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Tuesday, July 29 2014 @ 03:55 PM CDT

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Adventures in Self Publishing - The Introduction

Adventures in Self-Publishing

This series highlights aspects of my experience self-publishing The Alexandria Project.   If you'd like to read the book this series is based on, you can read the first three chapters for free here (just click on the cover of the book). And you can read a new chapter of its sequel every Monday here.

Ever thought about writing a book?  Well, be sure you know what you're getting into first, because by the time you hold the finished product in your hands, you may have a long, strange trip to get through first.

If you're a long time reader of The Standards Blog, you'll recall that in the first half of 2010 I wrote a book called The Alexandria Project.  I posted a new chapter of that book here at The Standards Blog every Monday, and by the end it comprised 29 chapters, plus prologue and epilogue.  Somewhere between 3 and 4,000 people loyally followed that tale through to its conclusion, and you can still find that rough first draft here

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The Future of OpenOffice.org: How Not to Write a Press Release

OpenDocument and OOXML

Since 2005, I see that I have written over 227 blog entries about ODF (I say more than, because the very earliest got lost in an earlier platform migration).  Throughout the greatest part of this six year period, OpenOffice was the poster child ODF implementation - the one with the most users, the most press attention, the most corporate support - tens of millions of dollars of it, from Sun Microsystems.  Of course, there were other impressive implementations, both open source and proprietary alike.  OpenOffice, though, was always the default ODF implementation referenced by the press.

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Appreciating Steve Jobs

Monday Witness

It's impossible for anyone who has witnessed the personal computer and personal technology age from its beginning to separate Steve Jobs from that incredible odyssey.  From the start, he envisioned, created, and defined new platforms and categories of media experience. 

Sometimes he was not the first to invent, as with the mouse, the MP3 Player, the smartphone and the slate computer.  But when he turned his exceptional perceptions, sense of style and insistence on perfection to each of these tools, he exposed the limited vision of those who had first introduced these tools by reenvisioning, recreating, and redefining what those tools could be. 

Each time, his vision almost instantly prevailed. 

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The Lurching Landscape of Mobile

Intellectual property Rights

Anyone paying attention to technology news lately knows that the Titans are clashing for control, or at least a share of the monetary rewards, of the mobile marketplace.  When technology historians look back on this era, they'll likely see this as a time when the tectonic plates suddenly shifted, wrenching apart corporate monopolies and rearranging the terrain upon which the next great age of technical innovation and adoption will play out.  These sudden shifts have predictably sent tremors reverberating across the competitive landscape.

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W3C Launches New “Agile” Standards Development Platform

Open Source/Open Standards

By anyone’s measure, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has been one of the most important and influential standards development organizations of the information technology age. Without its efforts, the Web would literally not exist as we know it. But times change, and with change, even venerable – indeed, especially venerable – institutions must change with it. 

Yesterday the W3C announced the launch of a light-weight way for non-members as well as members to initiate new development projects. It allows participants to take advantage of streamlined, off the shelf tools and policies to support their efforts, as well as the intellectual support of the W3C staff and member community. Where appropriate, a project can graduate to the formal W3C development process as well. The new programs are the result of extensive discussion and consensus building that began in two ad hoc working groups in which I was pleased to be invited to participate.
 
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OpenOffice: Always the Bridesmaid, Never the Bride

OpenDocument and OOXML

Poor OpenOffice. It’s been open source for so long, and yet its adoption and market importance has always lagged far behind that of peer software like Linux – despite the fact that it’s free and implements a standard (ODF) aggressively promoted by some of the most powerful technology countries in the world. Can this ever change?

If yesterday’s announcement by IBM is any indication, the answer is “not likely,” despite the fact that Big Blue’s latest commitment to OpenOffice, on its surface, sounds like good news. The reason? It’s too little, and too late. Here’s why.  

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Six Lives and Counting

Monday Witness

Depending on your point of view, the daily news delivers up a glass either half empty or half full. In the short term, the negative impression can be particularly powerful, with disasters both natural and man-made arising with distressing regularity. But the glass can also be viewed as half full, and that can lead to a false sense of security.

The viewpoint to which I refer would lead us to believe that most, if not all, man-made disasters in the making will fall to new technological innovations, allowing us to continue in our consumptive and polluting ways without concern for tomorrow. As with the cat with nine lives, the disasters predicted by the prognosticators of doom, from Thomas Malthus in the 18th century to Paul Ehrlich in the 20th, have always failed to materialize.

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Sarah Palin and Wikipediology

Monday Witness

Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?

Courtesy of Therealbs2002, CCA-SA3.0Some time back, I wrote a blog entry called "The Wikipedia and the Death of Archaeology."  The thesis of the piece was this: archaeologists study periods as recent as a hundred years ago, because even with newspapers, magazines and photographs, a substantial percentage of everyday reality still slips through the historical cracks.  If that sounds bogus, consider the fact that several times in your life (at least if you're an American), you've read an account of someone sealing or opening up a "time capsule" intended to preserve everyday objects for about the same time frame. 

The humbling lesson is that much of our life is made up of trivial things - office supplies, flower pots, talk shows, you name it - that don't become the stuff of newspapers or novels.  It follows that if you lose the trivia, then you lose much of the texture and context that makes everyday life real and understandable, if not always exactly inspiring.  That's why archaeologists (or at least archaeologist lacking travel budgets) are wont to dig up such recent garbage - to recapture our trivia, in order to backfill our knowledge of who we were after the conscious memory has been lost.  But, as I pointed out in my earlier entry, understanding the realities of the past by counting peach pits in privies at best allows you to make guesses about a single home owner, and not about society writ large.

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Avoiding a Cloud Computing Armageddon

General News

Cloud computing is all the rage today, with everyone from the U.S. Federal government to Apple herding us into a brave new world of remotely hosted data and services.  There are, of course, many advantages to the cloud concept.  But as usual, this new IT architecture has some inherent and serious risks that cloud proponents hope potential customers will not dwell on.

There's nothing new about that, of course - except for the stakes.  Innovation usually outruns caution and comprehensive consideration of concerns like safety and unintended consequences.  But if we want to put all of our computing resources and data into one bucket, we had better make damn sure that it's got a pretty strong bottom.

Here's a nightmare scenario of what could happen otherwise.  And it's not pretty.

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Here We Go Again: How to Tell a Bubble When you See One

General News

Oh my goodness. It's happening again. Will there be anywhere to hide this time, or are we already trapped — tied like poor little Pauline to the railroad tracks as the engine of another high tech bubble barrels down upon us.

Until last Thursday, there was some cause for hope. True, the day before the New York Times had written a piece reporting on the growing prevalence of "acqhire" transactions. That's where a company (like Facebook) buys a company for millions of dollars, only to promptly shut it down. Why? Because it wants the employees — $500,000 to $1 million per engineer is the current going rate. That's not quite as high as it was during the Internet Bubble years, but the same companies are doing lots of big-ticket acquisitions as well. Whether or not these transactions pay off in new revenues, the dilution to existing stockholders will be the same.