Monday, December 15, 2008

Be Open

I usually am the kind of guy that is easy going and is willing to bend my principles for good reason. But I was greatly annoyed today at instances around the internet where content providers still put content out there in closed formats.

In this day and age of open systems, collaboration and standards, I wonder why this is so. There I was trying to go through my mailbox and sort the chaff from the important stuff. I stumbled upon an email from SpringSource and I was interested in seeing a past webinar about their tweaks to the Tomcat application server that we all know and love. Err wrong! I couldn't or lost the appetite to continue, as they had decided in their infinite wisdom that we all had to be Windows users or that our playback kit on our computers had to understand Windows Media Video.

Why they couldn't support a format like MPEG-4 beats me. They had in making this decision put up a hurdle to my use of the webinar content, along with any sales they may or may not have made as a result of my accessing it.

My advice to them would be, to become a bit more open and aware of the content they put out there, especially seeing that they play in a market that prides itself on open, collaborative standards. I will be assuming this is an oversight, unlike a similar oddity from Yahoo! with their launchCAST offering (rebranded as Yahoo! Music), which one would expect they would have redesigned as well to support Flash and standard JavaScript.

They lost the chance to turn me into a user of the past webinars part of their site. To turn 1st time users of your application (web site and other content included) into return/repeat users, take Joshua Porter's advice in Designing for the Social Web - get out of their way! In this specific case getting out of their way is being open.

'Nuff said.


Adam FitzGerald said...

I understand your frustration with the media format restrictions about the recent SpringSource webinar. I'd like to give you some background about how we arrived at this point. There are several factors that have driven us to this current implementation but by far the greatest one is cost. These informational web meetings are provided to the community at absolutely no charge. SpringSource as a company derives no direct benefit from the meetings, but the meetings themselves do cost a considerable amount of money to run especially when there are hundreds of attendees calling in from all over the globe. As a company SpringSource bears this cost, but that forces us to use the lowest cost provider. It just so happens that the service with by far the lowest cost currently only provides WMV as the replay format. We regularly request that they support more open media standards so that the content can be viewed on more platforms, but so far no luck. I'm sure you would agree that making this useful information about Tomcat available to some people is better than charging to attend web meetings or not making it available at all. We will continue to press our provider for broader platform support but in the meantime this is the best we can do.

I hope this explains the difficult position that we are in and that you understand how we came to get there.

Adam FitzGerald

LHFVille said...

Duly noted Adam. Just needed an outlet for my frustration. The point about not deriving benefit from Tomcat is not very accurate, seeing that SpringSource have developed administrative tools from Tomcat and a souped up Tomcat variant.

In any case, I was at the Tomcat Series talk by Filip Hanik last week and found it to be quite informative and value for money.