Croquet and OpenLaszlo: Plans for World Domination

Howard Stearns’s post, below, about How Croquet will Take Over the Universe (Bwah-hah-hah) got me thinking about OpenLaszlo and our own plans to take over the, um, er, well, our plans for success.

Laszlo Systems, Inc, signs my paycheck, but 90% of what I do for that check is related to OpenLaszlo, the “Rich Internet Application” platform that is given away for free. Just as Howard suggests, Laszlo Systems makes its money by selling applications and services on top of the platform, not from selling the platform itself. Laszlo Mail is the first such product, and others are under development. The OpenLaszlo platform, which Laszlo Systems Inc subsidizes to the tune of several full-time developers and one full-time documentation guy, generates exactly zero dollars for the company.

Laszlo Systems, Inc, is a startup in which I have a relative pantload of stock options. So I want Laszlo Systems, Inc, to succeed, which means that Laszlo has to convince deep-pocketed customers to buy Laszlo applications. In order for Laszlo applications to be acceptable to potential customers, the customers must be convinced that the underlying technology is sound and that it will be around for the long haul. That implies that OpenLaszlo must be seen to be thriving. There must exist a rich ecology of corporations that have a financial interest in keeping OpenLaszlo healthy.

Trust is the substrate upon which the open source ecology can grow. The best way to ensure that trust, of course, it to make OpenLaszlo really, truly open; to make it abundantly clear to potential developers that Laszlo Systems is not self-dealing, not trying to control the platform for its own benefit.

Laszlo is the fourth startup I’ve worked at. I ain’t rich yet, and I ain’t getting any younger. So I want *this* to be the one we get right. Wetmachiners Howard, Gary and I all worked for, and got virtually incinerated by, Curl, which, like Laszlo and Croquet, developed a potentially web-transforming technology. Alas for us, Curl screwed the pooch, as they say; it pissed away all the opportunity that that technology could have given them (us) by messing up this fundamental process that Howard wrote about.

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Of UI and Narratives

There were some comments to a previous entry that I thought were worth calling attention to all by themselves. The general theme of these was that of user interface and how the role of media in storytelling can inform the design of new UI paradigms. Highly appropriate for Brie.

So I’m moving those comments here. I want to keep the original page for the my attempt to define the heart of Croquet independently of UI, applications, and software distributions.

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A Model of Success

When Croquet is a success, what will it be? Really? Forget about the applications, what will Croquet itself actually do?

The other day I was sitting on my back porch. Resting comfortably on my lap was all the resources I needed to do my high-tech computer work. The box also played my favorite music, and when my wife asked about the lyrics, I was able to look them up in the greatest library the world has ever known. We checked our calendar, and printed a custom map to the next day’s event. And so forth.

Not so very long ago, it would have been very hard to imagine this, despite having had it all spelled out for us by Vannevar Bush or by Douglas Englebart on specific dates in 1945 and 1968. For any given technology, it seems to be very hard for most of us to fully imagine our future with it. I think the reason for this is that when the future comes, it’s all about the applications. The music player. The information index and specific song lyric libraries. Calendars, directions, and the tools for my work. We live in applications. We buy applications. Applications make or break a technology. But these applications don’t just happen because they are good ideas. They happen only (and not always) when there is a suitable enabling technology. It is rare that we think about what the enabling technology really is, fundamentally.

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Get out your markers

OpenLaszlo, the nifty, very nifty platform for making web applications that don’t suck (and little widgets too, like the link thingy over on the right side of this page) has got a little contest going: design a T-Shirt, win an iPod. If you have any design skill at all, you should enter. Why not? (I’m talking to you, Gary.)

And whether you have design skill or not, if you write code you should check out OpenLaszlo. It’s some cool stuff. And the documentation is great — lots of clear expository code, and live, running, you-can-edit-them-too code examples.

(Did I mention that I’m the OpenLaszlo doc guy?)

3650 Band Up for grabs again

Haven’t posted much, as I’ve been busier than I can imagine, and a big computer crash in our office from last weekend into Tuesday put me waaaayy behind.

Fortunately, my good buddies and folks who actually deploy stuff (as opposedto us lawyers) Sascha Meinrath and Steve Ronan (both involved with CTCNet, as well as Sascha’s role with CUWN have sounded the alarm for me.

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