When
· Naughties
· · 2005
· · · November
· · · · 03 (2 entries)

Cars and Office Suites · Sam His­er wrote up some of the punchi­er bits from last week’s Berk­man Cen­ter ODF meet­ing, and they brought the car anal­o­gy back to mind; it had on­ly come to me on the spot there in the room. The prob­lem is that there hasn’t been a sig­nif­i­cant­ly use­ful new fea­ture in any of­fice suite that I’ve bought in the last decade. I just sat here and stared blankly, and hon­est­ly can’t think of a word-processor or spread­sheet fea­ture I use to­day that wasn’t there in 1995. So, is of­fice soft­ware es­sen­tial­ly, com­plete, done; is the era of in­no­va­tion over? I don’t think so; con­sid­er an­oth­er tech­nol­o­gy that’s over 100 years old: the au­to­mo­bile. In that same decade, we’ve bought three; the up­grade cy­cles for cars and of­fice soft­ware are about the same. Each of those cars had clev­er, use­ful, new gad­gets and fea­tures that I would nev­er have been smart enough to think of. Imag­ine that: A com­pass in the rear-view mir­ror! A vol­ume con­trol on the steer­ing wheel! A lit­tle slide-out doohick­ey for your cell­phone! A sixth gear! A spe­cial defrost-the-windshield-and-mirrors con­trol! What’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween cars and of­fice soft­ware? Wel­l, ev­ery time I go shop­ping for a car I look at a bunch of dif­fer­ent ven­dors who are try­ing re­al­ly hard to get ahead of each oth­er and earn my busi­ness. And since ev­ery­thing about a car (and the roads they drive on) is standards-based, there’s ab­so­lute­ly no penal­ty what­so­ev­er for switch­ing ven­dors.
 
Wikipedia Notes · This week I had a pleas­an­t, re­laxed, sit-down con­ver­sa­tion with Jim­my Wales, the main man be­hind the Wikipedi­a. The pur­pose of this note is to pass along some in­ter­est­ing facts about the project that I hadn’t pre­vi­ous­ly known. This is time­ly in that there has been a re­cent flare-up of the usu­al Wikipedia con­tro­ver­sies, with most­ly the same old play­ers fling­ing the same old slime; those who care might want to re­vis­it my es­say from last year, which takes a care­ful look at the project as con­trast­ed to the world of con­ven­tion­al ref­er­ence pub­lish­ing. I stand by my con­clu­sion: the Wikipedia dwarfs its crit­ic­s. The rest of this piece is just a recita­tion of fact­s, but some of them are sur­pris­ing. [Up­date: PHP@Ya­hoo!] ...
 
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