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What I like About CF9...Solr Indexing

I am excited about the up coming ColdFusion 9 release Solr free text search - ti replaces the Verity free text search that has been in ColdFusion for over eight years.  TeraTech has been using the open source Java Solr search on a project for the American Psychological Association and we have been impressed with how it efficiently handles searching millions of documents; this, of course without the extra costs that Verity requires for large search sets.  We are also looking forward to being able to directly call Solr instead of doing a slow CFHTTP call to access it.  ColdFusion 9 will support advanced replication and caching and also comes with a Verity to Solr migration tool.

Crowd Chess

Is one single person smarter than an enormous group of people?  Is a crowd better at making decisions than one trained expert? is taking this idea and putting it to the ultimate test, a mass exhibition of the ultimate strategy game where it is literally the world versus chess Grand Master Gawain Jones, one of England’s highest rated players.

It goes like this: everyone enrolled gets to vote on a move the team should make and has 12 hours to do so.  The move that gets the most votes will take place, and then Mr. Jones will have 12 hours to decide on his move. 

While this may not be a completely comprehensive test, the results should be pretty exciting.  Challenging a Grand Master is no easy task but I for one believe that with all persons dedicated to the game and the ability to mill over every possible outcome for 12 hours means that the odds are in the crowd’s favor.  Another test of crowd wisdom could be a group of people boxing against the heavy-weight champion of the world, but chess may be a bit more civil. Visit to learn more.

Would Whole Brain testing have made Windows Vista better?

I was reading Joel on Software the other day and he talked about a rumor that one of the reasons that Windows Vista release was extremely inconsistent and unpolished was that the testing was fully automated (or left brain). There was no traditional (whole brain) testing where the tester not only runs the software through test scripts but also looks for overall inconsistencies and usability issues. The ability to look at the complete picture is a right brain task that is hard or impossible to automate with current technology.

Now there is nothing wrong with automating testing with scripts so long as there is also human testing for how easy the software is to use. After all at the end of the day if humans don’t like using your software then you have a big problem no matter how many automated QA tests have passed. And with Vista most reviewers didn’t like using it and recommended staying with XP for as long as you can.

So if you are testing software please get some good QA folks to give you overall feedback. Or even better find some representative users to check it out. Otherwise some of those small “fit and finish” issues might cause your release to be a disaster…

Web 2.0 mindmapping tools

You have been mindmapping for a while, perhaps using a Windows based tool such as MindMapper. But you want to share you maps online with others and simultaneous edit. Like you can documents with Google Document. What to do? Check out one of these online mindmapping tools that my friend Jim Collins alerted me to below. Many are in beta so be sure to backup any live maps you create! Does any one have a favorite or know of any more online mindmap editors?


Is Mahalo manual search engine web 3.0 or web -1.0?

I read about a new search engine called Mahalo ("thank you" in Hawaiian) in Fast Company.

Is it using some fancy algorithm to beat Google or more powerful servers to power
the search? No. Mahalo uses people to do the searching. At first it seems kind of web -1.0
but perhaps there is something to it. After all people are much harder to be
fooled by spammers. And people are still better at computers figuring out
what search results are really useful. Does getting 100,000,000 search results
really help me or do I want just one page of personally honed results?

Mahalo staff pre-write responses to the most popular search terms. They
only target the top 30%, or about 15,000 terms. The rest get refered back
to Google. Mahalo will be a search engine for people who don't like to
search. Maybe this is Web 3.0. Hmmm.



Why use Whole Brain Programming

Why do I use the whole brain for programming rather than the traditional left brain skills such as logical thinking and syntax? Because it makes for better programs and happier clients. For example a right brain tool such as mindmapping lets me diagram out website requirements in a visual format. I can't explain why but I come up with more new ideas and connections in a 2-D mindmap than I do in a 1-D bulletted list. Perhaps it is seeing "distant" items on the mindmap and being able to consider them as being linked. Or perhaps it is the easy way it is to move branches of a mindmap around the diagram. Whatever the reason it leads to better software design and better group meetings too.

Similarly I find the use of wireframes and exact HTML prototypes allows for a quantum level improvement of client to programmer communication over the traditional heavy document specs. No matter how detailed a spec document is written it seems that it is impossible for clients to visualize how the software will be in real use until after it is written. Of course that is too late in the project and leads to proejct failure (either an budget overrun or project cancelation or even worse shelfware software that end users don't use). But the hands on clickablity of a wireframe or a prototype lets all project stakeholders give feedback earlier in our software development process. As they used to say in old day New York politics "Feedback early, Feedback often"!

If you are interested in other whole brain programming techniques I will be speaking about it at CFUNITED/Express Chicago in a few weeks.

Do you use your Whole Brain while developing?

Recently Dan Pink's book "A Whole New Mind" suggested that the era of "left brain" dominance, and the Information Age that it engendered, are giving way to a new world in which "right brain" qualities-inventiveness, empathy, meaning-predominate. I will be leading a Birds of Feather session at CFUNITED to discuss ways to leverage both sides of your brain for better development including such techniques as mindmapping, FLiP, personas and more.

What are your favorite right brained techniques for programming?

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