Gliffy is a great new tool for creating diagrams. It recently opened up it’s doors to a public beta. I’ve been using it for a while. It’s awesome to be able to create a quick network diagram, and then publish it to get a easily accessible jpeg image. I’ve never loved Visio, and now I don’t need it anymore! Working on a team with that uses both Mac and Windows there just hasn’t been a good way to create a diagram that can be easily edited by anyone on the team before Gliffy.

They’ve got some other neat features that make it feel like a mature product that can easily fit into your workflow:
– collaborative tools
– version control
– SVG export

Also, in addition to the basic shapes that I’ve been using during the private beta, they just introduced:
– Flowchart
– UI wireframes
– Floor plan
– Network shapes (yay!)

Gliffy is built using OpenLaszlo by Chris Kohlhardt and Clint Dickson. The interface is snappy and easy to learn. It includes the kind of important user interface details you’ve come to expect from a desktop app: the side palettes can be quickly tucked away, allowing more room for your drawing; when the browser resizes, the document and tools resize fluidly; and you’ll find familiar menus and toolbars. You’ll forget you are using a web browser!

“In my experience, innovation can only come from the bottom. Those closest to the problem are in the best position to solve it. I believe any organization that depends on innovation must embrace chaos. Loyalty and obedience are not your tools; you must use measurement and objective debate to separate the good from the bad.” (Greg Linden talks about “a project I was explicitly forbidden to do and did anyway.”)

I enjoyed reading Marc Hedlund’s latest Engineering Management Hack where I found the link to Greg’s story (via an email from Laszlo colleague Scott Evans). I loved the story about David Packard’s award for “extraordinary contempt and definace beyond the normal call of engineering duty.” We’re not all cogs in a great machine, and it’s wonderful to hear about top level managers who know and appreciate that.

This is an extension of the old: sometimes it’s easier to get forgiveness, than to get permission. I definitely believe in a management style that puts more power and autonomy in the hands of the people who do the work. (Not that management isn’t work, but you know what I mean.) You hire the right people and give them responsibility and they make magical things happen. It’s important that I know what’s going on, and often I like to be consulted, but I’ve been known to reprimand employees for doing what I told them to do when they knew better. I hire people who know what they’re doing, who are smart, who I can trust.

I think it creates an enviroment where good people like to work, but I’m not driven by purely altruistic motives. I think it makes people more productive and effective, but I don’t just do it for the bottom line. I, personally, have other things I’d rather be doing. If I trust people and let them do their jobs (and define their jobs to be big enough to take on real responsibilities and take initiative), then I have time to write code myself. People have remarked that it is a great thing in for an engineering manager to be deeply in touch with the tech, but that’s not the real motivation. I, personally, want the simple joys of coding and practical, tangible problem-solving to be an everyday part of my life. It’s not enough to be the “idea guy” — I also want to be “at the bottom” where the real innovation happens.

There’s a nice zdnet article about cooqy, an eBay site developed using OpenLaszlo by Robert Yeager . “After taking a look at AJAX, Flash and traditional web development platforms, he settled on OpenLazslo. According to him it was because it was a mature product as well as free and open source. OpenLaszlo’s elegant XML-based programming model was a big plus and made for rapid development. Cooqy went from nothing to core functionality in 4 weeks of part time work.”

I found the app compelling, and imediately got sucked into shopping-mode by the “photo collage” view. It must be a very successful application where I can get distracted by my usual analysis of the UI and Web 2.0-iness of it all to instead be enticed to actually *use* the application :)

I’m thinking of buying a few pounds of legos: