my recent reads..

SOA and WS-BPEL - here for review

I was kindly invited by Packt Publishing to review Yuli Vasiliev's new book SOA and WS-BPEL. The review copy just arrived today in time for a quick scan.

I'm immediately drawn by the fact that this is one book that clearly goes beyond smarchitectural blurgh and gets down to concrete details. The focus is on showing how you can create solutions with an open source or freely available toolset - specifically PHP and ActiveBPEL. And when it comes the database of course you expect MySQL, but I am very pleased to see that Yuli also gives full coverage of using (freely available) Oracle Database XE.

Looks like a few days of fun ahead as I work through the book in more detail. I'll be sure to post my review when I'm done.

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Rejoining the Oracle Social Mix

To the AppsLab team - a big thank you! As I mentioned in my last post, I'm now ex-Oracle, and one of the transition pains was cutting myself off from the internal Oracle Connect social networking site. But no sooner do I leave, and they graciously launch Oracle Mix - which is basically the combination of the IdeasFactory and Connect, but now open to the world. Yes!

I hope this is only the beginning, and we see some rapid development of the site into a premier channel for the Oracle community. I imagine a great deal of the effort in the 5-6 week development period went into integrating and refactoring the AppsLab code, and porting to the Oracle AS + jruby environment, so I'll be gentle with my comments for now;-)

I guess the main nudge I'd like to give the team would be to think a bit more about the idea generation/innovation process and adapt the site to suit. To be frank, I was getting a little disillusioned by the IdeaFactory because it was turning into a dumping ground - literally thousands of ideas going in, but little sight of what benefit was coming out.

Good ideas are hard to find - Scott Berkun does a grand job of demolishing this falsehood in The Myths of Innovation (required reading I would recommend for anyone working on "innovation tools"). The implication being that there should be no surprise in Oracle Mix attracting many great ideas, but more important is what happens next..

Do they get adopted by an Idea Angel to champion the cause? Do they get the protection and attention to make the transition from Idea to Innovation?

And perhaps even more significantly, how will the community learn about "Ideas that make it"? This will be critical to stimulate a virtuous feedback cycle that encourages people to submit more ideas because they can see it is worthwhile.

Dell included this critical ingredient for their IdeaStorm site in the simplest of ways .. Ideas in Action is just a blog of stories about how they have adopted and implemented ideas submitted and voted by their users:

I guess there are a few other points I could get cranky about, like some minor usability issues, and the bad policy of only allowing full features to users with "verified customer emails" (Dell's IdeaStorm doesn't). But I'll lay off for now, because overall I think the AppsLab team have made a fantastic start and I want to give them every encouragement to keep hammering away at this stuff!

Oracle Mix is truely a breath of fresh air!

NB: See Paul and Rich's launch announcements.
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The Myths of Innovation

I finally got hold of Scott Berkun's The Myths of Innovation last week and read it in a day. It's thoughtful, eye-opening and funny to boot (even a few hidden gems, like way down at the very bottom of the ranked bibliography we find: 0, The Art of Project Management, Scott Berkun!).

In ten compelling chapters, the realisation is that conventional wisdom concerning innovation has it all backwards. These are the myths exploded:
  • The myth of epiphany
  • We understand the history of innovation
  • There is a method for innovation
  • People love new ideas
  • The lone inventor
  • Good ideas are hard to find
  • Your boss knows more about innovation than you
  • The best ideas win
  • Problems and solutions
  • Innovation is always good

The wierd thing is that you can probably read the list above (without referring to the book), recognise the "common belief", but with a moments thought understand why it is a myth. The strange things our brains do to us! (more on this when I post my review of Jeff Hawkins excellent book On Intelligence)

I'd highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in how we innovate, or a job role that is somehow related. That should mean pretty much everyone! No wonder this book hit #4 on Amazon's Best of 2007.

If I had 20 days to solve a problem, I would take 19 to define it - Albert Einstein

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Writers [on Writing]

Writers [on Writing] is a collection of essays from the New York Times. There are 46 or so pieces by popular authors, that cover a diverse range of topics of interest to anyone who is going about the business of writing - perhaps skewed towards the novelist, but generally relevant to any kind of writer.

From stoking the fires of inspiration and maintaining motiviation, to methods for character and plot development, there are stories here for all aspects of the art.

I was particularly taken by Mary Gordon's Putting Pen to Paper, but Not Just Any Pen or Just Any Paper in which she describes her prediliction (maybe obsession is a better word) for having the correct writing instrument and notebook on hand. More than just comfort or convenience, this is about how certain tools can influence your state of mind and thus be conducive to certain work. Mary Gordon elevates this to a science: when contemplating a novel in three voices, each character had its own suitably matched notebook. I can certainly relate to this! I remember finding that I could only write and study chinese literature effectively with a certain kind of notebook with a light 5mm grid, and I had a similar fixation on yellow legal pads for essays in high school.

Obviously, Mary does not write using a computer, but it makes you wonder if there is an analogue for those that do? And I'm sure just changing your mouse pointer style doesn't do the trick. Stock up on a range of keyboards and mice? Or even different machines?

Picking up the theme of notebooks for geeks, Coté has an excellent discussion on selecting your Moleskin on the Sartorially Orientated Architects site. It's true .. this is very important topic!

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