Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Web 2.0 is Coming to a Business App Near You...

Looks like one of the more creative aspects of Web 2.0 -- that being mashups -- may be headed to business applications. Today, cnet has an interesting article highlighting's plan to allow other companies to develop components that can be easily combined with Salesforce application components. As an example they note that BusinessObjects will enhance Crystal Xcelsius (a data visualization tool) to leverage the new frameworks.

Don't hold your breath, though, It's going to be at least Q4 2007 before we see it in the wild.

Regardless, I think this is an exciting development; I'd expect to see this emerging as a trend, especially for 'software as service' companies.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Surviving a Malware 2.0 Attack

If you use sites like reddit or digg to find out what's new and interesting on the web, make sure you've got good -- I mean really good -- spyware/adware detection. If not, you'll likely be introduced to a very unpleasant malware distribution tactic known as "link hijacking." Believe me, you don't want that to happen.

I recently got clobbered by clicking on what appeared to be an authentic article but turned out to be a site rife with viruses and other malware. My virus software caught some of it, but, even so, I ended up with literally a couple of dozen adware and spyware programs (One lovely program generated a popup every 10 seconds).

Normally, I use Spybot, a really excellent free malware detector/cleaner. Unfortunately, the bad guys have been busy and Spybot could only detect and eliminate about 20% of the apps. I tried two or three other freeware tools and made little headway.

At this point I'm beginning to freak out a bit, with visions of all my personal data being sucked into the ether (as an aside, I never realized how violating it feels to have something like this happen). I broke down and bought a tool, Spyware Doctor from PC Tools.

I had no idea what to expect (other than user ratings at, and I must say, I'm impressed. The tool was extremely thorough, scanning registry, hard drive, process stack, etc. As far as I can tell, it detected every remaining malware program and successfully removed them.

It has some other nice features as well. The OnGuard service provides continuous protection against a host of potential problems, including keylogging, popups, and malicious ActiveX controls. The tool also provides a simple facility for online updates, which keeps the library of known threats current.

At $30 for one license, or $50 for two, I've found Spyware Doctor to be well worth the cost. I'd be interested in others' experience with this or similar tools.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Open Source Business Intelligence from Pentaho

Anything that makes it easier for organizations to deploy Business Intelligence capabilities is a good thing. One of the major hurdles, especially for smaller companies, is cost. Tools from entrenched providers like Microstrategy or Business Objects are incredibly feature-rich, but pretty pricey to implement.

Enter Pentaho, a company that sponsors an open source BI platform called (creatively) the Pentaho BI Project. This, unlike other open source projects (there aren't many) provides a top-to-bottom stack, from ETL all the way through presentation. That's a big deal, since it provides the ability to do much more than simple reporting and analysis. (I should note that JasperSoft recently released a competing product, JasperIntelligence, but I'm guessing that it's not as far up the maturity curve as their standard reporting platform).

Some of the more interesting capabilities include automated, role-based bursting, support for multiple output formats (e.g., HTML, PDF, Excel), ad-hoc data exploration (slice/dice, drill-down, etc.), data mining, and support for linking metrics to workflow. At least from a feature standpoint, Pentaho is well positioned against incumbent platform providers.

The efforts of Pentaho and other companies, such as JasperSoft and Actuate (with their open source BIRT reporting platform), are finally providing organizations with credible, perhaps more attractive, options for deploying BI. Removing that barrier to adoption could be just what the BI industry needs to finally push into the "must have capability" space.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Mobile Web 2.0

Okay, I'm setting aside tremendous fear of feeding the hype engine on this one...

Anjit Jaokar (along with Tony Fish) has written a series of articles (here, here, and here) that propose a framework for deploying Web 2.0 capabilities to mobile devices. A lot to read, but thought provoking.

He raises some interesting points, including a method tackling the notoriously painful input/output aspects of most mobile devices (I hear endlessly typing long URLs using a standard phone keypad is one of the key tortures in Hell). To illustrate, he suggests a mash-up of and flickr. I'm not sure I get the example, but I do get his point: Mobile Web 2.0 would add the interesting dimensions of location and proximity to the mix and would, if nothing else, present some interesting opportunities for building Location Based Services (remember that ancient concept?).

Frankly, I'm a bit on the fence on this one. Until there's a breakthrough in useability (and this isn't it), using the web effectively on small devices just won't be possible.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Cool Tools from iRise®

I ran across this company at one of my clients, who've been using the iRise toolset for some time to streamline the prototyping process for web development. Although my initial reaction was "Great, yet another wireframing tool," I was blown away as I began digging into what they had to offer.

In addition to just providing capability to rapidly assemble visual application prototypes, they have created a suite of tools that support the design process -- from workflow definition through simulation. Key features, such as process whiteboarding and embedded requirements traceability, really make this a must-have for user experience and web designers.

There are three main components to their offering:

iRise Studio™ -- This is the core product for designing web applications. It consists of a series of tools that map to specific activities in the design process. For example, the previously mentioned whiteboarding tool enables real-time definition of site flow (see screenshot). It also allows the designer to represent external systems or processes as 'clouds', allowing the design session to focus on relevant details. Another neat feature, more common with other wireframing tools, is the layout tool. Components can be pre-created and reused, encouragingadherencee to design standards. Also, components such as log-ins and combo boxes are fully functional, giving a rich simulation of the final application.

They also claim the tool can be used by business experts, though based on previous experience with allowing business users to actually do design work, that's rarely a good idea (no offense to non-tech folks, but it does take training and experience to design usable, robust applications).

iRise Reader™ -- Once a simulation has been created, it can be shared with anyone who has the iRise Reader application (free for download here). Files called iDocs can be emailed anywhere and contain helpful items such as walkthrough notes and requirements traceability.

iRise Manager™ -- This is a tool that's solely intended for business users. iRise Manager is in its simplest form a requirements repository. It has some nice (but expected) features for traceability, audit control, and reporting; but, of course, the real power comes in the tie-back to iRise Studio™. Requirements can be visually linked to the relevant pages of the simulation and displayed dynamically during a walkthrough. This provides a strong level of traceability, helping to ensure the final application meets the needs of the business.

Overall, I really like what iRise is doing. The development tools space is a tough place to succeed, largely because they rarely live up to their promise. These guys, I think, are an exception.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Cool Resource

Okay, so I probably won't be destealthing any Web 2.0 startups like the big kids at TechCrunch or Mashable, but I have no shame in posting about sites that have been around for a while. In fact, it's more interesting in some ways to check in every so often to see who's surviving the "really, it's not a bubble!" Web 2.0 bubble.

Categoriz is a site that can't be making a ton of money (see this), but is nontheless a cool resource for finding Web 2.0 resources. It actually reminds me a lot of Yahoo! in the good old days of the mid-90's -- not a bad thing, in my book.

It seems to be kept relatively up-to-date and the categories are logically organized. I find myself visiting the site at least once a week to either find a site I've lost or to see what's new.

Social News Controversy

Wow, digg and reddit are getting a lot of heat recently. One great example is a series of posts by Marc Fawzi over at Evolving Trends, which you can read here. His rant is one of many that have surfaced over the last couple of months calling in to question both the reliability of hive-mind news filtering and, worse, the actual credibility of the people running the sites.

I've used both, as well as a handful of smaller but similar services, and I've got to say that I'm not sure I necessarily care how perfect or imperfect they are. To me, they provide an easy conduit into a broad set of mostly interesting posts and websites. I doubt seriously I'd ever use such a service as a sole or even primary source of news and info.

Heck, either way, they're no worse than pretty much every online news site -- what, do you think they present an unbiased view of the news? Hah!