Appsterdam Guru Sessions

By Mike / On / In Appsterdam

On Thursday, July 28, we launch yet another piece of the World’s Most Advanced Infrastructure for App Makers: Appsterdam Guru Sessions. These in-depth, hands-on workshops are the best way to refresh your knowledge and master new concepts.

Our first Appsterdam Guru Session will be on Test-Driven Development, and is hosted by Eloy Durán and Manfred Stienstra of Fingertips Design and Development. These are the awesome folks who contributed the new member and classified sections to the Appsterdamrs website.

Space is being provided by our good friends at SourceTag, who also provide the space for our Weekly Wednesday Lunchtime Lectures, at their office at Vijzelstraat 20.

The four-hour workshop will teach the meta-topic of Test-Driven Development, illustrated in Objective-C and MacRuby. If you don’t have Objective-C experience, or don’t even have a Mac, no problem—you will be paired up with someone who does.

Doors open at 12:00, and you’ll have an hour to settle in with a light lunch. The workshop ends at 17:00, whereupon you, head crammed full of knowledge, will wind down with beer and pizza.

Admission is cheap as hell at €20 a seat, but spaces are limited, so you need to RSVP immediately.

Food and drinks are provided by Apps for Noord Holland, which is the latest contest awarding cash prizes for apps using open data. I still can’t wrap my head around that. Open data is crude oil, money just laying there waiting to be made. Then they pay you to use it. Haven for App Makers indeed.

One more thing: if there’s interest, there’s talk of doing the workshop again later, but from an Android perspective.


By Mike / On / In Technology

In my last post I suggested that one opportunity presented by the American Patent War would be for Europe to develop a new app platform that would be out of reach of Silicon Valley’s technology tax.

That got me thinking about what my dream platform would look like. I imagine something that belongs to the community, built and controlled by App Makers themselves. Something that combines the best of existing platforms, but learns from their mistakes, and improves upon them.

Obviously we want the platform to be open, but we also see value in Apple’s strict controls on quality. I think the solution to this is to allow developers to sell directly to users, while also creating an App Shop with strict quality controls to make it easy for users to find the best apps.

Indeed, I think the most powerful tool a platform provider has is its seal of approval. Right now that comes in the form of being featured on the App Store, App Marketplace, or what have you. But that could also just be a seal.

On the hardware side we pretty much just want the iPad. Apple could provide that hardware. The EU could require them to allow third-party operating systems on their hardware. Monkies could fly out of my butt.

As much as I hate to say something like this, Apple doesn’t actually make iPads, as Samsung has demonstrated. We either commission a really nice piece of hardware, or we just make the thing hardware agnostic, using strict specifications to stay out of fractured hell.

I’m sure a lot of people will fixate on the hardware. I’m not trying to start a flame war here, but I don’t think hardware is the biggest issue. Look at the success of the Game Boy over the superior Game Gear, Lynx, and others. The platform that wins is the platform that has the apps.

How do we program the thing? Ideally we don’t choose one language, but make it easy to expand to any language, perhaps by compiling to a common meta-language, such as C. That way the nerds don’t have to fight over their favorites.

That would also make the Europad the ideal platform for exploring new programming paradigms, like graphical programming for kids—what Smalltalk and Cocoa could have been.

Tell me about your dream platform.

Rotten to the Core

By Mike / On / In Technology

Much has been made of Lodsys, and we have heaped scorn upon them. But Lodsys is nothing but a container for scorn, a shield in East Texas, one shell in a game of shells designed to distract us from the real villain—Silicon Valley itself.

At the core of a network of thousands of patent trolls lies the biggest troll of all, a protection racket called Intellectual Ventures. If you’d like to know more about Intellectual Ventures and their relationship with Lodsys and other trolls, I recommend the latest edition of This American Life, who did a story on the subject.

The story was familiar, but the conclusion was novel—Intellectual Ventures is a Silicon Valley startup, funded by venture capitalists who are expecting massive returns, which are only possible by squeezing as many revenue streams as possible.

One thing you have to know about the Valley is that, underneath its non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements, it is completely incestuous. The same investors, the same funds, the same companies come up with their finger in the same pies again and again and again.

That means that when IV and their horde of hypodermic parasites land on other Valley companies, the licensing fees are just moving money around between the same people. The only real revenue is from Valley outsiders—indies and foreigners. You know, the ones they laugh at.

When you follow the money all the way through the complex tunnels of financial and legal confusion, you end up at the Valley itself. This whole patent war is really just a huge anti-competitive play that the Valley has made, intentionally or not, to screw the rest of the technology world.

A Silicon Valley refugee such as myself, who has fled to a jurisdiction with a saner patent system, finds himself stuck, because all the serious platforms are based in or around the Valley.

Even if a European company makes apps to sell in Europe, they still have to go through a Valley company, making them potential victims of this whole scam. The EU is going to need to step in to protect its technologists from this American madness.

There is also an opportunity here. I’ve said before that this nonsense is going to leave the US a third-world pariah in technology. Right now the calculus must be that even if they lose the App Makers to broken healthcare and immigration systems, they still control the platforms.

But for how long? Because right now the US patent system is every app platform’s major weakness. If someone were to exploit that by making a decent platform out of reach of American attorneys, I and most other developers would flock there.

Indeed, we might have no other choice.