Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Interviewed by a Technometrician – Phil Windley

This week I was flattered to be invited to do a phone interview with Phil Windley, whom many of you know from his Technometria blog, along with Scott Lemon and Ben Galbraith. We talked about the analysis and design techniques from the Document Engineering book and in particular about their application to the design of services and service interfaces. The essence of document engineering is that it provides practical methods for developing robust and interoperable semantics – which is harder than it seems to most people, which is why a lot of interfaces are neither.

Phil, like Jon Udell (with whom I’ve done a couple of podcasts about service design and document engineering), is a good interviewer who does a lot of preparation (he proved it by using lots of jargon from my book). He skillfully led me to rant about some of my favorite topics, like these design continua that many people want to force into binary choices, often in an ideological, good vs evil sort of way:

Data vs documents

Microformats vs Domain-Specific Languages (aka "heavyweight" schemas)

Mashups vs Composite Services

We discussed my new research project at UC Berkeley that I call
Bridging the front stage and back stage in the design of information services. I just wrote a conference paper about this and I'll probably excerpt it for my next post.

We also discussed a new course I'm planning to teach at Berkeley whose title will be "Design Models and Methods," (or "How To Build Stuff that Will Actually Work.") The common theme of the research and course is that we need more integrated approaches to designing interfaces (front ends or front stages) and the information systems and services that enable them or give them something to do (the back ends). This course is based on a research project that I call Project M, to make it sound mysterious and profound.

There’s a funny point in the interview where I am asked about the Glushko Crater on the Moon, a link to which appears on my home page. This is named for VP Glushko a famous Soviet scientist who was an important leader in the Soviet rocket and space programs (and probably a distant relative). But I tell people who don’t look carefully that the crater was named after me to honor the great contributions to mankind made by document engineering.

You can replay the interview as a podcast in the IT Conversations series.

(It has been a long time since my last post here. I spent three weeks in Turkey and got out of the habit).

-Bob Glushko

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