Thursday, November 29, 2007

On that high note, moving on to a new challenge

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On this high note, I'm happy to announce that I'm moving on to another role within IBM.  As of January 1st, 2008, I'll be part of the TechWorks team.  I will still be heavily involved in the Lotus Social Software community and will be concentrating on Lotus Connections and Lotus Expeditor.  It's been a great 3.5 years at ISSL.  Made tons of friends, grew my skills, got great customer exposure, and had invaluable experiences. 

As I join TechWorks, I hope to put my deep technical skills to help sell our Lotus products.  I'm looking forward to the opportunity to meet my new teammates, although I already know some of them, such as the super awesome Gene Leo.  I hope that I can do my part now in bringing in more sales revenue as the new year comes.

For now, I'm counting how many days until my vacation starts in mid-December.  I'm worn out and would like to recharge my batteries before I start my new role.  I'll miss ISSL, and now I'm going to eat more Argentinean beef while I'm here wink .

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

It's nice when an effort goes somewhere

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About 3 years ago I switched from the Lotus Development team to the Lotus Services (ISSL) team.  Shortly after that switch, I developed an asset for a product then known as the Learning Management System (today it's IBM Workplace Collaborative Learning).  The asset went on to be called LMS Data Loader.  It provided a way for customers to bulk import learning data into their systems (e.g. enrollments, courses, users, progress data, etc).  Customers loved it!  Entering data manually was a huge pain in the *** and very time consuming!

The asset was given for free to customers as long as they engaged ISSL for at least a week.  Based on customer reaction, the development decided to include this asset as part of the supported software in the next release of the software.

That new release has come!  In 27 hours, Workplace Collaborative Learning v2.7 will be released.  Take a peek at the What's New in the announcement letter:

  • Capability to add critical learning information such as course, users, results, masters, and offering in bulk

  Sure the development team made it look nice and improved its performance significantly, but still.. I feel proud it's there.  :) Here's a preview of how it looked in a beta version:

wcl27beta131enabledataloader (credit to Dan Spielman for the screenshot)

It feels great to know that something I developed on my own will now be in the hands of customers to use and leverage!!!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Going the extra mile?

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As you know, I'm currently working for a large financial company integrating Connections/Quickr/Portal using the WebAppIntegrator.  In my local development environment I'm running 3 VMWare's:  1 for Portal, 1 for Connections and 1 for my DB2 database.  As you can imagine, this takes a toll on my T60p.  It takes about 3 minutes for a simple document to open in Notepad.  My hard drive light bulb doesn't turn off (it's been spinning like crazy for the past several hours -- will that break it?) 

I currently have 2GB of memory, but need at least 3GB in order to run these three VMWares together at the same time with no performance degradation.  I put in an order through our internal procurement system to get additional memory but it got rejected. The request at least did get escalated so hopefully it'll go through in the next day or so.

Anyway, because my computer was so low in memory, it was hard to run Notes 8 and Sametime 7.5.1.  I switched to Notes 8 Basic, but it was still running very slowly!!  I thought, "it would be great if I had another computer where I could run Notes and Sametime".  As I sat there in my Home Office, frustrated by all the slowness, I looked to my right and saw my nice and pretty iMac lying there -- powered off.  A light bulb went off in my head: "perhaps there's a way to connect my Mac to the IBM network?".  On one hand, I thought that I shouldn't be using my personal computer to do work stuff.  On the other hand, I could multitask; answer emails that are pending, make myself available on ST, evaluate my health insurance options for next year, etc.

After thinking about it for about 5 minutes, I decided to go the extra mile and configure my iMac to connect to the IBM network and install the necessary software.  I did a Dogear search on "mac remote access" using the Dogear Firefox plugin.  Several links came up which led me to the Mac Fans community.  That led me exactly to the two pages that I needed:  FAQ for Mac users and IBM Downloads for Mac Users.  I LOVE DOGEAR!!  I did some quick reading, installed and configured VPN access to IBM on my iMac, got Sametime v7.5.1 installed and configured, and then accessed my Lotus Notes Mail using iNotes (otherwise I would've had to install Notes 7 --  yuck)!  I did all of this while my VMWares were processing a request!!! 

If it wasn't for my iMac, I would've been very unproductive today.  Now I want to know... for those of you who work from home, do you tend to use only your work laptop, or do you also have your home computer hooked up to the IBM network to multi-task and make you more productive ?

Monday, November 12, 2007

WebAppIntegrator

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As you remember from a couple of weeks ago, I talked about a new approach to integrate external applications (e.g. Connections, Quickr, etc.) with WebSphere Portal.  This new approach uses a new asset developed by the Lotus CTO team.  On Friday, this asset was presented to the Portal, Quickr and Connections communities.

For the past week, I've been using this asset to "integrate" Quickr, Connections and Portal together.  I have documented what I've done so far in our internal Wiki.  I truly like this asset because:
  1. It allows me to do the branding for all three Lotus applications "at once" (there's some extra work you need to do on each app)
  2. I don't have to deal with IFRAMEs and double scroll-bars
  3. I can deliver a single look-n-feel for all IBM/Lotus products
  4. There are no timeout issues when linking/integrating external applications with Portal

For the most part, I've had to do some CSS development and some minor changes to JSPs.  Jennifer Pinkus, one of the developers of the WebAppIntegrator, introduced me to FireBug.  This is probably the most amazing HTML/CSS debugging tool that I've seen in my life!  It's a FireFox plug-in and it allows you to select any part of a page and it immediately gives you all the information you could ever want about that element, for example:
  • all the style attributes
  • the CSS file(s) where the style attributes are defined
  • you can actually see the results of JavaScript injections (i.e. document.write())
And that's not all, you can even dynamically change CSS attributes!  This blog posting is not doing justice to FireBug.  Just trust me -- it's freaking awesome!!  Here's a screenshot of how it looks while I was working with the WebAppIntegrator:

brandingFirebug

For those of you who already knew about Firebug, excuse me for being late to the party ;).  For those of you who do web development and haven't discovered FireBug, install it today!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Social Software in the 'Education' industry

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I had an interesting 2 hour meeting today with a Manhattan customer in the Education industry.  So many new feature requirements came out of that meeting that I'm scared that if I log them all on the internal Feature Request site I will crash it!

Anywho, in the meeting there were 4 customer representatives from the "Knowledge Management" (KM) group -- they were considered KM Subject Matter Experts: SME's!  So I start talking about Profiles and tagging and immediately get the first requests:
  • Can tags be pre-populated?
  • Can a drop-down be used for user to select tags instead of them entering it?
  • Can an administrator control tags (i.e. Create, update, delete) ?
  • Can taxonomy from WCM/Quickr be imported into Connections / Profiles?
  • Can the profiles DB be populated from multiple data sources ?
After I heard these, I thought we might be talking to the wrong people.  Fixing the tags?  Pre-populating them?  Isn't this against the 'principles of web 2.0' ? Anyway, I said you could theoretically do that with services (i.e. pre-populate the tags table in the Profiles Database and then modify the UI accordingly).

They also asked about usage reporting.  This has been asked for before so I just told them it's coming in V2.0.  Alternatively, we could do something with WebTrends, for example.

Then we spent about 1 hour talking about Wikis and the lack of them in Connections.  This is a popular feature request and therefore Wikis will be there in V2.0 as well!  Anyway, they knew Wikis were part of Quickr.  They, however, wanted Wikis as part of Communities ("and by February 2008"!!!!).    I talked about the tighter integration between Quickr and Connections in Release 2.0 but that didn't do it for them.  They wanted Wiki's to be part of Connections so that it would be part of the user's Connections Dashboard.

In the end, it looks like services will have to write a whole new User Interface for Connections utilizing the Connections APIs

What's your experience with selling Connections to the traditional KM people?  Seems like at this customer they still wanted to follow a very strict pattern and not leverage the 'freeness' that Web 2.0 provides.