Apologies to Macintosh Safari Users

I am getting many notes like this one from Irwin Lazar:

Just wanted to let you know that your blog causes Safari on the Macintosh to completely lock up. It seems to work fine with either IE explorer or Firefox though.

So I guess I need to find Dave Winer and find out if there's something wrong with Safari! Or find Safari and see if there is something wrong with Dave Winer! Anyway, I haven't done anything clever yet – I'm just using the RadioLand software “out of the box”. In fact I'm still on the trial version, checking it all out. It's pretty simple and I like that. I assume Radioland can explain this. I do tend to attract all the possible bugs in any piece of software. We'll see how long it takes.

The platform is cross platform

I was at the Network Applications Consortium (NAC) conference in Houston a few weeks ago and got to hear from some interesting people from both the vendor and enterprise-customer worlds. The discussion was anchored by a bunch of specific use cases prepared by the organizers. For those who don't know NAC, it is a group that theorizes identity and infrastructure issues from the customers’ point of view – without the usual analyst or vendor optics – and thus has always fascinated me.

Prior to Houston, I had spent the last year working really hard to figure out what Web Services mean for identity – and visa versa. I've concentrated completely on technology issues, not really paying attention to the way various parties have been crafting their messages and positioning their work.

So it was very interesting to hear, for example, how IBM presented the relationship between Web Services, Java and J2EE. I'm not an expert in this area, but got the impression that for IBM, Java, J2EE and their tool sets are a “one environment everywhere” cross-platform solution – with the “elasticising property” (or should I say safety valve) that if one of your partners is eccentric enough not to use the proposed solution, you can still contact ’em through Web Services.

Which was an approach fairly different from – but not incompatible with – my view of things going in to the meeting: that Web Services in and of themselves represent a new interoperable platform – albeit one which will have various incarnations (sorry for the understatement). I guess if I am right, IBM has an “interoperable platform” on top of an “interoperable platform” – something rife with possibilities for those like me who love ‘meta’ – if not also a possible candidate for investigation by the Department of Redundancy Department.

This thought led me into a satisfyingly recusive meditative tailspin, interupted by a new report from the Burton Group called “J2EE: A Standard In Jeopardy” (not apparently open source) and discussed by Jamie Lewis today. It's all fascinating. But based on nuances which are a little over my head.

You see, I have to admit that I'm just too much of a programmer dude to believe for even one second that all problems should or can be solved through a single computer language – even if it begins with the letter “J”. I must need a bios refresh – I can't shake the memory that different languages lend themselves to different problems – C#, C++, VB, Jscript, Cobol, Small Talk, Perl, Pascal, Phyton, Oberon, APL, Haskell, Mercury, Scheme, CAML and OZ – you know, that kind of thing. I mean, if the world is a matrix, how can we live without APL?

My dream incarnation of the new platform would not limit our ability to solve problems – it would push every boundary to the limit.

Flipping the encompass bit

Marc Canter's latest response to my invitation to talk about some of the WS protocols ends with this:

I just hope to hell that they (meaning Microsoft… Kim) realize fighting Linux and open source is a losing battle and that their strategy better encompass us – or else.

Paradoxical, and maybe hopeful, because that is what Web Services are supposed to do.

The professed goal is that people running open source software on Linux boxes or IBM software on whatever boxes can collaborate and interact with those running applications that work on Windows clients and servers, and visa versa all around. The emerging platform is cross-platform. Which leads to a new universe of opportunities.

Through Web Services architecture, Microsoft has committed to flipping the encompass bit.

What does it take to lose the war metaphor? Let's aim for innovations that dwarf the current zero-sum squabbling with the software equivalent of a big bang. Let's unlock the door to distributed computing. Factional fighting just slows this down.

Will I be the Howard Stern of Identity blogging?

I just figured out that maybe Jamie Lewis wasn't kidding when he said my blog should prove interesting “as long as Microsoft lets him keep it going.”

The mind boggles. Will I have to pay a fine? Or move to Satellite Radio?

Well, first of all, there's an opportunity to have some good old fun – let's set up a pool on how long I'll last!

What a great Web Service! And it needs authentication! Is there a WS-Pool spec we need to figure out? Should we do a tactical version in RSS?

Maybe I can work with Marc Canter – or rather let him take this over, it must be an media application, right?

Wow, what kind of Microsoft are we looking at here? I guess we'll find out…

Check out Scott Mace's interviews from Digital ID World

I just met Scott for the first time at Digital ID World in Denver. He was doing an incredible podblogging thing – sort of like an “enthnomusicologist of identity” (is that a mixed metaphor or what?) I really want to hear what he came away with ’cause he talked to a lot of interesting folks… He certainly got me singing like a canary – I hope I don't end up sounding too much like I've got everything figured out… I was trying to put an initial stake in the ground about what I'm committing to do.

What is it about Scott? He doesn't even use the podblogging word! There's something slightly psychoanalytic about his approach. He's so open. Open is strange and calming these days. Imagine! Someone who asks just the right questions to put your thoughts in order. I need to see him daily.

Jamie Lewis moves back into his blogopad

I have to thank Jamie, who is as gracious as he is devilish, for welcoming me to the blogosphere:

Kim Cameron Has Started a Blog

Kim, formerly of Zoomit and now of Microsoft, has been thinking about identity-based security for a long time. So the blog he just started should prove interesting, as long as Microsoft lets him keep it going (green accent is mine – Kim).

Maybe he'll motivate me to get off my duff and get back to posting my own self.

Yes it's true, there was this, er, small hiatus in Jamie's blogging – but he came back today with a piece that makes me real happy to see him rappng. Gosh – does Jamie know absolutely everything about what everyone is doing, or does it just seem that way sometimes?

Dave Kearns is also helping me get oriented. It will be great to have him dropping in – he should keep the conversation honest and keep everyone from getting too ideological – he's seen it all. And thanks to Radovan Janecek from Systinet for the kind introduction to his friends – what a smart guy and profound innovator in the UDDI space (amongst others). Thanks to him for turning me on to the applicability of aspect oriented programming to various of my ideas.

Can Marc come out and play?

My musings about the dangers of Protocol Poisoning seem to have hit some kind of nerve right in the center of Marc Canter's head. Ka-pow!

Of course I wasn't arguing with Tim Bray over protocols. I was trying to deal with his legitimate question about the size of the WS specs. The fact that he works for Sun didn't enter into the equation. He's a smart guy and I was intrigued by his question.

But this isn't Marc Canter's main point. He wants to drill into some kind of essence: that “we don't want standards controlled by Microsoft or Sun. It's that simple.”

I understand the gut feeling. I was in a small company most of my life. Microsoft was a force we always had to contend with, whether we liked what it was doing or not.

So I know there is a lot of baggage.

But I look at it differently. First of all, I don't think Microsoft can “control a standard.” Microsoft can put forward a set of proposals, but they will only become “a standard” if a bunch of players adopt them. And people will only adopt them if they see the proposals as generating good for the consumer and the industry.

The question thus becomes one of whether Microsoft can adopt – and put forward – proposals which generate enough good. If we can, Microsoft becomes a force that can be harnessed to speed the technology's incarnation in reality, helping to create a new environment that will potentially benefit all players. That's why I work there.

I'm not used to speaking in the royal we. But I think there is enough that is good in proposals like WS-trust and InfoCards that we should have a conversation rather than serving up bottles of vitriol laid down in past lives. Let's look at some of what you could do at the application layer if a fully interoperable infrastructure were in place that made the application platform work in a distributed way.

After all, that's where a new world of possibilities could open up for a certain brilliant (if attractively belligerent) innovator.

Drop what you're doing and go to see this man

Last night we were lucky enough to experience the spectacular young violinist Stefan Jackiw. The Seattle Symphony was up to the challenge, and together they put on Saint-Saëns’ pyrotechnical cliffhanger – Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor, Op. 61.

Looking half angel and half kung fu fighter and wearing all-black, the nineteen year old genius drew the most exquisite lightning bolts from his fiddle and cast them towards us with a finality that somehow never eclipsed Saint-Saëns’ himself. Stefan's natural charisma and talent make him so darn hip – withbout any of the tellement travaillé some young violinists have had to resort to.

(By the way, his management should lose his current promo shots ASAP – they completely miss what he's about. Get a shot of him while he's playing, for heaven's sake. Isn't it obvious?)

Basically, Stephan is so good I just want to see him perform again before anything changes.

Have I succumbed?

One of my friends, who for now may remain anonymous, recently sent me to visit Tim Bray's piece on WS-Pagecount. It is really funny.

And it got me thinking.

I guess when I first started looking at the WS specs I thought there were “a lot of them” too. And now I really don't. So I could see I might have symptoms of that terrible disease that stalks all of us who work with protocols – Protocol Poisoning.

I am one who has seen first-hand the terrifying effects of the disease – the result of breathing too much of your own protocol. The terrible numbness, blindness and deafness it causes – for which in many cases there is no possible cure…

How do you find out when you are slipping into intoxication and ultimately will succumb? You really need some kind of objective measure and protection – a modern day canary if you will.

Basically, as Tim points out, we are talking in the case of the Web Services standards about 783 pages for a set of standards covering distributed systems protocols for “Security, Reliable Messaging, Transactions, Metadata, Messaging, Management, and Business Processes”.

Hey, wait. Actually, does that sound so bad?

The only way to know is to compare it with things that have been done before. How about a successful thing – lke LDAP? After all, it was really simple, right?

So I did a bit of research (see previous post) to find out how many pages are in the LDAP spec collection. The answer – 550 pages! So are we looking at a case where the specs for all of distributed computing are of the same order of magnitude as the “lightweight” directory access protocol?

But Protocol Poisoning is dangerous stuff – we need at least one other objective measure. Maybe we should compare it with DCE? I once ordered the documents and had to move into a larger office. The book on RPC alone was about 700 pages…

So my short term take on this is that the protocol poisoning hasn't gotten to me yet. By the objective measures I could come up with, WS is pretty svelt.