Perpetual Beta

Perpetual Beta is a concept that is gaining a lot of popularity on the web in recent years. Gmail, Google Maps, Flickr, del.icio.us, etc are just some services that are popular examples of the perpetual beta movement. However, the concept of perpetual beta is not entirey new – it has its roots in the continuous improvement framework used in business process management which was applied to software-as-a-service deployments, on the web. One really good example of this that makes good use of the dynamics of a constantly changing web application environment is Classblogmeister.com.

Classblogmeister is a service in education that allows students and teachers to collaborate towards development of communication skills, continuous improvement of academic content, and help set development priorities for the Classblogmeister service. It covers a range of relevant content areas in education, very well represented in the application cloud:

Cloud

This is an alphabatized listing of the most commonly used words in the latest 100 teacher blog entries. You can also view a cloud of the most commonly used words in published student blogs.

america answer april awards begin bill blog book books called chart charts check class classroom come comment complete country doing done earth enjoy enter entry evaluate everyone examples excited feel field final findings following friday grade great green group happy help hope images important information inquiry internet keep knowledge learned learning library list looking making middot monday must paper pencils people picture pictures play please post project question questions read reading ready review rhyming school scos share sites social south start story student students studies sunday supplies task tell term terrorism text thanks thinking tuesday types unit video website websites week welcome word words work working world write writing

The process for setting up a Classblogmeister service is very straightforward. During a semester session, users may realise that there are certain features that require further development. The website encourages a community-driven development model supported through a feedback process.

This open approach to software delivery is evident in the usage indices of Classblogmeister. The latest statistics on the website indicate:

261,047  student & teacher bloggers

892,913  blogs posted

15  blogs posted in the last hour

1,113  blogs posted in the last 24 hours

5,588  blogs posted in the last week

A good example of the development flexibility on the website is the latest example – the entire code rewrite of the comments and feedback functionality along with new security features that were implemented on the website on 04/04/2010.

Some features included in this implementation:

  • Teacher Approval Required
  • Class Password Required
  • User must be a Class Blogmeister member
  • User Must be a Class Blogmeister member and a member of the class

Here are some videos on Classblogmeister:

Please Comment..

Software above the level of a single device.

Appvoyage: Boldly going where no developer ever thought was possible.

Appvoyage is of the future. A future where Apple and Google won’t to compete cannibalistically for market share by leveraging SaaS offerings like their app stores for the iphone and android. It is the concept that will break though walled gardens and technical barriers. It is the future and it is here!

So, what is Appvoyage? As a pioneer SaaS offering, Appvoyage allows RIA developers to target the increasing rich mobile apps market, through a comprehensive resource mashup . Using existing frameworks, developers can import content and/or functionality specs from the web, utilise the proprietary AppPod features to make the content more portable across mobile devices and then publish them to multiple app stores, or on the web, as a service.

This might have many implications on existing business models for app stores. Will iTunes / Android Market fully endorse the interoperability powering apps developed through the Appvoyage AppPod? I guess, for now, the ‘future’ is still under development. If Appvoyage can get over its teething issues and generate enough adoption by the RIA development community, perhaps this service will truly set the pace for ‘Software above the level of a single device’.

Please Comment.

Data is the Next Intel Inside?

Is Data the Next Intel Inside? Current trends in web applications development are moving away from extensive functionality to comprehensive information as the main design principle and trend. There are a host of websites that emulate this principle and market their data as the main selling point such as flickr, google maps, youtube, tripadvisor, etc. I would like to look more closely at this trend and use a product which has set the pace for web 2.0 enabled services – Travelocity’s Experience Finder (β).

Experience Finder is a novel approach towards marketing travel destinations as ‘experiences’. Each experience is driven by reviews, a mashup of various sources and services and highly effective SEO implementations. This is achieved through highly relevant, specific content on each experience with separate landing pages, which make it very effective for search crawlers to individually index and assign high pageranks to them. This in turn leads to the consistent positioning of Experience Finder content in the top 3 search results on Google and Yahoo.

A search for an ‘experience’ in any supported city, presents travellers with a very intuitive flash driven menu which takes them though exhaustive information about each ‘experience’ no longer limited to the basic flights/cars/hotels. Current data provided for each experience contains tools such as Maps/Galleries/Events, themes such as Adventure/Culture/Family/Indulgence and products such as Hotels, Activities and Vacation packages. All of these services are provided and monitored using a feedback matrix. User communities vote on service providers which directly influences the content displayed in relevant searches. This trend in the travel industry is becoming quite popular with content providers such as trip advisor and lonely planet. However Travelocity’s Experience Finder is one of the first providers in the industry to combine reservations and web 2.0 community models to create a unique service that is content rich and content driven which is one of the main principles behind web 2.0 design.

A recent Google Analytics case study shows that web 2.0 compliant websites have a much higher look-to-book ratio in the travel industry or the ability for travel ePOS systems to attract and convert shoppers into consumers, through effective sale. Certainly this shows that focussing on the ‘coolest tech’ is not necessarily a guarantee of acceptance among online user communities. Data/knowledge/content is here to stay and will help build even more successful platforms with the next wave i.e. the semantic web. Where this is headed is yet being defined in the semantic web frameworks, however – according to Marissa Mayer, Google’s VP of Search Products and User Experience – it is clear that “having access to large amounts of data is in many instances more important than creating great algorithms”.

Please feel free to comment..

Harnessing Collective Intelligence

How Web 2.0 empowers professional collaboration in Agile SD.

The term web 2.0 brings to mind key aspects of its evolution such as Collaboration, Convergence, Participation, SEO, Syndication, Usability and technologies such as Open APIs, XHTML, Ruby on Rails, SOAP and AJAX, amongst others. While these aspects highlight the key impact web 2.0 has made on our lives, we are yet to realise the full potential of this trend of web development and how it can further enrich our web experience. Even so, some web 2.0 applications have in a very short time made significant strides in enhancing the way we interact within the limitations of the digital world. One such application I would like to elaborate on is that of web-conferencing and how it enhances professional collaboration in iterative software development projects across the world utilising Agile/Scrum/XP, overcoming traditional constraints of managing virtual teams.

What are iterative SD projects? Well, simply put, traditional software development – or waterfall SD – consists of the standard RADTM (Requirement gathering – Analysis – Development – Testing – Maintenance) approach in which each milestone has a rigid, defined place in a project plan based on prerequisites. The benefits of this approach are consistent development practices, adherence to timeframes and significant documentation of each stage to safeguard against scope-creep. The major problem is that the only true constant in a project should be quality. The customer should have the ability to change, redefine or reorder any project effort based on the dynamics of their business and business drivers that determine delivery priorities. This led to the evolution of standard SD methodologies into iterative SD practices. The only constant in an iterative SD effort is quality; scope and timelines are directly determined by the customer’s business drivers. Certainly, milestones are defined in a certain order, however, instead of making projections for the entire project delivery, the deliverables are mapped out into weekly, or fortnightly efforts (sprints/scrums) with a focus on feature demos at the end of each iteration. Each iteration is launched based on client go-ahead and the last iteration is reserved for code assimilation, check-listing and project delivery.

How do iterative SD projects benefit from web 2.0? The only method of ensuring project success in an iterative SD effort is to ensure equitable participation by all key stakeholders in a particular iteration through a system of daily & weekly iteration meetings, with periodic iteration demonstrations and status meetings. This becomes quite difficult to achieve given the increasing trend of virtual teams in IT. With the advent of web 2.0, technologies such as web-conferencing and practices such as consultative documentation review have greatly empowered professional and technical collaboration beyond the traditional limitations of distributed teams. Using web-conferencing product demos are now possible actively involving development, testing, maintenance and delivery teams as well as clients engaging them in active dialogue and collaboration through the process. There are a host of such technology providers that have solutions for live conferencing as well as web story-boarding which has largely replaced paper-based story-boarding as a highly effective tool for interaction between clients and service providers, allowing for the sharing, review and reordering of development priorities. The possibilities of stakeholder inclusion at every stage of the iterative process are virtually limitless. Web 2.0 technologies can be directly credited for creating numerous such platforms for better, more effective, professional collaboration in the IT industry today.

Where is this trend headed? Web 2.0 as a paradigm affecting online experiences is in a phase of constant flux and it might yet be hard to determine where exactly these trends are headed. One might only conclude that the driving principle for web 2.0 might persist in its objective for creating virtual interaction spaces that are inclusive rather than exclusive, and hopefully – grow from there. Please comment on how web 2.0 has shaped the way you communicate, conference or run projects..