Project Management

Developer Spotlight: Geoff Bowers

Builder AU recently caught up with Geoff Bowers to talk about Web services, surviving the dot com crash, and the decision to open source Daemon's flagship content management system.

Geoff Bowers is the CEO of Daemon, a Web development company in Sydney. We recently caught up with Geoff to talk about Web services, surviving the dot com crash, and the decision to open source Daemon's flagship content management system.

What technologies are you keeping a watchful eye on at the moment?
A mix of things. I think blogs and RSS are still to make their impact on the Internet world—publishing for the masses is going to be big. Flash outside the browserââ,¬"keep your eye on Macromedia's Central.

What are some of the more interesting things you are doing using Web services?
Web services are nothing newââ,¬"the only difference is a broadly accepted standard. Most of the systems integration we do still relies on Java API's, databases, and the like. We have the odd project going where we've hooked into Web servicesââ,¬"ColdFusion MX makes this so easy it hardly seems like work.

What are your thoughts on remoting vs. Web services?
Remoting is definitely more efficient than Web services. SOAP is very verbose, where the AMF protocol is succinct and binary. The biggest issue with remoting is that we use it where we can. Flash MX 2004 now makes it possible to do web services direct from the Flash client, so despite remoting's advantages I think we're likely to see greater acceptance of Web services in the rich internet application space.

Daemon is heavily involved with Macromedia products. What are some of the newer tools in the new MX release you think developers will embrace?
Dreamweaver's CSS support is a major move forward but the innovations in the new Flash player and IDE are where things are going to heat up. The object orientated environment of Actionscript 2.0ââ,¬"will make a big difference as to how far developers can push the environment. The simplicity of data-binding and the introduction of forms are going to bring a lot of UI development into the Flash arena.

Is there anything that you wish was in the recent release(s)?
I'm still a bit flat on Dreamweaver's hand coding support. As a WYSIWYG editor there is no competitor but day to day I still prefer tools like Homesite and TopStyle for handcoding. But I have to say that view is not shared by all of our development team.

Many Web development companies have fallen by the wayside since the dot-com crash. Why do you think Daemon survived where so many others failed?
We're a very conservative company, especially for our industry. Most of our clients are larger enterprises like BHP Steel, Roche Pharmaceuticals, and Integral Energy. We tend to have long and enduring client relationships; by and large we were sustained by those longer termed projects.

We've had to adopt and be flexible. I think one of the major turnarounds for Daemon was focusing on being a service-driven company.

We spent a lot of down time implementing support mechanisms, version control, and internal training. This was one of the reasons we open sourced our highly successful enterprise content management platform, FarCry CMS.

Why did you decide to release the source of Daemon's FarCry CMS?
Content management is a compdity. Everyone needs it and everyone offers a solutionââ,¬"there are literally thousands of content management systems available on the market today.

We used to sell FarCry CMS for $35,000 per server. It's a proven, enterprise level solution built on years of real world experience and client feedback. But in the end its still just another CMS.

We had a hard look at where our revenue comes from and its not license fees. It's consulting, development, training and our ongoing client relationship. We hoped that by making FarCry CMS available to everyone we might be able to generate more of the services orientated business we're best at.

Why did you choose the Common Public License (as opposed to the GPL or various other open source licenses)?
CPL is just about the most open of the licenses. Under this license, you can literally take FarCry CMS, rebadge it under another name and sell itââ,¬"provided you keep the acknowledgements in place. I wanted something simple, -have the code, do anything you want but remember to tell people it was Daemon who built it". I didn't' want any of the complications associated with GPL and other licenses that might have discouraged contributions or inhibited the uptake of the code base.

What are some of the disadvantages of opening the source to your CMS?
Open sourcing your life's work in a hard decisionââ,¬"FarCry CMS is the largest open source ColdFusion code base. So we were very keen to play devil's advocate and line up the potential disasters giving away the code might entail.

Foremost in our minds was the loss of license revenue. But as it turns out we've been involved in several revenue-generating projects since the release of FarCry CMS that would not have come our way if we were still charging a license fee fro the server.

We had visions of competitors using our code base to win business. This still remains a danger, but there are still opportunities for training and support services. Besides most enterprise level clients would feel more comfortable dealing directly with the team who built the product.

We were also concerned about the development team and the impact giving away the code might have. Surprisingly this has turned into one of the biggest advantages. Team Daemon has been totally invigorated by the response from the developer communityââ,¬"it's a totally different vibe talking direct to folks who are trying to actually build things in FarCry than navigating the treacherous path of -exceeding client expectations".

What is your biggest concern about Australian development?
To be honest I'm not all that concerned. We seem to be more resilient than other places. The biggest bugbears locally are infrastructure basedââ,¬"we just pay way to much for broadband connectivity and hosing traffic charges are a joke.

This article first appeared in Builder Magazine. To subscribe to the free quarterly magazine visit our subscription centre.

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