I hate to say I told you so …

… but I have to, ‘cause it feels so good. ;-)

I told you so!

(And heartfelt congratulations, as well.)

Near-Time Flow

Here’s another cat on the loose, leaving an empty bag behind.

For several months now, my friend Stuart Halloway has been talking to me about his new job, and the project he’s been working on. I noticed a couple of weeks ago that the website is finally showing some detailsthe company is out of stealth mode, and I can finally start talking about it.

Stuart’s job is with a company called Near-Time, and the product is called Flow. It is, quite frankly, the collaboration tool I’ve wanted for a long time. I saw an early version in October, and even in a rough state it was breathtaking. Flow includes the best of Wikis, blogs, browsers, bookmark managers, outliners, and email clients, all in one program. Flow gains a lot of power from having all of those things integrated into one interface (and it doesn’t hurt that it’s a good interface).

Although Flow is useful for individuals, it’s designed for collaboration. It seems to me to be an ideal tool for collaborative research, planning, and development work of various kinds, especially (but not only) if you can’t be face-to-face. Best of all, Flow is a collaboration tool that doesn’t require constant connectivity. The assumption of intermittent connectivity is baked into Flow and the protocols it uses for information sharing.

Near-Time is preparing for an early-access release of Flow in the coming weeks. If you and some others in your group use Macs, I urge you to register and try it out. I think you’ll be impressed.

English needs better precedence rules

Via Tom Pierce I found Bill Clementson’s list of Lisp quotations. (If you’re reading my website, you’re probably aware that I’m fond of collecting quotations myself.)

I particularly enjoyed this one:

Will write code that writes code that writes code that writes code for money.

That’s as good an answer as any to the classic Lisp troll question: “What’s with all the parentheses?”

Self: The Video

If you’re interested in software developmenteven if you’re a non-programmer who wonders if you might ever be able to learn this stuff, or if you’re interested in effective ways of teaching programmingyou should watch this video of the Self system in action. (I recommend watching one of the big ones, even though they’re very large files, so you can see what’s going on on the screen.)

This video was made in 1995. It’s a video produced by a software research lab, and that shows in the production values. But you can see in the video the genesis of a lot of today’s software technology. The Squeak user interface system is borrowed from Self. (But we all work in web applications, you say? Avi Bryant is trying out the same ideas in that context.) Self is the original Naked Objects system. The prototype-based OO system that’s at the root of JavaScript (and was central to NewtonScript) originated in Self. Ruby’s singleton classes were influenced by prototypes. And the implementation technology is equally impressive. Remember that the demo you see is written entirely in Self, and is running on Sun computers from 1995. The techniques pioneered in Self became the basis for Sun’s HotSpot Java VMone of the names in the credits is Lars Bak, who went on to become HotSpot’s architect.

The Self project at Sun is, unfortunately, long dormant. The web page is still there, and if you’ve got a Mac and are still running Jaguar you can run it. There are still a few problems on Panther, unfortunately. (For that matter, if you have a Sparc machine running Solaris you can also try it out.)

But whether it’s directly useful today or not, it’s still fascinating history, and it’s sobering that although Self has influenced other technologies, those more successful systems are in many ways pale shadows of the original. It’s yet another vivid demonstration that much of the future of computing can be found in the past.

Pragmatic Automation

All of a sudden, in the past week or so, a bunch of cats have been let out of their bags. Several of my friends are doing cool things that I haven’t felt free to talk about … and they’re all going public at once. Here’s the first of a few upcoming blog entries about cats on the loose.

If you haven’t read Dave Thomas and Andy Hunt’s Pragmatic Starter Kit books–Pragmatic Version Control and Pragmatic Unit Testing–you definitely should. (They’ve just released a new edition of the unit testing book, covering C# and NUnit. Now that I think of it, that counts as yet another cat recently out of the bag. But since they haven’t sent me a copy, I can’t really write about it, can I? Ahem. :-)

But all along, the book I’ve really wanted to read is the third one in the series: Pragmatic Automation. The one that hasn’t been written yet. Isn’t that typical?

Here’s the breaking news that I can finally talk about: I noticed that it’s now being proclaimed from the Pragmatic Programmer’s website that the author of Pragmatic Automation is Mike Clark.

Now, by way of full disclosure, I have to admit what I’ve already admitted to Mike: when he first told me that he might be doing this, my first thought was, “But I wanted to read Dave and Andy’s automation book!” But that gut reaction was wrong, and it didn’t take me long to realize it. Mike is the right guy to write this book.

Dave and Andy will still be actively involved, of course, and they’ll make sure Mike covers their favorite tricks. But you’ll also get to read about Mike’s tricks. On this topic, more heads are definitely better. Automation is an open-ended topic. Mike is an aggressive automatorhe loves to let the computer take over the drudgery for him. And Mike understands that automation is as much about consistency as it is about efficiency.

Mike’s still writing, and the book isn’t scheduled to be available until June. But you may as well set your money aside now. More than ever, Pragmatic Automation is the starter-kit book I’m dying to read.

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