Analysis (Services and Self)

Koan Bremner's view on life as a database and data warehouse professional / addict and non-genetic woman

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Welcome to myPodder! ;-)

One of the best things about my job right now is that I'm working on some really interesting stuff; using existing technologies in ways that I certainly haven't before (and, to the best of my knowledge, in ways other people haven't used before); and the parallel frustration is that I can't write about even the most generic aspects of that work (due to my employer's perfectly reasonable "non-disclosure of IPR" policy) here! At the same time, I need to invest some time in professional self-development, specifically on new and upcoming technologies (e.g. SQL Server 2005, Longhorn, WinFS, Avalon) as well as technologies which may not be so new, but are relatively unknown to me. And finally, there are some elements around the whole blogging, podcasting and intelligent information management area which I really want to dig into; so, it occurs to me that I can hit multiple targets with a single shot by developing some software applications which solve the latter, are non-trivial enough to allow me to address the aspects of OLAP I'd love to write about here, yet are sufficiently restrained in scope to allow me the opportunity to develop them on multiple platforms in a finite timescale. And that's going to be the aim... of... myPodder! ;-)

I have absolutely no intention of developing this as a commercial application (or applications). This is really for fun, to plug some gaps in my own knowledge, to provide a platform against which I can demonstrate some specific elements of OLAP and intelligent information management, and to provide some functionality which I actually don't have access to at the moment. Rather like James with his GolfWeb and Timesheet projects, I've found in the past that the best way to get familiar with new technology and techniques is to do something with it, preferably something that's at least useful to yourself. So, I'll be posting here about my progress, and making the code available to anyone who's interested.

I'm aiming to develop at least four variants of myPodder:

1) "Old-style" technology (e.g. VBScript, COM, ASP, SQL Server 2000 and Analysis Services); primarily because this is where I tend to do my "quick and dirty" prototyping at the moment;

2) "Current-style" technology (e.g. C#, ASP.Net, maybe some web services) because I recognise some current personal skills gaps in those areas;

3) "Bleeding edge" / pre-release technologies (e.g. Whidbey, Yukon, Longhorn, WinFS, Avalon, Aero) because... well, because I want to! ;-) Bring me your most current untested, unstable and preview versions and watch me flounder; and

4) "Open source" technology (e.g. Linux, mySQL / PostgreSQL, Java)... because there's some specific open source software I need to familiarise myself with, and comparative tests against each of the above ought to help me in doing that.

As for what myPodder is intended to actually *do*... hopefully the name (an obvious and respectful tip-of-the-hat towards iPodder without, I hope, upsetting anybody) ought to betray part of the intent of the project. Which is to assist me in my experience of podcasting and smart information management, as a consumer *and* as a producer of content in those areas. Some examples of areas I intend to cover include:

1) Optimising the round-trip process of my consumption of podcasts in at least two use cases, i.e. a) burning them to CD, listening to them in my car, and then purging the downloaded podcasts from my system (because I'll have CD versions) *and* tracking personal metadata (e.g. ratings and notes) about those podcasts; and b) using a "smart device" (e.g. Pocket PC, iPod or similar) as the transfer mechanism and interactive "rating and annotating" device. As for the source of these podcasts, I want to handle at least two distribution options, i.e. direct downloading of files via RSS enclosures and distribution of files through BitTorrent, with specific purging rules for the latter, e.g. "a podcast can only be purged when I have uploaded at least 200% of the file size I downloaded" as well as generic purging rules for all cases, e.g. "a podcast can only be purged once it has been listened to on CD, so that I know the CD copy is valid, and rated, so that I have captured and augmented the metadata that *I* will find useful";

2) Bringing some intelligence to the content of the streams I download, e.g. using the ratings and metadata I provide to automatically source and manage new content sources that I do not as yet subscribe to;

3) Analysing the sources and destinations of the content I consume and produce, e.g. spotting trends of peak activity and bandwidth consumption, enhancing and refining the metadata I collect to assist my consumption and provision of content;

4) Anything else I happen to want to try out!

If any of the above strikes you as opaque or just plain gibberish, well, join the club! Actually, I hope it will become clearer as this particular project unfolds. I'm really looking forward to it; I just need to make sure I keep enough focus on the day job as well... ;-)

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