Applications For The Masses,
By The Masses
Why Engineers Are An Endangered Species




Todd Fast
CTO, zembly.com
todd@zemb...
Propositions
 Software engineers are an increasingly endangered
 species
 Neophytes will take over their jobs
 No one will...
Agenda
 Genetic Freaks
 Trends
 Applications & Platforms
 Social Applications
 Tools
 Do We Need Engineers?




          ...
Software Engineers are Genetic Freaks
 Take a look around you; are these people normal?
 •   Above-average intelligence
 •...
Leading Question
 Normal people are not suited to software engineering
 But, what if relatively normal people could do a l...
Casual Developers
 Not “developers” as we typically define them
 • Not self-identifying as engineers
 A large majority are...
Agenda
 Genetic Freaks
 Trends
 Applications & Platforms
 Social Applications
 Tools
 Do We Need Engineers?




          ...
Technology Trends
 Platforms are at the fore
 Everything is syndicated
 Social is everywhere
 • People at the center, not ...
Social Trends
 Social computing is becoming a pillar of mass culture
 • Social features drive technology to the masses
 So...
A Confluence of Trends
 Widespread broadband connectivity
 The ability to augment Web sites and social networks with
 user...
Agenda
 Genetic Freaks
 Trends
 Applications & Platforms
 Social Applications
 Tools
 Do We Need Engineers?




          ...
Question
 How many people here build applications?




                                            October 2008 | zembly.c...
What is an Application?



     An application is a piece of
      software that helps a user
           scratch an itch.
...
What is an Application?
 Most engineers make a living writing applications for others
  • Using powerful software tools
  ...
What is a Platform?



       A platform is a piece of
        software that enables
             applications.



       ...
What is a Platform?
 Fertilizer for ecosystems of applications built upon them
 Solve common problems so that applications...
The Application Spectrum
          Platforms & Services
      Web-scale sites; Social platforms;
      Mobile platforms; 1...
The Application Spectrum
          Platforms & Services
      Web-scale sites; Social platforms;
      Mobile platforms; 1...
The Developer Spectrum
         Software Engineers
     Web-scale sites; Social platforms;
     Mobile platforms; 1st-gen ...
Agenda
 Genetic Freaks
 Trends
 Applications & Platforms
 Social Applications
 Tools
 Do We Need Engineers?




          ...
Social Applications
 Often smaller than traditional apps
 Rely on underlying platforms for significant functionality
 Ofte...
Use Cases for Social Apps
 Direct revenue                     Utility (non-revenue)
 • Monetize fun/useful apps with    • ...
Feature Syndication
 Externalization of another application's functionality into
 other locations and platforms
 • Widgets...
Two Types of Syndication
 1) Content Syndication
 • Sources
    • Content providers
    • Blogs
 • Form
    • Words
    • ...
Two Types of Syndication
 1) Content Syndication   2) Feature Syndication
 • Sources                • Sources
    • Conten...
What is an Application?



   Increasingly, applications are
      advertisements for value-
          added services.



...
What is an Application?



     Applications are ad units.




                           October 2008 | zembly.com   |   ...
Attention
 Attention is a fixed resource
 New forms of media deliver more per unit time
  • “<sigh> Kids today...”
 New fo...
Recent Innovations in Media Delivery
 Syndication of content &   Low-barrier, hub-and-
 features                   spoke p...
Agenda
 Genetic Freaks
 Trends
 Applications & Platforms
 Social Applications
 Tools
 Do We Need Engineers?




          ...
Example: Abstraction vs. Capability




                 vs.




                               October 2008 | zembly.com ...
Todd's Tool Theorems
 Three factors govern a user's ability to solve a problem
 using a tool:
                     (work t...
Example: Abstraction vs. Capability




                        vs.




More doable, less capable     Less doable, more ca...
Tools Takeaway
 Tools don't have to be complicated
 • MediaWiki (Wikipedia) is a tool for mass collaboration
 New kinds of...
Agenda
 Genetic Freaks
 Trends
 Applications & Platforms
 Social Applications
 Tools
 Do We Need Engineers?




          ...
Moving Beyond Engineers
 The scope of what is considered an app is shrinking
 • The number of apps is rising because we ha...
Propositions Revisited
 Software engineers are an increasingly endangered
 species
  • They already are, and always will b...
Propositions Revisited
 Software engineers are an increasingly endangered
 species
  • They already are, and always will b...
Propositions Revisited
 Software engineers are an increasingly endangered
 species
  • They already are, and always will b...
Do We Still Need Engineers?
 Application development model is changing
 • Opening up to a much broader audience
 Exponenti...
What is zembly?
 Cloud- and browser-based        Social programming
 social app development          • zembly is a social ...
Todd Fast
CTO, zembly.com
todd@zembly.com

SNAP Summit
10-28-2008
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Zembly: Applications for the Masses by the Masses

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Zembly: Applications for the Masses by the Masses

  1. 1. Applications For The Masses, By The Masses Why Engineers Are An Endangered Species Todd Fast CTO, zembly.com todd@zembly.com SNAP Summit 10-28-2008
  2. 2. Propositions Software engineers are an increasingly endangered species Neophytes will take over their jobs No one will mind October 2008 | zembly.com | 2
  3. 3. Agenda Genetic Freaks Trends Applications & Platforms Social Applications Tools Do We Need Engineers? October 2008 | zembly.com | 3
  4. 4. Software Engineers are Genetic Freaks Take a look around you; are these people normal? • Above-average intelligence • Above-average ability to abstract • Below-average tolerance for imprecision • Below-average fashion sense • Willing to sit in conference sessions instead of out pursuing mates Engineers are at the edge of the population curve By definition, most people are not like engineers The sooner you realize you're not normal, the easier this will be for you October 2008 | zembly.com | 4
  5. 5. Leading Question Normal people are not suited to software engineering But, what if relatively normal people could do a lot of what engineers do today? Let's call them casual developers October 2008 | zembly.com | 5
  6. 6. Casual Developers Not “developers” as we typically define them • Not self-identifying as engineers A large majority are under the age of 30 • Students are a big fraction Casually use advanced technology day-in, day-out Produce and consume information at dramatic rates Interact with others asynchronously and non-linearly Assemble personalized views of their world Increasingly entering the corporate workforce Fleshing out the next-generation Web with increasingly interactive content October 2008 | zembly.com | 6
  7. 7. Agenda Genetic Freaks Trends Applications & Platforms Social Applications Tools Do We Need Engineers? October 2008 | zembly.com | 7
  8. 8. Technology Trends Platforms are at the fore Everything is syndicated Social is everywhere • People at the center, not software Simpler is better Seemingly infinite demand for applications • Delivery can't keep up October 2008 | zembly.com | 8
  9. 9. Social Trends Social computing is becoming a pillar of mass culture • Social features drive technology to the masses Software increasingly mediates real-world relationships App development merging with app usage merging with content creation merging with content consumption merging with culture • Apps are a way of life • “The medium is the message.” - Marshall McLuhan October 2008 | zembly.com | 9
  10. 10. A Confluence of Trends Widespread broadband connectivity The ability to augment Web sites and social networks with user-defined functionality A ever-growing supply of interesting Web APIs A mass market of technically-savvy people who are • Eager to express themselves and contribute • Extremely familiar with technology • Steeped in the conventions of social computing • Feel constrained by delivery of traditional technologies Social networks that provide massive distribution channels A presumption that social software is an end in itself October 2008 | zembly.com | 10
  11. 11. Agenda Genetic Freaks Trends Applications & Platforms Social Applications Tools Do We Need Engineers? October 2008 | zembly.com | 11
  12. 12. Question How many people here build applications? October 2008 | zembly.com | 12
  13. 13. What is an Application? An application is a piece of software that helps a user scratch an itch. October 2008 | zembly.com | 13
  14. 14. What is an Application? Most engineers make a living writing applications for others • Using powerful software tools • Using expertise accumulated over years Traditional perspective of “application” • Solve other people's use cases • Are big and take significant resources to develop • Live a long time • Only highly skilled experts can create them But, applications come in all sizes and shapes • Large: SAP, Amazon.com • Small: UNIX shell scripts, widgets The scope of what is considered an application is shrinking • If it helps a user with a task, it can be considered an app Small apps rely heavily on platforms October 2008 | zembly.com | 14
  15. 15. What is a Platform? A platform is a piece of software that enables applications. October 2008 | zembly.com | 15
  16. 16. What is a Platform? Fertilizer for ecosystems of applications built upon them Solve common problems so that applications don't have to Expose facilities (e.g. APIs) that make writing applications easier As a rule, applications enrich the platforms they run on • Platforms need applications, and applications need platforms Platforms are more than the sum of their parts • Crowdsourcing enriches platforms in ways that the original developers didn't imagine, much less have time to do • Looks a lot like the open source model October 2008 | zembly.com | 16
  17. 17. The Application Spectrum Platforms & Services Web-scale sites; Social platforms; Mobile platforms; 1st-gen Web APIs Traditional Apps Destination sites; Enterprise; RIAs; Desktop; Mobile Non-Traditional Apps Widgets; Social apps; Situational apps; Syndicated functionality; 2nd-gen Web APIs (microservices) October 2008 | zembly.com | 17
  18. 18. The Application Spectrum Platforms & Services Web-scale sites; Social platforms; Mobile platforms; 1st-gen Web APIs Traditional Apps Destination sites; Enterprise; RIAs; Desktop; Mobile Non-Traditional Apps Widgets; Social apps; Situational apps; Syndicated functionality; 2nd-gen Web APIs (microservices) Explosive growth! October 2008 | zembly.com | 18
  19. 19. The Developer Spectrum Software Engineers Web-scale sites; Social platforms; Mobile platforms; 1st-gen Web APIs Traditional App Developers Destination sites; Enterprise; RIAs; Desktop; Mobile Non-Traditional Developers Widgets; Social apps; Situational apps; Syndicated functionality; 2nd-gen Web APIs (microservices) October 2008 | zembly.com | 19
  20. 20. Agenda Genetic Freaks Trends Applications & Platforms Social Applications Tools Do We Need Engineers? October 2008 | zembly.com | 20
  21. 21. Social Applications Often smaller than traditional apps Rely on underlying platforms for significant functionality Often written quickly, using basic tools Often developed by non-engineers Have the potential to scale big and reach huge numbers Can engage users in novel ways Examples • Widgets • Facebook apps • Social ads October 2008 | zembly.com | 21
  22. 22. Use Cases for Social Apps Direct revenue Utility (non-revenue) • Monetize fun/useful apps with • Build something needed by ads, subscriptions, paid you or others services, e-commerce Community enrichment Feature syndication • A means for deepening • Inject key features of another community ties site into other destinations For the hell of it Brand awareness / • Self-expression engagement • Social experimentation • Interactive marketing • Social advertising • Friend recommendation as an advertising strategy October 2008 | zembly.com | 22
  23. 23. Feature Syndication Externalization of another application's functionality into other locations and platforms • Widgets • APIs • It's an ad! Increasingly, app providers ask “DYWWWT” • “Do You Want Widgets With That?” Feature syndication enables ecosystems • Not always application ecosystems, though • Ecosystems are an established technique for maintaining high user engagement • If you don't have an ecosystem, you haven't reached the big time Platforms are all about the ecosystem October 2008 | zembly.com | 23
  24. 24. Two Types of Syndication 1) Content Syndication • Sources • Content providers • Blogs • Form • Words • Images • Via • RSS • Atom • Goals • Spread memes • CPMs October 2008 | zembly.com | 24
  25. 25. Two Types of Syndication 1) Content Syndication 2) Feature Syndication • Sources • Sources • Content providers • Web applications • Blogs • Web services • Form • Form • Words • Widgets • Images • Social applications • Via • Via • RSS • Platforms • Atom • APIs • Goals • Goals • Spread memes • Your site/service, • CPMs anywhere and everywhere • Value-add • User acquisition October 2008 | zembly.com | 25
  26. 26. What is an Application? Increasingly, applications are advertisements for value- added services. October 2008 | zembly.com | 26
  27. 27. What is an Application? Applications are ad units. October 2008 | zembly.com | 27
  28. 28. Attention Attention is a fixed resource New forms of media deliver more per unit time • “<sigh> Kids today...” New forms of media evolve to bypass our existing filters • For every new form of media, new means of filtering evolve Every app we make is an ad, in some form • Trying to get someone's attention • Competing for usage • Competing for awareness • Competing for attachment October 2008 | zembly.com | 28
  29. 29. Recent Innovations in Media Delivery Syndication of content & Low-barrier, hub-and- features spoke publishing • Facebook, OpenSocial • Blogosphere/RSS • iGoogle, NetVibes, • Micro-blogging Pageflakes • iPhone, Android Peer-to-peer information • Web APIs exchange • Developer ecosystems, open Social recommendations source • Viral social apps • Collaborative content creation • Micro-blogging October 2008 | zembly.com | 29
  30. 30. Agenda Genetic Freaks Trends Applications & Platforms Social Applications Tools Do We Need Engineers? October 2008 | zembly.com | 30
  31. 31. Example: Abstraction vs. Capability vs. October 2008 | zembly.com | 31
  32. 32. Todd's Tool Theorems Three factors govern a user's ability to solve a problem using a tool: (work tool does for user) (applicability to problem) doability = (difficulty of solving problem) Increasing the “doability” lets more people tackle a problem The amount that a tool abstracts away details is inversely proportional to the set of problems it can solve: (level of abstraction) (set of solvable problems) = constant October 2008 | zembly.com | 32
  33. 33. Example: Abstraction vs. Capability vs. More doable, less capable Less doable, more capable October 2008 | zembly.com | 33
  34. 34. Tools Takeaway Tools don't have to be complicated • MediaWiki (Wikipedia) is a tool for mass collaboration New kinds of application development tools (like zembly) raise the level of abstraction • Thus, more people are able to create applications Cognitive surplus can (and will) be used to build applications when “doability” reaches a critical threshold As tools for casual developers proliferate, we see applications built by casual developers proliferate October 2008 | zembly.com | 34
  35. 35. Agenda Genetic Freaks Trends Applications & Platforms Social Applications Tools Do We Need Engineers? October 2008 | zembly.com | 35
  36. 36. Moving Beyond Engineers The scope of what is considered an app is shrinking • The number of apps is rising because we have more time for each one when they are smaller More people are technically savvy and capable of self- service app creation Platforms make the job of creating apps and reaching users considerably easier Tools dramatically reduce the financial and technical complexity of building apps Social interaction is an engine of content creation October 2008 | zembly.com | 36
  37. 37. Propositions Revisited Software engineers are an increasingly endangered species • They already are, and always will be October 2008 | zembly.com | 37
  38. 38. Propositions Revisited Software engineers are an increasingly endangered species • They already are, and always will be Neophytes will take over their jobs • Engineers won't be needed to do what many are doing now: building everyday applications October 2008 | zembly.com | 38
  39. 39. Propositions Revisited Software engineers are an increasingly endangered species • They already are, and always will be Neophytes will take over their jobs • Engineers won't be needed to do what many are doing now: building everyday applications No one will mind • Because rather than building the applications themselves, engineers will be building platforms (meta-applications) so that other people can build them October 2008 | zembly.com | 39
  40. 40. Do We Still Need Engineers? Application development model is changing • Opening up to a much broader audience Exponentially more apps will be built • Extending the long tail • Using technologies that raise the level of abstraction so that novices can accomplish useful tasks • Not because there are exponentially more engineers • Because engineers are building platforms to exponentially enable others to build apps Software engineers will increasingly build platforms, not applications • The increasing pull for applications creates new economics that drive engineers to work lower in the stack Yes! October 2008 | zembly.com | 40
  41. 41. What is zembly? Cloud- and browser-based Social programming social app development • zembly is a social platform Integrated creation and A service of hosting of Sun Microsystems, Inc. • Widgets • Facebook apps Use zembly to • OpenSocial apps • Create real-world social • Meebo apps applications – not toy widgets • iPhone apps • Create social advertising campaigns • More • Crowdsource your ecosystem Cloud app development • Syndicate your site features • Tweak and modify • One-line call to web APIs community-developed assets • Bring & share your web APIs October 2008 | zembly.com | 41
  42. 42. Todd Fast CTO, zembly.com todd@zembly.com SNAP Summit 10-28-2008

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