My Thoughts Exactly

On the open-sourcing of OpenLaszlo

My friend and colleague Sarah Allen has a nice little essay on her blog Ultrasaurus about what it was like to be part of a project that took a closed-source platform (“Laszlo Presentation Server”) and made it open (OpenLaszlo).

Like Sarah, I found that changing to the “open” way of doing software development took a little getting used to. One of the most profound, and yet most mundane differences is how you use email. Before we went open, if I had a technical question for, say, Tucker, I would send him an email; perhaps I would copy a few other interested parties.

Now, however, if I have technical question for Tucker, I send it to him and copy the OpenLaszlo Developer’s list or the OpenLaszlo User’s list. Which means that hundreds of people, at least, may be reading my messages. Similarly, all development work (including my baliwick, the documentation) is driven by tasks and bugs listed in the OpenLaszlo JIRA database. All of our code, communication, and planning, is in the open.

Sometimes this does make one feel a little awkward– like when you have to ask a question that you think you should know the answer to, and are embarrassed. But the “upside” is tremendous, as you often get helpful answers from people you’ve never heard of, in far off places, who are part of the OpenLaszlo community.

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My Thoughts Exactly

iPhone and OpenLaszlo

Over on the OpenLaszlo project blog, David Temkin has an interesting post about OpenLaszlo, Safari, Ajax, iPhones, and all kinds of good stuff like that there.

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My Thoughts Exactly

Internet radio in immanent danger?

According to this story (via slashdot), some regulatory board that I’ve never heard of has handed down some ruling which, if it stands, could be the death knell of internet radio (or a t least of internet radio that originates in countries that adhere to this regime?).

As I type this I’m listening to the fantastic (OpenLaszlo application)Pandora — an internet radio station that astoundingly accounts for more than 1% of all internet traffic (??? can this be so???). I also listen to a lot of college radio stations streaming on the net.

Is this mavevlous technology about to be taken away from us by the RIAA goons? I don’t pretend to understand the legal, political, or technical issues. An opinion from Mr. Feld is clearly in order. What’s the word, Harold? Should I be panicking?

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My Thoughts Exactly

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.

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My Thoughts Exactly

Croquet and OpenLaszlo: Plans for World Domination

Howard Stearns’s post, below, about How Croquet will Take Over the Universe (Bwah-hah-hah) got me thinking about OpenLaszlo and our own plans to take over the, um, er, well, our plans for success.

Laszlo Systems, Inc, signs my paycheck, but 90% of what I do for that check is related to OpenLaszlo, the “Rich Internet Application” platform that is given away for free. Just as Howard suggests, Laszlo Systems makes its money by selling applications and services on top of the platform, not from selling the platform itself. Laszlo Mail is the first such product, and others are under development. The OpenLaszlo platform, which Laszlo Systems Inc subsidizes to the tune of several full-time developers and one full-time documentation guy, generates exactly zero dollars for the company.

Laszlo Systems, Inc, is a startup in which I have a relative pantload of stock options. So I want Laszlo Systems, Inc, to succeed, which means that Laszlo has to convince deep-pocketed customers to buy Laszlo applications. In order for Laszlo applications to be acceptable to potential customers, the customers must be convinced that the underlying technology is sound and that it will be around for the long haul. That implies that OpenLaszlo must be seen to be thriving. There must exist a rich ecology of corporations that have a financial interest in keeping OpenLaszlo healthy.

Trust is the substrate upon which the open source ecology can grow. The best way to ensure that trust, of course, it to make OpenLaszlo really, truly open; to make it abundantly clear to potential developers that Laszlo Systems is not self-dealing, not trying to control the platform for its own benefit.

Laszlo is the fourth startup I’ve worked at. I ain’t rich yet, and I ain’t getting any younger. So I want *this* to be the one we get right. Wetmachiners Howard, Gary and I all worked for, and got virtually incinerated by, Curl, which, like Laszlo and Croquet, developed a potentially web-transforming technology. Alas for us, Curl screwed the pooch, as they say; it pissed away all the opportunity that that technology could have given them (us) by messing up this fundamental process that Howard wrote about.

Read More »

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My Thoughts Exactly

Get out your markers

OpenLaszlo, the nifty, very nifty platform for making web applications that don’t suck (and little widgets too, like the link thingy over on the right side of this page) has got a little contest going: design a T-Shirt, win an iPod. If you have any design skill at all, you should enter. Why not? (I’m talking to you, Gary.)

And whether you have design skill or not, if you write code you should check out OpenLaszlo. It’s some cool stuff. And the documentation is great — lots of clear expository code, and live, running, you-can-edit-them-too code examples.

(Did I mention that I’m the OpenLaszlo doc guy?)

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