite the patents being provisionally tossed out by the court, RIM was forced to pay 613 Million, I’m firmly of the opinion that the simple threat of injunction is too often enough to enjoin many a small company from continuing to practice a technique covered by even a phenominally poor but nevertheless granted patent.