Posted:February 19, 2007

Jewels & Doubloons

We’re So Focused on Plowing Ahead We Often Don’t See The Value Around Us

For some time now I have been wanting to dedicate a specific category on this blog to showcasing tools or notable developments. It is clear that tools compilations for the semantic Web — such as the comprehensive Sweet Tools listing — or new developments have become one focus of this site. But as I thought about this focus, I was not really pleased with the idea of a simple tag of “review” or “showcase” or anything of that sort. The reason such terms did not turn my crank was my own sense that the items that were (and are) capturing my interest were also items of broader value.

Please, don’t get me wrong. One (among many) observations within the past few months has been the amazing diversity, breadth and number of communities, and most importantly, the brilliance and innovation that I was seeing. My general sense in this process of discovery is that I have kind of stumbled blindly into many existing — and sometimes mature — communities that have existed for some time, but for which I was not part of nor privy to their insights and advances. These communities are seemingly endless and extend to topics such as semantic Web and its constituent components, Web 2.0, agile development, Ruby, domain-specific languages, behavior driven development, Ajax, JavaScript frameworks and toolkits, Rails, extractors/wrappers/data mining, REST, why the lucky stiff, you name it.

Announcing ‘Jewels & Doubloons’

As I have told development teams in the past, as you cross the room to your workstation each morning look down and around you. The floor is literally strewn with jewels, pearls and doubloons –tremendous riches based on work that has come before — and all we have to do is take the time to look, bend over, investigate and pocket those riches. It is that metaphor, plus in honor of Fat Tuesday tomorrow, that I name my site awards ‘Jewels & Doubloons.’

Jewels & Doubloons (or J & D for short) may get awarded to individual tools, techniques, programming frameworks, screencasts, seminal papers and even blog entries — in short, anything that deserves bending over, inspecting and taking some time with, and perhaps even adopting. In general, the items so picked will be more obscure (at least to me, though they may be very well known to their specific communities), but what I feel to be of broader cross-community interest. Selection is not based on anything formal.

Why So Many Hidden Riches?

I’ll also talk on occasion as to why these riches of such potential advantage and productivity to the craft of software development may be so poorly known or overlooked by the general community. In fact, while many can easily pick up the mantra of adhering to DRY, perhaps as great of a problem is NIH — reinventing a software wheel due to pride, ignorance, discontent, or simply the desire to create for creation’s sake. Each of these reasons can cause the lack of awareness and thus lack of use of existing high value.

There are better ways and techniques than others to find and evaluate hidden gems. One of the first things any Mardi Gras partygoer realizes is not to reach down with one’s hand to pick up the doubloons and plastic necklaces flung from the krewes’ floats. Ouch! and count the loss of fingers! Real swag aficionados at Mardi Gras learn how to air snatch and foot stomp the manna dropping from heaven. Indeed, with proper technique, one can end up with enough necklaces to look like a neon clown and enough doubloons to trade for free drinks and bar top dances. Proper technique in evaluating Jewels & Doubloons is one way to keep all ten fingers while getting rich the lazy man’s way.
Jewels & Doubloons are designated with either a medium-sized Jewels & Doubloons or small-sized (see below) icon and also tagged as such.

Past Winners

I’ve gone back over the posts on AI3 and have postdated J & D awards for these items: