A casting call

I'd like to invite some of you to join me in a journalistic experiment. As you know if you've been following my work through the years, I preach what I practice. My analytical perspectives flow from my own hands-on work. However, my experience is necessarily limited to certain styles: Web programming, lightweight integration, semistructured data, collaboration.

I'm not alone in arguing that these styles will increasingly dominate enterprise software development. Ray Lane, formerly an Oracle executive and now a general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, made the same prediction in his Software 2006 keynote. But whatever the future may hold, those of you who are enterprise software practitioners today live in a world that I experience only indirectly.

I'm always looking for ways to close that experience gap. In the past I've done a lot of interviewing for feature stories in InfoWorld and elsewhere. That was an invaluable source of insight, but the logistics of print publication prevented me from sharing much of what I learned. Now, using podcasts and screencasts, I can capture, digest, and relay much more. It's an incredible journalistic opportunity, but one that has led me to a new logistical roadblock.

Consider this scenario. You're at your development workstation, showing me your application and the tools you use to build it. We discuss the architecture of your software, the nature of your environment, and the ways in which your tools both do and do not meet your needs. My virtual camera, looking over your shoulder, records everything we say and everything that happens onscreen. Then I edit the session, which might have taken two or three hours, to produce a 20-minute screencast.

That screencast will be of compelling interest to your fellow practitioners. Similar ones that I might produce in collaboration with them will likewise appeal to you. But for several reasons, it may not be possible for me to make such movies.

Confidentiality is the overriding concern. If your application confers strategic advantage -- and if it didn't, you'd be buying rather than building -- you'll need to hold your cards close to your vest. That's particularly important when the medium is screencasting. In a conventional interview you tell but don't show, and so you can be pretty sure to control what information you release. But the virtual screen camera creates an extreme degree of intimacy and may see things you did not mean to show.

So here's my first pitch: Unless you're willing and able to highlight your own stuff -- in which case I'm all eyes and ears -- we'll focus on the tools and infrastructure that you're building on top of and integrating with. Moreover, I'll publish only what you approve. Ideally the final cut will include enough cinema verite to be interesting and useful, without crossing any lines you can't cross. I don't know if that's feasible, but I want to find out.

Then there's the question of incentive. It's clearly in my interest to pursue this idea, and it's in the interest of my readers, viewers, and listeners, but what's in it for you and your company? Here's my second pitch: You're doing innovative work, and one of your challenges is to find the people who can help you do more of it; showcasing your expertise and fluency with leading-edge software technologies might be a good way to attract that talent.

Want to try it? You know where to find me.

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Jon Udell

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