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12th Annual Jolt and Productivity Awards

Google Groups

If there's one constant for developers, it's the need for information. With increasingly complex and varied tools, it becomes harder to know how to interpret unexpected messages, which tool to use or why an API gives unexpected results. A common place to ask such questions is on Usenet newsgroups. But you have to wait for other developers to answer, even though the same question may have been before. With Google Groups by Google (Mountain View, Calif.; groups.google.com), you can find answers in a few seconds.

The service originally known as DejaNews and now Google Groups offers a 20-year Usenet archive with more than 700 million messages. Newly posted messages are included in the archive within a few days, and somewhere therein may be the answer to your most vexing question. With the Advanced Search page, you can constrain your query to certain newsgroups, periods of time, including or excluding words, or to specific authors. You can then read individual messages or see them in their threaded context. If you want to check the Web, one click will let Google repeat the search using their Web search engine.

Google software engineers Paul Buchheit, Joseph O' Sullivan and Michael Schmitt; Marissa Mayer, product manager and Nathan Tyler, public relations manager.

The art of quickly finding answers is in selecting precise search terms. Once you develop that skill, you may be surprised at how often you find your answer in the first few messages you check. Other Web resources may be better for specific bodies of knowledge, such as Sun's Web sites for Java. For these, Google Groups provides a strong supplement.

If you have questions, Google Groups has answers. Google Groups allows me to mine the gold in the extensive Usenet archives quickly, without the distractions often present in newsgroups.

—Guy Scharf


Microsoft's Developer Network universal subscription (msdn.microsoft.com) remains one of the most comprehensive, advanced and cost-effective developer tools. It consists of a "subscription" that automatically sends developers every tool, operating system, database and productivity application (with complete documentation) that the Redmond, Wash.-based company sells. The software is refreshed by quarterly supplements, which, like the original subscription, are available on CD-ROM and DVD. Subscribers also receive priority technical support and access to Microsoft's extensive developer Web site. Other companies such as Sun, IBM, Oracle and Novell offer special-access programs for developers. But for years now, nobody has done it nearly as well as Microsoft.

—Andrew Binstock


Four years ago, IBM (Armonk, N.Y; www.ibm.com/developerworks.) set out to woo developers. It wanted programmers to think of Big Blue as a resource. Hard to believe, but at the time, that notion was, well, preposterous: IBM was perceived as a closed company that shared little of its innovations with the outside world, except in guarded ways. That no developer today views IBM in this manner is a tribute to the company's remarkable success at providing materials and tools on its developerWorks Web site. More than any other site, developerWorks offers extensive and thoughtful tutorials, large code libraries, cutting-edge technology, unusual tools and scads of original articles. No one gives away more quality programming materials for free than developerWorks. If you're not a regular visitor, it's time to mosey on over.

—Andrew Binstock

Ward Cunningham et al.

In certain Polynesian languages, wiki wiki loosely means "faster than fast." This open-source tool makes the creation of a sophisticated, templatized multi-author Web site possible at just that speed.

The nominally 1,500-line chunk of Perl code, originally crafted by Ward Cunningham, takes a few good architectural and user interface ideas and pushes them hard. The result is a something like the easy, accessible parts of an application server, bulletin board, collaborative online (no FTP!) content management tool, whiteboard and database all in one package. The learning curve for creating and editing password-protectable pages is kept low by eschewing rigid HTML/XML syntax in favor of keystrokes familiar to everyday use. The resulting pages create their own cross hyperlinks delightfully—and automatically. Try it at c2.com/cgi/wiki.

—Roland Racko

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