Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Big boys embrace Ruby on Rails

It’s not much more than a year since my company, MediaConnect, did a total rewrite of our platform in finally moving away from Lotus Notes.

At the time, I decided to stick with what was then the defacto standard platform for web application – aka LAMP – although I did look pretty deeply into both Java and Ruby on Rails alternatives.

Well, we’re about to embark on yet another re-write, so we can better make-use of AJAX and also so we can allow for far more customisation and advanced functionality. I’ve spoken to a few other online app makers who are doing likewise. We sat on our Domino platform for six years (which admittedly was far too long) but it shows the pace of change in today’s web environment, that you have to do pretty fundamental rewrites so regularly just to keep your base architecture up-to-date.

Making this move at this point, I did stop briefly to ask myself, should we stick with PHP. RoR has made a lot of ground since we first made the decision, as has Python, and today I noted this week that Borland company CodeGear has launched a Ruby IDE.

If there had been a really good Ruby IDE a year or so ago, I may have gone that way. In fact, if I was doing a fresh startup today I reckon I’d use Ruby but we’ve invested too much in our existing PHP code-base to totally abandon it. Thankfully, PHP is moving forward with PHP5 as well and we’re looking like using the Symfony-Project framework which is pretty new but exciting.

Ah the joys of an online application company…

Filed under: MediaConnect, PHP, Ruby on Rails, Symfony, Symfony Project

I’m coming to the party

I always lamented that I was late-to-the-party when Web 1.0 rolled around. I started writing my first Web business plan, exactly one month before the whole thing went crash. I ended up ditching that first idea because it required VC funding and settled on a business I thought I could make fly, because it better leveraged the expertise I’d acquired at that stage and it didn’t require any external investment. That was MediaConnect and I reckon we’ve done alright for ourselves.

But I always wondered what would have happened if I’d have done the same thing a couple years earlier amidst the haze of multi-million dollar VC funding and zillion dollar buyouts and IPOs. I’d be living on easy street by now, I keep telling myself as well as anyone who has the misfortune of running into me at 2am in the morning after a dozen or so beers.

So now ‘Web 2.0′ rolls around and the dollars are flowing freely again. As I look around and watch what’s happening, I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable, lounging back in my diluded state of ‘what might have been’. It’s kind of difficult to cry about missing the boat when another ship’s there sitting in the dock, waiting to be boarded.

After putting so much sweat into MediaConnect, though, it’s kind of difficult to take ones hands off the wheel for fear of it running aground. Sure, we’re a niche business, but it’s one we own and which we’re now well-positioned to leverage now we’re operating in the black. A lot of things are turning our way and a company with a relatively similar business in the US, Vocus, just IPO’d in December and has since seen its share rocket from $9 to $13.65 giving it a market cap of over $US200 million.

So it’s been easy for me to stay chained to MediaConnect and leave the rest of my participatory efforts to sniping as an armchair critic as the web goes through its latest, iterative development. However, in the past week, I’ve decided that’s a cop out. I am ready to join the party.

The first thing I’ve done is embrace the Google 80/20 rule. We’ve christened a room in our office as our “lab”. We’re going to start some side projects and all our staff have the opportunity to get involved with those as well as to propose their own ideas. The goal is to let a couple of ideas take off, see what flies and if any manage to stay up in the air we’ll hive them off and anyone involved keeps their seat on their plane. If they crash, well, we just sweep up the wreckage and send another one up in the air. After all, what are you really risking? It doesn’t take an awful lot of cash to prototype an idea these days and I don’t think the use of staff’s time on side projects will result in noticeable decreases in productivity related to our core business.

So if you’ve noticed a drop off in my number of posts, it’s because I’ve been speccing my first couple of labs projects. One is related to the 1EyedEel site that’s been my labour of my love for the past couple of years and the second is in the content aggregation space. I’m pretty keen on the concept behind the aggregator, actually.

If nothing else, I’m going to find out if I can walk the talk. Do I have a clue or am I full of shit? If I am full of shit, well, so be it. That’ll just make me all the more qualified to blog! ;-)

Filed under: Content Aggregation, MediaConnect, Web 2.0

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