Curated for content, computing, and digital experience professionals

Author: Frank Gilbane (Page 1 of 86)

Gilbane Advisor 9-9-20 —, AI ops, IT arch, NLP

Who benefits from schema. org?, linked data, and knowledge graphs are powerful tools for organizing and navigating vast amounts of information. Much of the current energy around these tools is related to SEO and search engines, especially Google, who depend on them to provide a better search experience. These same tools help commercial and corporate publishers deliver better, and more unique, web experiences to researchers and other content consumers.

We all have a stake in how well these tools work, so we need to understand the process of creating and managing them, and how stakeholders share the cost, risk, and benefit of the raw material, technical development, and maintenance. logo

Content strategist Michael Andrews‘ deep dive into the history and process behind’s management is an enlightening read for stakeholders.

Taming the tail: adventures in improving AI economics

Martin Casado and Matt Bornstein focus on the business models and challenges of machine learning companies and products, which are more unique than you might realize and something we need to learn a lot more about. We recommended an earlier article of theirs on the differences between the business models of AI companies and software companies. This article is a follow-up and provides some guidance on how to deal with some of the challenges previously identified. Especially interesting is their example of long-tailed distributions to illustrate the importance problem understanding. 

Headless meets serverless – a tierless architecture for frictionless enterprise

The components of modern enterprise IT architectures have changed considerably in the last few years.  The use of APIs, microservices, XaaS (everything as a service), headless, and serverless approaches have, individually and especially in conjunction, become strategically critical. As Phil Wainewright puts it…

As these connected digital technologies mesh together, they begin to reshape the nature of the enterprise, opening up new ways to collaborate, connect and do business. We are still at the very beginning of adjusting to what this means for how we live and work.

Wainewright explains what these technologies are, describes related activity and trends, and makes a case for a tierless model. His article is relevant and will be helpful to both IT and business managers.

The field of natural language processing is chasing the wrong goal

Researchers are too focused on whether AI systems can ace tests of dubious value. They should be testing whether systems grasp how the world works.


The Gilbane Advisor is curated by Frank Gilbane for content technology, computing, and digital experience professionals. The focus is on strategic technologies. We publish more or less twice a month except for August and December. We do not sell or share personal data.

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Gilbane Advisor 7-14-20 — perceiving, DSM, web 3.0, microservices

Dear Reader:

I hope all is well.

We have been busy updating our website and I thought you deserved a quick update. In mid-May we woke up “NewsShark” and re-activated our curated news service which hasn’t been active for a while. It is available on our site here, as a feed, and on Twitter. We publish news multiple times a week, and will check with you at some point to see if you are interested in an email version. We have consolidated all of our content on our main site, improved site navigation, added back search, and have a new simplified category structure – all available from any page. Finally, we are using markup and experimenting with some additional features that it allows — you’ll notice some of them as you poke around. We’ll update you as we formally roll them out.

Now to this issue’s recommended reading…

Comparing human and machine perception

This article is a wonderfully clear and concrete example of how easy it is to incorrectly interpret data from comparisons between deep neural networks and human perceptions, and how to think about further experiments to expose potential misinterpretations. There is also a broader lesson here for evaluating machine learning algorithms. 

There is a link to the full paper, but this summary by the authors is a valuable resource for non-specialists. Read More

Decentralized web developer report 2020

The decentralized web is an amorphous collection of technologies and projects that are not a near-term threat to today’s imperfect and increasingly centralized web. But it is encouraging to see so much activity dedicated to a more open web, and this report by Fluence Labs’ Evgeny Ponomarev is an excellent way to get a feel for the landscape of the players, the challenges, and what software engineers, researchers, and others think. This is not one of those promotional market research reports, and doesn’t gloss over the challenges. The raw survey data is included. Read More

The seven deceptions of microservices

Software architectures are not the sort of thing you create or change lightly. Even if you’re convinced a different approach would be better, there are inevitably unforeseen developmental and operational consequences / costs which can quickly multiply scarily as a function of the number of moving parts. Software architects and experienced software engineers know this, but the whole team should understand the pros and cons of such a change. Software engineer Scott Rogowski suggests some things to watch out for when considering moving to a microservices development model. Read More

Online content sharing – pay to play?

Article 17 of Directive (EU) 2019/790 on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (the “DSM Directive”), introduces a new content management and liability regime for online content-sharing service providers (“OCSSPs”) … Article 17 is one of the most controversial provisions of the DSM Directive. Its supporters view Article 17 as facilitating more licensing of copyright protected works online to generate remuneration for rightholders whose works are shared by users on profit generating online platforms, while its detractors argue that it goes too far and will have an adverse effect on freedom of expression and the proper functioning of copyright exceptions online. Read More


The Gilbane Advisor curates content for content technology, computing, and digital experience professionals. We focus on strategic technologies. We publish more or less twice a month except for August and December. We do not sell or share personal data.

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Gilbane Advisor 6-3-20 — AMP life, what VR, platforms, skills

New page experience focus for a better web

The open web has always been critical to Google’s business, which is why AMP was both puzzling and controversial. AMP’s faster page display was a clear benefit, but the forced and limited format made user experiences worse and was a burden with a questionable upside and loss of control for publishers. This post from Google’s Webmaster Central blog on upcoming search ranking changes has some welcome news. In addition to focusing more on web page experience [emphasis added]…

As part of this update, we’ll also incorporate the page experience metrics into our ranking criteria for the Top Stories feature in Search on mobile, and remove the AMP requirement from Top Stories eligibility. Google continues to support AMP, and will continue to link to AMP pages when available.  

Google page experience

This is good for the open web, web user experience, and publishers. Google will obviously still compete with publishers as it continues to add richer results to its search pages. But their advantage will not necessarily be unfair, and a Google walled garden should be less of a concern. It is of course also good for Google as it heads into more serious calls for regulation. Read More

SaaS companies, app platforms, and product integrations

Scott Brinker has been making a case for “app platforms” as part of a model for understanding existing landscapes comprised of large platforms and extremely large numbers of “specialist apps”. In this post he looks at some research that ‘examined integrations, public APIs, and “app centers” offered by the 1,000 fastest growing SaaS companies from 2019’ by product category. Scott’s discussion and the detailed research he links to are worth a look by market and business strategists. Read More

The skills content professionals in government need

Our .gov readers will find this report by Ksenia Cheinman especially valuable, but the information and approach will also be helpful to commercial organizations. Ksenia provides a link to short version of the full research report in case you need to whet your appetite. Read More

The VR winter

Benedict Evans…

The problem is, we haven’t worked out what you would do with a great VR device that isn’t a game (or some very niche industrial application), and it’s not clear that we will. We’ve had five years of experimental projects and all sorts of content has been tried, and nothing other than games has really worked. … Pulling all of these threads together, the issue I circle around is not just that we don’t have a ‘killer app’ for VR beyond games, but that we don’t know what the path to getting one might be. Read More


The Gilbane Advisor curates content for content technology, computing, and digital experience professionals. We focus on strategic technologies. We publish more or less twice a month except for August and December.
We do not sell or share personal data.

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Steve Jobs, OpenDoc, and Fluid

Ben Thompson has a member-only post on Stratechery that is worth a read if you’re one of his subscribers. Steve Jobs and OpenDoc, Fluid Framework, Microsoft Lists.

An article on The Verge and quotes from Microsoft’s Jared Spataro about Fluid reminded Thompson of OpenDoc and he begins his own thoughts on Fluid with a bit of history on Steve Jobs decision to kill OpenDoc in 1997. Thompson suggests the reason was that a combination of Microsoft’s dominant marketshare, and

that the application model was simply a much better approach for the personal computer era. Given the lack of computing power and lack of connectivity, it made much more sense to have compatible documents made by common applications than to try and create common documents with compatible components — at least with the level of complexity implicit in OpenDoc.

Thanks to Thompson for giving me an excuse to indulge in a little history of my own, which largely supports his view. Below is what I shared with him. The history is fun, but the new Fluid Framework is also worth a closer look. 


Fluid also reminded me of the competing OpenDoc and OLE approaches in the early 90s. To supplement your history…

At the first Documation conference in February 2004 1994 I moderated a session that included Apple Chief Scientist Larry Tesler, and Tony Williams, Microsoft Software Architect and Co-creator of COM. I had asked each of them to discuss requirements for and their approaches to building a “compound document architecture”. OpenDoc was naturally appealing to me (and many of my subscribers) at the time, but Tony made a strong case for OLE. Tony’s argument for OLE was technical but he also addressed the issue from a business point of view, and argued that OpenDoc was too much of a radical change for both developers and end users. While this was more of an issue for Microsoft with their large developer community and installed base, OpenDoc was radical, and I expect that was the reason OpenDoc languished at Apple and for Jobs’ ultimate rejection.

Below is an excerpt from my report about the session. The complete report and conference program and be found at the link above.

Technology Trends — Document Computing

On Wednesday the general session was divided into two sections. One covered new technologies being developed to enhance document computing and document management. The other presented senior managers from large corporations who described their own document management needs.

Your editor opened the technology session by describing three components of current document management systems, each of which presage future developments. Objects — whether in terms of object-oriented databases, object-oriented programming, or multimedia document component “information objects” — play a big role in making systems more flexible and capable of dealing with complexity. Building an architecture to manage and share distributed objects, and to link and assemble them into document form are requirements of many enterprise-wide document management solutions. Finally, the document metaphor is increasingly seen as the most effective and friendly way to interface not only with document management systems, but with information in general.

Today, these capabilities are built either at the application level, or as “middleware”. For many reasons (e.g., application interoperability, performance, and ease of application development), it would help instead to have support for these capabilities at the operating environment level.

Previous attempts at compound document architectures to provide such an environment have failed. But this is clearly something we need, and eventually will get. Whoever defines and builds such an architecture will be in a powerful position to dominate the IT market. We can expect fierce battles among the platform and architecture vendors to control this architecture . The two leading candidates today are Microsoft’s OLE, and the Component Integration Lab consortium’s OpenDoc (based on Apple technology).

Larry Tessler from Apple described the “Information Tidal Wave” (his alternative to “superhighway”) coming with the growth of electronic multimedia documents, and with the rapid building of electronic document repositories. IS managers will face severe new problems arising from the need to manage these repositories. Larry positioned OpenDoc as a core technology for supporting the management and assembly of these new kinds of documents.

Microsoft’s Tony Williams focused on user requirements for a compound document architecture. Compound documents should be thought of as “compound views” of information, and documents are just one form of information, and thus need to be handled as part of an information architecture. Information architectures in turn need to be able to manage many different types of multimedia data for both document and data applications.

A standard “containment model” is needed, Williams said, to allow applications to share and organize information objects. Previous attempts at standard compound document architectures, e.g., ODA (Office, or Open Document Architecture) failed because they attempted to define a too restrictive representation. Such systems also need to handle ad hoc information (for example, that created with a personal information manager) as well as structured documents.

Tony emphasized the need to protect both user investments in information and developer investments in applications. While a compound document architecture environment is a requirement of any new operating environment, there must be an evolutionary path provided — a compound document architecture that forces a radical change too quickly will not gain acceptance. Tony positioned OLE as the technology that meets these requirements.

When asked, both Tony and Larry Tessler claimed that OpenDoc and OLE should work together and described generally — each in terms of the architecture they were promoting — how that could happen. However, this is definitely an area where there needs to be continued and aggressive vigilance on the part of corporate users to ensure that operating environment interoperability results. It would certainly not be wise — at least not yet — to assume that one of these approaches will become dominant.

Gilbane Advisor 5-5-20 — no proof, medium hard, build it, pod-mail?

A radical solution to scale AI technology

Skip the proof of concept? This isn’t, or shouldn’t, be radical. It’s often a good idea for large scale projects, and not just for AI, or other digital experience or content technology initiatives.

Illustration: Israel G. Vargas
scaling AI
The example in this article is a customer experience chatbot for Nordea. Read More

How Medium became the best and worst place for coronavirus news

Medium’s pivots over the years created confusion about what they are and who they are for. The editorial challenges inherent in being both a platform and a publisher have only increased over time. Zoe Schiffer’s topical case study illustrates how difficult this balance is. Read More

It’s time to build

If you haven’t read this recent post by Marc Andreessen you should. Though prompted by frustration over our collective response to the current coronavirus pandemic, his prescription for preventing such future failures addresses a broader set of societal problems. Some he mentions; others are implicit, or follow, such as the focus on rent-seeking of wall street, VCs, and, well, too many of us. Read More

The New York Times’ morning email newsletter is getting an official “host and anchor”

Joshua Benton asks “Can any of the lessons of The Daily’s success be carried over into your inbox?” and attempts an answer, or rather asks the right questions. The new “The Morning” launched this week, and as someone who curates a newsletter I’ll be paying attention. But a podcast and an email newsletter are very different animals. Read More


The Gilbane Advisor curates content for content technology, computing, and digital experience professionals. We focus on strategic technologies. We publish more or less twice a month except for August and December.
We do not sell or share personal data.

Subscribe | Feed | View online | Privacy policy | Editorial policy

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