OpenSync Interview – syncing on the free desktop

Friday, May 19, 2006

This interview intends to provide some insight into OpenSync, an upcoming free unified data synchronization solution for free software desktops such as KDE, commonly used as part of the GNU/Linux operating system.

Hi Cornelius, Armin and Tobias. As you are now getting close to version 1.0 of OpenSync, which is expected to become the new synchronisation framework for KDE and other free desktops, we are quite interested in the merits it can provide for KDE users and for developers, as well as for the Open Source Community as a whole. So there’s one key-question before I move deeper into the details of OpenSync:

What does OpenSync accomplish, that no one did before?

Cornelius:

First of all it does its job of synchronizing data like addressbooks and calendars between desktop applications and mobile devices like PDAs and cell phones.
But the new thing about OpenSync is that it isn’t tied to a particular device or a specific platform. It provides an extensible and modular framework that is easy to adopt for application developers and people implementing support for syncing with mobile devices.
OpenSync is also independent of the desktop platform. It will be the common syncing backend for at least KDE and GNOME and other projects are likely to join. That means that the free desktop will have one common syncing solution. This is something really new.

How do the end-users profit from using synching solutions that interface with OpenSync as framework?

Cornelius:

First, the users will be able to actually synchronize all their data. By using one common framework there won’t be any “missing links”, where one application can sync one set of devices and another application a different one. With OpenSync all applications can sync all devices.
Second, the users will get a consistent and common user interface for syncing across all applications and devices. This will be much simpler to use than the current incoherent collection of syncing programs you need if you have more than the very basic needs.

How does OpenSync help developers with coding?

Cornelius:

It’s a very flexible and well-designed framework that makes it quite easy for developers to add support for new devices and new types of data. It’s also very easy to add support for OpenSync to applications.
The big achievement of OpenSync is that it hides all the gory details of syncing from the developers who work on applications and device support. That makes it possible for the developers to concentrate on their area of expertise without having to care what’s going on behind the scenes.
I have written quite a lot of synchronization code in the past. Trust me, it’s much better, if someone just takes care of it for you, and that’s what OpenSync does.

Tobias:

Another point to mention is the python wrapper for opensync, so you are not bound to C or C++, but can develop plugins in a high level scripting language.

Why should producers of portable devices get involved with your team?

Cornelius:

OpenSync will be the one common syncing solution for the free desktop. That means there is a single point of contact for device manufacturers who want to add support for their devices. That’s much more feasible than addressing all the different applications and solutions we had before. With OpenSync it hopefully will become interesting for manufacturers to officially support Linux for their devices.

Do you also plan to support applications of OpenSync in proprietary systems like OSX and Windows?

Cornelius:

OpenSync is designed to be cross-platform, so it is able to run on other systems like Windows. How well this works is always a question of people actually using and developing for this system. As far as I know there isn’t a real Windows community around OpenSync yet. But the technical foundation is there, so if there is somebody interested in working on a unified syncing solution on Windows, everybody is welcome to join the project.

What does your synchronisation framework do for KDE and for KitchenSync in particular?

Cornelius:

OpenSync replaces the KDE-specific synchronization frameworks we had before. Even in KDE we had several separate syncing implementations and with OpenSync we can get replace them with a common framework. We had a more generic syncing solution in KDE under development. This was quite similar from a design point of view to OpenSync, but it never got to the level of maturity we would have needed, because of lack of resources. As OpenSync fills this gap we are happy to be able to remove our old code and now concentrate on our core business.

What was your personal reason for getting involved with OpenSync?

Cornelius:

I wrote a lot of synchronization code in the past, which mainly came from the time where I was maintaining KOrganizer and working on KAddressBook. But this always was driven by necessity and not passion. I wanted to have all my calendar and contact data in one place, but my main objective was to work on the applications and user interfaces handling the data and not on the underlying code synchronizing the data.
So when the OpenSync project was created I was very interested. At GUADEC in Stuttgart I met with Armin, the maintainer of OpenSync, and we talked about integrating OpenSync with KDE. Everything seemed to fit together quite well, so at Linuxtag the same year we had another meeting with some more KDE people. In the end we agreed to go with OpenSync and a couple of weeks later we met again in Nuernberg for three days of hacking and created the KDE frontend for OpenSync. In retrospect it was a very pleasant and straightforward process to get where we are now.

Armin:

My reason to get involved (or better to start) OpenSync was my involvement with its predecessor Multisync. I am working as a system administrator for a small consulting company and so I saw some problems when trying to find a synchronization solution for Linux.
At that point I joined the Multisync project to implement some plugins that I thought would be nice to have. After some time I became the maintainer of the project. But I was unhappy with some technical aspects of the project, especially the tight coupling between the syncing logic and the GUI, its dependencies on GNOME libraries and its lack of flexibility.

Tobias:

Well, I have been a KDE PIM developer for several years now, so there was no way around getting in touch with synchronization and KitchenSync. Although I liked the idea of KitchenSync, I hated the code and the user interface […]. So when we discussed to switch to OpenSync and reimplementing the user interface, I volunteered immediately.

Can you tell us a bit about your further plans and ideas?

Cornelius:

The next thing will be the 1.0 release of OpenSync. We will release KitchenSync as frontend in parallel.

Armin:

There are of course a lot of things on my todo and my wishlist for opensync. For the near future the most important step is the 1.0 release, of course, where we still have some missing features in OpenSync as well as in the plugins.
One thing I would really like to see is a thunderbird plugin for OpenSync. I use thunderbird personally and would really like to keep my contacts up to date with my cellular, but I was not yet able to find the time to implement it.

Tobias:

One thing that would really rock in future versions of OpenSync is an automatic hardware detection mechanism, so when you plugin your Palm or switch on your bluetooth device, OpenSync will create a synchronization group automatically and ask the user to start syncing. To bring OpenSync to the level of _The Syncing Solution [tm]_ we must reduce the necessary configuration to a minimum.

What was the most dire problem you had to face when creating OpenSync and how did you face it?

Cornelius:

Fortunately the problems which I personally would consider to be dire are solved by the implementation of OpenSync which is well hidden from the outside world and [they are] an area I didn’t work on 😉

Armin:

I guess that I am the right person to answer this question then 🙂
The most complicated part of OpenSync is definitely the format conversion, which is responsible for converting the format of one device to the format that another device understands.
There are a lot of subsystems in this format conversion that make it so complex, like conversion path searching, comparing items, detection of mime types and last but not least the conversion itself. So this was a hard piece of work.

What was the greatest moment for you?

Cornelius:

I think the greatest moment was when, after three days of concentrated hacking, we had a first working version of the KDE frontend for OpenSync. This was at meeting at the SUSE offices in Nuernberg and we were able to successfully do a small presentation and demo to a group of interested SUSE people.

Armin:

I don’t remember a distinct “greatest moment”. But what is a really great feeling is to see that a project catches on, that other people get involved, use the code you have written and improve it in ways that you haven’t thought of initially.

Tobias:

Hmm, also hacking on OpenSync/KitcheSync is much fun in general, the greatest moment was when the new KitchenSync frontend synced two directories via OpenSync the first time. But it was also cool when we managed to get the IrMC plugin working again after porting it to OpenSync.

As we now know the worst problem you faced and your greatest moment, the only one missing is: What was your weirdest experience while working on OpenSync?

Cornelius:

Not directly related to OpenSync, but pretty weird was meeting a co-worker at the Amsterdam airport when returning from the last OpenSync meeting. I don’t know how high the chance is to meet somebody you know on a big random airport not related at all to the places where you or the other person live, but it was quite surprising.

Tobias:

Since my favorite language is C++, I was always confused how people can use plain C for such a project, half the time your are busy with writing code for allocating/freeing memory areas. Nevertheless Armin did a great job and he is always a help for solving strange C problems 🙂

Now I’d like to move on to some more specific questions about current and planned abilities of OpenSync. As first, I’ve got a personal one:

I have an old iPod sitting around here. Can I or will I be able to use a program utilizing OpenSync to synchronize my calendars, contacts and music to it?

Cornelius:

I’m not aware of any iPod support for OpenSync up to now, but if it doesn’t exist yet, why not write it? OpenSync makes this easy. This is a chance for everybody with the personal desire to sync one device or another to get involved.

Armin:

I dont think that there is iPod support yet for OpenSync. But it would definitely be possible to use OpenSync for this task. So if someone would like to implement an iPod plugin, I would be glad to help 🙂

Which other devices do you already support?

Cornelius:

At this time, OpenSync supports Palms, SyncML and IrMC capable devices.

Which programs already implement OpenSync and where can we check back to find new additions?

Cornelius:

On the application side there is support for Evolution [GNOME] and Kontact with KitchenSync [KDE] on the frontend side and the backend side and some more. I expect that further applications will adopt OpenSync once the 1.0 version is released.

Armin:

Besides kitchensync there already are a command line tool and a port of the multisync GUI. Aside from the GUIs, I would really like to see OpenSync being used in other applications as well. One possibility for example would to be integrate OpenSync into Evolution to give users the possibility to synchronize their devices directly from this application. News can generally be found on the OpenSync web site www.opensync.org.

It is time to give the developers something to devour, too. I’ll keep this as a short twice-fold technical dive before coming to the takeoff question, even though I’m sure there’s information for a double-volume book on technical subleties.

As first dive: How did you integrate OpenSync in KitchenSync, viewed from the coding side?

Cornelius:

OpenSync provides a C interface. We wrapped this with a small C++ library and put KitchenSync on top. Due to the object oriented nature of the OpenSync interfaces this was quite easy.
Recently I also started to write a D-Bus frontend for OpenSync. This also is a nice way to integrate OpenSync which provides a wide variety of options regarding programming languages and system configurations.

And for the second, deeper dive:

Can you give us a quick outline of those inner workings of OpenSync, from the developers view, which make OpenSync especially viable for application in several different desktop environments?

Cornelius:

That’s really a question for Armin. For those who are interested I would recommend to have a look at the OpenSync website. There is a nice white paper about the internal structure and functionality of OpenSync.

Armin:

OpenSync consists of several parts:
First there is the plugin API which defines what functions a plugin has to implement so that OpenSync can dlopen() it. There are 2 types of plugins:
A sync plugin which can synchronize a certain device or application and which provides functions for the initialization, handling the connection to a device and reading and writing items. Then there is a format plugin which defines a format and how to convert, compare and detect it.
The next part is a set of helper functions which are provided to ease to programming of synchronization plugins. These helper functions include things like handling plugin config files, HashTables which can be used to detect changes in sets of items, functions to detect when a resync of devices is necessary etc.
The syncing logic itself resides in the sync engine, which is a separate part. The sync engine is responsible for deciding when to call the connect function of a plugin, when to read or write from it. The engine also takes care of invoking the format conversion functions so that each plugin gets the items in its required format.
If you want more information and details about the inner workings of OpenSync, you should really visit the opensync.org website or ask its developers.

To add some more spice for those of our readers, whose interest you just managed to spawn (or to skyrocket), please tell us where they can get more information on the OpenSync Framework, how they can best meet and help you and how they can help improving sync-support for KDE by helping OpenSync.

Cornelius:

Again, the OpenSync web site is the right source for information. Regarding the KDE side, the kde-pim@kde.org mailing list is probably the right address. At the moment the most important help would be everything which gets the OpenSync 1.0 release done.
[And even though] I already said it, it can’t be repeated too often: OpenSync will be the one unified syncing solution for the free desktop. Cross-device, cross-platform, cross-desktop.
It’s the first time I feel well when thinking about syncing 😉.

Armin:

Regarding OpenSync, the best places to ask would be the opensync mailing lists at sourceforge or the #opensync irc channel on the freenode.net servers.
There are always a lot of things where we could need a helping hand and where we would be really glad to get some help. So everyone who is interested in OpenSync is welcome to join.

Many thanks for your time!

Cornelius:

Thanks for doing the interview. It’s always fun to talk about OpenSync, because it’s really the right thing.

Armin:

Thank you for taking your time and doing this interview. I really appreciate your help!

Tobias:

Thanks for your work. Publication and marketing is something that is really missing in the open source community. We have nice software but nobody knows 😉

Further Information on OpenSync can be found on the OpenSync Website: www.opensync.org


This Interview was done by Arne Babenhauserheide in April 2006 via e-mail and KOffice on behalf of himself, the OpenSource Community, SpreadKDE.org and the Dot (dot.kde.org).It was first published on the Dot and is licensed under the cc-attribution-sharealike-license.A pdf-version with pictures can be found at opensync-interview.pdf (OpenDocument version: opensync-interview.odt)

This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.

Filmmaker releases trailer for open source feature film

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

New filmmaker Solomon Rothman has released a trailer for his upcoming full length open source film called ‘Boy Who Never Slept.’ Both the movie and the trailer are offered under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 license. The movie is set to be released at the end of May.

The film centers on the life of an insomniac writer who meets a teenage girl online, and a friendship that grows into an unlikely love story wrapped in harsh reality. The movie deals with various issues, including the romanticization of love, age-related issues in relationships, like statuatory rape (he’s 23, and she’s 16), and the idea of love in the online realm.

Rothman, a writer, amateur filmmaker and web designer, lives in the Los Angeles Area. He wrote, directed and produced the movie with Aurora Mae, his girlfriend and partner. Producing the movie for $200 while they were in college, they used friends as actors and later sold the camera on eBay to recoup the expense.

Rothman has spoken about the power of the internet as a distribution source for movies and has said “I believe it’s possible that this movie I shot with no budget and released online for free could potentially reach as many viewers as a major theatrical release.”

Rothman and Mae started out with the idea of creating a full-length movie that could be shared totally for free online. The film includes a custom soundtrack and script, both of which will be released open source as well.

The trailer is available on the official movie website[1] and can also be found on Google video, YouTube.com, Ifilm.com, AddictedClips.com, and the Internet Movie Archives.

Wikinews interviews Brian Moore, Socialist Party USA presidential candidate

Sunday, March 30, 2008

While nearly all cover of the 2008 Presidential election has focused on the Democratic and Republican candidates, the race for the White House also includes independents and third party candidates. These parties represent a variety of views that may not be acknowledged by the major party platforms.

As a non-partisan news source, Wikinews has impartially reached out to these candidates, who are looking to become the 43rd person elected to serve their nation from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Wikinews’ own Patrick Mannion corresponded with the Socialist Party USA nominee and candidate, Brian Moore via e-mail.

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Wikimania 2007 begins in Taipei, Taiwan

Friday, August 3, 2007

This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

The third annual conference for users of the Wikimedia Foundation projects, Wikimania, began today in Taipei, Taiwan. Over 1,100 people registered from 98 countries. Fifty-five percent of attendees were from Taiwan. There are over 100 presenters holding a total of 65 sessions.

Florence Devouard, Chair of the Wikimedia Foundation, in the opening to the conference, reviewed what has been accomplished in the past year. Among the accomplishments are the creation of the Wikimedia Taiwan chapter, and the creation of Wikiversity. Florence also said that the Russian Wikipedia was the fastest growing Wikipedia, with the Chinese Wikipedia coming second. There still is huge disparity in language though, with projects such as the Afrikaans Wikipedia having 6 million native speakers, but less than 8,000 articles

An estimation of the current total assets of the foundation was stated to be around $3.5 million. Florence Devouard also discussed the need for scalable sources of revenue for the foundation. These sources, she stressed, must be consistent with the foundation’s non profit status, with the open/free content movement and with community wishes. Potential revenue sources include the continued sale of live datafeeds, a print on demand service, board games, puzzles and other merchandising. She stated that the foundation will not sell DVDs or paper versions due to legal risks.

Also, Jimmy Wales, in the press conference, mentioned that in mainland China, lots of media or information is still unfree or not to be unveiled, such as Baido.com, so that may restrict the development or providing of freely contents and correct information, and is surely not a good example. And then he’ll come to visit mainland China to solve those problems of freely contents developments.

Other speakers included Benjamin Mako Hill discussing the definition of free culture, Kat Walsh on Wikimedia foundation use of free content, Samuel Klein on the one laptop per child and addressing systemic bias, Jimmy Wales, Angela Beesley and Gil Penchina on Wikia.

Canada’s Parkdale—High Park (Ward 13) city council candidates speak

This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

Monday, October 30, 2006

On November 13, Torontoians will be heading to the polls to vote for their ward’s councillor and for mayor. Among Toronto’s ridings is Parkdale—High Park (Ward 13). Two candidates responded to Wikinews’ requests for an interview. This ward’s candidates include Linda Coltman, David Garrick, Greg Hamara, Aleksander Oniszczak, Bill Saundercook (incumbent), and Frances Wdowczyk.

For more information on the election, read Toronto municipal election, 2006.

Actor Jerry Orbach dead at age 69

Friday, December 31, 2004

New York City – Actor Jerry Orbach died in his home in Manhattan at age 69. Orbach was a staple of American cinema, stage and television, with his most recent role being in the NBC police drama “Law and Order.”

Orbach is survived by his wife of 25 years, Elaine Cancilla, and his two sons Anthony and Christopher.

Orbach was born in the tough Bronx borough of New York City in 1935 to a family of entertainers. His father Leon Orbach was an vaudeville actor and his mother Emily Orbach was a radio singer and greeting card writer.

The family moved often to keep up with travelling Vaudeville acts, but eventually settled in Waukegan Illinois where Orbach played football at the local high school. After graduation, Orbach got a summer job at the Chevy Chase Country Club in Wheeling doing odd jobs ranging from stagecraft to small acting parts in plays.

He then studied drama at the University of Illinois before transferring to Northwestern where he studied the Stanislavsky Method of drama acting. In 1955, Orbach dropped out of college and moved to New York City where he got a job as an understudy in The Threepenny Opera.

Orbach continued to work in theater, eventually earning roles in broadway musicals, but by 1961 had grown dissatisfied with being typecast as a musical actor. He tried briefly to break into film without success, and eventually returned to broadway where he earned numerous accolades for his roles in such musicals as “Guys and Dolls” and “Chicago“.

Orbach finally broke into television in the 1980s as a recurring character in shows such as the mystery-drama “Murder She Wrote” and the hit sitcom “Golden Girls“.

He earned the lead role as the title character in his own short-lived series “The Law and Harry McGraw”, a spinoff of “Murder She Wrote”. Orbach also scored key roles in a few Hollywood films, including the action thriller “F/X”, and the dance-musical hit “Dirty Dancing”, but continued to find his mainstay in television crime dramas.

In 1990, he picked up a role in the new NBC crime drama “Law and Order” as the acerbic-witted Lennie Briscoe, a role which soon become a regular job. Orbach continued in this role in addition to movie roles and occasional musical appearances until his death this last week.

Orbach was diagnosed with Prostate cancer in Spring of 2004, a fact he kept private until November when he checked into New York’s Memorial Sloan-Ketting Cancer Center for treatment. In spite of the aggressive nature of the treatment, he died on the evening of December 28.

FC Barcelona defeats Sevilla FC 5-4 to win UEFA Super Cup 2015

Saturday, August 15, 2015

On Wednesday, Catalonia-based football club FC Barcelona defeated Seville-based football club Sevilla 5–4 to win the 2015 UEFA Super Cup. The match was held in Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena in the city of Tbilisi, Georgia. Pedro, who may leave for Manchester United, scored the winning goal of the match in the 115th minute. This was the fifth UEFA Super cup won by Barcelona.

Barcelona had stronger possession of the ball in front of Sevilla. The match saw nine yellow cards, four for Barcelona players and five for Sevilla players. A total of 41 fouls were committed in the match. A total of nine goals were scored in the match, with the first goal scored in the opening minutes of the game.

Barcelona defender Mascherano committed a foul in the 2nd minute and thus Sevilla got a free kick. Banega converted the free kick into goal in the 3rd minute of the game. Minutes later, Sevilla’s Krychowiak committed a foul and this early lead was soon equalised as Barcelona forward Lionel Messi scored a similar style free kick.

Krychowiak received a yellow card in the 14th minute and Barca were awarded another free kick for Banega’s foul on Rakiti?. Leo Messi converted this free kick into a goal, giving the lead to Barcelona after 16 minutes of game play. This was Messi’s 36th goal in 37 games in 2015.

Minutes before half time, Luis Suárez assisted Rafinha and the Brazilian tripled the lead for the Catalans. First half ended with scoreline 3–1 with only one booking.

Within ten minutes of the second half, Suárez scored the fourth goal in the 52nd making it a one-sided match. Five minutes later, Reyes scored a close ranged shot making the score 4–2. In the 63rd minute, Andrés Iniesta was substituted off for Sergi Roberto. Iniesta made his 550th appearance for Barcelona. After this substitution, the goal difference kept on dropping. In the 71st minute, Mathieu was booked for a foul on Vitolo. Referee awarded a penalty kick for Sevilla. Gameiro perfectly converted it into a goal making it 4–3.

Within the next ten minutes, Sevilla equalised with Barcelona. Konoplyanka scored an easy tap-in to bring Sevilla from 4–1 to 4–4. Within half an hour, the one-sided match changed into a tensed match.

Coke in the 87th minute and Banega in the 90+2 minute were booked for committing foul on Suárez. The game ended in 4–4. And thus it was extended to additional time.

Additional time saw five more yellow cards. Pedro was substituted in for Mascherano in the 93rd minute and in the next minute, he received a yellow card for foul on Vitolo. Barcelona won a free kick in the dying minutes of the game. Messi’s kick became an indirect assist to Pedro who netted it in the top corner. It was the winning goal of the game.

This was Pedro’s 99th goal in the Catalonia jersey. By this victory, Barcelona joined A.C. Milan as the most successful club. Both the teams have earned the title five times. This trophy was Messi’s and Iniesta’s 25th trophy with Barcelona. Messi was awarded Man of the match.After the match, he said, “We are delighted to start the season with this win, but it was tough […] The most important thing was to win the Super Cup to start well. Now we think of the Spanish Super Cup against Athletic Club”.

On Tuesday, Pedro was asked if he was leaving Barcelona. He replied “The answer is no. But it is a difficult, complicated situation. When you know you may leave it is difficult.” Pedro said it wan’t about money but the playing time. Pedro said “The truth is that I had a good chance to play. The coach has decided not to count on me. I don’t know, I don’t know if I will continue here […] Manchester? Yes, there are nice challenges on all sides. Today I’m here, and I’m happy […] And if I go, I will go with my head held high having always given everything.”


August 11, 2015GET (UTC+4)
Barcelona 5–4 (a.e.t.) Sevilla Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena, Tbilisi, Georgia Referee: Willie Collum (Scotland)
Messi 7′, 16’Rafinha 44’Suárez 52’Pedro 115′ Banega 3’Reyes 57’Gameiro 72′ (pen.)Konoplyanka 81′
  • Match Lineup
  • Match Statistics
FC Barcelona

 

Sevilla FC

 

GK 1 Marc-André ter Stegen
6 Dani Alves 120′
3 Gerard Piqué
14 Javier Mascherano 93′
24 Jérémy Mathieu 71′
4 Ivan Rakiti?
5 Sergio Busquets 117′
8 Andrés Iniesta (c) 63′
10 Lionel Messi
9 Luis Suárez
12 Rafinha 78′
Substitutes:
GK 13 Claudio Bravo
15 Marc Bartra 78′
21 Adriano
20 Sergi Roberto 63′
7 Pedro 94′ 93′
29 Sandro Ramírez
31 Munir El Haddadi
Manager:
Luis Enrique
GK 13 Beto
23 Coke 87′
3 Adil Rami
4 Grzegorz Krychowiak 14′
2 Benoît Trémoulinas
7 Michael Krohn-Dehli 120′
19 Éver Banega 90+2′
10 José Antonio Reyes (c) 68′
8 Vicente Iborra 80′
20 Vitolo
9 Kévin Gameiro 80′
Substitutes:
GK 1 Sergio Rico
25 Mariano 80′
12 Gaël Kakuta
16 Luismi
17 Denis Suárez
22 Yevhen Konoplyanka 68′
11 Ciro Immobile 92′ 80′
Manager:
Unai Emery

Possession

62%
38%

  Goals

5     4

  Total Attempts

24     17

  On target

10     6

  Off target

7     6

  Blocked

7     5

  Against Woodwork

1   0

  Passes attempted

795     407

  Accuracy %

90%     83%

  Offsides

3     4

  Corners

8     4

  Fouls

20     21

  Yellow cards

4     5

Israel Journal: Is Yossi Vardi a good father to his entrepreneurial children?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wikinews reporter David Shankbone is currently, courtesy of the Israeli government and friends, visiting Israel. This is a first-hand account of his experiences and may — as a result — not fully comply with Wikinews’ neutrality policy. Please note this is a journalism experiment for Wikinews and put constructive criticism on the collaboration page.

This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Dr. Yossi Vardi is known as Israel’s ‘Father of the Entrepreneur’, and he has many children in the form of technology companies he has helped to incubate in Tel Aviv‘s booming Internet sector. At the offices of Superna, one such company, he introduced a whirlwind of presentations from his baby incubators to a group of journalists. What stuck most in my head was when Vardi said, “What is important is not the technology, but the talent.” Perhaps because he repeated this after each young Internet entrepreneur showed us his or her latest creation under Vardi’s tutelage. I had a sense of déjà vu from this mantra. A casual reader of the newspapers during the Dot.com boom will remember a glut of stories that could be called “The Rise of the Failure”; people whose technology companies had collapsed were suddenly hot commodities to start up new companies. This seemingly paradoxical thinking was talked about as new back then; but even Thomas Edison—the Father of Invention—is oft-quoted for saying, “I have not failed. I have just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.”

Vardi’s focus on encouraging his brood of talent regardless of the practicalities stuck out to me because of a recent pair of “dueling studies” The New York Times has printed. These are the sort of studies that confuse parents on how to raise their kids. The first, by Carol Dweck at Stanford University, came to the conclusion that children who are not praised for their efforts, regardless of the outcome’s success, rarely attempt more challenging and complex pursuits. According to Dweck’s study, when a child knows that they will receive praise for being right instead of for tackling difficult problems, even if they fail, they will simply elect to take on easy tasks in which they are assured of finding the solution.

Only one month earlier the Times produced another story for parents to agonize over, this time based on a study from the Brookings Institution, entitled “Are Kids Getting Too Much Praise?” Unlike Dweck’s clinical study, Brookings drew conclusions from statistical data that could be influenced by a variety of factors (since there was no clinical control). The study found American kids are far more confident that they have done well than their Korean counterparts, even when the inverse is true. The Times adds in the words of a Harvard faculty psychologist who intoned, “Self-esteem is based on real accomplishments. It’s all about letting kids shine in a realistic way.” But this is not the first time the self-esteem generation’s proponents have been criticized.

Vardi clearly would find himself encouraged by Dweck’s study, though, based upon how often he seemed to ask us to keep our eyes on the people more than the products. That’s not to say he has not found his latest ICQ, though only time—and consumers—will tell.

For a Web 2.User like myself, I was most fascinated by Fixya, a site that, like Wikipedia, exists on the free work of people with knowledge. Fixya is a tech support site where people who are having problems with equipment ask a question and it is answered by registered “experts.” These experts are the equivalent of Wikipedia’s editors: they are self-ordained purveyors of solutions. But instead of solving a mystery of knowledge a reader has in their head, these experts solve a problem related to something you have bought and do not understand. From baby cribs to cellular phones, over 500,000 products are “supported” on Fixya’s website. The Fixya business model relies upon the good will of its experts to want to help other people through the ever-expanding world of consumer appliances. But it is different from Wikipedia in two important ways. First, Fixya is for-profit. The altruistic exchange of information is somewhat dampened by the knowledge that somebody, somewhere, is profiting from whatever you give. Second, with Wikipedia it is very easy for a person to type in a few sentences about a subject on an article about the Toshiba Satellite laptop, but to answer technical problems a person is experiencing seems like a different realm. But is it? “It’s a beautiful thing. People really want to help other people,” said the presenter, who marveled at the community that has already developed on Fixya. “Another difference from Wikipedia is that we have a premium content version of the site.” Their premium site is where they envision making their money. Customers with a problem will assign a dollar amount based upon how badly they need an answer to a question, and the expert-editors of Fixya will share in the payment for the resolved issue. Like Wikipedia, reputation is paramount to Fixya’s experts. Whereas Wikipedia editors are judged by how they are perceived in the Wiki community, the amount of barnstars they receive and by the value of their contributions, Fixya’s customers rate its experts based upon the usefulness of their advice. The site is currently working on offering extended warranties with some manufacturers, although it was not clear how that would work on a site that functioned on the work of any expert.

Another collaborative effort product presented to us was YouFig, which is software designed to allow a group of people to collaborate on work product. This is not a new idea, although may web-based products have generally fallen flat. The idea is that people who are working on a multi-media project can combine efforts to create a final product. They envision their initial market to be academia, but one could see the product stretching to fields such as law, where large litigation projects with high-level of collaboration on both document creation and media presentation; in business, where software aimed at product development has generally not lived up to its promises; and in the science and engineering fields, where multi-media collaboration is quickly becoming not only the norm, but a necessity.

For the popular consumer market, Superna, whose offices hosted our meeting, demonstrated their cost-saving vision for the Smart Home (SH). Current SH systems require a large, expensive server in order to coordinate all the electronic appliances in today’s air-conditioned, lit and entertainment-saturated house. Such coordinating servers can cost upwards of US$5,000, whereas Superna’s software can turn a US$1,000 hand-held tablet PC into household remote control.

There were a few start-ups where Vardi’s fatherly mentoring seemed more at play than long-term practical business modeling. In the hot market of WiFi products, WeFi is software that will allow groups of users, such as friends, share knowledge about the location of free Internet WiFi access, and also provide codes and keys for certain hot spots, with access provided only to the trusted users within a group. The mock-up that was shown to us had a Google Maps-esque city block that had green points to the known hot spots that are available either for free (such as those owned by good Samaritans who do not secure their WiFi access) or for pay, with access information provided for that location. I saw two long-term problems: first, WiMAX, which is able to provide Internet access to people for miles within its range. There is already discussion all over the Internet as to whether this technology will eventually make WiFi obsolete, negating the need to find “hot spots” for a group of friends. Taiwan is already testing an island-wide WiMAX project. The second problem is if good Samaritans are more easily located, instead of just happened-upon, how many will keep their WiFi access free? It has already become more difficult to find people willing to contribute to free Internet. Even in Tel Aviv, and elsewhere, I have come across several secure wireless users who named their network “Fuck Off” in an in-your-face message to freeloaders.

Another child of Vardi’s that the Brookings Institution might say was over-praised for self-esteem but lacking real accomplishment is AtlasCT, although reportedly Nokia offered to pay US$8.1 million for the software, which they turned down. It is again a map-based software that allows user-generated photographs to be uploaded to personalized street maps that they can share with friends, students, colleagues or whomever else wants to view a person’s slideshow from their vacation to Paris (“Dude, go to the icon over Boulevard Montmartre and you’ll see this girl I thought was hot outside the Hard Rock Cafe!”) Aside from the idea that many people probably have little interest in looking at the photo journey of someone they know (“You can see how I traced the steps of Jesus in the Galilee“), it is also easy to imagine Google coming out with its own freeware that would instantly trump this program. Although one can see an e-classroom in architecture employing such software to allow students to take a walking tour through Rome, its desirability may be limited.

Whether Vardi is a smart parent for his encouragement, or in fact propping up laggards, is something only time will tell him as he attempts to bring these products of his children to market. The look of awe that came across each company’s representative whenever he entered the room provided the answer to the question of Who’s your daddy?

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