Friday, 31 October 2008

Dopplr: Joining the Social Network for Travellers

MySQL powers many of the social networks of Web 2.0. While it's great that we constitute one of the tools of Web 2.0, we should also ourselves utilise the tools Web 2.0 provides for social networking. Comparing myself to colleagues, I feel like a slow follower in this discipline. "Everybody else" is already on Twitter, has hundreds and hundreds of contacts on LinkedIn, Xing and Facebook, puts their pics on Picasa and Flickr, bookmarks their pages on del.icio.us, and has fancy blogs that are registered everywhere. Myself, I have been half-heartedly entering contacts into LinkedIn, I have mismanaged my Xing account, I uploaded a tiny amount of pictures on Flickr two years ago, and have now taken my first steps trying out Twitter and Picasa. I'm not even registered on Facebook or del.icio.us.

And therefore I thought I would take a look at how to improve my online manners.

So what I'll do over the next two months or so is to take a look at both the websites I've been mismanaging, and the new ones others have invited me to. I'll do my best to fit in, but I'll also come with some subjective commentary on what I experienced.

First in line is Dopplr, the social network for travellers.

Dopplr Logo for Kaj mid October 2008

I got invited to Dopplr by David Axmark in September 2007. I didn't do anything with the invitation, as there were "other more important things to do". In December 2007, I got invited by Giuseppe Maxia. One would think that these two invitations would have triggered me to do something about it, but no. I waited until I had to fix a complex set of travel involving David replacing myself in Japan so that I could go to South Africa. At the same time, I was asking Giuseppe about his travel plans and felt silly I had to ask and re-ask Giuseppe only because finding the relevant, freshest email was too cumbersome. That was the trigger that made me accept Giuseppe's Dopplr invitation.



So I entered my basic data, which didn't take many minutes. I could then see David's and Giuseppe's travel profiles, conveniently available under http://www.dopplr.com/ traveller/DavidAxmark and http://www.dopplr.com/traveller/gmaxia respectively. Looking at the right hand side on David's data from today, it's easy to see when he is where. I don't need to ask him, nor does anyone else.

Next, I entered my travel plans for the rest of the year. Then, from my own itinerary, I noted something I hadn't thought of. On the way back from Buenos Aires, I have a stopover in Frankfurt, which happens to coincide with when Giuseppe is there for a meeting. If the stopover is long enough, or Giuseppe has extra time to come to the airport, we might meet just because we happen to be in the same place at the same time. And that's what Doppler is a lot about: Facilitating serendipitous meetings with people you know.

Next, I saw all the cool stats that Giuseppe and David had, based on having joined Dopplr a lot earlier. So I entered my 2008 travel, which took quite a while as I've travelled a lot and emitted carbon in a most horrible way. But it didn't help -- Dopplr still said I had travelled "0 km so far". All that data entry in vain! Too bad.

But luckily, the stats were calculated for me overnight, in some kind of a batch job. I now have a nice timeline, telling me that I've been more on the road than at home in 2008:
Kaj's 2008 Dopplr timeline
Kaj the squirrel
I also have learnt that I'm as fast as a squirrel, with an average speed of 22,93 km/h.

Coolest of all is The Dopplr Raumzeitgeist, which tells me where I've been for the time period for which I've entered data into Dopplr:
Kaj's Raumzeitgeist

If I had a cool web page to which I aggregate blogs and other stuff, such as Colin Charles does, I could paste the nice badge Dopplr provides me onto it. Either the small format (the first pic on this blog), or a big one, like this:

And this brings me to my first frustration with Dopplr. It tells me I've frequently been to "Nauvo". No, no, no! I most certainly refer to the place I've been to as "Nagu", not "Nauvo". It's a place with two names, of which in this case, I happen to use the same name as the majority of people living there. In the case of the second-most frequently visited place, I personally use "Helsingfors" (the Swedish name), but I can understand most people would use "Helsinki" (Finnish). And again, on fourth place, I've got one more place with multiple names. With most people I've discussed that trip, I've used the name "Wolkenstein", which Dopplr expands to a long dual name, "Selva di Val Gardena - Wolkenstein in Groeden". Better than just Selva, but still, not what I would pick myself.

Which brings me to my summary:


















Positive experiences: Many, and significant
 

+ Great to instantly see where friends and colleagues travel
+ Great not to have disturb them with questions on "when are you where"
+ Great to get alerted to serendipitous presence in the same location, for my own planned trips
+ Cool to get all kinds of travel stat
+ Cool to see pics from Flickr automatically associated with trips
Negative experiences: Few, and all related to Dopplr Big-Brother-changing place names
 

- Very irritating that Dopplr converted names like "Mariehamn" and "Nagu" to "Maarianhamina" and "Nauvo", which are used only by a small minority of their respective inhabitants
- Irritating that Dopplr converted "Helsingfors" (which is how I refer to my birth town) to "Helsinki"
- Irritating that Dopplr converted "Wolkenstein" to the very long "Selva di Val Gardena - Wolkenstein in Groeden"
My own confusion -- no fault of the social network itself 

I was first disappointed that Dopplr didn't calculate my past travel stats, but happy again the following morning when they had been done
My bad conscience for my carbon footprint didn't exactly diminish
It isn't 100% clear to me whether it's in my interest to allow the data to be visible for everyone, or just my approved co-travellers
Remaining questions from my side
 

Will I have any real benefit from entering past data from years before 2008?
Will there be an easy way to enter many past trips in batch, e.g. over email?
When will fellow travellers allow me to see their travel plans?
Should I enter "travel tips"?
Will I find some benefit from using the data entry from my mobile phone or Twitter?

All in all, Dopplr was a very positive experience, and I do expect to manage my travel in it, and get lots of good vibes from it going forward.

Links:

The Sun Model for Open Source business is emerging

Simon Phipps yesterday blogged about the emerging Sun Model for Open Source business:


As time has gone by, a clear "Sun Model" for open source business has been emerging, at least to my eyes. The summary of it is:

  1. remove barriers to software adoption between download and deploy;

  2. encourage a large and cohesive community of software deployers;

  3. deliver, for a fee, the means to create value between deploy and scale, for those who need it.


Each software team at Sun interprets this model in a slightly different way, but the model holds pretty much everywhere and works regardless of the license for the code. As a business model, it doesn't have much to say about the nature of the development community, but I believe dysfunction in that area is a barrier to adoption so it's always an issue if dysfunction exists.

This model is the natural progression of the concept of monetising at the point of value, and I hope to explore it more over the coming weeks. Feel free to ask questions below about the things needing clarification.

Expressing the Sun Model this concisely is not easy. Just three points, two of which are one-liners at least on my screen. And at least MySQL follows it, not just to the spirit, but I'd venture to say we follow it even to the letter.

Impressive job, Simon!

Aslam Raffee, Innovator in Open Source Public Policy

One of the most interesting people I met during my trip to South Africa earlier this week was Aslam Raffee. He keynoted the Sun event, sharing his view of the South African government's stance on Open Source.



Aslam has two roles: He is the Chief Information Officer at the South African Department of Science and Technology. He is also the chairperson of the OSS Workgroup in the South African Government IT Officers Council.

From Aslam's presentation, it is clear that South Africa is ahead of the game when it comes to finding out ways to mandate the use of Open Source in Government. I had the privilege to talk to Aslam over lunch, and he described the process whereby the OSS Workgroup is moving the usage of Open Source products like MySQL from optional to default status.

I have a new top example to talk about, right alongside India and Brazil!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

South Africa, a country on track for both growth and happiness

Not everything is going the wrong way on our planet. There are things that are changing for the better! And one of them is South Africa. Just back from a three-day MySQL related trip to Johannesburg and Pretoria, I saw a lot of well-founded hope around me. The hope is related to less crime, less racial tension, and more economic growth. I share the positive vibes and think they’re founded in reality.

I was in South Africa for the yearly Sun partner event in “Sub-Saharan Africa” or SSA for short. SSA is one of the fastest-growing regions within what is known as “Emerging Markets”, which in itself grows faster than Europe, North America or Asia Pacific. And partners are extremely important, as Sun uses solely indirect sales in the region.

I was so impressed by what I saw that I wrote nine blog entries. As I didn't want to spam PlanetMySQL nor blogs.mysql.com/kaj with nine separate blog entries, some of which were hardly related to MySQL, I wrote them on my newly-started private blog blogs.arno.fi/isit/. The name "/isit/" comes from an observation on how English is spoken in South Africa, but I made it up as an acronym for "It’s some interesting topic!". On that site, I'll be blogging on anything that interests me, in the humble hope that it also interests someone else.

My first nine blogs are all about South Africa:

  1. Why I think South Africa is on track

  2. South Africa: There’s hope!

  3. The Government Wants You To Use A Condom

  4. Jacaranda, the South African national weed

  5. South Africa: Select your preferred language

  6. Comune di Monte Casino

  7. Four practical ways to learn a language: On the road, from a girlfriend, for the police, getting lost

  8. South African breakfast: Worthy of an experiment!

  9. “South Africa has many robots.” — “Is it?” — “Ja!”


Here are a few excerpts from some of them (but if you're interested, do go to blogs.arno.fi/isit/):

Why I think South Africa is on track
1. Races happily mix! And respect each other!
2. Sub-Saharan Africa experiences explosive growth!
3. People have learned to live with crime
4. Foreigners get a needlessly negative picture of South Africa
5. White émigré South Africans are being encouraged to move back, by all South Africans
6. Even white South Africans are well seen in the rest of Africa
7. Afrikaans is alive and well
8. Re-naming of places and streets is limited

South Africa: There’s hope!
Encouraged by the openness of everyone I talked to (”oh yes, please go ahead, I’d love to read your non-MySQL related blog on South Africa!“), I wrote a short summary of what I see as the top reasons

The Top Ten Reasons Why South Africa isn't the next Zimbabwe

1. There was a long tradition of democracy prior to the end of apartheid. [..]
2. The racial situation is not black and white. [..]
3. An allegedly “phenomenal” constitution. [..]
4. Nobody even attempting at changing the constitution. [..]
5. Politics becoming less aligned with race and tribes. [..]
6. Silly politicians being fired. AIDS is now, even according to the new South African minister of health, caused by HIV and not cured by garlic but prevented by proactively using condoms.
7. Security improving. On a customer visit today, we walked through central Johannesburg. That was in an area where my local host wouldn’t have walked 3-4 years ago.
8. The 2010 FIFA World Cup. The eyes of the world will be on South Africa from 11 June to 11 July 2010, and not just those of football enthusiasts. There was a huge positive impact in Germany 2006, both on the national identity and on the external perception of it. I think we’ll see something similar in 2010.
9. The large economic footprint of South Africa. It's huge. MySQL downloads in South Africa outnumber those of downloads elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa by a factor of three.
10. Innovative public policy, at least in Open Source. Read Aslam Raffee's blog. Open Source is being mandated by the government. That means South Africa is at the forefront in innovating public policy.

Personally, I could sense a mere fraction of the racial tension of my previous visit in 1993. On the dance floor at the Sun partner venue of Kievits Kroon, everyone mixed with everyone. I could see mutual respect.

Hey, why not invest in Africa? It’ll be the next boom market (and likely, one of the only ones in the current climate).

Four practical ways to learn a language: On the road, from a girlfriend, for the police, getting lost
George Swahi Moleko’s Tips for How To Learn Eight Languages

1. On the road. Meaning: On the street, in the township. For example in Soweto, people speak so many different languages that you pick it up from friends, when you grow up. That’s how George learned most of the languages.

2. From a girlfriend. Some of the South African languages are difficult to learn for a Sotho speaker. Then, George asserts, you need more motivation, and more intense exposure to the language: You need a girlfriend. George mentioned having used the girlfriend method for learning at least Venda, Tsonga and Nguni.

3. For the police. While having to do with the police might not directly teach you so much, it indirectly motivates you. George means that Venda speakers are hugely overrepresented in the South African police, and they’re likely to just reply “It’s the law! The fine is 500 Rand. Everyone has to follow the law.” if you complain in Sotho. But if you swap to Venda and say “My brother! It’s not my own car. I’m so sorry. I was in a hurry. Anyone can do a mistake, my brother!“, the policeman will be more understanding.

4. Getting lost. Not finding your way out, and having to rely on your environment, is a high motivator just like the previous item.

I hope you'll enjoy these blog entries, as well as upcoming ones on blogs.arno.fi/isit/! And, if you're a South African of any race, I hope you don't see my commentary as offensive. It isn't meant to be. I very much enjoyed your country, and respect what you've accomplished!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Now I'm blogging in Russian, too!

To understand a bit of Italian, I just need a comparatively small amount of vino bianco. By contrast, to get any information flow going at all in Russian requires larger amounts of ... preparation. That doesn't have to be vodka, it can also be interesting discussions with Russians, or the opportunity to give a speech.

Now, a blog is the scalable way to interact with the rest of humanity, and I'm trying to increase my fluency in all things Web 2.0. So, here goes, may I present my Russian blog:


Like in the case of presenting my Italian blog, let me quote Google Translate’s automatic translation of some of my “writings” — deliberately doing so without making any improvements on the automatic translation:

Why this blog?

When I learned to read when I was five years old, I decided to learn the Cyrillic alphabet. This is not a normal thing to do in Finland at the time, but how was I supposed to know? A television program called "Good evening, 'and learn to read Russian, appears to be a smart career move for a five-year-old boy.

And I learned Russian alphabet. Nevertheless, I did not learn the Russian language.

Although I grew up in a neighboring country, the Soviet Union, it took until 1985 before I first went there. I went with two friends, and we stayed at the Hotel Europe. Incidentally, in Finland, Archbishop John Vikström was there at the same time.

Now it's time for me to learn Russian. In addition, I visit Russia more than once a year, so I decided to start a blog in Russian.

The purpose of my blog is to

  • learn more Russian

  • to learn more about Russia

  • be inspired to visit Russia more


I go to Russia for work and for pleasure, and I use blogs for both purposes.

Why not write a blog in Russian?
The fact that I do not speak English is not an excuse, not a blog in Russian.

I want to prove the point: these days, it is possible to create a blog in Russian, even if you do not speak Russian, but only pretends to do so.

I have occasionally tried to pick up a little Russian language for many years, but what makes this blog Google Translate. Usually, I write in Swedish, but unfortunately the Russian language has a high quality, starting with English. That is why I first write something in English. Next, I ask Google to translate my text in Russian. I look at the translation and make the first guess as to whether it is perhaps understandable. Finally, I ask Google to translate it back from Russian to English. If I can understand it, I finally publish my text.

Let's see where this experiment takes me!

Tags: gladness, friendship, contacts, Russian, Respect, language

Fandorin: Naming issues
How to choose the name "blogs.arno.fi / fandorin /" to my blog?

Well, "blogs" should be easy and self explanatory.

And "arno" should also be fairly easy to understand: That's because my name Arnö, and people used 7-bit domain names (why I bought arno.fi but not arnö.fi).

". Fi" part, of course, must be self-evident: I am from Finland. I grew up in Finland. I have always lived in Finland, except for 2002-04 (in Munich) and 2006 - the year (in Munich). Summary: I am a Finnish citizen, as all my ancestors over many generations [1].

"/ Fandorin" part deserves more explanation. I chose it because my closeness to Russian literature, particularly for my favorite characters Erast Petrovich Fandorin books Boris Akunin. I think I have read all of them (unfortunately, not in Russian, but also in German).

Alternative names for your blog could be "yevski", as I always joked that I wanted someone to write an operating system with the same name. Why? Because I could write a utility for converting files yevsky (and move them into DOS). The title of this utility will dostoyevski. However, as DOS virtually obsolete, I have concluded that there would be no market for these products.

[1] my father's father's father's father's father's father's father, Jakob Saktmodig of Dragsfjärd in Finland, was in line with the church books (1712) "rysk afföda", which I always interpreted as a "lower-quality Russian origin" (but handwriting in the book was bad)

Tags: Fandorin, Boris Akunin, Dostoevsky, Fandorin, Finland, Erast Petrovich Fandorin

Providing a presentation in Russian
Yesterday and today I had the opportunity to make a presentation in Russian. Colleagues of MySQL and Sun have helped me to translate from English to Russian what I wanted to say.

The presentation takes about six minutes to deliver, and I was very happy to get a lot of questions afterwards.

As I clearly do not speak Russian, it seems to be strange, the idea of simply reading aloud from the paper for six minutes. Let me explain why I think it was a good idea, but first let me paste the contents of my speech:
Dear users of MySQL, dear Sun customers and students of St. Petersburg University, Ladies and Gentlemen! Good evening! I am pleased to welcome you today at this meeting where we gather to celebrate and discuss the company's acquisition of MySQL by Sun Microsystems. I hope this meeting will give a better idea of what benefit each of you can draw from combining our companies. [...]

Now you may ask yourself: Why am I talking in English, when it is obvious that I can hardly even understand what I am talking about?

I tried to explain why I do it in my blog entry in blogs.mysql.com / kaj /. Here are some central parts of it:

"Why" and "How to" make the presentation more local than this can be done in English

English as a language of communication greatly exaggerated. In the international context, English may be sufficient for the transfer of meaning, but it has serious drawbacks when it comes to creating social ties, showing respect, to build confidence and having fun.

In general, there is nothing wrong in English. This is a good language, just as many others. But just as in biology, monoculture causes many risks, and diversity is good. Let's celebrate it, let's enjoy it, and let us reap commercial benefits from it!

Tags: MySQL, Sun Microsystems, use, acquisition, Respect, Language

To my surprise, I got comments on my Russian blog even before announcing it. Thank you, karidola! You seem to share my interest in the Finland Swedish author Tove Jansson (she's the one with the Moomins that I found in Japan) and in the Icelandic language

For those of you who, unlike me, can read Russian faster than a five-year-old, I suggest you to take a look at these pages that I pretended to write, and for which I used no other help than what can be obtained through Wikipedia and Google Translate (specifically, I used no human / Russian help):

  • Почему именно этот блог? http://blogs.arno.fi/fandorin/why-this-blog/

  • Почему бы не писать блог на русском языке? http://blogs.arno.fi/fandorin/2008/10/25/why-not-write-a-blog-in-russian/

  • Предоставление презентации на русском языке http://blogs.arno.fi/fandorin/2008/06/17/delivering-a-presentation-in-russian/

  • Fandorin: именования вопросы http://blogs.arno.fi/fandorin/2008/10/25/fandorin-name/


As with the Italian blog, what I really am curious to know is, what my Russian speaking friends and colleagues will say. Anjuta? Sergei? Kostja (who looks like Fandorin on the book cover)? And Dima, Alik, Igor, Bar, Holyfoot, Gluh, Ramil, Vladislav, Kaamos, Sveta, Vita, Evgeniy, Sanja, Valerii, Timour, Lawrin, Peter, Arseniy, Kitry, Natalia, Natasha, Grisha, Elena, Dmitry, Ekaterina, Olga, Vladimir, Egor, (and I'm sure I've embarrassingly omitted several friends -- please forgive me), and last but definitely not least, Морж!

I'm blogging in Italian!

Given that I don't speak Italian, it may seem a bit strange that I just started an Italian language blog on http://blogs.arno.fi/dolce_vita/:

Kaj's Italian blog

But I do have a point with my blog. Let me quote Google Translate's automatic translation of some of my "writings" -- deliberately doing so without making any improvements on the automatic translation:

Why this blog?
"Of all the languages that I do not speak, I speak Italian the best."

This is my motto when it comes to speaking Italian. Moreover, Italy is my favorite country to visit for pleasure, so I decided to start a blog in Italian.

The purpose of my blog is

  • Learn more Italian

  • to learn more about Italy

  • inspired to visit Italy more often


I go to Italy for both work and pleasure, and I use the blog for both purposes.

Why not write a blog in Italian?
The fact that I do not speak Italian is no longer an excuse, not to have a blog in Italian.

I want to prove a point: these days, it is perfectly possible to create a blog in Italian only by pretending to speak Italian.

I like to say "Of all the languages that I do not speak, I speak Italian the best, but what enables this blog is Google Translate. I normally write in Swedish, but unfortunately, the translation has a higher quality if you start from English. This is why I initially write something in English. So, I ask Google to translate my text into Italian. I read the translation and make a first proofreading if it might be understandable. Finally, I ask Google to translate again from Italian to English. If I can still understand, I finally publish my text.

Let's see where this experiment takes me!

I spoke Italian to 4 minutes 12 seconds!
Today I delivered a speech in Italian. Many thanks to Giuseppe Maxia, who translated my speech yesterday by the French. I pasted here:
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this informal meeting to celebrate and discuss the acquisition of MySQL by Sun Microsystems.

My name is Kaj Arno, and the Vice President for the Community of MySQL. I come from Monaco, but not the Bavarian. Finnish are as Monty, the creator of MySQL, and many others.
During the integration with Sun, I also the role of Ambassador of MySQL, that I visit all the offices and explain what Sun MySQL. [...]

Now, you may ask yourself: Why speak Italian, when it is clear that I can not speak it?

I tried to explain why I do my blog in English. Some central parts of it:

The "Why" and "How" to do more local presentations of what can be done in English

The English as a language of communication is highly overrated. In an international context, English may be sufficient to transmit meaning, but has serious shortcomings when it comes to establishing a social relationship, showing respect, to create a climate of trust, and to have fun.

All in all, there's nothing wrong with English. It is a good language, like many others. But just as in biology, monoculture comes with many risks, and diversity is good. Let us celebrate, let us enjoy, and we try to derive commercial benefits out of it!

"Egosurfing" in Italy
The term "egosurfing" is used to describe the act of entering his name into a search engine site to assess its presence and relevance on the Internet. It can be seen as selfish, or at least vain. However, they are not free of those sins.

I decided to do some "egosurfing" specific to Italy, adding "site:. It" for the research: "Kaj Arno" site:. It. To my surprise, I found 135 items!

Here are some results: [...]

For those of you who, like me, sometimes pretend to read Italian, I suggest you to take a look at these pages that I pretended to write, and for which I used no other help than what can be obtained through Wikipedia and Google Translate (specifically, I used no human / Italian help):

What I want to say at this point is: Thank you, Google Translate!

And what I really wonder is, what will Giuseppe say? And Ivan Zoratti? And Maurizio Gianola? And Massimo, Emanuela, Raffaella, Luca, Franco, Ettore, and all my other Italian friends and colleagues?

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Deadline extension: MySQL Conf Call for Papers open until 5 Nov 2008

Call for Papers"Reminders work. At least on me." I confessed in my previous CfP posting.

Well, guess what also works on me? Deadline extensions! I aim at making most (ehh, all) deadlines, but at times, I fail. And I have observed similar behaviour in others.

And therefore we have extended our CfP to 5 November 2008 (all fellow Europeans out there: "midnight 11/05/2008 PST" looks like mid May, but isn't).

Some key points:

  1. We're looking at high quality presentations

  2. We're looking at innovation, i.e. *new* things

  3. We're looking at covering main areas of MySQL usage


Obviously, we want all three of the above. And despite the fact that we have 284 applications (a hundred more than at the same time last year), we still see some holes when it comes to some main areas of MySQL usage. So if you have recently innovated with MySQL in the Java area, or Windows, or combining MySQL with other Sun software such as GlassFish, NetBeans, OpenSolaris or OpenOffice, you may have a good chance at hitting a sweet spot.

Go propose!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

mysqlconfde08: MySQL Customer Conference in Munich 21.10.2008

Yesterday, we concluded our third annual "MySQL Kundenkonferenz" in Munich. We had a record number [1] of participants, 255 on the re-count including hosts. I had the pleasure to deliver the welcome speech and to moderate the event. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the day and it was my distinct impression that the expectations of the participants were more than met.

The external setting of the conference was Hilton Munich City on Rosenheimerstraße, close to Munich's culture centre Gasteig -- and just one S-Bahn stop away from home for me. Excellent facilities.

The start was delayed slightly due to our high-latency registration process, which prompts us to go for something more scalable next year. At 9:30 I could then start about "Powering the Web Economy", describing the changes since last year (such as MySQL having been acquired by Sun), and presenting a record number of hosts: Antje Oehring, Bertrand Matthelié, Braddley Wilkinson, Brendan Towers, Donatus Schmid, Franz Haberhauer, Gerhard Jährling, Hana Hütter, Harry Timm, Jan Kneschke, Jürgen Giesel, Kai Voigt, myself Kaj Arnö, Klaus Bergius, Ralf Gebhardt, Richard Mason, Robin Schumacher, and Rolf Günther.

As part of the intro, I asked for the number of bloggers in the audience and got perhaps around 10 hands. I asked for any blogging to happen with the tag mysqlconfde08. Interestingly, when searching for mysqlconfde08 this morning, I found no blogs yet, but instead, four Twitter comments on Twemes. One of them, stiefkind, acknowledges that I am "nordic by nature" but claims that I "speak German with a Swiss accent". I take that as a compliment [2]!

Twitter memes on mysqlconfde08

After me, Robin Schumacher (Director of Product Marketing for MySQL) shared his insights into "The Future of MySQL: What You Need to Know about What's Coming". No, he is of no relation to Michael Schumacher, but at least he talks very fast, he confessed.

Before the lunch break, we had two parallel tracks of two technical sessions, by four very knowledgeable presenters: Ralf Gebhardt (MySQL Sales Engineer) on Web 2.0 and memcached, Jan Kneschke (of lighttpd and MySQL Proxy fame) on High Availability and Load Balancing, Franz Haberhauer (Chief Technologist) on MySQL Best Practices on Solaris, and Kai Voigt (MySQL Trainer) on selecting the right High Availability solution for MySQL.

After a short but quite delicious lunch, our Silver Sponsors (Continuent, Dolphin and Talend) each got a well-deserved sixty-second commercial break, describing their solutions. And then Sun Germany's press speaker and marketing director Donatus Schmid presented the Sun-side view of the status of the Sun-MySQL integration after over half a year since the acquisition. His brief but eloquent speech and his respectful attitude illustrated very well why MySQLers find themselves in good hands as part of Sun.

Then we got our surprise treatment from the star guest of the day, Miriam Tuerk, CEO of Infobright. A Canadian of German descent, she presented herself in fluent German. Her accent wasn't foreign, but that of Mannheim (a city not far from Frankfurt) [3], which earned her spontaneous applause and the audience's full attention to why Infobright's data warehousing solutions (Infobright Community Edition) are the way to go when you've got more than 500 GB of data. Personally, I am very impressed both with the Infobright product (giving fast replies to aggregate SELECT queries, based on clever metadata and no need for the DBA to do indexing), and with Miriam as a person. It's not everyday that I see companies that are this willing to learn, to understand, to release their core product under GPLv2, and to spend energy and resources building a community.

The afternoon had two tracks, one with MySQL customers presenting Use Cases, and another technical track with the already mentioned Jan Kneschke (on Performance Tuning) and Kai Voigt (on Backup Strategies). The customer cases were enlightening, as they usually are when the presenters are good. Uwe Geercken, IT Manager of Swissport, described the situation before picking MySQL, how MySQL was chosen, what the experiences were, and what the current issues are, in the interesting business of running airports. Jörg Künzel from OBI's IT partner GfD described the innovative use of MySQL in OBI, the leading European Do-It-Yourself store with a size larger than that of Sun Microsystems. Their use of MySQL is distributed, so that each cash register has a separate MySQL Server, enabling offline usage either when networks are down (important when opening chains in new economies with flaky networks, and when selling Christmas trees outdoors without any cabling whatsoever).

Wie, wo, was weiß OBI?

During the whole day, the presentations were interpreted into sign language (like above during the OBI presentation). One of the Austrian MySQL customers present was hearing impaired, and I was intrigued to learn that the Austrian version of Gebärdensprache is mutually not intelligible with the German one. Although sometimes challenging, that's not the case with spoken language (Germans and Austrians understand each other as easily as Brits and Americans, or Swedes from Sweden and Finland Swedes like myself).

The last presentation was an educational roller-coaster tour (that was the initial slide that the presenter Ralf Gebhardt chose himself) on scaling and virtualisation. After that, we had the usual question-and-answer session, with plenty of questions directed at all the presenters. For most roadmap oriented questions, we saw a pattern of

  1. a question from the audience, in German, followed by

  2. a semi-answer from myself, also translating the question into English, so that

  3. Robin Schumacher could give the right answer.


After the Q&A, we had a networking session over drinks, which then continued for some of us at the Schrannenhalle, where we were joined by Florian Haas and Patrick Rion from Linbit (who were in town for the Systems Fair). We concluded the day with great food at the French restaurant Cameleon [4].

All in all, a fun and educational day with lots of networking. Thanks to all presenters, and especially to Jürgen Giesel (who was in charge of the arrangements of the day) and Bertrand Matthelié (who is in charge of all European MySQL Customer Conferences) for excellent organisation.

[1] Had we had one more participant, then we could no longer store no_of_attendees in a one-byte TINYINT UNSIGNED.

[2] Once many years ago in Poland, I was trying to read out loud a sentence in Polish. I don't know much beyond "Dziękuję" (thanks) and "Smacznego" (bon appetite), except what I can extrapolate from the 200 or so words of Russian that I know (but I don't speak Russian, I just pretend). Then, I got the best foreign language compliment I had ever got: "Your Polish has a strong Russian accent".

[3] I thanked Miriam and named her "die Tochter Mannheims" (the daughter of Mannheim), referring to Söhne Mannheims (Sons of Mannheim), a German musical band founded 1995 in Mannheim by Xavier Naidoo and others.

[4] Bertrand dislikes non-European food. I learned that quickly after starting to work with him almost exactly eight years ago. Ah, time flies.

Links:

Monday, 20 October 2008

Recommended Reading (Business, Engineering)

Kaj's Book Recommendations
As part of an internal programme at Sun, I am a "SEED mentor" for another Sun employee (not a former employee of MySQL, but what we Sun Dolphins call Sun Classics). He is called Alok and lives in Bangalore, and sadly, our schedules crossed so that I couldn't meet him when I was at our Bangalore offices in July. So I am mentoring someone I've met only over phone -- but we're getting along just fine.

Two of the topics we've discussed recently are blogging and books. So after hanging up after our 9 CET 12:30 Indian time mentoring session, I got the idea to combine the two: write a blog entry about the books I recommended Alok.

One thing Alok is contemplating at the moment is the degree to which he should spend time on developing his business skills vs his engineering skills. That's a familiar topic for many of us in Engineering.

So what I ended up doing was to list some of the top books I've read and used over the years. Not just the freshest and most recent ones, but the ones I remember and go back to, even over a decade after I read them. And they have a strong engineering slant to it -- the general business books are missing from this list.

Steve McConnell books

Steve McConnell: I started my list by three classics by Steve McConnell, published within Microsoft Press. (The "Microsoft Press" label may be surprising, as these books are truly timeless, as opposed to providing ideas that expire with the next file format change of Microsoft Word). These books are:

  1. Code Complete, a Practical Handbook of Software Construction, 1993 (see Code Complete Home, Wikipedia). "Welcome to Software Construction", "Characteristics of High-Quality Routines", "General Issues in Using Variables", "Code-Tuning Strategies" are some chapters in it. Very enjoyable, enlightening reading. I read it about 1995 and have been recommending it since. I managed to convince MySQL co-founder Monty to read it in 1995, and have been debating minute points of the book with him from time to time since then.

  2. Rapid Development, Taming Wild Software Schedules, 1996 (see Steve McConnell's Home Page). Some chapters: "Classic Mistakes", "Software-Development Fundamentals", "Lifecycle Planning", "Estimation", "Motivation", "Teamwork", "Feature-Set Control". Same style as Code Complete, and as good. I read it in 1996, and have used its arguments to punctuate wishful thinking by customers and colleagues of the "pointy-haired boss" category ever since. In fact, I should probably have done more of it.

  3. Software Project Survival Guide, How to Be Sure Your First Important Project Isn't Your Last, 1998: "The Successful Project at a Glance", "Hitting a Moving Target", "Quality Assurance", "Software Release". Good, and a quick read after the previous two books, which still are the ones which stick to my mind as providing the most meat.


Steve Maguire: There is another Steve who wrote books with Microsoft Press, in fact of a very similar nature. The topic of software engineering management is so important that I am happy recommending the two additional books to Alik. When Maguire wrote these books, at least I was spending much more of my time using Microsoft products than today, and the lessons he writes about are (as I see it) relevant also in Open Source.

  1. Writing Solid Code, Microsoft's Techniques for Developing Bug-Free C Programs, 1993: "Assert Yourself", "Step Through Your Code", "Risky Business", "The Rest Is Attitude". This is C specific, for good and for bad, compared to the language-unspecific Code Complete.

  2. Debugging the Development Process, Practical Strategies for Staying Focused, Hitting Ship Dates, and Building Solid Teams, 1994: "Laying the Groundwork", "The Systematic Approach", "Scheduling Madness", "Constant, Unceasing Improvement", "That Sinking Feeling". The preface starts with the sentence "This book might make Microsoft sound bad." which to me displays an attitude that I like, because we all know we make mistakes and pretending not to do so is not getting us anywhere -- whereas learning from other people's mistakes may do so.


CMM & Scrum books

A few other Software Engineering reference books: I also want to list three other books on IT for Alok.

  1. A Discipline for Software Engineering, Watts S. Humphrey, 1995. This was recommended to me after I read the McConnell books. "The Personal Software Process Strategy", "Why Forms Are Helpful", "Why Make Plans", "Measuring Software Size", "Popular Estimating Methods", "Design and Code Reviews".

  2. The Capability Maturity Model, Guidelines for Improving the Software Process, Carnegie Mellon University, Software Engineering Institute, 1995."Introducing Software Process Maturity", "Customer Satisfaction", "Skipping Maturity Levels". Introduces CMM and its five maturity levels of Heroics, Repeatable, Defined, Managed and Optimizing. I wish MySQL were more mature and less heroic.

  3. Agile Project Management with Scrum, Ken Schwaber, 2003. Yes, I have bought new books this century. "Scrum Roles", "Scrum Flow", "Product Backlog", "Sprint Backlog", "Bringing Order From Chaos", "Project Reporting -- Keeping Everything Visible". We try to apply Scrum for MySQL, but due to our virtual nature and to the timezones, we need to apply it a bit.


NNT & Freed books

Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Next, I took the step towards business through the more philosophical. I read both NNT books this summer, and I found them very inspiring and insightful.

  1. Fooled by Randomness, The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, 2004 (see NNT's homepage, Wikipedia): "If You're So Rich, Why Aren't You So Smart?", "Europlayboy Mathematics", "Wittgenstein's Ruler". NNT has a somewhat peculiar writing style (mixing facts, opinion and personal anecdotes), but he clearly explains that random events influence us more than we believe, and what we should do about it. Winners tend to attribute their winning to being smart and hard-working, losers attribute their losing to bad luck.

  2. The Black Swan, The Impact of the Highly Improbable, 2007 (see Wikipedia on the Black Swan book and the Black swan theory). "Umberto Eco's Antilibrary", "How Not To Be A Sucker", "The Narrative Fallacy", "What Do You Do If You Cannot Predict". About why we don't know so much about the future, and why it's dangerous to pretend that we do, and what we should do instead. One of the best books I've read this century. Especially now in the financial crisis, there is plenty of material on the book and NNT's thinking, on Wikipedia, on NNT's own website and elsewhere.


Just One (Semi-) Business Book: I wanted to concentrate my advice to Alok on engineering and engineering management, but there's one book that describes the borderline from engineering to sales very well:

  1. Writing Winning Business Proposals, Your Guide To Landing the Client, Making the Sale, Persuading the Boss, Richard C. Freed, Shervin Freed, Joe Romano, 1995. "The Slots in a Proposal's Generic Structure", "Desired Results, Benefits, and Objectives", "The Four Buying Roles", "Determining What to Weave in Your Web of Persuasion". Very self descriptive book title, and it contains great advice about persuading both clients and bosses, in writing.


GTD (TM) & PhotoReading (TM) books

Meta-books on self management: At this point, I started to have a bad conscience towards Alok. Hey, already eleven books in my recommendation list. How is he ever going to have the time to read them, and to get any real work done at the same time? Thus, I decided to address those issues one at a time.

  1. The PhotoReading Whole Mind System, Paul R. Scheele, 1993. "Read this easy-toread book and all books will be easy to read", "5 breakthrough steps for improved comprehension and retention", "The secrets to PhotoReading at 25,000 words per minute", "5 time management strategies for instant results". I still re-read (ehh, re-glance) the book at times, and have recommended it to many people, the latest one being my son.

  2. Getting Things Done, The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen, 2001. It's about getting peace of mind to concentrate on what you (through your systematic pre-planning) know is the most important thing. It has plenty of associated GTD services and software; personally, I'm just using Omni Outliner and my Thunderbird inbox. But then again, I'm rereading this book just now.


To round it off, I wanted to provide Alok with an entertaining book, without too much of an emphasis on usefulness, but still some practical usability. In that category of books, I try to avoid English books, in favour of Swedish and German (as I tend to get more than my fair share of reading in English anyway), so I'm limited to a fraction of the books I would want to recommend. My choice ends up in a book recommended to me by Simon Phipps:

  1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon, 2003. Wikipedia says "The story is written in the first-person perspective of Christopher John Francis Boone, a 15-year-old autistic boy living in Swindon, Wiltshire. Although Christopher's condition within the autism spectrum is not stated explicitly within the novel, the summary on the book's inside cover describes it as Asperger syndrome." And while that doesn't sound entertaining, it is. It is both sad and fun, and I tend to believe Simon's claim that it "helps understand Open Source developers".


So, Alok, happy reading! I hope I haven't inundated you with much too long a list of Recommended Reading.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Photography blog in German started

I just started a new blog on photography, in German. It's based in http://blogs.arno.fi/foto/ and so far only has just four entries -- one on a photo session with fashion photographer Riccardo Desiderio, one on my ensuing autumn portraits of my wife along the Isar here in Munich, one on fun underwater photography (autotranslated to English) and another about a Panama hat (also autotranslated).



Kaj with Ohrid filter

Judging from the quality of the auto translations, this is going to be only for German readers. So far, I've mostly stated

Perhaps this new blog may mean I won't disturb PlanetMySQL.org with endless posts on mountaineering and running any longer, where one mentioning of the word "MySQL" triggers the aggregation of a huge entry.

David in Japan, Kaj in South Africa

I was booked for keynoting the second MySQL Users Conference in Japan on 30-31 October 2008. Going to Japan is always something I'm looking forward to.

MySQL UC .jp

However, I won't have that pleasure this time. I got requested to keynote a Sun partner event instead, on Tue 28.10.2008 at Kievits Kroon, just outside Pretoria in South Africa.

For Japan, I will be replaced by nobody other than David Axmark. I'm happy he gets the opportunity to do this keynote, transitioning from his current role to a consultant next month. I hope this also gives the press an opportunity to understand David's motivations a bit better!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

EVCA: MySQL as a VC success story -- Lessons Learned

Today at the Venture Capital Forum in Hilton Arc de Triomphe, Paris, I received the EVCA "Hall of Fame" Award on behalf of MySQL AB. What a timing, to meet with investment bankers and venture capitalists now!



In these times of a deep finance crisis, of no credit handed out by banks and of general doom and gloom, it felt great to be somewhat of an "everybody's darling". In the VC community, MySQL is seen as a great success -- and in particular, we're seen by European VCs as a European success story (despite over 50 % of our personnel and most of our Management Team being US-based, at the point of time when the VCs exited).

Side note: I don't mind MySQL being seen as a European success story. We're used to portraying ourselves as belonging to whatever geography is relevant for the moment. That can be "Swedish", "Scandinavian", "European", "Bulgarian", "American", "Silicon Valley", or whatever you'd like. And at the same time, I never stop pointing out that MySQL was originally written in Finland, and that a disproportionate amount of the corporate DNA originates from TF, the Swedish speaking, Helan går-singing student association of Helsinki University of Technology.

Before the panel began, Paul Deninger, Vice-Chairman of Jefferies & Company gave what I learned is his traditional opening speech. I can see why he's appreciated. With a good sense of the audience's mixed atmosphere of horror (at the current financial crisis) and hope (for opportunities presented due to lower valuations), he introduced Jefferies as "an investment bank that unlike the now-socialised ones never became an investment firm". Paul is also known for his yearly "PD's list of the top 10 events of the year", with observations on raw material prices, the advent of CleanTech, the pricing of financial instruments, Russia remaining in South Ossetia and other equivalent global events. Interestingly, Sun's acquisition of MySQL AB made it onto his list. We've always joked that we're "world famous for being humble", but PD does give us a hard time.

Together with Robert Dighero of Tradus (a UK based eBay-of-Eastern-Europe online auction company), I was on the "Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame" panel lead by Mike Chalfen, General Partner at Advent Venture Partners and a good friend of MySQL investor and former MySQL board member Danny Rimer.

I got a number of questions, both publicly on the panel and privately in the networking thereafter. In gratitude of having been given the award, I'd like to share my answers.

Q: What was the impact of VC investors on MySQL's business?

A: Above all, VC investments enabled faster growth (through enabling recruitment of key talent). Each of the earlier-round investors also opened the doors for the next level of investors. Our VCs certainly granted us credibility towards big customers. Sure, they also gave us valuable feedback on our business model and tightened corporate governance procedures, easing our growth pains.

Q: What could the impact have been of having more or less cash?

A: Mainly, it would have influenced the speed of recruitment. Now, we grew as fast as we could with the ambition of having the VC money mostly as a safety net, and financing growth mainly through increased sales. Cash on the balance sheet increases operational focus and creates stability!

Q: How would MySQL fare in today's tougher climate?

A: As for sales, it's important to understand that MySQL has a "low TCO" proposition ("destruction factor"), where the tough climate is good for us. As for IPOs and trade sales, it's hard to identify a company that isn't negatively impacted by today's climate.

Q: What were the 1-2 most critical turning points in the development of the business?

A1: Entering a deal with SAP in 2003, which influenced the product technically, but most of all gave us enterprise credibility (but was dangerous technically, as it impacted our roadmap).

A2: The next-round VC evaluation meeting in Scope Capital's Stockholm offices after our CEO MÃ¥rten Mickos came back with term sheets from the two dream Silicon Valley candidates in a round where the finalists were Kleiner, Sequoia, Warburgs, Advent and Benchmark. Our co-founder Michael "Monty" Widenius concluded with asking "Do we want to become partners with our father (referring to Kleiner) or our brother (referring to Benchmark)?". Ending up choosing our brothers wass a key to the culture in the company, which is what really built MySQL.

A3: Moving management to Silicon Valley, easing recruitment of key people.

Q: What lessons can you pass on for VCs and entrepreneurs that are most relevant in the coming recession?

A: Four lessons. First, be smart. Choose smart people, pick the right strategy, make the right decisions. Second, work hard. If opportunity knocks, you have to seize the moment, or being smart won't help. I don't consider myself lazy, but my work hours pale in comparison with the co-founder's when he grew the community around the turn of the century, and with those of our CEO ever since he took over. Third, be resistant to uncertainty. When bad things happen, never give up. Hadn't our CEO been a replica of Admiral Stockdale, living out the Stockdale Paradox [1], we would have lost the company several times over. Fourth, be lucky. Yes, you can be smart about timing, but to succeed, you also need a big portion of luck.

[1] "You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."

Q: What advice do you have for VCs?

A: Most VCs are smart people, and they know that they have to pick the right entrepreneurs (who are smart, work hard, and resistant to uncertainty). They know that to be lucky, they have to buy several lottery tickets. Then, let the right entrepreneurs do their thing! Support them when they need support. On a different note, I think VCs should be happy that they belong to a caste respected by Nassim Nicholas Taleb of Black Swan fame. VC investments are potential positive Black Swans, and I think MySQL turned out to be one of them.

Q: What does it take for a buyer to want to pay up a lot of cash for a VC business?

A: A huge customer base that has money to spend. A documented, strong and sustainable growth rate. Brand recognition doesn't hurt. Finally, and obviously, a lot of cash in the bank.

Q: Did MySQL experience a conflict between the mentalities of the "geeky" MySQL users and the "greedy" Venture Capitalists?

A: In general, it hasn't been that challenging to keep a balance. Sure, it's true that the geeks and the VCs form two entirely different audiences. But we target our messages. "Tala med bönder på bönders vis och med de lärde på latin", we say in Swedish -- roughly "Talk to peasants as peasants do, and to the learned in Latin" (let's not go into which audience matches which category in the Swedish saying). And in reality, at least when it comes to MySQL, geeks and VCs have benefitted from each other. We did of course joke in front of geeks that "we fooled these VCs to give us money to be able to write more Open Source software faster", and conversely said in front of VCs that "we exploit Open Source Software to give a larger ROI for VCs". But neutrally speaking, it was a mutual benefit, a virtuous circle, where we've done our best to align commercial and community interests.

Q: You're a serial entrepreneur, and made some money out of the Sun acquisition. Would you do it again?

A: Obviously, there is a hunger for more. Or perhaps appetite is a better word, as I am clearly more picky about the nature of the opportunity than before. During my two first entrepreneurships (founding Polycon Ab, and buying back Polycon shares from a German investor three years after the trade sale where we had sold half of Polycon), I jumped at opportunities without evaluating them in detail. By contrast, in 2001 I sold the MySQL related part of Polycon to MySQL AB based on long contemplations, but still, with MySQL I've been willing to relocate my family from Grankulla, Finland to Munich, Germany. I'm not so sure I'd relocate as easily again. Besides, for the time being, I'm quite happy with working for Sun -- it's an exciting job with a great learning curve and an opportunity to have an impact.

Q: What are you investing in yourself?

A: I've got a day job at Sun, and that consumes nearly all of my business focus. That said, I made a certain investment, together with a former angel investor in MySQL, in an IT solution provider on Ã…land, the islands between Finland and Sweden that are independent enough to have their own Top-Level Domain .ax. It's called PBS Ab, for Productive Business Systems, and provide a great opportunity to apply learnings from my earlier life as a serial entrepreneur (with both Polycon and MySQL).

That's it. Finally, I would like to extend a special thank you note to a few of the members of the MySQL AB Board of Directors that I've had the honour and pleasure to work with over the years. Our first Chairman John Wattin once described me as a "fireman", as I've been given various tasks ("wherever there's a fire") since joining MySQL. Fredrik Oweson of Scope Capital, Danny Rimer of Index Ventures, Kevin Harvey of Benchmark Capital, Bernard Liautaud (founder of Business Objects) and Tim O'Reilly (founder of O'Reilly Media) have each provided all of MySQL but also myself in person with invaluable inspiration and insight over the years. Thank you, former MySQL BoD members!

Links:

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

On Loyalty, Competition and Underdogs

"So, I suppose MySQL's main competitor is Oracle?" is a frequent question I get asked by the press. "Well, we don't really compete heads-on with other databases. We co-exist! Just as an example: Over a third of respondents in an Oracle User Group survey said they also use MySQL", I answer.







The reporter then continues "But everyone has a main competitor. Don't you plan for people to migrate from Oracle to MySQL?". I continue with "Not really. Migrations do happen, but not all that often. MySQL tends to be used in new applications."

"But surely you must have some competitive atmosphere, or equivalent feelings towards Oracle." The reporter never gives up. "Don't you at least internally joke about your relationship with Oracle?".

And that's where I will now have a new answer for whichever reporter nexts goes down that line of reasoning.

So let me take that story from the beginning. My fourteen-year-old son has just started blogging about football, and his second blog entry is about an existential issue involving the moral values of loyalty and competition. After many years as a fan of Germany's incumbent football team Bayern München, and after a not-so-great start of the season for the team, he went to a match with the local arch-rival TSV 1860. The 1860ers are not in the German First League, and they are somewhat of an underdog. And now he's starting to question his loyalty towards Bayern München.

I shared his blog ponderings over email with the group of people formerly known as MySQL GmbH employees, one of whom saw a surprising analogy: Between Bayern München / TSV 1860 and Oracle / MySQL. It was so hilarious, that I dare share it, as a symbol of the type of stories we sometimes circulate internally. My son has two lists, "Why to stay with Bayern München" and "Why to switch to TSV 1860". My colleague translates these football loyalty questions to database choice questions.

The blog is in German (as is my colleagues email), and instead of a complete but somewhat weird Google Translate conversion, I'll here provide a slightly more polished translation (and the Oracle comments by my colleague in parenthesis):

These facts speak for continuing as a Bayern fan (... as an Oracle user):

1. I am still a member (I still use Oracle)
2. A sold-out stadium looks good (Oracle Datacenter looks good)
3. All my Bayern fan gadgets (all my Oracle fan gadgets)
4. The feeling of "Your hatred is our pride" (ditto)
5. German Premier League and Champions League, at least for the time being (ditto)
6. Some good players, such as Ribéry
7. I was always a Red [fan of Bayern], and "conversions" is bad form (I was always a fan of Oracle and ...)

This speaks for a switch to TSV 1860 (... a switch to MySQL):

1. I'll get tickets much easier (MySQL is lots easier to obtain)
2. My school is full of Lions [fans of 1860], I'd have fewer fights (there are so many MySQL Forums with helpful co-developers, even a MySQL Forum on Oracle)
3. The transfer policy of Bayern (the sales policy of Oracle)
4. The atmosphere in the stadium is somewhat better (the atmosphere at the MySQL user's conference is clearly better)
5. Being an underdog feels good
6. More creative fans, including songs (there are creative MySQL songs, too!)
7. Sometimes when Bayern plays, you're the only one who sings in your area of the stadium (plenty of MySQLers sing, even on YouTube!)
8. Frequently, Bayern fans are Bayern fans only "because they always win" (Frequently Oracle fans are Oracle fans and not Open Source fans, "because you're not fired for buying Oracle")

The conclusion, in database terms?

  • MySQL co-exists with other databases, such as Oracle

  • MySQL is often used for web apps in these coexistence scenarios

  • MySQL focuses on applications that scale

  • MySQL has a low TCO

  • Oracle DBAs may want to add MySQL skills to their resume


Links, if you want to pursue the above thoughts:

Reminder: MySQL User Conference CfP ends in two weeks!

Reminders work. At least on me. I try to Get Things Done (TM) efficiently, but slips do happen. And when they do, reminding me has a good chance to influence my priorities. I hope I'm not alone in this fallibility.

And therefore I want to remind you that you've still got two weeks to reply to our Call for Participation in the MySQL Conference and Expo in Santa Clara, California on 20-23 April 2009.



A few items to remember:

  • We have plenty already, but we're looking for more proposals. It does make our selection process harder (that's when the Program Committee sits down and asks itself "what's right for the conference and its participants"), but that's a task that we are happy to work on.

  • The theme of the conference is "Innovation Everywhere", so put an emphasis on innovative proposals! Giuseppe has something to add on this.

  • Look at Giuseppe Maxia's suggestions on how to get your proposal accepted to the MySQL Conference 2009, or Baron Schwartz's and Colin Charles's respective suggestions from last year.

  • This year, we will approve some sessions conditionally, meaning that the decisions we start making after the CfP has closed won't necessarily be binary (accepted/rejected), so some of you may expect further contacts from us.


Looking forward to more proposals the upcoming two weeks. Why don't you propose something innovative right now?

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Thank you, David (Axmark)!


At the end of the Orlando meeting in January this year when the Sun acquisition was announced, I remember sitting next to MySQL's co-founder David Axmark in the bus going to some evening event. "What do you want to do now, with so many opportunities opening up?" was my question to him, partly as his friend, partly as his colleague and partly as his line manager. David seemed very confident in the future of MySQL within Sun, but less sure about his own future role.

With that as a background, and knowing David since well over 20 years, I was not all that surprised to read his resignation letter, and in particular his reasoning for resigning:
I have thought about my role at Sun and decided that I am better off in smaller organisations. I HATE all the rules that I need to follow, and I also HATE breaking them. It would be far better for me to "retire" from employment and work with MySQL and Sun on a less formal basis.

Let me recap what David has done for MySQL. David is the reason MySQL is FOSS. Without David, MySQL wouldn't be GPL (Monty originally planned a closed-source product). David is also the reason people associate MySQL primarily with Sweden and less so with Finland, since MySQL AB was founded in Uppsala to be close to David (and our third co-founder Allan Larsson).



(The above scene from Stockholm harbour shows the boats of database entrepreneurs David Axmark and Larry Ellison; after the acquisition of MySQL by Sun, David may afford an upgrade, even after his donation to the Software Freedom Law Center).

I wish David would have stayed longer at Sun, but I understand why he decided to resign and I respect his decision. I'm happy he's fine with working as a consultant for Sun, doing speaking engagements and connecting us with his huge network. It's very much appreciated.

We share so many fond memories together, starting from our first meeting sometimes in the 1980s at Monty's place in Gamla Skomakarböle, in the outskirts of Helsinki. And then there was the memorable trip to MySQL's first CeBIT appearance in 2001, just after I had agreed with Mårten and Monty to join MySQL. And hiking in Larry Stefonic's bivvy sacks on a mountain in Washington. And countless other stories.

I've learnt so much from David, particularly as he's been my predecessor, role model and esteemed colleague in plenty of respects over the time at MySQL AB. He has lead Engineering, before we started to recruit people with the title of "VP Engineering". He's lead Internal IT. He's lead the Community efforts. He's worked with the FSF. He's managed and moderated his somewhat more, ehmm, hot-tempered co-founder Monty. He's travelled the world, with a particular fondness for Asia. And he's taken oodles of digital pictures. Not that I've followed David in all aspects, but it does seem I've copied him in the above respects, with sometimes a shorter, sometimes longer latency.

You won't be surprised that I feel a deep gratitude for what David has done. In particular, I want to thank him for introducing me to all the wonderful people in the FOSS community. And I'm sure all Sun Dolphins will join me in the most important thank-you note:

Thanks David for having and pursuing the vision that made you found MySQL!

Lest we become overly sentimental, let me say that I am confident David will continue in his role as an overall FOSS ambassador. Nearly a quarter century working on FOSS as a pioneer gives David insights that few of us have, that Sun is happy to continue learning from, and that I'm sure David is happy to share with budding Open Source companies.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Visiting Brazil

I'm just back home from Brazil, where I went last Sunday in order to launch MySQL's presence in Brazil and meet with MySQL users, developers, Sun customers, the press as well as with numerou Sun colleagues. "Is this your first time in Brazil?" was a frequent question (as one could expect), and I was happy to respond that it wasn't. In fact, I have particularly fond memories of my first visit to Brazil in 2001, as that was the trip when I decided to join MySQL AB.


They say Rio de Janeiro is one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. Whoever "they" are, they're right. The cone in the middle is Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain, der Zuckerhut, Sockertoppen).

As a European, I again noted that Brazil frequently feels much more like home than the US does. In Brazil, they use the metric system, they measure temperature in Celsius, they write dates and times of day in a familiar way, they cheer for Formula 1 drivers and they play football. My Brazilian colleagues and I fought a bit over whether Finland or Brazil produces the better F1 drivers, but despite Finland nearly beating Germany (thanks Jonatan Johansson, Mika Väyrynen and Daniel Sjölund!) in the World Championship qualifications last month, I had to concede to the football superiority of the Brazilians. Nonetheless, it felt good to meet with colleagues to whom I could describe the ethical dilemma my son Alexander faced (and explained in his newly started German language football blog) when MySQL 5.1 user Corrado Pandiani from Inter Milan sent him gadgets that on the one hand are objectively speaking very cool (such as a poster signed by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luis Figo and Marco Materazzi), but on the other hand represent a team which a Bayern München fan like him has hard to identify with.

But back to MySQL. This week, I had the pleasure of not just attending the Sun Tech Days including its press events, but also visit many customers in both São Paulo, Brasília and Rio de Janeiro. It's great to see the broad interest for MySQL. Yet, the interest for MySQL in Brazil didn't surprise me. We know from the download statistics that .br is a top five country for downloads, and more concretely, MySQL had a sizable following in Brazil already in 2001. When Mårten Mickos (MySQL's then newly appointed CEO), Michael "Monty" Widenius (co-founder) and a number of friends of ours visited the Rio Carnival wearing MySQL t-shirts, we were stopped on Copacabana beach and asked whether "we are also MySQL users". What a feeling it was, to personally experience recognition for MySQL over seven years ago, in a country where none of us had been before!

Ah, as I am walking down Memory Lane, let me share a few other pics from 2001 (the ones from this week are still in Philip Antoniades's camera):


MÃ¥rten and Monty looking at where to go in the Rio metro. As this was during the pre-Sakila-lithic era, Monty wore an old, dragon type "mySQL" T-shirt (yes, lower case m).


Helvécio Borges Filho from EAC (to the right of me) hosted us in 2001, and over the years, we've met many times since at MySQL Users Conferences and elsewhere -- such as last Tuesday at Sun Tech Days in São Paulo. Yesterday, Copacabana was quite a bit more rainy than above.


Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) at the Corcovado Mountain.


Monty evidently also wants to redeem (with Corcovado in the background). And I am always fond of teasing Monty for his taste for a particular artificial drink with a closed-source recipe.

As I'm sure you can tell, I was very impressed with Brazil both in 2001 and in 2008. I won't wait seven years until my next visit!

MySQL Presence Launched in Brasil

BrazilBom dia!

On Monday and Tuesday this week, a team of MySQLers ("Sun Dolphins") and Sunnies ("Sun Classics") launched the commercial presence of MySQL in Brazil.

This means we have now have ambitions well beyond the growth of the MySQL user base in Brazil, which already is in the top five countries of the world when it comes to downloads. In other words,

  • we have a senior sales person assigned, with a sales goal for Brazil

  • we are recruiting sales engineers for Brazil

  • we are recruiting Support Engineers, who will deliver MySQL support in Portuguese

  • we are recruiting Consultants, who will deliver MySQL professional services in Portuguese


During the Sun Tech Days in São Paulo, we had the opportunity to share these news with both a developer and a business audience, as well as with several representatives from the press. "We" included fellow MySQLers Del Ruiz and Philip Antoniades, as well as Sun Classic employees Rodolfo Fontoura (Country Manager of Sun Microsystems do Brasil), Eramir Fernandes Junior (heads the Sun Software Practice in Brazil) and Jim Parkinson (Sun VP for Developer, Tools and Services) and many others.

I'm happy to note that we got plenty of attention, both from the press and from the developer and business audience. I was also grateful to receive positive attention for my attempt at localising my presentation beyond English through speaking Portuguese for the first part of my speech (see below). Thanks Eramir for the translation, and thanks to the audience for enduring my oral mistreatment of your beautiful language!
Prezados usuários de MySQL, prezados clientes da Sun, prezados parceiros da Sun, senhoras e senhores, bom dia e bem vindos a este evento para lançar oficialmente a MySQL no Brasil, e celebrar a aquisição da MySQL AB pela Sun Microsystems, e ainda ajudar todos a entender melhor como vocês podem se beneficiar destas duas empresas estarem juntas agora.

Meu nome é Kaj Arnö, sou o vice-presidente de Relações com a Comunidade na MySQL. Eu vivo em Munique, Alemanha, mas eu não sou Alemão; Eu sou Finlandes, como o fundador e CEO da MySQL, e muitos outros colegas na MySQL. Na integração da MySQL com a Sun, também tenho a tarefa de Embaixador MySQL na Sun, o que significa que eu vivo de um escritório da Sun ao outro e explico o que é tudo isso sobre a MySQL.

Um dos temas de hoje é, como eu já disse, a aquisição da MySQL pela Sun. Muitos nos perguntam, como empregados da MySQL, o que pensamos sobre o assunto. Não é uma pena perder a nossa independência, e o sonho de um IPO? Minha resposta pessoal, e da grande maioria, é muito pelo contrário. Nós estamos felizes de chegar a varias novas oportunidades com os recursos da Sun. E, o que nossos novos colegas na Sun pensam? Eu já conversei com centenas deles, e não encontrei ainda um único indivíduo que não esteja entusiasmado com a aquisição.

Mesmo assim, o que vocês pensam é muito mais importante. E eu penso que a aquisição é boa notícia também para nossos clientes e usuários. A Sun é a maior desenvolvedora de software livre no mundo (Open Office, Open Solaris, Glassfish, NetBeans, Java) e pode nos dar mais recursos do que já tivemos até hoje.

Também é muito, muito importante destacar, que a aquisição significa mais possibilidades, e não menos. Na Sun, vamos continuar a suportar os mesmos sistemas operacionais que antes - Linux, Windows, OSX etc. Assim como os ambientes de desenvolvimento:PHP, Ruby, OBDC, .Net. Talvez veremos ainda mais possibilidades para Solaris e para Java, mas não com prejuízo para as outras plataformas.

Eu estou quase terminando, mas eu ainda quero dar uma resposta curta a uma pergunta freqüente: Por que a Sun comprou a MySQL? Minha resposta é: Porque os valores e a cultura de trabalho é a mesma na Sun e na MySQL, mas os clientes são com freqüência diferentes (exceto pela industria de telecomunicações). E isso significa que podemos juntos trabalhar bem, oferecendo produtos e serviços de uma companhia aos clientes da outra.

Tenho certeza que vocês já notaram, eu não falo Português. E como eu suspeito que a maioria não fala Sueco (minha língua materna) e não gostariam que minha apresentação levasse uma eternidade (o que pode acontecer se continuar assim), Vou ter que trocar para uma língua que é estrangeira tanto para vocês como para mim: Inglês. Minhas desculpas, e agradeço a atenção, até agora.

Links to the Brazilian press coverage of the MySQL launch: