Roller-Planet mind map

I'm glad I was able to help Simon get his personal planet back online yesterday. And I'm glad the task was fairly easy. All Simon needed as a new version of Blogapps PlanetTool updated to use ROME 0.9 and I was planning on doing that anyway.

What's PlanetTool you wonder? PlanetTool is a command-line program which reads a set of RSS/Atom newsfeeds and then uses a set of templates to generate a planet site with HTML, RSS, Atom, OPML and other representations. Simon uses it to bring together his personal blog, Sun blog, links and photos into a single webpage and a single feed. If you subscribe to that feed, you'll get just about everything that Simon publishes to the web.

If you're interested in learning more about PlanetTool, here are some of my previous posts on the topic:

The above title Try PlanetTool, it's easy! is a little misleading, but it brings me to my point. PlanetTool is only easy if you're a developer or a power-user; somebody who can handle running Java on a server, editing an XML config file and setting up a cron job. Simon could handle it, but I'd like to make planets easier.

In fact, I'd like to make it as easy to create a planet as it is to create a blog. This past week, I've been thinking about how to do that by taking the simple ROME powered Roller-Planet code, which is found in both Roller and PlanetTool, and build it into a multi-user planet server -- kinda like Roller, but for planets instead of blogs. To get my thoughts into digital form I worked up a little FreeMind mind-map on the topic, dumped it to text, added some wiki syntax and some screen-shots. The result is this: a RollerPlanetMindMap that outlines ideas for the future development of Roller-Planet.

Stop the insanity: Microsoft patents RSS readers and parsers

Isn't the USPTO supposed to run at least a quick check for prior art before granting a patent? I guess the answer is no hope the answer is yes because Microsoft has filed for and apparently was awarded a patent on something called a "content syndication platform" for which there is (and was at the time of filing) a giant amount of prior art. 

The two key claims on the patent application on the USPTO site seem to be #1:

A system comprising: one or more computer-readable media; computer-readable instructions on the one or more computer-readable media which, when executed, implement: an RSS platform that is configured to receive and process RSS data in one or more formats; and code means configured to enable different types of applications to access RSS data that has been received and processed by the RSS platform.

Sounds like a feed reader, like Net-News-Wire, News-Fire, Feed Bandit , Feed Daemon, PlanetPlanet, Radio Userland, O'Reilly Meercat, etc. etc. All of which existed before Microsoft started prowling around RSS.

And the other is #10:

A system comprising: one or more computer-readable media; a set of APIs embodied on the computer-readable media, the set of APIs comprising one or more methods that enable at least one application to access RSS data that has been processed and stored in a feed store; and wherein said at least one application does not understand an RSS format in which the RSS data was originally embodied.

Now we're talking about a feed parser, which parses all formats of feeds and presents to a programmer in an abstract way. You know, like the Universal Feed Parser, ROME and the Jakarta Feed Parser, which again, all existed well before Microsoft started working with RSS and Atom technologies.

Some of the guys listed on the patent are Microsoft bloggers, so perhaps Sean, Walter and the other Microsoft Team RSS bloggers can explain how Microsoft can claim to have invented the RSS feed reader and RSS feed parser.

Via John Robb's blog. Dave Winer has posted about it too.

Update: Niall Kennedy has posted an excellent In depth analysis of Microsoft's patent claim that explains that the patent has not yet been awarded, digs into each of Microsoft's claims and discusses the prior art.

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Five things

I was tagged by Sam. Sure, I'll play along. Here's five things you probably don't know about me:

  1. Apart from software developer, the only other job I've ever had is free-lance scientific illustrator working with pen and ink on a drafting table.
  2. I play bass guitar (for some definition of "play") and once performed in a Grateful Dead cover band.
  3. I lost my wedding ring in one of the hundreds of little pools in Dunns River Falls and amazingly enough, a couple of reward-seeking snorklers were able to find it about an hour later.
  4. I was a serious trekkie and once shaved part of my hair to have a more Captain Kirk-like hair-line.
  5. I lived in Haslingfield, England for a year when I was 9 and I remember those radio telescopes well. 

I'm tagging Raible, Noniko, Skrocki, Josh and Mike.

JavaOne 2007 call for papers closes today

There's still time to get those proposals in. I ended up submitting three proposals for technical sessions related to RSS/Atom and one for a Roller birds-of-a-feather (BOF) session.

Here's the link to submit proposals:

Join the team

If you dig blogs, wikis, feeds, Java and Solaris then you might be interested in the fact that we're hiring. Linda Skrocki's got the scoop on the job opening in Sun's Community Software Engineering team.

JavaOne 2007 call for papers ends Friday

The 2007 JavaOne Conference is May 8th-May 11th and this is the perfect forum to share your technology expertise at Sun's Worldwide Developer Conference.  This year, the conference is being expanded so that while Java is at the core, with a significant emphasis on Java ME, SE and EE, there will be ample opportunity to present your technology or ideas in such areas as open source & community development (which includes Java, OpenSolaris, OpenOffice and others), next generation web or "web 2.0" technologies, web services and platform integration, consumer technologies and how to leverage Java and other technologies for businesses (including start-ups).

So if you have a hot topic, specific tips or tricks that you believe will help developers, then please go to and submit your session abstract.
I've got a trio of proposals just about ready to go. Hopefully, at least one will be accepted and I'll be attending my 4th JavaOne next year and my 3rd one as a speaker.

Java SE 6 too

In the rather unlikely case that you read my blog and don't know it yet, Java SE 6 was released today. The Sun bloggers are blogging it up and Danny Coward has posted a very nice top ten new features list with links to related blog posts and articles and such. Maybe someday I'll be able to upgrade.

ROME 0.9 (beta) is available

A new release of the RSS and Atom Utilities (ROME) project ROME 0.9 (beta) is now available on the project's website. This new release includes fixes to Atom relative URI resolution, easier parsing for RSS feeds that use <content:encoded>, better support for mapping of RSS to and from Atom and numerous small fixes. [Read More]

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We celebrated a milestone tonight, Alex's 10th birthday. He's grown into a great kid, smart, healthy, eager to learn (math) and questioning everything. We're very lucky. It's hard to believe 10 years has gone by since we started building this family. Seems like yesterday, a dream and an eternity ago all at once. I didn't have a blog back then of course, but I had a web site and I posted a birth announcement with photos, measurements, foot-prints, doctor's names and this little stroller that I drew for the printed announcements: 

Little cartoony stroller picture 

Apache Abdera 0.2.0 (incubating) released

Abdera is an open source Atom parser, generator, client and server tool-kit for Java. James Snell announced a new version of Apache Abdera (incubating) the other day and the feature list is impressive, especially for a "0.2.0" release. Here's an excerpt:

The goal of the Apache Abdera project is to build a functionally-complete, high-performance implementation of the IETF Atom Syndication Format (RFC 4287) and Atom Publishing Protocol (in-progress) specifications. [... incubator blah blah blah ...]
  • A reworked API that improves usability
  • Decoupled extensions from the underlying parser implementation
  • An Atom Publishing Protocol client implementation
  • Updated support for the current Atom Publishing Protocol draft specification
  • Added support for Internationalized Resource Identifiers (IRIs)
  • Improved Thread Safety
  • Fixed a number of Classloader issues that kept Abdera from working properly in application server environments.
  • Improved Javadocs
  • Added test cases and sample code
  • Added experimental Bidirectional Text support
  • Improved implementation of OpenSearch v1.0 and v1.1 extensions
  • Implementation of MediaRSS extensions
  • Implementation of Feed Paging and Archiving extensions
  • GoogleLogin Authentication Support
We might have to steal that IRI support for ROME. Actually, that's something that should be built right into the Java platform. Apparently IRI support was considered for Java SE 6 and something was implemented, but then rolled back.

Visual Web Pack is NOT for you if...

Roumen: Visual tools for web development are a double-edged sword. They have their advantages and disadvantages. Some users love Visual Web Pack for what it provides but some of them go crazy because by using visual tools they lose a bit of control or they don't fit their development environment. So I'd like to discuss this topic, so that you can decide whether Visual Web Pack is for you or it is not.

A very thoughtful and balanced post from Netbeans evangelist Roumen Strobl that examines some of the reasons you might or might not want to use the new Netbeans Visual Web Pack.

Raleigh blogger meetup tomorrow at Helios Coffee

In the past we've had up to ten attendees. A US congressman, an actual female and once even Sam Ruby showed up, but since Cafe Cyclo shutdown and we moved to Helios it's been just Josh and I. That's fine and all, Josh's a great guy, but we'd really dig some company. So come on down and entertain us with stories of your fascinating blog-related legal troubles, sinister government conspiracies you've exposed via podcast, that band you saw last night or maybe just the time you forgot the HTML tag for making text blink. Did I mention they make a great latte at Helios? They have beer too.

When: First and third Tuesdays of every month at 6:30PM

Where: Helios Coffee (Map)

413 Glenwood Avenue
Raleigh, NC 27603

My thoughts on IBM's Ventura

In case you haven't heard the news or followed my Latest Links: at an analyst conference last week IBM announced a new server-side product suite called Ventura that includes blogging, social bookmarking and social networking. Ventura is Java EE-based, runs on Websphere (with DB2 or Oracle) and the blog server component is based on Apache Roller (incubating) 3.1. That's the very same version of Roller that we're currently running at

So how do I feel about it? I'm thrilled to see IBM contributing to, building on and supporting the Roller project. No matter how you cut it, that's good news for Roller users including those at who are already benefiting from IBM's contributions (e.g. tagging support in 3.1). Of course to be honest, I'm also a little disappointed that Sun isn't shipping and supporting a Roller distribution -- that's always been one of my goals. Sun has put heck of a lot of engineering time into Roller, helped to grow the community in the Apache incubator and benefitted greatly via -- it sure would be nice to share those benefits with our customers by offering service and support.

Latest links: Ventura edition

Hmmm... That link to Cote's People Over Process blog is now a 404. I'll let Cote explain that if he wants to. You can find details similar to those that Cote posted in Luis Suarez's blog post titled IBM Lotus Ventura: IBM's Take of Social Software within the Enterprise. Here's an excerpt: 

Lotus Ventura is supposed to be IBM’s adventure (Pun intended ;-) ) into the social computing world for the enterprise. Yes, once again, that IBM 2.0 thing. And as you may have been able to read already over at Cote’s weblog post Ventura would be an application that will integrate a number of different social software tools that, as James mentioned, some of us, inside of IBM, have been using for years now!:

1. IBM’s BluePages (a.k.a. IBM’s employee directory): So that expertise location within the enterprise can be easier than ever having access not only to knowledge workers but also to the information behind those same knowledge workers. That is, their information.
2. Dogear: IBM’s social bookmarking application: and which I have talked about over here a few times already.
3. Activities: Of which you would be able to read some more about on the presentation I shared yesterday over here from Mike Roche (Slides 6, 23, 46 and 49) and of which I will talk about some time later on.
4. Communities: Given my role as a community builder and knowledge manager, this is actually one of the components that I will be really looking forward to and that, as time goes by, I will be able to share some further details on it.
5. Roller: Or, as we all know, weblogging; yes, that is right. Ventura will have a component that would connect knowledge workers with the world of weblogs using the Roller weblogging engine, which is basically what we have been using as well inside IBM with Blog Central. I have been keeping my Intranet weblog over there for nearly three years and it would be an incredible experience to be able to see it integrate nicely into Ventura’s other components. Nifty!
6. Integration with other components: Like search or Lotus Sametime 7.5, amongst others. Actually with the inclusion of that integration with Sametime 7.5 we would be getting the best out of both worlds, synchronous and asynchronous collaboration. And all that available from a single point of entry. Can it get better than this ? Hummm. I don’t think so.

Approaches to blog customization

One of the things that new bloggers tend to complain about is theme customization. It's just too hard to customize the look and feel of your blog. And that's true even if you just want to make a couple of minor tweaks like changing a banner image, changing a background color or adding a "widget" to your sidebar. In this post, I briefly review how a couple of popular blog servers enable blog customization.
[Read More]

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ROME v0.9 (beta) coming soon

In case you missed the mention in my Latest Links post yesterday, there's a new release of ROME coming out in the very near future. The last release was v0.8 and was made in February 2006. Since then then ROME team has made numerous small fixes and a couple of design changes, which I'll cover in a later email. I proposed the release, so I get the honor of acting as release manager.

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