mnot’s blog

Design depends largely on constraints.” — Charles Eames

Sunday, 22 April 2007


Around the World in 24 Days

I haven’t blogged for a while because I’ve been on the road, a lot. Although I got back a while back, I’m just now catching up.

Part of working this remotely means visiting the mother ship regularly, and this was my first trip back. Because it was at the same time as a few interesting events, and since I was already on the move, I opted for a round-the-world trip ticket.

A RTW ticket is actually a pretty good deal. Starting at around US$3,500, they give you a lot of flexibility (up to fifteen stops!) if you adhere to a few rules. You can’t stop over in the same city twice, have to cross both oceans, and make at least three stops, for example. Compared to buying tickets per segment, it can really save some money, while getting a lot done.

The downside, of course, is an even greater familiarity with the produces of Boeing and Airbus. I was in the air for around 60 hours in total, all on Star Alliance (my points poison of choice, although I’m becoming increasingly unhappy with United).


First stop was Boston, via Auckland and San Francisco on Air New Zealand, then onward with United after a pause — not a stopover! — for 23 hours in SFO because the flight I wanted was full on the same day. The ANZ segments were incredible; they’ve refreshed all of their longhaul services over the last few years, and the result is incredible; great legroom, decent food, and a huge 7” personal seat-back screen — with more than 80 movies on-demand!

I was in Boston (actually Bedford) for the W3C Web of Services for Enterprise Computing Workshop. And a fair amount of snow, which seemed bizarre after being in the southern hemisphere; almost as bizarre as the happenings at the Workshop.

What a difference a year makes; about that long ago, the Web Services industry was full steam ahead with WS-this and WS-that, and the analysts were lapping it up, predicting new levels of Service-Oriented Nirvana every week.

Inside the somewhat scary halls of Mitre (where the artwork tends towards the fighter-jet-with-big-bombs variety), the vendors were adopting a “wait-and-see” attitude about Web Services vs. REST (also known as the “please let me monetise my investment for a few more years while everyone else figures it out” approach), while the analysts were openly questioning the value of what the bright sparks at the big vendors had come up with; I nearly fell over.

My favourite moment was when the representative of a fairly large consortium of Enterprise Customers stood up and said that his industry had invested hundreds of millions of dollars into SOA and WS-* and had turned their organisations around and made huge promises to their executives as a result. When he complained that it wasn’t delivering and that they were starting to feel the heat, I had to restrain myself from standing up and asking him why he had been silly enough to give an IT vendor cash before they delivered a working product. If you buy a proof-of-concept, expect beta (if not alpha) quality.

Even putting schadenfreude aside, it was really nice to see the old crowd again, with some nice conversations, insights and dinners among the snowy suburbs of Boston. BTW, If you’re staying in Cambridge, try the Royal Sonesta again — the new rooms are great, and the restaurant is fantastic (especially the cocktails).


Then, it was back to SFO with United, to visit the mothership in Sunnyvale for about two weeks. It was very good to see everyone again, and move some things we’ve been working on forward a bit. I’m still very pleasantly surprised that working remotely seems to be going well.

I also got a chance to catch up with a lot of old friends (one dinner at a time) and take a few spins around the old hood, including plenty of time in Burlingame and a trip to Sonoma to do some barrel tasting (thanks, John!). It was very strange to be back in California so soon — especially without the family.


After that, I started the homeward run towards London on United, where I touched base with my brother and worked on my QCon presentation. Same hotel as usual, and no, I’m not going to put it on the blog, because it’s such a great place to stay for the price.

I’ll post details and slides soon, but I think it went pretty well; they have an interesting practice where the audience leaves coloured cards — green, yellow, or red — in a box as the leave the room to indicate what they thought of the talk. I assume I did pretty well, at about 38 green, 2 yellow out of 57 attendees.

Another interesting thing at QCon was the agile crowd. Although I generally agree with a lot of the things that they profess, I’m not comfortable with the fervour that the pursue it with, nor being told what to do just because it’s the current flavour of the month; Jim Webber said it best.

Anyway, I was having a look around before my session and stumbled into a large meeting room where the chairs were arranged in a circle, whiteboards had been multiplying aggressively and the perimeter was strewn with aphorism-laden posters (sort of motivators for programmers). It felt like a cross between a pre-school and a 12-step program, and I was suitably frightened. I’m sure someone will illuminate me in comments.


Finally, it was a stop in Prague for a long weekend and an IETF. Specifically, we had a Sunday-long informal meeting to talk about HTTP, and what needs to be done to it. I’m seriously delinquent in not sending a summary of what happened to the list yet, but will hopefully do so soon. It was a very productive meeting, and it was great to see Yves and Julian again, as well as meet Henrik (finally!).

Back Home

Home was reached by flying Lufthansa back to Frankfurt, followed by Singapore then Melbourne, thanks to Singapore Airlines. Singapore deserves their reputation; although I was on a far-from-new 747 (especially after my ANZ experience), the service more than made up for it, maintaining their reputation as one of the best airlines in the world. The food was great too.

It’s good to be back; the next trip will be shorter. :)