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gocanvas.com is great : you can create form apps for your business without programming.

Replacing paper with mobile touchscreen and having your data in the cloud is such a big win… BUT there are a couple of crucial missing pieces that are vital to business  :

  • more than one kind of thing !
  • relationships between things

 

The Problem

In real life and in business, there are a few different kinds of things, such as :

  • Customer
  • Address
  • Vehicle
  • Branch
  • Product
  • Invoice
  • Event
  • Group
  • Project
  • Property
  • Contract
  • Supplier
  • Shipment
  • Task

And these things have important relationships between them : A Customer may have several site Addresses.  A Job may have several different kinds of Checklist attached.  An Invoice will have several Products for each Job for a Customer .. and so it goes.

 

Relations

A good app [ mobile or otherwise ] will have a data-model that reflects the REALITY of your business, and it will be flexible enough to handle the relationships between the data items.

diagram_consult

This is the old-school database stuff they figured out in 1940, which has been the staple of business IT for the past 60 years – they call them ‘Relational’ databases for a reason.

These days we want more flexible data, there is the whole NoSQL movement, key-value stores, XML and JSON.  To model reality and business we need natural tree and graph structures, not everything is a table.  Just dont throw away the baby with the bathwater : we need relations.

If you don’t have Relations you cant do the fun stuff :

  • one to many [ Comment Wall can have many Posts ]
  • trees and heirarchies [ Deep Product Catalog, Organization chart ]
  • graphs and social networks [ facebook, linkedin, crm, sales ]
  • people interacting [ messaging ]

This lack of relationships is killer for IT departments – they cant run a retail business or a supply chain or a sales organisation or a manufacturing plant without this flexibility.  Its also killer for startups exploring new business models who need an app to manage their operations or customer needs accurately and in a flexible way.

 

The Solution : Relations

The solution is to have a tool that is great for making forms… but is also great for handling relations between different kinds of things.

We need some deeper engineering that allows you to link things together,  so you can build these kinds of real apps for business :

  • Product Catalog
  • Topic Wall with Comments
  • Invoices where you can select existing products, or add a new one
  • Jobs that can be assigned to different stakeholders
  • Flexible forms with multiple sub-clauses [ Property report with any number of rooms ]
  • Social Network features …

 

Its early days, but this part we got right from the start – CollabAPI does support relations.

This means we can create apps for real business scenarios :

  • a custom CRM
  • sales business social network
  • a manufacturing process workflow
  • a real-estate property management system

 CollabAPI Beta

If you’d like to be on the beta list to try CollabAPI App Builder tool for your business mobile app… get in touch.

The more Things and Relations your app has, the better !

gord

justgord at gmail dotcom

Been hacking in Node.js and am really enjoying the saneness of this dev environment.

Some handy links before I forget  :

  • howto.no.de articles – especially Part I, II and III of ‘Learning Javascript with Object Graphs’
  • Joyeur blogs – people working for Joyent on Node / DTrace / Solaris
  • no.de Joyent Node hosting [ built atop – ‘open’ solaris, ZFS, DTrace ]
  • NodeJitsu blog
  • npm.mape.me – searchable Node.js Modules list
  • connect-it guide – web framework with chained middleware layers
  • express guide – article on express web framework for Node
  • eventserver – Tom Lee’s internet tee piping for notifications

In other news.. Im hacking over ssh via a long thin pipe to my linode server – using a very erratic mobile broadband connection, arrgh!

Cant wait for ADSL to _finally_ be connected here, so I can watch Bryan Cantrill talk about Cloud Analytics :]

As an aside.. why Javascript?  Consider

  • Javascript is a totally distinct language from Java
  • Javascript deserves its bum rap.. to mis-quote Dame Judi Dench, its bad parts are “arse-clench-ingly” bad :]
  • The good parts of Javascript feel very nice, like a modern lisp inspired language, fairly concise, many valid idioms
  • V8 js engine is fast
  • Javascript callback mechanism fits async event IO really well
  • Node.js embodies the above bullet point into a fine server development environment
  • JSON, the Javascript native data format, is all the good things of XML with none of the bad
  • feels like a unix-like web-plumbing philosophy
  • can keep the same language syntax hat on when writing front end web apps and back end servers

Eclectic recent math-goodness :

Two nice video talks by Terry Tao on Random Matrices and Additive Combinatorics here

A programmers intro to the practical aspects of Flow Graphs at topcoder algorithm tutorials

PCM

Last but not least the superb ‘Princeton Companion to Mathematics‘.

In a nutshell, PCM is a readable survey-guide to modern math by the experts.  Some links –

Should be in print Nov 2008.  Hopefully more articles from Tim Gowers’ and Terry Tao’s blogs will make it out in book form, with the momentum this will generate…