Author Archives: Ian Kennedy

The Web as a Platform

Today I’m starting a new weblog that will focus on a discussion that has been gaining momentum over the past two years. As web services gain favor and companies, customers, vendors, and providers begin to communicate via these standardized APIs, we all realize new economies of scale as well as lowered barriers to entry.

My initial “aha” moment was during a trip to Redmond where a Program Manager walked us through a demonstration of the .NET version of Visual Basic and showed how in 30 minutes with something like 5 lines of code he was able to build a simple web application.

The scenario was a CTO talking with his IT guy on a plane ride. The CTO asks the IT guy what all the bug-a-boo over web services is about. Jacking into the net via the seat back phone, he strings together three separate applications that pipe their results to each other to bring back a result that confirms the obvious.

1. Input your flight number >
2. Flight number acts as an input to geo-tracking service like Flight Tracker >
3. GPS coordinates of flight act as an input service that translates GPS to Zip Code >
4. Zip Code acts as input into weather tracking service for radar image of weather conditions.
5. Look out your window and confirm weather conditions

No jokes about Bob Dylan and not needing a weatherman for such an exercise, this was just an example to get the juices flowing. If you think about various web applications as something that can be negotiated with the http equivalents of “grep” and “|” then you’ll begin to appreciate the transformative (and one could say, disruptive) power of this model. Add RSS feeds to automate the connections and it’s like adding oil to the machine – everything starts to run even more smoothly.

So, to kick off this discussion/weblog I’m pointing to Tim O’Reilly’s original posting that sums it up very nicely:

Bit by bit, we’ll watch the transformation of the Web services wilderness. The first stage, the pioneer stage, is marked by screen scraping and “unauthorized” special purpose interfaces to database-backed Web sites. In the second stage, the Web sites themselves will offer more efficient, XML-based APIs. (This is starting to happen now.) In the third stage, the hodgepodge of individual services will be integrated into a true operating system layer, in which a single vendor (or a few competing vendors) will provide a comprehensive set of APIs that turns the Internet into a huge collection of program-callable components, and integrates those components into applications that are used every day by non-technical people.

From Inventing the Future, April 9, 2002

4th Fridays in Pennington

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Starting yesterday evening, the Pennington Borough Business Council has started organizing something their calling, “4th Fridays.” On the fourth Friday of every month, the stores downtown get together with events and free food & drink to entice people to hang out downtown.

Yesterday was the first 4th Friday and two colleagues from work, Greg Merkle and Chris Caine came to play with at the Bread & Breakfast coffee shop. Chris (with the headband) plays with Bob Jones (blond hair, closest to camera) in a band called, “Two Worlds Apart,” and Greg (up on stool) plays on his own. One of Greg’s techniques is an amazing mix of strumming, plucking, and percussion work on the fretboard that creates a multi-layered mix of sounds that are hard to belive they come from one man. For a sample, you can check out the video.

Should the FBI be renamed the FIB?

More on my theory that key indicators to the Al-Qaeda threat were lost in the shuffle due to a lack of trained Farsi translators posted by boingboing.net Quoting an interview in Government Executive magazine with Sibel Edmonds, a translator hired by the FBI,

Edmonds said she was hired to retranslate material that was collected prior to Sept. 11 to determine if anything was missed in the translations that related to the plot. In her review, Edmonds said the documents clearly showed that the Sept. 11 hijackers were in the country and plotting to use airplanes as missiles. The documents also included information relating to their financial activities. Edmonds said she could not comment in detail because she has been under a Justice Department gag order since October 2002.

It gets even more disturbing. Instead of investigating its shortcomings and learn from its mistakes, the FBI has been actively discouraging full disclosure to the point of coverup. In an interview with 60 Minutes’ Ed Bradley, Ms. Edmonds mentions cases where her investigations were actively hindered.

This story is gaining legs and is starting to bubble up into the popular media in a way that could explode in Senior Bush Administration officials. Should the FBI be nicknamed FIB?

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Boing Boing points to another mini-site put up by the Miami-based ad agency behind Subservient Chicken. These guys are re-writing the rules of Western advertising with their deconstructionalist, tongue-in-cheek dig at stereotypes and creative use of new and old media to position their clients’ products. I’ve been the bemused recipient of some of their other materials promoting the mini and Virgin Airlines.

Their New Employee Handbook which you can get to by clicking the “employment” link is both inspirational and a good read. It also is a shining example of how to set the right tone at a young, vibrant company looking to take on the world. From the guide:

We Ask that you Don’t

Throw sand.
Be selfish.
Disparage others.
Talk shit.
Duck responsibility.
Play the busy card.
Leave others hanging.
Make excuses.
Disappear.
Make promises you don’t keep.
Say it can’t be done.

New Jersey Indiscrete

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What do you get when your state is wedged between New York City and Philadelphia? Lots of people with too much money and a need to spend in extravagent ways to one up their city friends. The enormous houses popping up all over the state are nick-named “McMansions.” Peter Ryttel, a colleague visiting from Boston, spied this this little number. Note the mini-SUV up on the poop deck.

The name on the stern is the cherry on top, “Indiscrete” indeed!

Lost in Translation?

“Al Qaeda Link To Iraq May Be Confusion Over Names” carried in the Washington Post made the Top 20 emailed articles list for today so it will be interesting to see if it gains more traction in the press.

There was another instance of possible mis-interpretation that unfortunately I cannot link to because it came to me from source connected to a military insider based in Japan. In his case, when the story about the famous August 6, 2001 Daily Presidential Brief and the lack of response started making the rounds, he recalled a memo that was sent to all military installations in Asia with instructions to be prepared for a possible terrorist action in the region. His thought was perhaps the intelligence community mis-interpreted chatter that was indicating an “attack in the East” to mean an attack in the “Far East.”

One can only wonder.

Some Villagers prefer to take to the air rather than water or wheels

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The local paper in Loudon, TN finally got around to running a story on our April trip. I’ve since been back a second time but the greased wheels of the media run a bit slower down there. More pictures from the first trip, along with a photo of the photographer areĀ here.

Funny to think it’s quicker and easier to post photos onto a web page that can be viewed immediately by folks around the world than it is for traditional media to get the word out via the local paper. I got this scan from my Uncle who sent it to me via email and now I’m posting it to this page where it will get crawled by search engines. If local reporter Patty Robichaud then looks for where her name is mentioned in conjunction with her hometown, Loudon, Tennessee, she’ll see the reference to her name along with the headline she wrote and will land right back here looking at a scan of her original story with a link to her taking the photograph.

It’s kind of like a 21st century version of that old children’s book, Paddle-to-the-Sea.

Request for Response

I’ve been asked to pull together news and updates from my classmates at my high school and am going to try a little experiment – I’ll post the note here and have them respond via Comments. They can each see what the others write and build upon that to make something that will hopefully be greater than the sum of the individual parts. What follows is my original email

Hi Middlesex Class of ’84!

Yes it’s me again. Those of you that made it to the 20th, it was great seeing you again. Those of you that didn’t, well, let’s just say that we had a great time reviving embarrassing memories of events you rather were long forgotten.

As a reward for putting together the Friday dinner at the Colonial Inn, the alumni office kindly inquired if I would be interested in bringing together snippets of news from you all for the next issue of the Bulletin. My initial instinct was to push it away and gracefully duck responsibility but then I thought such a role (what do you call it anyway, Class Secretary? Class Historian? Hub of all Rumors?) would actually be a position of great power – heck, I can say what I want and it would take months of concerted efforts of a top PR firm for you to undo the misrepresentation. Andy Hoffman crystalized it for me when he said, “I better be nice to you or you might say I’ve joined the neighborhood glee club.” Precisely.

So here’s the deal – I need to submit something like 500 words to the School by the end of the week. OK, actually by July 1st but cut me some slack to pull it all together. Send me something by Friday to make it into the Bulletin. You can say what you want but I’ve got editorial rights here so I’ll edit to highlight the juicy bits so if you really want to punch something up, make it interesting.

Hey, I’ll even post this note onto my blog so you can add your bits as comments, that way you can all see the full draft before it goes to print. Click on the link below to view this comment on the web and you can add your comments by clicking on the “Comments” link below the post. Pretty nifty eh? If you’d rather not let the World Wide Web know about your latest accomplishments, then feel free to send me an email.

You can even tell me if you’ve joined a Glee Club.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Ian

Pleasant Valley Road

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My neighbor gave me an old mountain bike which I fixed up and took out riding this weekend. On Saturday I went into Princeton to a co-worker’s backyard BBQ party and rode back that evening. I had lights and reflectors but I wasn’t prepared for overcast skies and no moon which made it pitch dark. I hadn’t realized this while driving at night but the fireflies are magical, blinking off-and-on in the woods on both sides of the road and dancing in the darkness ahead – it was like I was flying in space. I nearly ran into a deer and only was alerted to him being there because of the sound of his hooves on the pavement.

Today, I went in the opposite direction, up Pleasant Valley Road over towards the Deleware River – absolutely beautiful farmland. I stopped several times to take pictures and was struck again by the stillness and calm around me. It reminded me of the landscape on the backroads of France, not a soul around, just the rustle of the wind through the trees. And to think I’m only an hour and a half from Times Square in NYC!

Class Self Portraits

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Finally got around to scanning in Tyler’s class self-portraits that were given out at his graduation ceremony. Wonderful to see how each child depicts himself. Jack’s got spiky hair, Amber and Natalie chose to accentuate their long eyelashes, Brooke has curley hair, and Jake a big, happy smile. The expressions are great too – Laila is a little coy but has a sincere gaze, Kelly is a bit crafty, Lianna is looking sideways at something and Kirsten is just plain glad to be here. Tyler always leaves out the pupils in all his drawings of people and for this self-portrait, he did something weird with his hair and took special care to include his nostrils.