Friday, February 29, 2008

On Branding...

So, after blogging for just under two months, it would appear that I’ve already started to adopt a particular blogging style. To folks like Alex, my style may seem like advertising without trying to sell anything, but to me that’s something entirely different – branding.

As a society, we’re bombarded by various forms of branding every day. For example, I went to the Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto last night to watch a movie (‘No Country For Old Men’ – now there’s a subject for a blog entry) and was somewhat taken aback when I was greeted by the cashier with “Welcome to Scotiabank” when I went to purchase a ticket. Not “Welcome to Scotiabank Theatre”, just “Welcome to Scotiabank”. I almost felt compelled to say “Thanks. I’d like to make a withdrawal, please…”.

I’m starting to believe that the days of the hard sell are numbered, as companies are becoming more and more preoccupied with brand recognition than with marketing specific products. Can you remember ever seeing an ad from IBM that mentioned the name of one of their products? Mind you, there’s good brand recognition and bad brand recognition. Seeing as it’s often not what you’ve produced, but how (well) you’ve produced it, vendors ideally want their brand to have a connotation of quality instead of being regarded as a “necessary evil”.

I’ve been thinking a lot about branding in Eclipse-based products lately. The Rich Client Platform (RCP) does a pretty good job of providing mechanisms for branding, what with its custom window images, About dialog, welcome experience, and all, but what about products that are delivered as plug-ins to an existing Eclipse shell? How does a vendor make it known in a subtle (but not too subtle) way that they’re responsible for that great (or not so great) editor, view, or action that you’re currently using? How are users to distinguish, among the potentially many plug-ins that have been installed into their Eclipse IDE, between the dross, the slag, and the cereal topper?

On Vocabulary...

As it happens, one man’s dross is another man’s cereal topper. In case you didn’t know (it wasn't part of my vocabulary, so I had to look it up), dross is a mass of solid impurities floating on a molten metal bath. Apparently it’s used quite commonly as slang in the UK. Who knew?

Speaking of vocabulary, creation of another new component, Semantics for Business Vocabularies and Rules (SBVR), as part of the Model Development Tools (MDT) subproject at Eclipse has been approved. I’m really excited about this because now, not only will it be possible to model the various forms of data (relational data, logical data, conceptual data, business processes, etc.) in an enterprise using components in MDT, it will be possible to capture the semantics of the vocabularies and rules embodied by that data. Could it be that it will soon be possible to finally bridge the gap between business and IT using open source frameworks and tools from Eclipse? In light of this and other initiatives like the recently announced Open Requirements Management Framework (ORMF) project proposal, I’m optimistic that the answer to that question may well be “Yes!”.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

On Thursday at EclipseCon...

Wow, it's hard to believe it's taken me almost a month to select which talks I'll attend at EclipseCon this year. Since I started, even more interesting events have been added to the agenda, like the Mega Modeling Mania on Tuesday, the BlackBerry Developer Day on Wednesday, and of course the Hackathon. If you're attending EclipseCon, I hope you weren't planning on getting any sleep!

For what it's worth, here are the talks I've selected for Thursday. As it turns out, my selections for this day were easy.

Keynote - Cory Doctorow

This guy is a science fiction writer (and a blogger!). Cool. I wish I could make a living writing books...

Eclipse/OMG Symposium

This is the first of two symposia on open source and open standards (the other is being held at the OMG technical meeting in June). Seeing as I was one of the co-chairs for the program committee, I can't miss this one... nor would I want to. This a rare opportunity to focus on the synergies between open source and open specifications and to discuss how the joint future of Eclipse and the OMG can be shaped. Attendance to the symposium presentations is open to all registered EclipseCon attendees, so come join in the discussion!

Eclipse Community Project Spot Light

Ah, the always interesting conference wrap-up panel. This is also a session you don't want to miss. Of course, we'll all be anxious to see that slide with the conference statistics on it. I wonder how big a bar tab we'll be able to rack up this year...

Friday, February 15, 2008

On Super Fast Gro-Food...

I was watching an episode ("Safe But Not Sorry") of The Tom and Jerry Show on Teletoon Retro with my kids the other morning in which they pour a bottle of "Super Fast Gro-Food" onto a seedling and within seconds it sprouts into a mature tree. The first thing that came to my mind, after getting past the fact that the label on the bottle was upside down, was how fast the Eclipse Modeling Project, and in particular its Model Development Tools (MDT) sub-project (of which I am lead), is growing.

MDT started just over a year and a half ago as a reorganization of existing framework projects and components (EODM, OCL, UML2, and XSD) into a cohesive whole. The first release, as part of the coordinated Europa simultaneous release, saw the addition of a UML2 Tools component, aimed at providing exemplary GMF-based editors for UML diagrams. Since then, another end-user component, OCL Tools, has been added to the sub-project. The next release of MDT (currently under development) is scheduled for June of 2008 as part of the Ganymede simultaneous release.

Just last month, two new components, BPMN2 and IMM, were created, and another component, SBVR, was proposed. Proposals for components based on the SysML and PRR OMG specifications are in also the works, and yet another one is about to be announced. It's almost enough to make one's head spin!

A number of things excite me about these most recent additions to MDT.
  • Firstly, the involvement of new organizations (like Adaptive, Embarcadero Technologies, Soyatec, and XML Modeling, among others) and committers (Dave Carlson, Nick Dowler, and Yves Yang, for example) represents growth of the community, which is one of the metrics of a successful Eclipse project.
  • Secondly, these new components have introduced opportunities for greater collaboration not only within the Eclipse ecosystem (with projects like DTP and STP, for example) but externally as well (with organizations like the OMG).
  • Finally though, and most importantly in my mind, these new components will go a long way towards enabling end-to-end integration of enterprise-wide data and tooling in Eclipse-based modeling applications, from business-level concerns (like processes, vocabularies, and rules) all the way down to IT-level representations of information (like relational databases, LDAP, and XML).
These are indeed interesting times! I'll be talking about the latest developments in MDT at EclipseCon 2008 in Santa Clara. If you're going to be there (you know you wanna), why not stop by to hear about ways in which you can be part of the excitement?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

On PACing it up and PACing it in...

I think it's Hammer time. Or so one might be led to believe if they read the signs... Well, one sign in particular, actually. On the way to the mailbox to retrieve my mail the other morning, I couldn't help but notice a recent modification that's been made to the traffic sign on my front lawn.

Apparently somebody can touch it after all. Speaking of popular rap songs from the early nineties, I was in San Francisco last week for Embarcadero's annual Product Advisory Council (PAC) meeting (yes, I intentionally misspelled "packing" in the title). The customers that make up our PAC love our products so much that they actually cover their own travel costs to meet with us once a year to discuss what we can do to better meet their ever-changing needs. What an experience!

My esteemed superior has already blogged about some of the feedback we received at this year's meeting. One of the things that surprised me that was that many of our PAC members hadn't heard of Eclipse... and among the few that had, there seemed to be a general consensus that Eclipse-based applications (particularly ones used for graphical modeling) are of questionable usability. Clearly, while things like the Standard Widget Toolkit (SWT) and the Rich Client Platform (RCP) have gone a long way toward enabling the development of consumable Eclipse-based products, we (the Eclipse community) still have our work cut out for us if we hope to remain relevant in the face of constant innovation in the industry.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

On Wednesday at EclipseCon...

Clearly I'd better wrap up my selections before the schedule changes on me!

Keynote - Sam Ramji

"Microsoft" and "Open Source" in the same sentence (not to mention an entire keynote)? This I gotta hear...

Pimp My Editor

What's in a name? A lot. This one has to rank up there among the best title talks this year. I had a hard time choosing between this and Migrating your Graphical Editor to the Eclipse Graphical Modeling Framework, but opted for the former since I should know how to develop a GMF-based editor by now... :)

What's New in MDT?
Building an Application with EMF Models
Intentional UI Modeling
Model Transformation goes declarative - QVT Relations in practice
Ecore Tools : Create a complete modeling environment for Ecore

The short talk format has to be my favorite. Here is another case where I should probably show up seeing as I'm presenting. The other talks in the slot sound really interesting, though, so I'd highly recommend attending them too!

Introduction to the Eclipse Babel Project
Why Eclipse Spaces Will Make Everyone Happy
The Eclipse Babel Project Translation Server
XAML in Java
Top 10 Deployment Secrets They Don't Want You To Know

Another great bunch of short talks. I hadn't realized that the translation project had actually got off the ground... and I guess I'm also gonna get myself some happy.

The Future of SWT

This is a critical issue IMHO. How does SWT stack up in the face of Vista and Web 2.0 and where is it going? Here's hoping Silenio and Steve can provide some insight on this.

Eclipse, Open Source, Wall Street and Competition: Big Drama, Big Money

Drama and money do go hand in hand, don't they? It seems the commercial arena around Eclipse is heating up. It's all about standardization, distribution, and commoditization...

The Next Wave of IDE Innovation: Eclipse and Visual Studio in 2010

Not only is he back, but he's saying a lot. I'm curious to hear Tim's take on the future of innovation as it applies to IDEs.

Poster Reception

Pass the beer nuts, baby!