Operations Center +1

David Smith made this video a year ago, showing how you could have:

  • virtual world objects automatically populated by real world objects;
  • scripted behavior for those interactive objects that:

    • gives realtime display of real world data associated with those objects;
    • allows you to control the associated real world objects (like Swayze in “Ghost”);

  • all while functioning in a standard virtual world in which the participants can communicate with voice/video/text/gesture and spontaneously share apps, etc.

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Making a Living in Languages (Redux) part 7: Give ‘Em What They Want

Last time: “Can’t Make a Killing From Platforms Without Killing the Community,” in which I said that those who develop a platform rarely recoup their cost directly, and so they might look to reduce their cost through open-source efforts.
Now: How do you create demand for a platform?

[This is an excerpt from a Lisp conference talk I gave in 2002.]

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Making a Living in Languages (Redux) part 1: What Do Buyers Want?

In 2002 I gave an invited talk at a Lisp conference in San Francisco. I was scheduled while I was Technical Strategist at a hotshot Lisp-like company founded by Tim Berners-Lee. I gave the talk right after the strategy department was disolved and I was fired with it. (John was in the same department.)

As I remember, it wasn’t well received. (But I was pretty grumpy at the time and considered myself to be not well received by the world in general.) The writing and speaking wasn’t great, and some of the ideas were marginal. But I think a lot of the ideas have stood up pretty well, and I still believe them. I’m going to serialize it here, so that I can reference it in future blogs.


The last few years have seen a lot of new language development, but commercial success has eluded many good language companies. A framework for success is presented, in which language systems are recast as open platforms for some class of application. Multi-tier marketing is examined, in which a free or low cost application enlarges the platform’s community, while revenues are produced on an upper-tier product or service. The presentation will be followed by a fishbowl discussion, in which everyone is encouraged to join the conversation.

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As lots of Croqueteers already know, we have FINALLY released version 1.0 (Beta) of the Croquet Software Developer’s Kit. (The Web site is new, too.) This is the first released version of the Croquet innards that does all the stuff that Croquet is supposed to do: shared simulations in spatial environments in order to achieve a collaborative build/use environment with social presence.

Being open source with a very liberal license, we expect a lot of stuff to be built in, around, and on the SDK. In particular, there’s still room for folks to define an APPLICATION that Joe-Random-User can just pick up and USE. There are plenty of working demos in this new release: they’ll be particularly meaningful to developers who play with them and the code a bit. More to come…

User-Added Value

It is a popular misconception that technological progress happens in a user-driven way, by “finding a need and then finding a way to fill it” as the inventor in the animated movie “Robots” says. My interpretation of Kuhn is that true paradigm shifts come from a radical concept that comes first and then gets matched to a following, often in the form of solving a problem, but sometimes through what is essentially fashion.

You’d be amazed at how many technologies are developed without actual users at all. Most of these technologies fail, of course. One needs users, but shouldn’t be entirely need-driven. The best chance of success comes with an idea that is validated and refined by actual users.

I’m still trying to figure out what we’ve learned from our users, but initial thoughts are:

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Touchability Cues

When I wrote “Touchability,” it had already been a while since a buddy had shown me a haptic mouse he was working on. For example, you could feel an actual bump when the mouse enters and leaves an object (a real version of what developers sometimes call rollover). Force feedback was such an obviously good thing that I didn’t even mention then the cool stuff that’s now happening in this area.

As much as I think physical touchability is good, I want to be clear that I want to make Croquet applications be emotionally touchable, too. I want to capture what it is that makes things seem (be?) real. Even without physical force feedback, it should still be fun to fondle stuff because of active visual and aural responses and good 3D design.

To be sure, I’d love to add to the effect with more sensory stimulus. There are huge possibilities, and I hope folks will explore them. This stuff is cool. There’s someone working on stereo display for Croquet. Others working on large screens in public spaces. I don’t doubt that we’ll see Croquet on small or cheap devices. There’s plenty of room for innovation.

We interrupt this program

For a brief commercial announcement.

My employer, Laszlo Systems, makes some cool XML-based technology for so-called rich internet applications that run in Flash players. For those of you who don’t have a current degree in marketing buzzspeak, I’ll explain that that means you use Laszlo’s stuff to write nifty interactive web apps that don’t require page refreshes, and that the language in which you write them doesn’t suck. See the little blogging widget to the right for a micro-example.

As of yesterday Laszlo has greatly liberalized its free-for-developers and free-for-noncomercial-use policies. If you do any web development you really should go get the download. It’s cool, and it’s free.