Archive for March 2009
Betterdot is currently engineering a web-based enterprise scheduler. While we take pride in the “back-end” (the technology stack consists of Spring, Hibernate and the Drools business rules engine), it’s the “front-end” that is likely to generate the most excitement. Want to create an event? Click on a day cell, a box (div) comes up and greys out the background which remains visible, the user enters the event information and clicks Save. Voila! Want to reschedule the event? Sure you can click on it, but that’s so old school… Why not drag and drop it to another day cell instead? Once complex and expensive to integrate, newer faster browsers and helper libraries have placed drag and drop and other AJAX functions within the reach of most organizations and budgets. The libraries are mature, easy to use as well as open-source and free. Deploying them wisely on your customer-facing web properties and enterprise applications will likely boost the user experience, drive your sales and increase your productivity. Drag and drop that on your bottom line!
While in university, I and many or my classmates were fortunate to be exposed to some of the greatest texts by some of the greatest minds of western philosophy. What continues to amaze me to this day is how often I draw on these (somewhat distant) formative years. Take Pato’s forms for example. Removed of matter, forms are pure, completely abstract and atemporal. We understand and recognize the purpose of a table when we see one because we understand and recognize its abstract form, tableness. Object oriented developers also understand the distinction between an object instance and its “essence”. They call this essence, this form, an interface. Software interfaces are essentially platonic forms, abstract, conceptual and devoid of a physical implementation.
Plato’s contribution to object oriented programming has never been fully recognized. We wouldn’t have today’s advanced, declarative and abstract computer programs without the beautiful forms he discovered over 2,000 years ago. I think credit is long overdue.
I wrote a proposal this month; enhancements to a financial data aggregator Betterdot implemented at a large research house. If I may say so myself, I am pretty happy with the outcome. I believe these enhancements will help our client get better results, faster. But my proposal won’t change the world. Why? For one’s proposal to change the world, one would have to be a head of state, an explorer, a captain of industry or perhaps simply…Tim Berners-Lee. In March of 1989, 20 years ago this month, Tim Berners-Lee wrote a proposal too. He had an idea about adding hypertext to the emerging Internet. He called it the World Wide Web. He didn’t stop there. He designed the first browser, editor and web server, then went on to found the W3C at MIT. Staying clear of clichés and truisms is hard here. Hypertext has quite simply changed the world. Because of it, hundreds of millions of people everyday can work, pursue their dreams and ambitions and connect with one another exchanging text, photos, music and videos. The web isn’t perfect, far from it. But that’s because it wasn’t engineered to be used by machines (as XML was), it was meant for humans and we are hardly perfect. The world wide web is a human-centered solution to humanity’s quest for information, knowledge and, dare I say, fulfillment. Thank you Mr. Berners-Lee.