Tim O’Reilly waxes philosophical about beer apps and sheep

Last week while I spoke at the Future of Web Apps in London, Tim O’Reilly decided to throw out a challenge to developers to get serious about software.  I guess the timing of this fits with the state of the economy as well as the numerous “silly” apps we are seeing pop up around the web and mobile spaces.  (The “I Am Rich” app for iPhone probably holds the top prize at this moment.)

O’Reilly is never one to beat around the bush, and in this case the challenge to developers is pretty direct:

“O’Reilly argues that Silicon Valley has strayed from the passion and idealism that fuel innovation to instead follow what he calls the “mad pursuit of the buck with stupider and stupider ideas.”

I appreciate what he is asking, but Twitter, one of the sites he mentions for doing good innovation, did not start out as a place where first responders can go for information updates, it was merely a way for friends to connect with short status updates.  The other issue with all of this is the fact people are paying for beer applications and other useless apps.  As long as that happens developers will keep making them.

Over the years AIM has contributed to connecting people separated by continents as well as becoming a way to instantly communicate with people.  During 9/11 when all phone lines were tied up in the New York and DC metro areas, AIM was one of the best tools to use to communicate with friends and family since the internet was still up and running.

Tim’s passion toward developing applications that change the world is important, but sometimes the applications that are most impactful do not necessarily start out that way.  YouTube has broken down barriers of information sharing and gathering and come November 4th, we will see the results of the influence of the internet and social networks had on the election here in the United States.

Software Engineer’s Lament

I have been writing code, albeit not always well, since I was in 1st grade.  There are things that we get right (AIM plugins and modules) and some we don’t (AIM Triton).  It funny sometimes to step inside the world of developers in other industries to realize that they have some great successes and failures.

As someone who has owned just about every version of Madden football and basketball game through the years, an article on ESPN caught my attention where Pat Hruby went through his own personal pet peeves of every sports video game ever made.  It is amazing how good sports video games have gotten over the years, but its still not a perfect world.  At the end of the article, a software engineer laments on a recent game play experience he had, with his own game.

“The other day, I’m playing [against the Lakers], up one with 30 seconds to go,” says a basketball game developer. “The CPU fouls me, sends me to the line. Why would it do that? Play out the clock, get the ball, call timeout, take the last shot. Anyway, I make the free throws. The AI rushes the ball up the court, shoots as quickly as it can with Pau Gasol. And it’s an 18-footer. I get the ball and win.”

The developer sighs. He’s talking about his game. And it makes him crazy.

“For the past five years, we’ve set aside time to make sure the AI makes the right decisions at the end of the game. But either our engineers are stupid or our designers are stupid or I’m stupid, because we still haven’t gotten it right.”

I know the feeling.  Perfection takes time and a little luck along the way.

Will SMS go the way of the Dodo Bird?

A post on Silicon Alley two days ago regarding AT&T’s different iPhone plans caught my attention.  Dan Frommer, writes that AT&T is “screwing its customers by not offering a text message plan in between their 200/$5 and 1500/$15.”  But this is not a problem since there will be “a handful of instant messaging apps” released on the 11th.

The iPhone which, without doubt, has moved the ball down the field as far as smartphones are concerned, I believe is about to change the way all of us do real time synchronous communication via our mobile device.  Since most if not all people will have unlimited data with the iPhone, it makes more sense to use a messaging client rather than pay per SMS.  Messaging clients bring with it, presence, rich-text messages, user customization, such as status, avatars, etc, a familiar experience, and most importantly the ability to do advanced features like photo sharing and file transfer, both of which cannot be done via MMS since it is not supported on the iPhone right now.

SMS is not going away over night, but the iPhone will make it more attractive to NOT use SMS because the IM clients for the phone will be very good.  I am looking forward to seeing what RIM and Android can churn out to keep up.  As I wrote yesterday, here at AOL, we have a very nice AIM client for the Windows Mobile Platform.

Op-Ed On Filtering Content Based on Firefox/IE Plugins or Bandwidth

Lately there have been an abundance of stories on the web describing how content providers and access points to the web will begin to control or filter content based on plugins you may have installed for your web browser, or if you are a bandwidth hog.

This got me wondering if we are headed to a time where the web becomes pay-per-view? If hulu.com or other sites stop allowing me to view content unless I remove AdBlock, a plugin for Firefox, this is understandable due to the fact that hulu.com gets their revenue from advertisements. If Comcast determines that I am using too much bandwidth because I am downloading HD Movies legally via my Apple TV, does that make me an abuser of their internet pipes?

I wonder if my Verizon FIOS connection will continue to be all you can eat a year from now, and will it or the websites I visit let me view the content on those sites if I have adblock installed?