Ok so I agreed to write a bottom 10 list for 2009, in a twitter agreement with @pmonks. Unfortunately I have just had another bout of winter flu so it has got a bit late so I may not make it to 10, unless there is another last minute entry (any suggestions?). Actually checking the tweet, it said bottom for 2010, but it is traditional to do that in the new year. So here goes, here is what kept me awake in the night in 2009.
10. The Pirate Bay saga
In yet another mess in the ongoing spectacle of the entertainment industry preferring legal to creative solutions was the Pirate Bay trial. All this really showed us was that the laws are just not well framed, so anyone could win, and it may all change on appeal. This time it was not suing your customers directly, but legal action is not going to make anyone change their mind. Obviously the next step is going to be to influence the passing of bad laws, not the creation of business value. It seems uncoincidental that Spotify is Swedish. In times of change, business model engineering and service engineering are as important as product engineering. Legal action in the way the entertainment business is conducting it creates nothing long term.
Get your act together Australians and stop this. Many other governments are looking at ways to start doing this, so it is an important example.
8. The EU MySQL Oracle Sun delay
You cannot make industrial policy on this sort of timeline. If the EU were to turn down the deal now Sun would be destroyed. Oddly MySQL was at a transition point anyway. I am very much in favour of the Drizzle idea of the future of MySQL; who knows where it will end up but it may well be outside Oracle anyway.
7. SPARQL is a query language without a resource model
Looks like this has a chance of being fixed in 2010 at last, although I have temporarily mislaid the references, check for the newer references to named graphs. The idea that you could launch a query language for the web without a resource model was yet another of the dumb W3C ideas. The model appeared to be to build XML in Prolog. That sucks. Unfortunately the fixes are quite substantial (quads not triples for example).
Although not exactly something from this year, remarkably it has kind of held on and since people still specifically mention it as an alternative to CMIS. Indeed it is kind of useful sometimes, in strange situations, and it does work in a limited way, but it is not a modern HTTP interface. You have to remember how early it is, as work started in 1996, when it was not clear how the web would develop, or indeed how HTTP would develop (HTTP 1.1 was out but not much used and it was shipped in a mostly 1.0 environment). Even at the time some of the mistakes were clear, but the great thing is they are all documented in Yaron Goland’s The WebDAV Book of Why. Like the issues of hierarchy that make mixing WebDAV with normal HTTP impossible, and the depth header disaster. There are also some comments about it in the Roy Fielding podcast in which Roy tries to avoid talking about JSR. The best thing about WebDAV is how well documented the mistakes are; this should be compulsory for all standards.
The embarrassing kiddie years of the internet dead and buried. Mostly not the worst of 2009, but the idea you could still nurture your city. Obviously an anti archival moment for future historians to curse about. Still, a hubris reminder too, this was once the third most popular site on the intranet, and sold for $3.57 billion; look on their works ye mighty and really despair.
Never going to work. We really need generic metadata representations that have sane serializations or embeddings into all formats. Metadata now lives within documents; it used to get lost before that. So the RDF model has won, and microformats have lost. Oh, and the standards process sucked.
3. The XHTML2 débâcle
Had to happen, but why did it take so long for the W3C to fall behind HTML5 rather than XHTML2? This was a huge diversion of resource. The W3C churns out stuff and some of it gets adopted, some is implementable, some of it is not implementable realistically. The organization needs to change or it will be irrelevant.
2. The Go programming language
1. I4I’s patent win over Microsoft
A last minute entry here. I4I has an injunction against Microsoft selling Word without the generic XML editing functionality removed. Obviously it will be removed, and it is not a feature that a lot of people used. However analysis of the patent indicates that it clearly has prior art, is unclearly applicable, and could affect many other XML applications. The affected part of Word is designed to be a fairly general XML processor, with similar capabilities to XForms. We need to support Microsoft in getting the judgement reversed.