OpenSocial, Facebook, Google, OpenGadgets

January 28, 2008

I still find all of the attacks on OpenSocial to be naive. Did anyone ever really think each company would open up it’s social graph? Apparently so, but I certainly didn’t. How could Google possibly get everyone to join and dictate they all open their data? One step at a time! Perhaps I’ve never been disappointed because I never conceived of OpenSocial as anything but OpenGadgets. I don’t think the importance of OpenGadgets should be overlooked, however. Google Gadgets is a generally sound approach to standardizing gadget making using html and JavaScript. It’s certainly a big step up from learning some new proprietary markup language invented by Zuckerburg & co.

Perhaps this ties in to my general disdain for Facebook. Sure, it’s a heck of a lot better than MySpace, but is that really saying much? It’s still a social network, which is just inherently cheesy and doesn’t solve any interesting technical problem whatsoever. I find it shocking there’s talk of people leaving Google to go to Facebook. Maybe I’m a tech snob, but old Sergey and Larry actually solved a really challenging technical problem at Google. It makes sense to me they have legions of programmers rallying behind them. Facebook? This guy was a freshman at Harvard who knew a little PHP. Not to mention he stole the idea from his “buddies” and broke away to do it on his own. There’s all this excitement about a company that’s just not interesting technically with sketchy business ethics? I just don’t get it.

I’ll stop soon, but let’s just touch on the “Facebook platform.” Come on. We really need another proprietary platform? There’s a platform I’ve come to know and love that’s simply an astounding place for innovation called the “Internet.” It’s really cool. It’s really open. I’ve come to like other platforms like Ning, but I just have no interest in writing something in Facebook’s markup language that will make them more advertising cash. People like Facebook because there’s money to be made. That’s the only conclusion I can make. It’s not a horrible reason, but we should at least call it like it is. All the ramblings about how innovative the platform is remind me of company valuations in the late 90s. A lot of talk. I have yet to see any truly innovative Facebook app. Seriously. Please don’t super poke me. Ever. Most Facebook apps are not only uninteresting, but I actively wish they didn’t exist. They make my life worse and waste my time.

I’ll take the Internet any day.


Simple DB First Impressions

January 16, 2008

I ran into some MySQL replication issues on our server cluster the other day, prompting me to finally check out Amazon’s new Simple DB.

Here are my top-level impressions:

  1. It takes a little while to wrap your head around the relational database versus Amazon’s sets and items.
  2. The query syntax and the APIs are very simple and straightforward once you wrap your head around them.
  3. The example classes are a little clumsy. Maven support would double the speed of going through the Java ones.
  4. *Once they support ordering*, you’ll never touch your database again.
  5. They don’t support ordering.

For the first 30 minutes of playing with it, I could not have been more excited. I was just picturing deleting all those Hibernate-related classes from my code, and I thought I might never have to look at mysql logs of my.cnf again in my life. All that, and my database would scale with even less work than it would in my load-balanced MySQL cluster.

That’s when I happened upon the sad truth that Simple DB does not yet support ordering. I had my tables all converted to Amazon’s domains and items in my head, and then I realized it was all for nothing. I need ordering for most of my queries, and I’m sure many of you do too.

It seems quite likely Amazon will add support for ordering in the near future, as word has it they included it in the private beta before the current semi-public beta stage.  They likely took it out over performance concerns, as ordering gets expensive when databases are distributed over many machines.

Once they support ordering, though, the rest is so clean that I’ll almost certainly switch.  The time savings in reduced database maintenance make it a simple decision.

Oh, and I’ll post more about this, but the LittleShoot site is live. Beta downloads are still invite-only, but we’re getting very very close to wider release. I’m currently tweaking some of the security details with publishing your files, but once that’s done it’s off to the races.

You can read more about LittleShoot on the site and you can sign up to be notified when you can join the beta. Exciting stuff.