Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Power of a Tweet

I was reading Science News the other day: the full article is here, but I'll summarize for you.  Basically, the USGS has a program that scours Twitter to look for earthquake related words.  What they've found is that they can get immediate feedback on location and severity of earthquakes by dredging up and analyzing those tweets in real-time.  The "tweet-powered" software works much faster than the normal earthquake-related analysis, which can take up to 15 minutes after the actual shake happens.  And that 15 minutes can give emergency assistance teams the edge in reaching quake victims.

Did anyone ever think Twitter could save lives?  Not me.  I hate to say, but I might be coming around on Twitter.

Monday, January 18, 2010

What is a Software Ecosystem?

I'm putting together a slide deck, and I wanted to find some ideas for software ecosystem images.  The software industry uses "ecosystem" all the time to refer to all the companies that are participants, purchasers or providers of software related to your company.  For example, with QNX and our Neutrino RTOS, it means companies that are providing software on top of Neutrino, software tools that work with it, libraries that are ported to it, etc.  Naturally, we have a huge QNX ecosystem (which I was trying to brag about in my slides), and I thought it might be cute to have a nice little image to accompany the slide.

So I found it exceptionally amusing that the first whole page of Google Image results on "ecosystem" were all the circle of life like this:

Why I find this funny is that (unfortunately for most everyone in the diagram) all the members of this ecosystem are trying to eat each other.  This is not what we normally are trying to imply by the use of "ecosystem" in software.  In fact, we're trying to more imply something far more cooperative, like a indigenous village.  But "come join our software indigenous village" just doesn't roll off the tongue.

I posted this blog entry because on even further reflection, the food chain metaphor is actually quite appropriate. All the software companies are:
  • Trying to eat each other (corporate aquisition)
  • Trying to eat someone else's lunch (competitors)
  • Eating someone's waste products (startups filling niches left by the big guys)
  • Creating basic food at the bottom of the food chain (open source development)
  • In a symbiotic relationship (services organizations)
  • In a parasitic relationship (consulting)
Of course, this isn't such a flattering image of the software ecosystem.  But it is an accurate (and hilarious) view of just what we mean when we say "ecosystem".  Just hope that you're a carnivore (too bad I'm a vegetarian!)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Canoeing in the Everglades

This blog entry isn't about work, but it's about play.  Provided that you consider play to be taking a 75 mile paddling trip through the Everglades on the ocean and through mangrove swamps.  Let's just say that I had a remarkable Christmas vacation, and that I didn't think about work once.  There's nothing like non-stop physical exertion leagues removed from civilization to give you true peace of mind, in touch with the human condition and with the earth itself.

I didn't take many pictures, but this is one of my favorites.  It's Highland beach on the Gulf of Mexico, where we had a beautiful campsite and a very memorable sunset.  That morning we spied suspicious hoof marks around our tents, and after we launched the canoes in the morning sun, saw an endangered Key Deer investigating the beach.  Truly amazing.

Okay.  Back to work.