August 6, 2009

Death of PopFly

Posted in Web tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:53 am by sagito

Some of you probably know and have used Microsoft’s PopFly! I did and I think it was a pretty cool online service and above all it was pretty fun to use… (Although it also a bit useless too). PopFly was the Microsoft’s response to the Web 2.0 fever that struck the internet some time ago. For those of you who didn’t know PopFly, it was an online service that allowed users to create mashups by simply dragging and dropping the features you want and connecting them together. This mashups could be sites, games, simple web apps, etc…

Well, at first this seemed to be pretty cool… The truth is this was useless, because there were few contents that I could really export from their site and use as standalone… Nevertheless, we could see some really great works in the popfly site, some of which took obviously lots of time and expertise to create. So, what does Microsoft decided to do with that? Shutdown popfly and destroy every single content that could not be exported!

I was registered in PopFly (and I had to obtain an invitation to join this “elite” in the beginning) and I had some work there… And all of that is now lost. Microsoft, I want you to give me back the time you wasted from my life! Well, at least they warned the users with some funny message which states: “Thanks for stopping by. Unfortunately, on August 24th, 2009, the Popfly service will be discontinued, all resources will be taken down, and access to your Popfly account, including games and mashups, will cease.”. So, I just want to thank you, Microsoft, for valuing my work so much…

But now, lets think for a while… PopFly came out in 2007 and at the time you needed an invitation to work with that thing. Somewhere in 2008 I think, the invitation system was removed and anyone could login. And now, only 2 years after its birth, PopFly is getting killed… In my opinion, this reveals two things: The first is that it was an amazing failure in the Microsoft’s strategy and planning. Because this was obviously expensive to Microsoft. Also, as you couldn’t obtain anything that really matters from this service, it was quite obvious to me that it wouldn’t work… The second thing is that Microsoft must be desperate with something and is trying to reorganize or redraw its strategy… Shutting down a service, even if it is useless and obsolete, is not Microsoft’s style… So, either they are planning something big and need to focus their resources on that or they are trying to reduce costs… Desperately…

But PopFly is not the only thing that Microsoft is killing… Microsoft Money (Microsoft’s Management Software System) was also discontinued and it will no longer have technical support. When I heard of that I thought: “What the hell is Microsoft Money? Never heard of it…”. Apparently it really existed… But not any more!

My opinion is that Microsoft will be closing some more stuff soon. Probably not its social Live Network, as social networking is Microsoft’s main bet now, but I don’t expect a long life for Skydrive, XNA, Live Mesh and Silverlight. The first is quite useful but is very expensive because it requires a huge online storage space. XNA represents an enormous investment from Microsoft, was well received and it is very useful as a prototyping tool. But NEVER as a game creation platform as they intended, because it is way too slow to be able to compete with a C++ engine, for example. Live Mesh is a complete failure in its implementation as I’ve mentioned in this post. Finally, Silverlight was Microsoft’s idea to compete with Flash. However, people got used to Flash over so many years and they don’t want to learn something new that doesn’t bring any real advantage over Flash (although Microsoft invested a lot on saying otherwise, which obviously isn’t true, at least so far).

So, Microsoft seems to be in a very bad and dangerous path… Maybe they will get it someday, but for the moment I think they are just desperate and trying to patch up some mistakes they made in the past few years. This said, I leave you with a sentence that I saw somewhere a while ago: 

“The day Microsoft makes something that doesn’t suck is the day they make a vacuum cleaner.”

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July 11, 2009

The Bologna Process

Posted in Education tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:36 pm by sagito

Many people have talked about this and it is still clearly a rather polemic subject. The bologna process was born in 1999 from the Bologna declaration, which was signed in 19th June 1999 by 29 european countries. Nowadays it is applied to 46 countries already. The main idea behind it was to make an unified European Higher Education Area, increasing the standards of quality and student mobility between coutries.

However, have you read the small lines? A former leader of the University of Oporto did and the perspective is not good. And I totally agree with him… According to this professor, the Bologna process in Portugal is just a facade for what it is really intended. It will give the portuguese government the opportunity of reducing operational costs with every single university.

Why? Because the professors are now paid with a value that is directly related to the students success. It is not that I don’t agree with a measure of this kind… But at least make it right! Because it is quite clear that some professors will pass more students just to justify a bigger income regardless of whether those students really deserved to pass! And we are assisting to some of these examples today already! This is at least ridiculous and makes the concept of “higher education” look only like a comercial slogan.

In other hand, the government is apparently considering a new tax, based on what is stated by the Bologna Process, called the graduate tax. This means that everyone who graduates must pay one extra tax in order to pay for the time that studied in an university. Again, I agree with something like that, because the government did pay my studies and gave me the possibilities to do so… But, once again, do it as it should be! Let’s consider two cases… Number one, I move out of Portugal! That way, the money that the government invested on me stays with me, and everyone else back in Portugal is paying for my studies… Number two, private universities! Does one person that frequented a private university, and that have already paid its studies in full, have to pay for the studies of one who have not? I don’t think so…

But wait, there’s more! The universities in Portugal are going to be vanished… In a matter of fact, University of Oporto (UP) no longer exists, as it is now a foundation. Why is this? Because that way, it can receive money directly from private companies and be directly financied or “sponsored” by these companies. While this takes a lot of work from the government it is still a “privatization” of the universities with a golden share for the state. And I think I can smell the corruption already…

To end this, the universities decided to cancel every pre-job agreement with the companies. That is, in the last year of graduation, the student does not get to work in a real company! He stays in the university instead, doing some research stuff and writing a thesis… They promised us the job when we reached the last year and now they take it away from us? We paid for that! They sold us that! But, I informed myself with the competent person (focus on competent) and the job is really gone. We can make the thesis in the ambit of a company, but the university won’t place us directly there… So it is all up to us… Why? To save money? Who cares? I do… Because my future, the future they promised me is now compromised… And if you are reading this and you are a student too, then I hope you also care…

I know that some measures are about to be taken to make our life a little bit worse, but I’m waiting to see what this will look like… Keep you posted… 😛 This article is in portuguese, but you can translate and read some more about this in:

http://agir-uminho.blogspot.com/2006/11/bolonha-obrigar-portugal-desinvestir.html