Archive for the 'social software' Category

Enterprise Social Software and Collaboration Report 2009 – More Doorway than Doorstop

Enterprise Social Software Report 2009I have to admit – when my copy of the Enterprise Social Software and Collaboration Report 2009 from CMS Watch arrived, I was a bit daunted when I heaved the envelope – this thing seemed like a doorstop.  I opened it and typically just fanned open to a few pages, catching glimpses of catalog-like inventory pages on various enterprise software products… honestly?  Is this just a huge, expensive collection of RFP responses?  Having other reading material ahead of it in line, I set it on the pile.  Honestly, I procrastinated a bit before tackling it. 

Big mistake.

When I finally dove in I was pleasantly surprised.  The extensive introduction is a fantastic foundational read for anyone getting into social software or social media in an enterprise setting.  There are well over 100 pages of detailed analysis on topics such as the business case for social software, a vivisection of social software types and services, and scenario-based vignettes of social software.  There is an extremely deep dive into the actual inventory of software products and platforms, with descriptions, ratings, feature matrices and screenshots.  And in classic fashion, the executive summary is saved until the end.

What’s so great about this report is that it is more enterprisey than wonk-ish.  Of course, social software is still new-but-busting-into many large enterprises.  The Social Software Report is a playbook for this market.  The analysts provide fantastic feature descriptions and real-world usage patterns, but also cover fun topics like Compliance in detail just as great.  Describing the differences between real-time versus cached LDAP credentials from both compliance- and point-of-failure angles is Good Stuff for the Enterprise Architect.  Covering archiving is good (they do this), but doing it within a section called “Lifecycle Management” shows you they get it.

There are suitably large sections on the big platform vendors (30-ish pages on Sharepoint), since many enterprises own one or many of those already.  But there is still plenty of coverage on best-of-breeds like SocialText and Jive.  Detailed functional reviews are followed by technical architecture descriptions – which, I know from my own tedious research experience, don’t always jump off the vendor sites at you.

If you are engaged in any explorations of social software, don’t make the same mistake I did.  If you are going through a selection process, it’s ridiculous to not check this report out.  But even if you have constrained options or a preferred vendor that’s already a done deal – this report will flesh out your understanding of the marketplace for social software enough to get you kicked out of the next BarCamp for being a suit.

Good stuff, this report – check it out!

Technorati tags: social software, social media, cms watch, enterprise 2.0, web 2.0, collaboration, research, industry analysts

Who is Sick? Check Your Feed.

My ongoing investigations into online health communities brought me to Who is Sick?, a Google Maps mashup in beta that lets users post the seriously gory details of their symptoms so that they are incredibly findable. I learned a 29-year-old woman from Minneapolis picked up a stomach bug in Cancun within the last month, probably one of many – happy Spring Break!. The site brings back memories of Edward Tufte celebrating John Snow’s map of the London cholera epidemic in one of his books (was it Visual Explanations?).

Posters can post anonymously or by name, can indicate symptoms, and can also tag them. Voyeurs can search by location and familiar GMaps navigation, or by a symptoms tag cloud (try that on for a visualization). You can subscribe to email alerts, and I’m just sure that feeds are coming.

Who is Sick? is a curious idea – potentially cool, but if there was ever a 2.0-ish community that was only as good as the data available, this is it. I can’t remember feeling like posting my nasty symptoms last time I wasn’t feeling up to snuff, but who knows. And will this really give me more insight into an outbreak than socializing with local friends and parents? Perhaps the payoff is larger… we’ll be empowered to take on our local government by discovering our own polluted water supply, a la John Snow.

In my book, Who is Sick? just begs for RIA and interactivity… just think of the interactive and visual possibilities of navigating by symptoms and ailments.

Book Review: Web 2.0 Design Patterns – Must Read

I had the pleasure of reading the soon-to-be-published Web 2.0 Design Patterns, but am seriously late getting my thoughts out (sorry guys!). In short, this book is well worth the read.

Duane, James, and Dion captured a high-speed drive by of all things 2.0, carefully deconstructing all of the cool tools we’ve been having so much fun with recently. They setup the book with a dissection of some flagship Web 2.0 properties, and contextualization of key memes. Next they define applicable models for capturing Web 2.0 in a pattern language. One my favorite aspects of this chapter was the use of “low end” modeling techniques – such as concept maps, and HTML <meta> tags as a form of WSDL for simple HTTP services. Being an Agilist and a practicalist, I like to see less well refined techniques legitimized. In true 2.0 style, the authors use what works, not just what is academically proscribed.

But the core of the book is a pattern reference. As they state in the intro to that section, it’s not likely something you will read straight through – though it’s certainly well written enough to do so. Each pattern is appropriately brief, but still hangs meat off the bone enough to be useful. The landscape of defined patterns is broad, and oddly shaped. SOA and Mashup are patterns, as are Semantic Web and Microformats. This struck me oddly at first – maybe I was hoping for something more homogenous from a developer’s point of view. But the authors make it work. I have to admit it was amusing to see memes like SOA and SaaS reduced to a pattern template. (Though where is the missing reference to in the Known Uses for the SaaS pattern?) The authors also extract new patterns native to the Web 2.0 landscape that are very insightful: Participation-Collaboration and Asynchronous Particle Update are very well done.

This book has a definite place on my bookshelf. Useful reference to be sure, but I can also imagine using this as a tool for evangelizing inside a large enterprise. To convert some minds, a pattern-based description might give some of these approaches more legitimacy. But the simple descriptions, useful models, and thoughtful examples in any context will provide the basis for a common understanding of Web 2.0 techniques.

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Going 500 in 2008 for Diabetes

At this point, I can’t even remember how I came across Jamie, the Diabetic Runner‘s blog, but I’m glad I did. Jamie is an inspiration to people living with diabetes or, in my case, to their parents. He aims high, and gets there. Go Jamie!

In an effort to raise awareness about diabetes, Jamie created the Diabetic Runner 2008 Challenge. Runners will set a goal of running 500 or 1000 miles (total) during 2008 – I’m in for 500.

We also have a Nike+ Challenge setup, for wicked 2.0-ish visualization of the group’s achievement.

Who else is on board out there?

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My Wishlist for Garmin Connect

As some of us die hard geek runners wait for the upcoming release of Garmin Connect for additional Garmin devices, I thought I would send them a few features on my wishlist:

  • flickr-style privacy levels
    I want to be able to setup levels like family, friends, and public and decide who sees what. Sounds like this is already on the schedule. Facebook has a nice fine-grained (maybe ad nauseum) model around sharing – maybe I want to share distance, pace, and time with everyone but specific location with only friends.
  • Facebook-style groups
    I want to be able to join spontaneous groups the Facebook way. It would be great to have groups for events, groups for specific training goals, or who knows what else. In addition to the usual discussion/calendar stuff, Connect would have the interesting advantage of being able to mash member data.
  • Go nuts with feeds
    I want a few more feed options. URI-based querying for feed filtering would be a great start. And how about not just HTML-based content in the feeds, but maybe a GPX-based feed for…
  • More widget options
    Featuring elevation in your whole enchilada Viewport isn’t so interesting to some of us in flatland. Even though I’m no Boston qualifier, pace might be a little more equalizing. You’ve got such a wicked cool Player, which not throw that into a widget? But like I said above, maybe structured feeds would be a good start – then your community can innovate the widgets.
  • Better pricing models
    I hate to throw this one at anybody, but when I see what I get for $25/year with flickr pro, it sets the bar (low) for everyone. Maybe I should have played with Standard features more during my first 30 days to appreciate them, but without some of the above, $100/year is sounding spendy. I don’t think people hesitate at flickr’s price level. Who knows what Garmin will do with pricing though…

But it’s easy to point out shortcomings. The fact is that MotionBased rocks and is a cool way to track and share running experiences. Evidently Garmin agreed – great job gang!

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What Do You Want From a Community?

I have been exploring online communities much more actively over the past month or so. I have been a bit player over time, and have trapsed in and out of them, but I’m now on a mission. Prompted by a promised Facebook group that didn’t seem to go anywhere, I (finally?) created a Facebook account for the Office 2.0 Conference. I can’t say that I’m a Facebook addict like some, but it has seriously opened my eyes to the platform aspect of online communities. The development ecosystem around Facebook is fascinating, but that’s another post.

I then discovered MotionBased and the marriage of that with Facebook in MyMotionBased. I am becoming an active runner thanks to my wife introducing me a few years ago and some enthusiastic friends at work (hi guys!). I picked up a Garmin Forerunner recently… then discovered MotionBased. Wow. Dangerous tools in the hands of a geek. Not only does MyMotionBased give you wicked cool 3-D visualizations via Google Earth:

Wicked Cool 3D Google Earth View of a Run

But you can even view animations of runs, and dot racing to “compete” against others. All of this, courtesy of docs at the MotionBased wiki (note: need to create user page).

So this has me thinking about what do people really want from an online community?

I want to discover new running routes. I want to be able to compare myself against my friends. I want to be able to share running experiences with them when I run apart from the group – show them my successes and struggles. I want to keep enjoying my hobby, even when I can’t be out there doing it. I want to play with feeds and APIs.

But that’s me, not everyone. What do you want from online communities?

Sidenote: it’s a good month for dreamjobs, unfortunately for them I am happy at my current employer. MotionBased is hiring web developers.

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Tagging inside the Enterprise

I pined awhile back about using tagging inside the enterprise. I still think that for a lot of * 2.0 hype, this is potentially a big hit to dealing with the volumes of disconnected content that enterprises never seem interested in gardening cleanly from an enterprise information architecture standpoint.

Then I heard about Connectbeam through a comment on Sandy’s podcast for the Office 2.0 Podcast Jam. This is available as either a subscription service or an appliance for enabling tagging behind the firewall. Good enterprisey features include LDAP integration, which is a must for authorization, and commenting.

Not to take anything away from these good folks, but aren’t there frameworks available yet for tagging so that enterprises can at least start experimenting to build a business case? I haven’t started looking yet, but if anyone knows about Java-based tagging frameworks, I’m all ears…

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Tagging – Sleeper Web 2.0 Hit for the Enterprise?

There is a lot of hype around Web 2.0 these days (here is a great summary), and it’s a difficult thing to get your arms around. Some analyst firms aren’t ready to tackle the topic (I hope Burton changes their mind sooner rather than later), and they are perhaps following the leads of enterprises that haven’t started exploiting it within. From a technology perspective, AJAX is a natural first play for enterprises wading into Web 2.0. But I believe that tagging could be the sleeper hit that enterprises should wake up to.

I have great respect for information architecture as a discipline and have worked and currently work with great IAs. But however skilled your IAs are, you will never please everyone. There are many different learning styles and conceptual approaches for content organization, and there is a great case to be made for users building their own organization for content, even if they don’t “own” or manage it.

The best examples currently for tagging which many people are familiar with are and flickr. Another, even better in my opinion, implementation is (John, you rock for pointing me at this one!). uses a fantastic AJAX implementation for tagging, so you don’t even need to leave the content you are viewing to tag – very cool.

The greatest themes for Web 2.0 are participation and transparency, and all of these sites do that well. As you tag, you can see your own tags as well as what others are tagging the same thing. When you browse your tags, you can see what content others have tagged with those same tags. And finally, you can make your tags public so that others can see what you are doing.

Portals and content aggregation have been a big push in enterprises, but when there was content bloat the best initial answer was search engines – buy the best that you can afford. But turning your users into habitual search junkies isn’t doing them any favors. Another thought is that you should never require users to find something twice your way – tagging gets you around that. They get to find it your way the first time, but then they tag it and find it their way next time.

I think tagging is the next Good Thing to come along in the world of content organization and it’s time for it to pick up momentum within the enterprise.

Diabetic Runner Challenge – 500

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