Nov 30, 2007

What's in it for Me? How Your Company Can Benefit From Open Sourcing Code

One of Ben and my latest Google tech talks is now up on YouTube. It's not as fun as our Poisonous People talk, but it's sort of a sequel as it continues to talk about social issues and open source, but aimed more at companies and organizations looking to open source code.

The abstract for the talk is:

As the open source community continues to clamor for more companies to open source their code, more and more executives are asking themselves just what open source can do for their company. There are a number of ways for a company to open source an internal project: from tossing code over the wall on the one hand to running a fully open development project on the other to any combination of the two.

This talk will discuss the costs and benefits associated with each method as well as how to successfully launch your new open source project.

You can also grab the slides.

Nov 28, 2007

The Art of Storytelling

I love stories. When I choose books or authors, I lean towards science fiction, but if I know that an author is a good storyteller, I'll read just about anything that they write, up to and including dishwasher manuals. I love the feeling of being carried off by a good story, regardless of length—I'll tend to lose track of all time when absorbed in one, forgetting to eat, drink, and even fending off sleep as long as possible. I also love telling stories, but that's a story for another time.

Fifteen years ago when I lived in Rome, a friend offered me his entire Stephen King collection if I would read the first 100 pages of Lord Foul's Bane, the first book of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever trilogy (which actually had a second trilogy after the first). Given that English books in Italy were a commodity more valuable than gold, I gladly took him up on his offer. I mean, how bad could 100 pages of any book be?

Well, it turned out that it was pretty bad—the story was extremely slow to advance and the main character did something so totally reprehensible that I really didn't think I wanted to read any further since I hated what he had done. Yet, greedy for over a dozen Stephen King books that I hadn't read (and King's early stuff is some great storytelling), I trudged on, taking almost eleven days to read up to page 90.

Then something happened. The author finished his lengthy introduction and, with the stage set, he took off with an incredibly compelling story. I realized that the awful thing the main character had done was vitally important to understanding his weaknesses, his guilt, his conscience, and above all, the inner pain and conflict that made him who he was.

I read the rest of the book and both trilogies in one week.

Six books—over 3,000 pages— in one week. I pretty much did nothing but read, sleep, eat, and drink (in that order) for the duration, and when I came out of my reverie, I felt like I'd been on a year-long vacation. I'd practically lived the life of a fictional character for seven whole days of my life.

So I often look for new and interesting stories, and every so often I find one that really grabs me by the shoulders and engages me, for however briefly. And in fact, the tiny gem that brightened up this dreary Chicago November day was a blog post from a fellow Googler in Australia, titled Engineers should not wear suits, and it started like this:

It's against the laws of nature. If God had wanted engineers to wear suits, he would have given us social skills and motor coordination. I violated this law on Tuesday night, and woe befell me.

And with that, he had me hooked. I was dying to find out where this was going, and even more thrilled when I got there. Click through to read the rest.

Nov 18, 2007

Reason #891 I Don't Miss Condo Living

The Marina City Towers Condo Association in Chicago aims to require permission for anyone to use the likeness of their building:

"Because of the architectural significance of our building, the Condominium Association holds a common law copyright on the use of the Association name and building image. This means that under Federal and Illinois law, advertisers, movie makers and others cannot use the Association name or image without first obtaining express written permission from the Association ..."

They've left the wording unchanged, but apparently their lawyer claims these rights under trademark law (uh-huh) instead of copyright law (after all, copyright law is federal, and doesn't restrict pictures taken from public land). Whatevah

I walk (or roll) by Marina City every day on the way to and from work, and I can't wait to take some pictures of the buildings (which I absolutely love, architecturally) and post them here.


Photo by Ashley Crum