Awasu » 2006 » February
Monday 27th February 2006 10:16 AM [Awasu News]

It's been mighty quiet here on the Awasu weblog of late and as long-time users know, this doesn't mean that we've gone on an extended cruise holiday but are instead toiling away in the dungeons working on the next release :whip:

One of the great benefits of a company blogging like this is the relationship that it helps build with your customers. You know more about me as a person than as a developer :-), that I do Aikido, play a lot of music and have spent a lot of time in Asia.

To continue on with this process, we've set up a new feed. The Awasu DevLog will post details of each new feature and bug fix as soon as they are submitted into the source code repository! So, if you've asked for something to be added to Awasu, you'll know the minute it's been done 🙂 and for the rest of you, it'll be a bit of teaser as to what to look forward to in the next release.

And, of course, it'll demonstrate that we really are working hard, even when the main weblog goes quiet, not sunning ourselves on the deck in the Caribbean.

Although in these days of global connectivity, you can never really be sure... 😎

Monday 13th February 2006 6:03 AM [General]

I don't really like blogging about technical stuff because it's, well, technical and hence boring and/or incomprehensible for a lot of people. But when somebody starts comparing the use of XML to the Garden of Eden and HTML to Man's fall from grace by eating from the Tree of Knowledge, that's just too good not to link to 🙂

Danny Ayers talks about using feed readers as a general-purpose browser, a user interface to the Semantic Web and presents a simple architecture for retrieving information from an RDF store, converting it to RSS using XSL which then makes it readable in feed readers.

This is exactly the kind of thing we had in mind when designing Awasu and you can do it right now, querying a data source that provides its information in XML, translating it into a feed using XSL and then reading it in Awasu. But this is just one instance of the more general case: using plugins, you can get information from any data source, in any format, and then read it in Awasu. RSS really is just a transport system for information.

I love the idea of calling Awasu a "browser for the Semantic Web". I'll have to figure out a way to incorporate that in the spiel somehow… 🙂

Thursday 9th February 2006 3:55 PM [General]

I just noticed that there is a world record attempt for the largest mass freefall jump planned for this weekend at the new (and still unopened) Bangkok International Airport. They’re going for a completely and utterly insane 960 falling bodies 😮

As someone who used to hurl himself out of airplanes on a regular basis (together with one of my partners in crime here at Awasu), at least until common sense prevailed, I have some idea of how completely mad this is. Having so many bodies whizzing around the sky while the formation is being built is dangerous enough in itself, but it's when people start opening their parachutes that it gets really dangerous. It has to be done in an orderly manner so that people don't start suddenly slowing down and flying into the path of people falling down from above. And then having nearly a thousand people zooming around under canopy in a small area… 😮 Check out the way cool photos and videos of their practice jumps here.

Best of luck guys!

Wednesday 8th February 2006 12:48 PM [Awasu News]

It's our third birthday! :jig:

I can't believe how quickly the past year has gone but gone it has and that means it's time for our now traditional lookback at what happened over the past 12 months. But to break another Awasu tradition, the retrospective is ready ahead of time 🙂 and you can check it out here.

Our second year was very much focused on improving Awasu's underlying engine but the past twelve months have been dedicated to putting together a UI worthy of the power underneath the hood. So lots of really nice screenshots 🙂 and it's quite amazing to see the difference between how Awasu looks now and when it took its first wobbly steps into the big bad world of RSS.

And as always, many many thanks to all the people who've helped get us here. Whether it be showing your support by purchasing Awasu, writing extensions or providing feedback, it's all gone in to make Awasu a better program.

So now we've got all the basic stuff out of the way, we're all set to start adding some really cool new features. I hinted at some of these yesterday so don't be going anywhere, 2006 is going to be a lot of fun... 😎

Tuesday 7th February 2006 3:49 PM [General]

This is why I love blogging, it's the conversation 🙂

It all started with a post on Paolo Valdemarin's weblog where he listed the features that would be in his ideal feed reader. I posted a comment pointing out Awasu already had a lot of what he was looking for and the rest would be coming pretty soon. For completeness, here's what I said (edited slightly):

1. I want a "River of news" approach.

Yup, we've got that already.

2. I want to be able to divide my reading list in groups.

Awasu lets you organize your channels into folders but with a twist: channels can appear in more than one folder. This turns out to be quite a powerful innovation. More info here.

3. I want web access.

We are looking into providing a synchronization feature for one or more third-party online readers. This should be available fairly soon.

4. Mobile access.

You can get this working right now. Awasu has the ability to periodically scan selected channels and combine them all to a single report. You can then publish this report somewhere, usually via FTP to a web server, but it could just as easily be pushed out to a mobile phone.

5. Reading lists.

This will also be available very soon.

6. POST button next to each news item.

Channel content is presented using a template that can easily be modified. Or you can hook external tools into Awasu's menus for easy access. More info here and here.

Then, Danny Ayers chimes in with his own take on it all.

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that extending (human-readable) content-oriented approach is the quickest path to a more generalised data-oriented (i.e. Semantic) web.

This is what we've been saying since the very beginning! 🙂

RSS [is] not going to be all that important in itself. ... [It is] simply going to be the first step along the way to something much bigger. ... All of a sudden, [people] are seeing the potential that XML-based computer-to-computer communication offers and are starting to demand politely ask for it. And so the use of XML-based communications is going to explode. Dare Obasanjo had it right when he said that "Using XML syndication is an evolution in the way people interact with content on the web."

But the most important bit is this:

One key aspect of Awasu’s technology is its plugin architecture that lets you do whatever you want with the information that is coming in.

I've seen a lot of tech people getting excited about RSS for its own sake – computer-to-computer communication, using XML! w00t! – but without really thinking about how to make it useful to the general user. So we now have a myriad of applications that blindly pull down gigabytes of feed content, podcasts, whatever, but don't know what to do with it and so just dump present it all to the user for them to figure out. Awasu has always been about letting you do something useful with the information, from channel plugins that let you retrieve the information you're interested in from any data source, to channel hooks that let you analyze the data as it comes in and respond to it, to channel reports that let you extract information from Awasu's archive, edit and republish it.

As an example, I think Danny has things the wrong way around when he responds to Paolo's point 4.

Mobile access (4) - yep, definitely. My current Wind connection rates are a bit too expensive to use for regular browsing, but such provision could be very useful for things like notification (”server’s still up”).

I certainly don't want to be continually notified that the "server's still up", I want to know when it's gone down! This is exactly the kind of thing Awasu is designed for – it can monitor incoming data from the server and be instructed to notify someone if it sees something wrong.

The zinger is Danny's extra feature request:

7) increased used of explicit metadata - there’s a lot of info available from tags, cross-linking, social relationships (e.g. through XFN/FOAF profiles) that still isn’t be exploited

This ties in perfectly with Awasu's design principle of letting you manage your information the way you want to. This functionality has already been designed into Awasu's feed engine and is active and running today. Right now, it only handles standard RSS/Atom metadata like <author> or <atom:created> but it's just a matter of adding a UI to let the user define and manage their own custom metadata. The potential of this is really exciting, being able to extract custom (i.e. non-RSS/Atom) XML tags out of a feed and mapping them to your taxonomy of metadata and then being able to use it in search requests, embed it into reports, etc., now that's something worth w00t'ing about! 🙂

Danny closes his post with this:

Syndication is a useful application of the web, but at this point in time a whole lot of systems are being developed without taking advantage of the Web of Data and the Web as Platform. Blog content is not the only fruit.

I'm having a bit of an email conversation right now with one of our users about the future of Awasu and one of the things I said to him was this:

Just as the web started out as a bunch of static pages but is now changing into the more interactive "Web 2.0", RSS will expand from being just a publishing mechanism to a more mature and powerful means of transporting information around. It's just a stepping stone towards a more ubiquitous computer-to-computer communication using XML.

Can't wait 😎