"I have a mind like a steel... uh... thingy." Patrick Logan's weblog.

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Sunday, February 06, 2005

In Need of a Theory?

The notion of establishing a "metaphor" in Extreme Programming is similar to programming as "building a theory" as proposed by Peter Naur.

Reading how "Microsoft officials have characterized SharePoint as 'the killer app for XML'", I am looking for a theory to emerge in the way that perhaps continuations are beginning to form a theory around web server programs and s-expressions form a theory around manipulating XML.

SharePoint is a larger concept than continuations or s-expressions. So I would expect a larger theory, but a theory nonetheless, to associate SharePoint and XML conceptually. I did not see one emerge in this coverage of Bill Gates' keynote at a Microsoft Office conference.

Gates told keynote attendees to expect Microsoft to more tightly integrate SharePoint with other Microsoft technologies and point products, going forward. He said to expect SharePoint and Active Server Pages (ASP) to "become closer," and SharePoint and SQL Server to become more entwined, as well.

Gates discussed Microsoft's quest for unified storage of all types of data, ranging from files to e-mail and emphasized that SQL Server would be the ultimate repository for storing this type of data.

As "SharePoint evolves up on the server and WinFS evolves down to the client," Microsoft will be able to realize its unified storage goal, Gates told attendees.

Gates is attempting to associate a number of disjoint concepts in this quote. This approach is something I would expect of a salesman, rather than a Chief Software Architect. An architect should be a "theory builder". I would have trouble buying into this stated direction without a better theory, or even any theory at all.

Of course this opinion could be dismissed as just more Microsoft bashing from the likes of me. But think about it, and tell me the theory that is holding all this together. Maybe I am just missing the point. Microsoft provides the dominant architectures in my computing world. I have a vested interest in them making my life easier, and so I have the desire to point out where I think they're missing the mark.

From this, I think they're missing a theory that could propel their success for another decade. As it is, I suspect they're cobbling pieces together and I am asked to take their Word for it that there is a "there" there where there should be a theory.

8 comments:

Ziv Caspi said...

To me it looks like you're expecting Bill Gates to take a bottom-up approach, where his is more of a top-down approach.


Considering that he's roll as CSA in Microsoft is to provide stretch goals for the architects to achieve, finding a worthy long-term goal is probably better suited for his position.

Patrick Logan said...

I agree Gates should be promoting a "top down" approach. Is a good "top down" approach something like...

"Make W, X, and Y fit together. Period."

or is it...

"W, X, and Y fit together to form a kind of Z".

Or maybe something else? I think what is needed and what is missing is the part that says "to form a kind of Z". What is the Z in this case? Missing.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure what your full intentions were in pointing to the ERP article.

I can say that my work has put me in close touch with Microsoft's approach to this market - I was hands on with at least 2 of the "solutions" in their stable before they were acquired by Microsoft, and havc clients who depend on those products for their day-to-day operations.

Maybe only because I was more in touch here, it helped me better understand the kind of thing Micorsoft is capable of, and move me closing to the Micorsoft bashers.

As a for example, in order to compete with the low end of the market - Intuit, etc. - they entered the market by taking a decently functional product - Great Plains - and selectively crippled it so as to not be giving away too much for too little. It would not be in the least surprisiong if taking something conceived as a whole, and selectively crippling it, would leave one with an incomprehesible mess. Guess what. It does, they know it does, and it didn't concern them.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful closing sentence there. ;-)

Patrick Logan said...

A wonderful closing sentence there. ;-)
Thanks. It kind of took me by surprise as I was typing.

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Portland, Oregon, United States
I'm usually writing from my favorite location on the planet, the pacific northwest of the u.s. I write for myself only and unless otherwise specified my posts here should not be taken as representing an official position of my employer. Contact me at my gee mail account, username patrickdlogan.