Mike Hadlow: Heisenberg Developers

Mike Hadlow – Heisenberg Developers (from 2014):

“Software development […] is a creative and experimental process. […] Numerous studies have shown that effective creative work is best done by motivated autonomous experts. As developers we need to be free to try things out, see how they evolve, back away from bad decisions, maybe try several different things before we find one that works.

[…] What about the feature itself? Is it really such a good idea? I’m not just the implementer of this software, I’m a stake holder too. What if there’s a better way to address this business requirement?

[…] As soon as you ask a developer to tell you exactly what he’s going to do over the next 8 days (or worse weeks or months), you kill much of the creativity and serendipity. You may say that he is free to change the estimates or the tasks at any time, but he will still feel that he has to at least justify the changes. The more finely grained the tasks, the more you kill autonomy and creativity.

[…] Good developers are used to doing necessary, but hard to justify work ‘under the radar’, they effectively lie to management about what they are really doing, but finely grained management makes it hard to steal the time in which to do it.”

(Via Rich Rogers.)

Sun, 27 Sep 2015 18:37:00 +0000

Erik Dörnenburg: Architecture without Architects

Today I watched Erik Dörnenburg’s excellent talk Architecture without Architects (recorded in December 2014). Some takeaways:

Erik explains how software “architect” is, in several ways, not a good metaphor. “Town planner” or even “gardener” might be better metaphors, considering that software architecture constantly needs to be adapted and reshaped.

He encourages vertical slicing with room for some experimentation in each slice, and he’s got some nice stories of architecture mistakes and evolution.

To Erik, the software architect is an experienced developer who can guide other developers, not making the rules but asking the right questions: “Interesting idea! I thought the same thing five years ago – and then that happened. Did you consider that?”

Highly recommended if you’ve got an hour to spare.

Wed, 16 Sep 2015 21:22:00 +0000

Looking forward to the International Newsroom Summit in Hamburg

I don’t travel much, so I’m extra happy that the publishing industry (where most of our customers are from) is going to meet in our home town this year: The WAN-IFRA World Publishing Expo 2015 (Twitter: #WPE15) takes place in Hamburg, Germany from October 5-7.

Our company Digital Collections is exhibiting (booth 1.415), but I hope not to spend too much time at the booth because I want to attend the International Newsroom Summit (Twitter: #Newsroom15) that takes place on Monday October 5th as part of the Expo.

I’m especially looking forward to the Newsroom Summit session “Finding Relevant News Faster” with Michael Steidl (IPTC), Dave Compton (Thomson Reuters) and Robert Schmidt-Nia (dpa mediatechnology). Read their excellent “sneak preview” blog post Tags and the secrets to managing information flows into your newsroom; they’ll talk about state-of-the-art news metadata and Linked Data. The “Reimagining your archive” talk sounds interesting as well, see the Newsroom Summit programme.

Will you be in Hamburg as well? Get in touch if you want to meet!

Mon, 07 Sep 2015 09:20:00 +0000

Counting word frequency using NLTK FreqDist()

A pretty simple programming task: Find the most-used words in a text and count how often they’re used. (With the goal of later creating a pretty Wordle-like word cloud from this data.)

I assumed there would be some existing tool or code, and Roger Howard said NLTK’s FreqDist() was “easy as pie”.

So today I wrote the first Python program of my life, using NLTK, the Natural Language Toolkit. With the help of the NLTK tutorial and StackOverflow. I’m sure it’s terrible Python and bad use of NLTK. Sorry, I’m a total newbie.

Read the full article…

Thu, 03 Sep 2015 19:53:00 +0000

“iTunes for news” – first impressions of Blendle in Germany


You have probably heard of Blendle, the promising “iTunes for News” startup from the Netherlands that’s backed by the NYT and Axel Springer. They’re launching in Germany on September 14th. I’ve been a fan of the Blendle idea for a long time: effortlessly buying print articles from a central “online kiosk”, with an equally easy refund option if the article wasn’t worth its money. So I was extra happy to be able to try out the beta version. Some first impressions:

Read the full article…

Fri, 28 Aug 2015 21:35:00 +0000

Use ppolicy_hash_cleartext to keep OpenLDAP from storing and returning plain text passwords

OpenLDAP slapd is popular open source server software that implements the LDAP protocol – you use it to store users, groups and their attributes, and you can use it for authentication (checking whether a given username/password combination is valid).

The experts will know about this, but to a novice it’s counter-intuitive that by default, OpenLDAP stores passwords in plain text on disk, and even returns plain text passwords in search results. Here’s what this looks like:

Read the full article…

Thu, 27 Aug 2015 11:28:00 +0000

Listen to your engineers, don’t sink the Vasa

Friends of ours recently visited the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. They told us the story of the Vasa, a warship that sank almost immediately after setting out for her maiden voyage in 1628. According to Wikipedia:

“Richly decorated as a symbol of the king's ambitions for Sweden and himself, upon completion she was one of the most powerfully armed vessels in the world. However, Vasa was dangerously unstable due to too much weight in the upper structure of the hull. Despite this lack of stability she was ordered to sea and foundered only a few minutes after encountering a wind stronger than a breeze. The order to sail was the result of a combination of factors. The king […] was impatient to see her take up her station as flagship of the reserve squadron […]. At the same time the king's subordinates lacked the political courage to openly discuss the ship's structural problems or to have the maiden voyage postponed.”

Read the full article…

Sun, 23 Aug 2015 19:24:00 +0000

Dave Winer: Too much linear thinking in news

Dave Winer – Too much linear thinking in news:

“I think they [Circa] were on to something. Starting topics, and then adding stories to each topic as the news comes in. A story isn't something that's published once and done, it's more of a process.

[…] Circa resisted joining the open web. I think that was a fundamental mistake. […] Each story must have a way to get to it through a Web address.

[…] There's never been a long-term thriving tech company that wasn't run by a user.”

See my blog post (in German) on topic centric news publishing: Journalismus: Themenzentriertes Arbeiten, vernetzte Beiträge und hilfreiche Software


Mon, 06 Jul 2015 07:52:00 +0000

DC-X DAM system architecture, data structures, and APIs

Yesterday, we met with a potential customer’s tech and development team who were interested in the backend of our DC-X DAM system.

I gave a quick overview of the system architecture, the most important data structures, and our brand new JSON API.

Here’s the slides of my presentation (or download a PDF of the presentation):

Read the full article…

Thu, 02 Jul 2015 09:04:00 +0000

Topic Maps (as a standard) are dead, I’m afraid

[Update: This post got some well-deserved pushback. Thanks to Patrick Durusau, Lars Marius Garshol and Jack Park for the feedback – and sorry for the controversial headline. I’ve added “(as a standard)” and did some editing to make clear that people still use Topic Maps.]

I’m a fan of Topic Maps – the very well-thought-out Topic Maps Data Model standard with an XML serialization called XTM (XML Topic Maps) dating back to the year 2000. (See also the Topic Maps Reference Model, TMRM).

Even as a fan, I must admit that the Topic Maps standards are dead. They have never been widely adopted, and the key contributors have long moved on. Measured by the value you expect to get out of a successful standard – good visibility, adoption, interoperability, tooling, ongoing development – Topic Maps haven’t been the success we were hoping for.

Read the full article…

Sun, 14 Jun 2015 19:57:00 +0000