I was having an email conversation with Jon Udell the other day about the concept of the “superplatform.” The first time I saw the term, it was in a Burton Group report claiming that Microsoft had a pretty good one.
I’ve been at Microsoft for <ahem> years and during the entire time, I’ve been working on platform related things — I joined into the team that was working on COM+ and DNA, was the first product manager on .NET, have fought the application server fights (does Microsoft have an application server? should Microsoft have an application server? etc.). The superplatform paper from Burton was the first time I saw someone outside Microsoft come to grips with the fact that any reasonable application platform consists of a huge number of components — not just a simple-minded application server or a Web server or a transation monitor, but extending into the client, into Office, including management systems, and so on. The superplatform concept was, I felt, probably the best all-encompassing view of how to represent the complexities of a modern application development platform.
Then I saw Jon blog about it. So I emailed him and asked what he thought. After a bit of back and forth that I won’t recount here, he asked me why I didn’t blog about the meaningful topics that we were talking about and instead talked about the difficulty of bolting my house to the foundation. The answer: more people have emailed me asking for my help and insight on home improvement than have ever emailed me about a Microsoft technology, product, or feature or an industry trend. Why is that? Probably because I offer better advice on how to fix your house than I do on how to build a scalable ASP.NET application or on the future of our industry. It’s not that I don’t have my opinions on those things, it’s just that Scott Guthrie can blog better on building a scalable ASP.NET application, and the future of our industry shockingly looks like a gradual evolution of what we have today. We talk about disruptive technologies, but what’s interesting about our society is the gradual way it adapts to new technologies (and how new technologies adapt to it). It takes decades — generations, in fact — for a society to really change.
Do I think that “citizen journalists” will do away with the traditional press? Not entirely, but I think they will certainly weed out some of the sillier press reports I’ve seen lately. Do I think that Web services will change the IT industry? It already has. Will Google beat Microsoft? Beat Microsoft at what — our industry is far to complex to boil it down to the X vs. Y headlines that seem to be in favor.
When I was in the trade press, I worked with a remarkably talanted writer named Rochelle Garner who, at the end of every month when we’d get the first copies of our monthly magazine from the printer would come out of her office, hold it up over her head, and say, “Landfill. We’ve just made more landfill.” Then she’d go back into her office.
So why do I blog about meaningless things? Because I can help people by being annoying to Maytag about their product line and help them fix their houses themselves. Everything else is landfill.