Under the Radar

This is five minutes of live demo and eight minutes of discussion at an Under the Radar conference last spring. It is a very info-dense presentation before specialized industry insiders. (There are lots of side references all around to Google and others.) The intense Enterprise and VC jargon is quite meaningful and right, not random bullshit. I am particularly struck by the discussion of use cases like yesterday’s Project Collaboration and Saturday’s Operations Center, although I think the emphasis on high-value uses cases is misleading. (Under the Radar is all about qualifying truly new tech scenarios: high-value or large-new-market uses always get the first attention by the investors. That doesn’t mean that less extreme scenarios are not just as relevant for the people involved in them.) I also like the characterization they arrive at in which hosted/cloud/Software-as-a-Service is equated with repeatable off-the-shelf workflows, while VPN/behind-the-firewall/custom installations are equated with specialized internal crown-jewels applications.

Pardon my demo…

Sorry that I haven’t been writing. To busy coding. News soon. But a cute thing happend today that I have to share…

I was starting a demo of some Internet-accessible collaborative spaces, and someone else was there! Frank Wattenberg, a colleague at the US Military Academy was in the same space. I had to use the in-world communications facilities to ask him if he wouldn’t mind leaving for a little while.

I guess it was only a matter of time. Time and a lot of effort to get to the point where accidents like this can happen.

Hmmm. Frank’s been trying to find the time for some instruction on how do WAN Croquet. I think he’s figured it out!

News from the Metaverse

Key invitation-only conference on the future of collaborative virtual worlds.

Metaverse Roadmap site

CNET story

A Microsoft blogger, with pictures

Good blog

A key thread in all this seems to be a desire for an open-source framework that works. It looks like the only concerns voiced about Croquet for this was a mistaken impression about the licensing. (See the comments in the “Good blog”, above.)

BTW, We’re still trying to set up cool demos over the now-released Croquet Software Developers Kit. The demo at Metaverse was actually the demo we produced at the University of Wisconsin for C5 ’05 in Kyoto, which was built over the Jasmine proof-of-concept. The current release is so much better, but lacking in some of the visible bells and whisles. We’re working on it…

OpenLaszlo == Ajax

OpenLaszlo, for which I am the documentation guy, now compiles to DHTML as well as to Macromedia Flash (swf). That means that you can take the same LZX source and compile it to either swf or DHTML, and it will just work. So there is now a completely OpenSource stack for doing web apps.

OpenLaszlo is much more robust and full featured than any other Ajax toolkit. And, the architecture includes a client abstraction layer, which means that we worry about browser inconsistencies so you don’t have to. The upshot of all this is that if you want to build a real web application, you should use OpenLaszlo instead of some Ajax toolkit. Of course if you just want to spruce up a web page, Dojo or Rico or something like that might be appropriate. But I think you would have to be nuts to use them for building a real application.

We’re not yet shipping a “production” version — that’s scheduled for “sometime in 2006”– but the prototype version is getting more robust by the day, and there is a very credible demo up on the website.

Brie Demos

I gave a demo of Brie at the OOPSLA Croquet workshop in October, and Julian gave one a couple weeks ago at C5. Alas, no video, but the Brie papers are here and here.

This terrific video of the Alternate Reality Kit was made at Xerox PARC in 1987. So, of course, it’s not actually Brie, but it does give a lot of the feel of what we’re going for. There are a few UI differences and the ARK is only 2D, but the main thing is that Brie is synchronously collaborative, and therefore eminently shareable.

Another related thing (without a cool video) was PARC’s Thing Lab.

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Inventing the Future: the Croquet Generation

Older academics generally like Croquet demos, but they often give me the impression that they’re not quite sure what they’re looking at. We gave a demo this week to a young local reporter and she was much more enthusiastic. She wants to use it right now, as is. Julian tells me that anyone under 25 who sees Croquet goes nuts over it.

I was surprised. I assumed that younger folks would be jaded by video games. Our demos don’t have drop shadows or reflection. The fish world is not as cool as the one at the Boston Museum of Science. The avatars don’t walk and bend like the Sims. It’s a proof-of-concept, and the features and effects just aren’t like what you would find in a movie.

But I think people under 25 see Croquet and feel like it’s made for them. What school and office programs are really of their culture? Windows isn’t. (Maybe its for old farts that were too conservative to buy a Mac 20 years ago.) The closest thing to a mainstream generation Y app might be chat rooms, which are not rooms and you don’t actually chat, you type. Successfull, yes, but not exactly laden with Y culture.