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Wanted: 19 More of the Top Software People in the World

Wanted: 19 More of the Top Software People in the World

Related Links:
  • Sung and Unsung i-Technology Heroes
  • Linux Quote of the Week: Honoring Linus Torvalds
  • "I Didn't Invent XML Dammit," Says Tim Bray
  • A Talk with the Father of C#
  • A Conversation with Adam Bosworth

    For over a decade, Tim Bray, one of the prime movers of XML, managed the Oxford English Dictionary project at the University of Waterloo. That was from 1988 to 1999. During the end of his time there he launched one of the first public Web search engines (in 1995), coinvented XML 1.0, and coedited "Namespaces in XML" (1996-1999).

    Bray is therefore no technological slouchabout. Nor is he without deep insight into the ways of the Web, having served as a Tim Berners-Lee appointee on the W3C Technical Architecture Group in 2002-2004, after which he joined Sun as director of Web technologies in March of this year. So when he takes the trouble to describe someone as "probably one of the top 20 software people in the world," you know he means it.

    The person in question was Adam Bosworth, famous for Quattro Pro, Microsoft Access, and Internet Explorer 4 even before he joined BEA as VP of engineering in 2001, when BEA bought Crossgain, the company he'd by then cofounded after leaving Microsoft. He went on to become BEA's chief architect before, very recently, leaving the Java app server company to join Google, Inc.

    Bray was one of the gurus that a headhunter working with Google, Inc., called for a reference before they hired Bosworth. Bray gave him a glowing one. That's when Bray's description of him as probably one of the top 20 software people on earth appeared. As we all know, Bosworth got the job and now works on software that is very different from what he was archi-tecting at BEA.

    "Rather than worrying about what the IT of large corporations needs to do to support the corporation," he explained recently, "I'm worrying about mere mortals. In fact, my mom."

    Bosworth says he can only build software if he first gets some mental image in his head of the customers. Who are they? How do they look, feel, think? He calls this "designing by guilt," which he explains as follows: "Because if you don't do what feels right for these customers, you feel guilty for having let them down."

    Of course, customers are endlessly disparate, complex, heterogenous, and distinct. But even so, Bosworth says he has always found it necessary to think about a small number of distinct types of customers, and then design for them. "And boy is it satisfying to do this when the people you are designing for are your friends, family, relatives, your smart-aleck son, and so on," Bosworth observes, "and when even your mother can use what you build - I call this the mom factor. It's corny but fun."

    What a refreshing approach. No wonder, with this high regard for technology's fundamentals, Bray rates Bosworth as one of the top 20 software people in the world. The question naturally arises, however: who are the other 19?

    This is not easy to answer, and not because there are too few candidates but because there are too many. In a phase of the economic cycle most readily remembered for being downbeat and understated, the names of leading i-technologists - whom Internet technologies rely on for their unceasing innovation and ingenuity - nonetheless still trip off most people's lips. Just think of Sergey Brin, Bill Joy, Linus Torvalds, Tim Berners-Lee, James Gosling, Anders Hejlsberg, Don Box, Nathan Myhrvold, W. Daniel Hillis, Mitch Kapor...

    The "technorati" or "digerati" - call them what you will - the aristocracy of the online world. Can a list of the Top 20 i-Technologists possibly be compiled that doesn't cause the online equivalent of fistfights when published? Obviously not. But that shouldn't deter us from trying. So, have at it. The final list will be reported here, along with the near-misses. You can send your nominations, including your reasoning, to i-Technology's Top Twenty, toptwenty@sys-con.com. It will take more than a month to ensure that everyone with something worth saying has found time, energy, and above all the appropriately persuasive argument to persuade us of the merits of their choice/s. We'll report next issue on how this process is going.

    Related Links:

  • Sung and Unsung i-Technology Heroes
  • Linux Quote of the Week: Honoring Linus Torvalds
  • "I Didn't Invent XML Dammit," Says Tim Bray
  • A Talk with the Father of C#
  • A Conversation with Adam Bosworth
  • More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

    Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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    Most Recent Comments
    Jeremy Epstein 12/15/04 12:40:39 PM EST

    Here's a few key people I think should be on the list:

    Steve Bellovin - author of USENET, security researcher, author of the seminal book (with Bill Cheswick) on firewalls

    David Bell & Len LaPadula - developed the multi-level security model used to represent military security

    Gene Spafford - leader of CERIAS at Purdue Univ, which spun off numerous security product companies (e.g., Tripwire, ISS)

    Roger Schell - very early proponent of attacker models; first penetration tester; architect for highly secure systems