Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Succeeding at open-source innovation.

An interview with Mozilla Chairman Mitchell Baker.

McKinsey remains very topical with the work that is being done here. In this interview, Mitchell Baker reflects on the successful innovation she has experienced at Mozilla. A Lawyer by training she has been involved with Netscape / AOL / Mozilla for over 10 years.

The interview begins with the focus on Mozilla's participation model. With a staff of 120 and an army of volunteers, each group contributes to the code base, Ms. Baker credits both elements as critical and key to Mozilla's success.

McKinsey asks, "How do you motivate people to contribute to Mozilla, especially after ten years?" Ms. Baker notes the evolution of the browser, its dark side of pop-ups, spam and spyware and the greater conflict that Microsoft brought to the browser arena. And the elimination of gate-keepers in accessing the Internet. If not for Mozilla, Microsoft may have intimidated browser vendors to the point of extinction. These are the reasons that many have joined the Mozilla community and contributed. And;

Second, our product makes a giant difference in the lives of our volunteers, and they take ownership of it. I don't know if you could build this degree of motivation for something that really didn't change people's lives, something that they weren't emotionally committed to. But the number of people who feel that Firefox is partly theirs is very high.
I know this emotional commitment exists within the oil and gas User community.

I want to highlight these comments of Ms. Baker's and draw a parallel to the community that is being built here. No one individual knows all there is about oil and gas. To build a comprehensive system as I have described here needs the diverse and robust community to define it and build the software. I can't think how that can be done without the Users of the software emotionally involved in the manner that Ms. Baker speaks about her volunteers. And as I have stated before, this community has to be financially supported by the oil and gas industry. Both developers and Users need to be, and will be, compensated for their time and efforts.

In answering the McKinsey question "What has been the biggest surprise in the time you've been working at Mozilla? "Ms. Baker states;
That we had exactly what was needed at exactly the right moment. You often see this in start-ups that burst onto the scene and grow dramatically. There's a lot of hard work and smarts, but also some piece of timing is right. Those things, you can't control; you need to be ready.
I hope that I would not be considered presumptuous in stating that I think we are ready. Join me here.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

It's important to remember.

We have happened upon a time where there is much to be concerned about. Whether it is China, Britain, Australia or South Africa; Oil, Natural Gas, Coal or Gold, many problems are arising that are swiftly affecting the way of life that we have come accustomed to. James Slessinger was the first Energy Secretary in the US and is prescient in his statement that there are only two modes in energy, complacency and fear. As we move from one mode to the other we need to remember a few important points that I have commented on here before.

First as Albert Einstein famously said, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." Or, we need to use new and innovative thinking in order to approach a solution to today's problems. That is what I've attempted to do here in this blog and software developments.

Secondly, Professor Carlota Perez has shown us the direction we are heading is towards a much better place. Her long wave economic theories have been written about extensively in this blog. I think her ideas provide sound comfort to the systemic unwinding of these energy market failures.

If we only focus on the problem, and the problem of energy supply shortages is possibly the biggest problem we have ever faced, we will be caught up in an emotional and viscous downward spiral. That is the last thing we need. Please join me here.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

And then there was...

...one less software vendor.

Oracle recently announced their purchase of BEA Systems. Adding to an already congested stable of acquired ERP vendors, one could question what Oracle's strategy is. The reason I think that Oracle has been buying up all the software vendors is that Oracle is precluded from any serious consideration by developers. The elimination of Oracle from the technology stack of most development houses is due to Oracle's February 1997 decision to ignore the Independent Software Vendors (ISV's) and steal their clients for themselves. Those were the dark days for me, it was a fundamental betrayal by Oracle that I won't soon forgive. Shame on Oracle for doing this, shame on me if I choose to do business with them again. As a result of this somewhat universal betrayal, Oracle has had to rely on its applications to drive database sales.

The net effect is the reduction of competition in the ISV marketplace, and a reduction of choice in this critical area. PeopleSoft, Siebel, BEA, and J.D. Edwards just to name the big acquisitions. Each acquisition was done in a hostile manner, and the ability to work with Oracle has been challenging to those in the Tech industry and, most importantly, Oracle's alleged customers. I recall that after announcing Oracle Energy in February 1997. Oracle announced a big commitment to oil and gas systems, and by 2000 they had all but left town on the inability of its "customers" to purchase "Oracle Energy".

That leaves the oil and gas producer with a very short list of system vendor opportunities. SAP, Oracle, The former IBM product known as Qbyte and this project. It is my belief that SAP doesn't show its face in Calgary any more. Customer expectations 10 years ago were such that no one would be able to satisfy their demands. SAP was the White Knight that initially looked good, but grew to be the Medusa. Oracle is the physical manifestation of Larry Ellison's personality. And a few years ago IBM left the marketplace with 70% market-share and 30 year old Cobol code. Selling out of a majority market share is only done when there are serious difficulties in the marketplace. The purchaser of Qbyte has promised to suspend support for the product in less then one year. Setting the clock ticking on a short time frame.

It is with these expectations and difficulties that the energy producer finds itself. During a time of high demand and increasing business complexity, they are without the assistance of any major company in this technology arena. How this has happened is not the important point, the important point is to begin the developments that I have addressed here in this blog. No other vision is being offered elsewhere.

And as I have stated many times before, SAP or Oracle or IBM do not know anything about drilling a well, producing sour gas, paying royalties and building pipelines. Without the User defining and demanding from the developers what the right software solutions are to do their jobs. The software developers will, and should, remain silent. This communities needs are now limited to the financial resources of the oil and gas industry. How long it takes to realize the opportunities and software solutions are a direct result of producers' actions is unknown at this point. And I hope for the sake of all concerned, that the time will be soon.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

President Bush in Saudi Arabia

The President's trip to the Middle East gave him the opportunity to ask the Saudi King if he would consider increasing their oil production. The Presidents response was honest and candid and reflected the seriousness of the times that we now find ourselves in. In an exclusive ABC News interview he stated;

"If they don't have a lot of additional oil to put on the market, it is hard to ask somebody to do something they may not be able to do."
In a related story an official of BP Energy was quoted as saying that oil demand would peak before supply. If that is what passes for intelligent discussion at BP. The world is in much more dire of a situation than I thought. BP should be absolutely ashamed of itself.

Anyone, in my opinion, with 10 or more years of oil and gas experience will know intuitively the peak oil situation. Companies like BP appear to choose to lie about it. When this problem becomes "real" and the world in turn asks you what you did about it, you can turn and say you helped to build the systems solution that is documented in this blog. Join me here.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

MySQL it is.

Sun Microsystems today announced the acquisition of MySQL database. Therefore this project will move to that database platform. The reasons are fairly straight forward and include;
  • MySQL has the Open Source community fully engaged in its development.
  • MySQL has a feature rich offering proven in both the critical web and enterprise marketplaces.
  • Sun is committed to Open Source. Java with MySQL offers opportunities for further integration.
I also am in receipt of a recommendation from one of the readers regarding the GlassFish Server. Apparently there is a version of GlassFish that is designed for light weight deployments. Named the HK2 (Hundred KiloByte Kernel) it was suggested that this could provide some significant opportunities for the developers to use HK2 on the client side with embedded MySQL.

I have revised the Draft Security & Access Control Module Specification to reflect these changes. The revised specification includes these changes reflected in blue text, and the V2 of the specification is downloadable on the wiki.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

A test of Hayek's theory of spontaneous order.

I have referenced Professor Russell Roberts on this blog before. He is an economics Professor at George Mason University, and a Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institute. His best work is available freely through his blog Cafe Hayek, and podcast EconTalk. I highly recommend subscribing to both feeds.

One of the concepts that Hayek developed was "Spontaneous Order". In the last month this blog has morphed from somewhat of an academic exercise of extending the thinking of my thesis, to a project that is actively searching for funds, Users and Developers. Over the past year the number of people who subscribed to this blog grew slowly into a handsome audience.

Since I published the call for action in December, it is clear this community was waiting for me to exercise this change. That I may have been limiting the response is obvious to me now. The numbers of people who share an interest in these writings continues to increase. And I can now see that Hayek's concept of spontaneous order is possible. Professor Roberts provides clarity on the interaction of "spontaneous order."
When we talk about spontaneous order, the adjective is trying to capture the fact that no one is in charge, controlling the economic system - the order we see around us is spontaneous, organic, emergent, rather than controlled, directed or managed.
and
But I've been thinking lately about a different sense of the word spontaneous. It's the ability of the modern economy to deal with our spontaneity as economic actors, or, it's how order re-emerges in the face of our spontaneity as economic actors.
and
What happens when there's an unanticipated, essentially spontaneous change of behavior?
What should spontaneous order mean to Users and Developers? Action! Action not only in proceeding with the development of this software, but also learning what could be done. Action on behalf of the producers to sponsor this development, action on behalf of the Developers to get involved and action for the User groups to form and move forward.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

McKinsey on Business Technology Trends.

As we embark on the development of these software modules. The technologies that we are using bring new dimensions and new opportunities to those that use them. Pursuing technology for technologies sake has proven to be a path of disappointment. This doesn't mean they are to be ignored, and I think if they are ignored, then these dimensions, opportunities and possibilities can and will be missed. Each of us should take the time to understand the technologies and apply them in this development in the most creative and value adding way. This is an opportunity for each of us to make this industry as profitable as possible for all concerned. The market, the producers, and the people who will earn their living in applying these software offerings to their day to day businesses.

It is in that vein that McKinsey has and is developing a competitive advantage. The application of technology is a cornerstone of their offering and much can be learned from their perspectives and research. This article, to me, reflects some of the opportunities that exist in today's marketplace. I hope that my readers see how they can capture some of McKinsey's ideas and incorporate them into these software components.

8 Business Technology Trends to watch.

McKinsey starts with noting;
"Technology alone is rarely the key to unlocking economic value: companies create real wealth when they combine technology with new ways of doing business."
Since we are calling for the industry to be re-organized in a manner that explicitly recognizes the Joint Operating Committee (JOC). Recognized as the key organizational construct of the marketplace. A place where the market and firms are well defined and have roles that are actively supported in the software we are building. McKinsey continues with eight trends that I think are very pertinent to the work that we are doing here.

Managing relationships.

1. Distributing Co-Creators

Again McKinsey hits a home run with their first sentence, reflecting the possibilities we have in this time and space.
The Internet and related technologies give companies radical new ways to harvest the talents of innovators working outside corporate boundaries. Technology now allows companies to delegate substantial control to outsider - co-creation - in essence by outsourcing innovation to business partners that work together in networks.
And hence, why we have begun development.
By distributing innovation through the value chain, companies may reduce their costs and usher new products to market faster by eliminating the bottlenecks that come with total control.
Software products that will make the oil and gas producer able to move faster and more innovatively.

2. Using Consumers as Innovators

Users are the consumers of the applications developed here. The Users are the ones who will use the applications to do their job in the most optimal fashion. The tacit knowledge of the industry resides in the people who make it work and get the job done. To exclude them from the development process makes no sense, and here McKinsey captures why.
Consumers also co-create with companies; the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, for instance, could be viewed as a service or product created by its distributed customers.
3. Tapping into a world of talent.

The Users as consumers hold the tacit knowledge and talent necessary to make it valuable. This combination, when aggregated by today's collaborative technologies, can solve any problem in the oil and gas industry. These tools and technologies have to be developed by the Users. And like the developers, compensated for their time and efforts in the development. The use and services of the People, Ideas & Object applications modules must be provided to them free of charge, and that begins here with these software developments. It is the producer who will fund these development costs.
As more and more sophisticated work takes place interactively online and new collaboration and communications tools emerge, companies can outsource increasingly specialized aspects of their work and still maintain organizational coherence. Much as technology permits them to decentralize innovation through networks or customers, it also allows them to parcel out more work to specialists, free agents, and talent networks.
4. Extracting more value from interactions.

And as McKinsey so eloquently states;
As companies improve the productivity of these workers, it will be necessary to couple investments in technologies with the right combination of incentives and organizational values to drive their adoption and use by employees. There is still substantial room for automating transactional activities, and the payoff can typically be realized much more quickly and measured much more clearly than the payoff from investments to make tacit work more effective. Creating the business case for investing will be challenging - but critical - for managers.
Managing Capital & Assets

5. Expanding the frontiers of automation.

The four cornerstones of People, Ideas & Objects technical vision consist of Wireless Networks, Java, Asynchronous Process Management and IPv6. These four technologies combine to provide and enable higher levels of automation in ideas, data and information.
Companies still have substantial head-room to automate many repetitive tasks that aren't yet mediated by computers - particularly in sectors and regions where IT marches at a slower pace - and to interlink "islands of automation" and so give managers and customers [Users] the ability to do new things. Automation is a good investment if it not only lowers costs but also helps users to get what they want more quickly and easily, though it may not be a good idea if it gives them unpleasant experiences. The trick is to strike the right balance between raising margins and making customers happy.
6. Unbundling production from delivery.

The examples cited in the McKinsey document don't necessarily apply to the situation in oil and gas. Unless I am missing some key point here, however, this certainly applies to the joint industry development model proposed in People, Ideas & Objects.
Unbundling is attractive from the supply side because it lets asset-intensive businesses - factories, warehouses, truck fleets, office buildings, data centers, networks, and so on - raise their utilization rates and therefore their returns on invested capital.
Leveraging information in new ways.

7. Putting more science into management.

Studies have shown consistently that the truth lies within the data. Using intuition and luck as the keys to a competitive advantage have been soundly defeated. Education and data analysis has proven superior in making decisions. With more data and information soon to be available, this trend will need to be met with more effective and efficient tools, and, knowledgeable Users who are well equipped with the software they need to do their jobs and make the right decisions.

8. Making businesses from information.

This last point makes it clear how I see many of the Users and Developers of this system will launch new and innovative businesses within the oil and gas market. They will be able to create an ecosystem and environment in which to earn a living from this development and software application. How their relationship with producers may change and where they will find the demand for their skills.
Accumulated pools of data captured in a number of systems within large organizations or pulled together from many points of origin on the Web are the raw material for new information-based business opportunities.
What is possible at this time and age is reflected well in this McKinsey article. It begins the process of discovering what can be done to make oil and gas producers more innovative, and faster at what they do. There are also economic principles that originate with Adam Smith in the 1700's. Economic growth is accelerated by defining ever-greater divisions of labor and organizational models. Join me here.

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