Blog Archive

Blog posts for April 2008

Notification Overload

2 dreadful words : information overload. Just for fun, I've made a full list of all the various apps and systems I use to stay connected with both friends and all our teams at XWiki and I ended up with the list below. There's a lot of services there, ranging from read-only to contribution-driven ones, either online, on the desktop or both. 

Personal

Professional

  • Vienna2 RSS Reader to keep track of our internal & external blog posts & intranet changes (using a desktop client moslty because it needs to be able to handle authentication)
  • Our intranet enterprise wiki 
  • Technical & product information coming from XWiki.org
  • Press reviews coming from our own instance of XWiki Watch, the collaborative RSS Reader
  • XWiki.com blog -> in both EN & FR, to keep the community up-to-date about our product & company news
  • XWiki Twitter -> the same thing, Twitter-wise (twhirl again here)
  • The XWiki Facebook Group + the XWiki Fan Page (you'll notice than one is slightly more successful than the other as of now)
  • I've switcher from gmail to Mozilla Thunderbird for my professional email in order to keep it with me at all times.
  • Skype, probably the one I use most because that's the service we've chosen for our internal IM right now -> chat + voice calls
  • I receive updates from my LinkedIn & Viadeo networks by mail & in their web interfaces
  • Plus there's the endless list of blogs I stumble upon and cannot keep track of while surfing...
  • Office phone calls

I probably forgot some of them...

The cluttered desktop experience :

To sum it up, basically... all this sucks. As a busy professional, I want to be able to centralize all the information coming to me in a way that will allow me to let less than 5 cluttered spaces open in Leopard all the time. The high number of enterprise & Web 2.0 tools I use make for a less than smoothly integrated user experience. When I switched from Twitterific to twhirl I had to remember that my updates were no longer pushed to facebook & Skype though they could be to Pownce & Jaiku - 2 services I don't even use in the first place. This means that updating part of what makes my notification experience made me loose another bit that I had come to find useful - and when you're interested in new services, this happens a lot.

There's another bit to the story - available means of notification. I'm notified of new email in web-based mail services either by going to look at them (I'm using Safari, Firefox, Flock & Camino altogether, plus I sometimes give Opera and instances of Prism a run.), through Firefox extensions or in my mail desktop client. Skype has my Dock icon moving along with Growl boxes, twhirl uses its own message boxes & Vienna tells me how manys new items I'm left to read in the top bar. Talk about a cluttered experience ?

Facebook offers a compelling answer to this problem. Basically, what they're saying is : everybody's here. You can interact through walls, pics, pokes, messages + whatever application one could think of. There's a central place where all you friend updates are centralized. Come along, have a sit with us... Why would you ever need to look somewhere else ? There are downsides to this approach though.

  • The first one is that facebook isn't built on Open Standards. They've got custom authentication, their very own API, a restrictive TOS... They're not trying to play well with others, as Robert Scoble discovered while playing with Plaxo.
  • The second and most important point from a company's point of view is that Facebook was never thought nor designed with enterprise needs in mind. It's hosted online, with all the data stored on facebook's databases. You cannot intagrate it with your LDAP authentication mechanisms. You'll be hard-pressed to find an IT manager okay to write sql queries that retrieve data from product databases or CRM systems and display them in facebook "private" pages. Plus there's no good enough publication mechanisms (yet ?) to share enterprise content (think about word processing, even light).

    This is where XWiki steps in. We offer a full-fledged, enterprise-grade asynchronous communication platform. We're in the process of releasing the latest version of XWiki Workspaces that will help you gather all the enterprise 2.0 applications you need in one single spot, focused around the user. Once XWiki Workspaces is up & running, here's what you've got :

  • Each user has his own space with a blog, a wiki, a files folder & a photo album. He can share his thoughts & ideas with anyone he wants within the company.
  • On top of having his own space & user profile, each user is provided with a dashboard that gives him the ability to follow activity from the various people he's friend with & spaces he's part of. This means that you can concentrate on one page all the activity coming from the various blog, wikis, file folders & photo albums he wants to keep up with in one single place.
  • It's quite easy for any user to create new spaces that have a wiki & a blog built-in : it's never been so easy to setup the right communication tools for any new project.
  • Plus all of this is built on top of the XWiki Platform, meaning you get LDAP support, the possibility to use the database of your choice (Oracle, MySQL, and broadly speaking any database supported by Hibernate), the ability to write queries into your pages (this means you can retrieve and display data coming from external sources such as your CRM, ERP, Analytics tool...) and many more !

    A typical XWiki Workspaces space home :

This is just the start. Since XWiki is built around the concept of applications, we will soon add new applications to the set of available apps (such as a bulletin board, we're also looking into building a Twitter-like feature right into the product...). We're offering unified access to relevant information, the 2.0 way. Last but not least, XWiki Workspaces is Open-Source, meaning you can bend it & tweak it to suit the very needs as much as you want through a broad range of deployment options, from virtual hosting to in-house installation.

As for synchronous communication, Pete Cashmore of Mashable pretty much sums it up here : we need a unified IM desktop client.

XWiki @ Javaone 2008

XWiki will be at Javaone 2008 @ the Moscone Center in San Francisco !

Come and meet us right here :

Hum, actually getting inside the Moscone Center would be even better. We'll be on the OW2 stand, along with pals from eXo, Bull and a bunch of other French Open-Source companies (by the way, the OW2 website is built using XWiki.)

We'll be showcasing our full product range. Wanna get a demo of XWiki Workspaces ? Then SF is the place to be from May 6-9 !

Ludovic (our CEO) & Vincent (our CTO) will be there with me. We'll be staying a few days after the conference ends so we may organize an informal XWiki meetup during that time. We're looking forward seeing you guys over there ;-)

Ever Seen A Lip Dub ?

I just fell on a Lip Dub - again. They've seemingly taken over the corporate world, with new ones popping out on a regular basis for no specific reason whatsoever. Some of them are quite good, others less so. It looks like the original one was this one :

At least, according to the Offic Lip Dub website that lists a great number of those videos.

The next one has a special significance, because it was recorded by AOL employees who got dumped from their Paris office. It got a lot of publicity after being mentioned on Valleywag - apparently an unusual feat. for AOL-related news !

The title of the video, "L'amour à la française", which is also its musical theme, means something akin to "Love the French way". AOL, your (former) employees got style ! For the record, the black panel you can see in the background at the end of the video reads "Office space to rent".

The last video shows how BDDP & Fils, a French communication company, publicized their office move to Barbès, a district of Paris that doesn't quite add-up with "Chic".

You can access many more of these videos at Office Lip Dub. I'm leaving now, guess what I have to do ?

What's Your Perfect Office Setup ?

Thos of you who are following me on Twitter (@wikibc) know I've recentl moved to my own flat. That's greatly thanks to XWiki, I owe you guys a lot :-) I wrote my fisrt post back in December 2006, and since then I've written around 75 posts (that's approximately how many times my name appeared on the blog space index page, feel free to count by yourself ;-)), both in English & French

A favorable setting is key to writing, and I feel like I've striken quite a good balance over here in my new place. Here's how I've setup my personal effectiveness & productivity space (read, my desktop) : 

I've found the combination of my laptop and a 19" screen to be a good fit. Having 2 screens really helps improving personal productivity, that's something I'd recommend to anyone willing to gain a number of minutes every day. I find myself constantly juggling between my trackpad and a proper mouse, the mac trackpad (specifically the 2-digits scroll feature) definitely has its advantages but it can get tiring to use it for long periods of time. The iPhone's there in order for me to test our prototype of iPhone skin for XWiki - more on this in a latter post. Plus let's not forget the paper notepad - more relevant than ever in the ever-connected internet era !

On the configuration side, I re-used an old Windows laptop that I setup with a VNC config I use thru the Chicken of the VNC client. Laggin' a bit, but that's all I need to perform software testing under IE6 & IE7 (many thanks to multiple IEs !!). The router I use is my beloved freebox (even though it took me 15 minutes to figure out how to setup its router features yesterday.)

Add up a number of ethernet cables, an external hard-drive for backups, a USB TV tuner and you're pretty much done. Technology's cool, especially when it helps you work better and more effectively :-) So, what's your perfect office setup ?

Raffaello's Perfect Office Setup

Raffaello, our system engineer, sent me a couple pictures of his home office... Ready to dive into a SysAdmin heaven ?

A cool desktop

A great server shelf

A couple random cables

An easy-to-use, easy-to-access shelf filled with computer parts

Last but not least... A cool companion

So, what' your perfect office setup ?

Anca's Perfect Office Setup

After Raffaello "a basement-is-all-I'll-ever-want" Pelagalli (our SysAdmin) & Guillaume "new flat" Lerouge (that's me), here is what Anca (XWiki Watch lead developer) finds to be her perfect office (I'm quoting her from here) :

<< Because the kid [Editor's note : yeah, that's me !] provoked me and because I've been here for a while and I thought it would be nice to offer some insight (read pictures) about how I live [Anca's spending a few months in Strasbourg, she usually lives in Iasi, Romania working with our bright team there], here you go, my perfect office setup:

Version "school cafeteria setup around the only power source in the stupid place for which students fight each other" :

you can notice the lunch, the drink, the healthy part of the lunch sitting on a used napkin (used for explaining some code to a faculty colleague) and, of course, the big star: "the pig".

Version "in my room in the campus, the clean edition" :

starring, in the order of appearance: devil tail, headphones (because have a hunch that my neighbours don't like my music that much), the booting pig in whose display you can notice the reflection of the cracked window (I swear it wasn't me), empty pill box, pens here and there, XWiki cup with some coffee left from this morning resting on the useless "Master de Sciences Mention Informatique. Livret pedagogique" (actually it's very good for resting the cup on, that's what I use it for), the lamp whose role is only to make me look like a smart hardworking student, used napkins, some mix of wires (cell phone cable, webcam, cam cable, small headphones, maybe some stuff I can't identify) mixed with a couple of cigarettes choco (left from the revision before exam I had the afternoon and night before), pills blister (again), knife (you never know when you need one), paper handkerchiefs pack, mobile phone, used subway tickets (from Paris, I hope -- I have a subscription for the Strasbourg transportation for 2 months now), some papers (I think it's actually important stuff written on), important papers plastic envelope, napkin roll.

There is also the "in class not paying attention to teacher" version and the "in bed" version for which I don't have pictures. >>

Provocation as a strategy always works :-)

So, what's your perfect office setup?

Teddy is joining the team !

Early in 2007, I joined XWiki as a software engineer. Back then I was joining a promising, dynamic, less-than-ten-employees, french startup. 

Today, Teddy is joining XWiki. He joins a dynamic, 25-people-strong european startup. Teddy is a bright developer, passionate about cutting-edge technology, and, of course, an Open Source lover. That's one of the main reason he chose XWiki, and of why XWiki chose him.

Meet Teddy on his first morning at the Pernety office, gearing-up with the technology on its already perfect office setup :

TeddyOfficeSetup.jpg

Teddy also likes sports and has strong team spirit. Here he is wearing the XWiki outfit after the traditional-although-not-regular after-the-lunch-basketball-break : 

TeddyBasket.jpg

Like all of us software developers, Teddy will be working tightly with the XWiki Open Source community to develop and improve the next generation of our collaboration solutions.

Let's all welcome Teddy warmly, and wish him the best for his journey with XWiki !

You can see all pictures of Teddy's first day @XWiki here.

PS: And if like Teddy, you like great Open Source technology and fun at work, give a shot to our open job positions and send us a resumé !

Software Doesn't Matter

It might sound surprising coming from the product manager of a couple software projects, but I've come to the conclusion that software per-se doesn't matter at all. Let me explain why.

No piece of software, however good it is, will ever give anyone a reason to do something. That is, the best Word Processor in the world won't give you an insightful topic to write about. The most effective spreadsheet tool won't create meaningful data out of nothing. The greatest collaboration tool won't give your people a reason to work together they do not already have.

I feel like that this concept is really important to grasp. If software can't give you a reason to work, it entails that great software is software that does not provide you with reasons not to do something. Great software is software that does not get in your way once you've decided to get yourself started.

I'm not saying that software doesn't have an impact. This would be foolish and even worse: a poor observation. Software can make you more efficient, faster and overall happier. All I'm stating is that once you've decided to go for information gathering over the internet, you'll do so with whatever tool you'll find - be it a Twitter client, a RSS reader or a plain' old web browser. Aegyptians would have built the pyramids faster had they had access to the right piece of software, but software itself wouldn't have given them a reason to build the pyramids in the first place.

This makes the task of building great software both humbling and interesting. The best we can do is to help people build things together once they've decided to get themselves started. We don't know why you want to build this bridge, but once you'll have set out to do so we will help you build it faster, freeing you of many a communication issue.

Software doesn't matter insofar that it will never provide ends - only means. To me, this is what makes the job of a product manager really interesting. I do not have to try making people work together even if they don't want to. Instead, I'm in charge of removing anything that might hinder their progression when they decide to do so. This is the belief that's been at the core of XWiki Workspaces since its development got started months ago. 

We started from the following observations : 

  • People work together in teams
  • They're looking for tools they can understand how to use in minutes
  • Most users simply don't care about the fancy features their IT teams brag about

XWiki Workspaces delivers on all those criteria :

  • It takes less than 60 seconds to create a new space, change its color and edit its homepage
  • All the major features (add a wiki page, write a blog post, upload a file...) are only one click away at any time
  • Space applications (blog, wiki, images, files) are stripped of everything but what really matters to real-life users

Here's what the end result looks like :

We've been working hard to build a software that does not get in the way of its users. I'm aware our product won't top the feature list charts and, honestly, I don't mind. What matters to me is whether, when the new marketing intern on the block will look at XWiki Workspaces, she's able to find out how to use it and make the most of it. Hopefully, at that point her company will already have given her a reason to do so.

Open Source Commitment

There is a lot of talking about MySQL launching some new products and extensions under close source. Matt Asay from the Open Road has a nice take about this and he raises a question:

"Is it fair or productive to close off the code after open source has made it popular ?"

There are in reality two questions here:

1/ Is it fair

For sure there is an issue here. An open source company is at the same time a business and it's license (double license) does not guarantee that they will continue in the same business model. Contributors and others have helped the software improve and spread and now they see a slowly but gradual divergence from the initial path they decided to support.

You can rely on "human decision" or on "market competition" to make sure they do stay in the same business model.

Now in the case of MySQL, You say Marten and folks mean well and usually do well. Let's face it. They have cashed out and the boss is now Sun. And Sun payed a hefty price and needs ROI. 

When it comes to "market competition" I think it's the same as "is it productive".

2/ Is it productive 

If you go down the road of closing, other open source products might get more traction if the strategy changes. Customers might feel played and you loose sales productivity. The double license might turn out in a pure GPL fork by the community. But saying that market competition will be sufficient to stop the trend to higher ROI through closing would be like saying that proprietary software companies are dead because of the open source competition. I don't believe this is true, although they will definitively see their revenues and margins crunch, but in my view it is at least like the Mainframe market. That's not were the innovation lies but you can still get tons of cash by servicing your customer base. 

This is the same for MySQL, they can decide to serve their customer base. It has good changes of being short term productive by making more short term cash, but this also leads to have the open source powered viral marketing stop.

3/ But what is the big question ?

The big question is actually: "When open source means investors and the stock market, who gets the final word ?"

  • is it the fairness ?
  • is it the market ?
  • is it the investors ?
  • is it the founders ?
  • is it the open source license ?

For sure we could dream of an ethical world where it's the fairness ! We could dream that the founders that have cashed out will still have a word to say. Of course the ones that finally decide are the owners of the company and the management team that these owners have put in charge. But they will usually have to follow a few rules: "the market" and the "legality". So we end up with the final sayers being:

  • is it productive in a competitive market place to close the open software that made you known worldwide ?   And that we seem to agree that we don't really know and that the market will show it. In any case when the open source company decides to do it, the community has lost something.
  • is it legal to turn an open software gradually to close source ? For me this ends up being the big question. And although it's not fair to the contributors, the GPL Double License business model makes it legal.

What's really important here is that other open source licenses won't allow this, like the GPL and LGPL without double license. Also a commitment to open source and openly downloadable products, like the OpenBravo commitment, would help (although it's not sure how binding a commitment like this is).

This is the reason why for XWiki (I'm the initial creator of XWiki both the software and the company), I choose the LGPL license without a double license constraint. This license gives sufficient rights for users (including commercial usage and integration possibilities in proprietary products) and it also binds the users (including XWiki, the company) to continue publishing under the LGPL open source license.

This is binding and will guarantee the continuity of the open source commitment, even if the ROI, the investors or the founders say otherwise. What's still required, is that the company can make sufficient money to fund its share of the development. 

We at XWiki will are looking into writing a similar commitment because we think it's important.

More Open Source Commitment: extjs changing their licence

This is a mail to the extjs folks, that have apparently moved from an LGPL licence to a dual licenced GPL:

I'm Ludovic Dubost, the CEO of XWiki, an open source non dual-licenced LGPL software. I've just found on the Internet that you have decided to move extjs from an LGPL to a dual licenced GPL.

I wanted to let you know my personal opinion both as a potential user (we where going to work with extjs in XWiki) and as the head of an Open-Source company,

While I respect your need and wishes to make money out of extjs, I think your move is a betrayal to your community. When you launch with a certain licence, this will have the effect of people using your software, deciding to bundle and promote it based on this specific licence. Changing this licence is a betrayal. Just by having thought about using and studied extjs and ext-gwt I feel betrayed by the licence change. I let you imagine what the other people that have done it will feel.

Secondly, while dual licensing models may seem like the right way to mix business and open source, I believe that it could instead have the effect of killing the business and Open-Source relationship. It will very probably not be so good for your business or at least for the company that will be acquiring your business.

It makes the dual licensed software potentially proprietary. For the simple reason that your company can make it proprietary at any time it means that the community might lose the development effort brought by the company leading the project. From your pespective, dual Licensing models will necessarly at some point lead to a GPL fork of your work, thus creating competition to your very own business.

Of course, you might have sold out your company by then having had the support of the GPL lovers that want a world of GPL software as well as having used the community of people that don't understand what all this is about. But the software jobs you have created will go back to a pool of "nearly" proprietary software.

Let me finish by saying that I'm no Open-Source nor moneymaking fanatic. I'm only a individual who believes that when you create a relationship with users and clients based on certain terms, basic ethics and respect are about commiting yourself to these terms. It is not about using favorable terms to get known and then start closing them progressively.

This is why I believe the LGPL licence is the one that protects both users, customers and creators. 

Ludovic Dubost

Getting Started With XWiki Workspaces

XWiki Workspaces is our simple collaboration solution. Here are the steps to follow to start testing it on your local machine. Looks long & complicated ? It's not. Trust us. If you don't, you may find this website entertaining. Don't forget to come back afterwards !

Basically, you're gonna be mimicking the job of both a server and a client right on your Desktop. Yeah, you can do it. I believe in you.

Launching the software

  1. Download the Software ! To do so, simply right-click on this link and select "Save to Disk".
  2. Find out where the heck you saved the damn file. If needed, move it to a location where you'll be able to find it easily (say, your Desktop).
  3. Go make yourself a cup of coffee (in any case, that can't do no harm).
  4. Hint : you forgot to add sugar. Plus your coffee's probably too hot to be drunk right now anyway.
  5. Make sure Java (the programming language, not the coffee) is available on your computer : click here and you'll know !
  6. If it's not, install it (alternatively, you can write an incendiary letter to Sun)
  7. Now unzip the file you just downloaded (that's easier than it sounds. Most of the time, all you'll have to do is to double-click on it.)
  8. Open the xwiki-workspaces-distribution... folder. Find out whether you're running Windows, Mac OS or Linux as your current Operating System.
    1. You're running Windows. Double-click the start_xwiki.bat file.
    2. You're running Linux or Mac OS. Open a terminal window (Applications > Utilities > Terminal under Mac OS X). Drag & Drop the start_xwiki.sh file in your terminal window. Click on the terminal window. Hit Enter. 
  9. Give yourself a congratulation hug : your XWiki Workspaces instance is now up & running !!
  10. If you don't quite know what to do next, it's perfectly normal. I haven't told you yet.
  11. Open your browser (Firefox, IE7, or even Internet Explorer 6 : we got you working as well, bh !)
  12. Go to http://localhost:8080/xwiki
  13. Log-in using login : Admin / password : admin as your credentials. You're in !

First steps

  1. You've now successfully installed XWiki Workspaces on your computer, in practice using it as a server. You rock !
  2. You're an Admin over here. The first thing you want to do is to create a space for your organization (say, your current company). To do so, click on "Create the organization's space". 
  3. You can now either start playing with the space you just created or go playing around with other global administration features.
  4. Let's say you want to add a bunch of fake users to play with the software a bit :
    1. Go to the http://localhost:8080/xwiki/bin/edit/XWSAdmin/AddingFakeUsers?editor=wiki page
    2. Copy / Paste the contents of this .txt file in the page.
    3. Click on "Save & View" : Wow, you've just created 200 random users using the Groovy programming language !
  5. Now you can go play with your organization's space to find out how it works. To do so, go to http://localhost:8080/xwiki/bin/view/XWS/MySpaces, then click on the only space available there for now.
  6. Once you're in the space, there's a couple things you could do. Say you want to invite a couple friends :
    1. Click on the "administration" link in the "Space" panel located on the left of your screen.
    2. Now click on "Space Members" in the panel on the left.
    3. Choose a group and click on the "add members to this group" button
      1. You can now see the list of all the people in your XWiki Workspaces instance. There's a quick access box at the top of the list : type the name of someone you know (say, "Georges Abitbol"), then click on the green arrow to add him / her to the list.
      2. Click on "add selected users to the group" at the bottom of the page. Well done, you're not alone any longer !
    4. You can change the background color of your space too. Click on "Space Informations" in the panel on the left, then on "Edit space information" in the page.
    5. Choose a color in the select box, then click on "Save & View".
    6. C'mon. You kidding me ? I know you've got better taste than this !
    7. Anyway... Click on the title of your space (the big black title located at the top of the page) to get back to the home of your space.
    8. Start working together ! There's a wiki, a blog, a photo gallery and a file manager available in here, simply click around a bit to discover how stuff works... You're a big guy / gal now ;-)

If you experienced any problem or have a question, simply send us a mail at users@xwiki.org or drop by on our IRC channel, #xwiki on Freenode.net . Hopefully our team will be there to answer your questions ! You can also contact me at guillaume-XWS Rocks !-xwiki.com or on skype, id : wikibc. Don't forget to follow us on Twitter as well !

Lots of information about the software is available on http://workspaces.xwiki.org/, the Open-Source community website.