Monday, May 26, 2008

What does the world think of Lotus Connections?

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In my personal Twitter home page I recently learned of a cool feature. Not only can you follow (subscribe) others within Twitter, you can of course follow them using RSS.


Then there's a new service out there called Summize. With it, you can search what's going on today in Twitter. And just like Dogear, you can subscribe to search results!


So if you are interested in seeing what the world is twittering about Lotus Connections, subscribe to these search results! I, for example, have already learned about customers who are deploying Lotus Connections v2 Beta 2. I also learned about editors who were writing stories about Lotus Connections. I, of course, now follow them within Twitter and, thus, get to expand my social network outside of the firewall!



Saturday, May 24, 2008

"So, Luis, when do you work?"

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(This used to be a very long blog but I decided to divide it in two parts. One to share a funny anectdote [this one] and another to share the experiences from the day.).


Anyway, as I discussed Blogging and my success stories the customer asked me "So, when do you work?". This was a good question, for which I didn't have an immediate answer. They had gotten the impression that I spent my entire time social networking through Lotus Connections.


At first, I said that writing a blog takes me about 30 mins and I spent an additional 1hr - 1.5 hr a day reading blogs and networking. At this point, they looked at me weird. I could see it in their faces. "Doesn't IBM care that you are 'wasting' so much time?" To which I didn't say anything, but it got me thinking... am I really wasting my time?


The answer is a resounding NO! In fact, it is MY JOB (according to my business goals) to blog (well, the goals state something about sharing knowledge) AND to read blogs (in this case, the goals say something about growing my sales and technical skills). So there... that's what I'm going to say next time I run into this question.
smile


What are your thoughts? Have you faced this question before from your peers/customers?


Success after all day Lotus Connections workshop!

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(This used to be a very long blog but I decided to divide it in two parts. One to share a funny anectdote and another to share the experiences from the day. [this one]).


On Friday, I was in an all-day meeting with a customer in Monterrey, Mexico. The purpose of the meeting was to talk about Social Software, the business drivers, personal benefits, and user adoption practices. I was joined by

Palma Bickford and Brian Pearson.

Brian first gave a demo on our entire social software and collaboration suite showing Quickr integration with the Desktop, Sharepoint integration with Portal, Sametime integration with Connections, etc. The customer loved this part because they got to see the user experience (UX).


From there I went through the Business Overview presentation of Lotus Connections. I, unfortunately, only had enough time to go through the first part (discussing the 3 business drivers). The customer later gave us feedback that they would have liked to see use cases for each of the 5 Lotus Connections services and then how Lotus Connections helps solve those problems -- which is the 2nd part of the presentation ... oh well!


Next, we discussed the Best Practices for User Adoption. This was a great discussion and we really drove the point home that integration is a huge part of user adoption (and of course showed how Lotus Connections integrates with everything!).


Next, we talked about their in-house applications. They currently have a portal (Tibco?) and they wanted to provide SSO between their portal and Lotus Connections. I found out that this portal runs on WebSphere. "Great!", I thought. Easy. Now, all they have to do is export the LTPA key from their Portal and import it into the Connections server -- a 10 minute process! They are also planning on using Sun Access Manager (our competitor to Tivoli Access Manager) for SSO. That's not officially supported, but in theory it should work (more on this later).


At the end of day, the customer said that they are planning a pilot which will start in July 1 and they haven't seen any competitors yet for social software. The pilot will involve Lotus Connections, Quickr and Sametime Advanced! They are also looking at Sharepoint for team collaboration, but they didn't stop saying how frustrated they are with that product
smile
. Oh, and of course, throughout the entire day I kept repeating how Sharepoint only competes with Quickr and not with Connections!


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Implementar software social en las empresas

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Estuve en Monterrey, México para hacer una presentación de social software para las empresas. Este tema está super interesante. Todo el mundo sabe el éxito que ha tenido Facebook y MySpace.



Por mi parte, a mi me gusta mucho mas Facebook y encuentro que es tremenda herramienta para mantenerse al tanto con amigos y familiares. En resumen, es una tremenda herramienta para 'networking'. Como saben, ya este blog cumplió dos años, aunque tengo que admitir que no he publicado mucho en el porque me estoy concentrando mas en bloguear ADENTRO de mi compañía.



Eso es asi, mi compañía lleva promocionando el uso de Blogs adentro desde hace ya como 6-8 años. Ustedes se pueden preguntar: "pero la gente no va a usar eso para perder su tiempo y procrastinar?" "Eso no va a bajar el nivel de productividad de la compañía?"



Al contrario, a mi me fascinan los blogs! Como autor de un blog he aprendido muchísimo. Y ahora se que es lo que están pensando: "pero... de los blogs uno aprende al leerlos, como es que vas a aprender al escribir un blog?" Pues es todo gracias al networking y colaboración que ocurre dentro de blogs a través de los comentarios.



Uno de mis ejemplos favoritos de esto ocurrió hace como 1 año. Yo estaba trabajando en Detroit con un cliente que quería integrar nuestro producto de social software con Microsoft Sharepoint. Sharepoint es probablemente el producto mas difícil de integrar por lo que lo hace una mala herramienta de colaboración.



Anyway, pues dentro de mi compañía yo escribí un blog sobre lo que yo estaba tratando de hacer y de mis frustraciones con Sharepoint. Pues dentro de unas horas, una persona me escribió un comentario diciendo que él sabía exactamente como hacer lo que yo quería hacer. Yo pensé "PERFECTO". Al otro día, cuando llego al cliente me conecto a mi Instant Messenger y unas cuantas horas mas tarde la persona me manda un mensaje: "Estoy aquí". Y yo estaba como que "WHAT??" Y me dijo, "si estoy aquí para ayudarte con eso. Veo que estas en el piso 27 y yo estoy en el 25, bajo ahora ok?"



Obviamente, le dije que si! Gracias a un blog que yo escribí, yo aprendí a como hacer algo con Sharepoint gracias a alguien que yo nunca había conocido. Y asi como este ejemplo, tengo muchísimos otros! Me fascinan los blogs!


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Up and running in 1 week with Lotus Connections

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A lot of people ask me how long do we need to get Lotus Connections deployed and up and running.  Here's the summary that was created by the customer for their business unit based on work that Chris Biega, Carla Gillespie and myself did while on-site for 5 days (isn't it great when the customer does the work for you???
smile
).

Anyway,  can you get this much done with other products in 5 days???

Lotus Connections rocks!!






Success CriteriaFeature / Value Demonstrated
Successfully install core elements to support Connections Beta 2 in a timely manner.
  • Server 1 to include: WAS with appropriate fix packs, IIS, Tivoli Directory Integrator
  • Server 2 to include: MS SQL Server 2005 (already installed)
  • Server 3 to include: MS Active Directory 2003 (already installed)


Complete
Successfully install Lotus Connections Beta 2 on Server 1Complete
Integrate Lotus Connections with AD LDAP for basic authentication using Lotus Connections security.  All users will be required to authenticate and no one will be able to blog or contribute content anonymously.Complete
Perform a one time load of LDAP information into the Lotus Connections Profiles database.  Profiles will be configured so each user can update all sections of their profile.  However, these updates will not be propagated back to the LDAP (or other) source.Complete
Integrate with OCS to show presence awarenessComplete. Integration with OCS is via the IM profile field.  (recommended the integration of OCS also be made available via the person card for final release)
Integrate the Person card with Outlook and ConfluenceThe person card has been integrated into Confluence.  The person card could not be successfully integrated with Outlook (integrated via the Outlook plugin)
smile
.
Integrate with Confluence Wiki (pending availability of Confluence plug-in for Connections v2 beta 2)A wiki cannot be created within the Connections interface due to a bug with the plugin.  A fix will be available in a week or two.
Configure Connections to point Telligent Blogs (or leave Connections Blogs as default)The integration within Telligent blogs to connections will be done via the person card.  Since the look/feel of Community Server 2008 has not been decided, we did not integrate the person card.  However, we do have the code that needs to be added to Community Server for the person card (~2 lines of code).  As for the integration of Community Server within Connections, we have opted to have the only integration be through the BLOG editable url in the profile.  Updating the blog url in one's profile will update the blog link in the person card.
Configure Homepage with iWidgets and RSS FeedsThere were no RSS Feeds on intranet site.  As for the iWidgets - google widgets were added to connections.  There is a bug with the iWidgets where they are not persistent when added to the homepage.  
Google Search integration. Requires Search Team to enable Google Search Appliance to either crawl the Connections web application or SQL database.WIP.  Google was able to successfully crawl the Activities db.  Testing of successful crawls of profiles, communities, blogs, and dogear still needs to be done.  The google team has high confidence in successful crawls.  However, due to prioritization of other projects was not able to fully test.
MOSS Integration with ConnectionsIntegration is via the person card.  There is a link in the person card to ‚'My Site'
SSO with ConnectionsWe achieved 95% of SSO with the Windows desktop. However, we decided to disable SSO with Connections since specific functionality within connections breaks when SSO is enabled.  These bugs should be resolved by final release.
Outlook/Connections integrationOutlook plugin can be successfully installed to integrate with connections.  The only feature of the plugin that does not work is the person card because of our Exchange configuration.  



Note:
This was a PoC install and as such it doesn't have clustering, backups, tuning, or any other thing you would do in a real production environment.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Add SharePoint 'MySite' to Lotus Connections Profiles Person Card

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Last week, I promised you instructions on how to add a Microsoft Sharepoint MySites link to the Lotus Connections Person card.  Once you follow these instructions, you are going to integrate Microsoft Sharepoint to whatever application renders the Peson Card:  Lotus Connections, Confluence, SocialText, Quickr, SAP Portal, WebSphere Portal, and the list goes on and on.  Are we being too nice to Microsoft by making it easier to integrate their products into enterprise applications?  YOU BET!!!  That's one of our many value propositions!!!

Anyway, here's what you need to do:

1.  Figure out the URL to a person's MySite (usually something like:  http://mysites.acme.com/Person.aspx?accountname=lbenitez)
2.  Save a backup copy of:  WAS_HOME>\profiles\<WAS_Profile>\config\cells\<Host_name>\LotusConnections-config \LotusConnections-config.xml
3.  Open the file from #2 with your favorite text editor
4.  Add the following line (it's 1 line, but it wraps):
<sloc:serviceReference serviceName="mysites"
href="http://mysites.acme.com" enabled="true"
ssl_href="http://mysites.acme.com" ssl_enabled="false"
person_card_service_url_pattern="/Person.aspx?accountname={uid}"
person_card_service_name_js_eval="'My Site'"/>


5. Save and close the file
6. Save a backup copy of: WAS_HOME>\profiles\<WAS_Profile>\config\cells\<Host_name>\LotusConnections-config \service-location.xsd
7. Open the file from #6 with your favorite text editor
8. Add the following line (under <xsd:simpleType name="serviceNames"> --> <xsd:restriction base="xsd:string"> )
<xsd:enumeration value="mysites" />



9. Save and close the file
10.  Restart Profiles

That's it!!  See, I told you!! All it took was TWO LINES OF XML!!!  No coding! 

Monday, May 12, 2008

Control 'who can do what' in Lotus Connections

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So I've been getting that question from most of my customers.  Ok.   Probably all of my customers.  And sure, we can debate whether or not that question really applies to Lotus Connections, or any other social software for that matter (it doesn't apply!! We don't want to build another KM system... what you want is something OPEN with NO controls!!!).  Anyway.  They keep claiming that they want to protect their information.  But, since 99.999% of all customers are asking for it, I guess we really can't fight it (and believe me, I have tried!!).

So how do I handle this question when I get it from customers ?

First, I need to understand whether they want to control Authentication (who can log in) or Authorization (once logged in, who can do what).  So far, it's a 50-50 mix.  So, the good news is that Lotus Connections v2 adds support to specify which LDAP users or LDAP groups can log on to the application! Yay!!

For authorization, only Communities has very granular controls where you can specify who can do what.  And in some cases that's all the customers want to control (who can create and join communities).  And for those who do want granular controls on the other 4 Connections services ?

I position a companion product for Lotus Connections:  IBM Tivoli Access Manager (TAM) for e-business.  Since all of the Lotus Connections URLs are RESTful it should be pretty easy to configure WebSEAL/TAM to control who has access to which URLs.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

What do I like about my Mac? Hmm...

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About two weeks ago, I blogged about my first experience using a Mac while travelling on IBM business ( a Lotus Connections PoT in Boston).  This past week, I had my first experience actually working for a customer with my Mac ( integrating Sharepoint and Lotus Connections ).  And more and more, I'm getting to understand why there are so many Mac fans out there...

  • Videoconferencing with iChat - Love.Every.Thing.About.It.  I have an iMac at home and my wife and I did videoconferencing while I was away in San Francisco.  This was SUPER AWESOME specially since I'm a new dad.  The ability and simplicity to see my wife breastfeed the baby while I'm lonely at the hotel was just amazing!  Heck, I even did it from the airline lounge while I waited for a connecting flight!!  The voice and video quality are out of this world!  I hadn't done videoconferencing since I was in college and you can bet that I'm going to do it every time I travel.
  • Customer reaction - I again got the looks and questions: "What is an IBMer doing with a Mac?"  Me:  Because all our sofware works on it.  They:  "Way cool!"
  • Time Machine - Man, simply the easiest and best solution I've ever seen for backup.  Nothing is simpler!  Simply configure a drive (I chose an external drive), connect it and Time Machine automatically detects it and does incremental backups.  No need to worry about selecting which files you really want to backup.
  • Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity:  Ok, so sometimes a Mac can be just darn TOO EASY!  I was trying to set up a printer that was connected to my wife's Windows XP.  I spent almost 15 minutes trying to figure it out.  Of course, I thought it had to be super complicated like in a Windows machine.  Once I gave up, I Google'd it and found the solution.  Connecting to the network printer took 15 seconds.  And once I knew how to do it, it was so FREAKING OBVIOUS!!!!  I hate Microsoft for making me think everything has to be complicated!
  • Wireless networking:  I have never seen a laptop connect to a hotspot and get an IP so fast than my MacBook Pro!!  In the life of my Mac, it has never been more than 6 seconds for the Mac to find the right hotspot and get an IP!  Talk about productivity!

My goal for the end of the year is to get rid of my wife's Windows XP desktop.  Her birthday is coming up in July, time to start shopping around
smile
.  (and hope that this also counts towards her X-mas gift
wink
)

P.S.  The Twitter-sphere was going crazy this weekend with many IBMers twittering about their new Macs:  Frank Jania, Gia Lyons, and Michael Coleman.  Welcome to the club guys; hope to see you in the Mac community soon.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Are you ready for this? Sharepoint 'My Site' in Connections Person Card!!

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You already know that we can add the Lotus Connections Profiles Person Card into Sharepoint. However, how do people get to Sharepoint in the first place?  They could search under Communities to see if someone is advertising their Sharepoint site.  Several customers asked to have the person card extensible so we could add a pivot point to a person's "My Site".

Well, they asked for it, and we are delivering!!  With the advent of Profiles v2 (eGA expected in June 13), the development team has made it SUPER EASY to extend the person card.  By just adding two lines of code to an XML file, you can add a "My Site" link to each person's person card.  That's right, you do NOT need to know JSP, Java, or any other programming language.  This is purely a configuration change!!!!  Here's how it looks:


IntelBizCardMySiteZoom

So, what's the lesson learned ?  Connections and Sharepoint play nice together!  They do NOT compete.  In fact, Lotus Connections adds value to an organization's investment in Microsoft Sharepoint by allowing Sharepoint sites to be more easily discoverable. 

Oh and you know what?  We did a favor to the customer and we integrated their Confluence Wiki software with Microsoft Sharepoint.  How?  Well, we added the person card to Confluence.  So wherever you see a name in Confluence, you get that person's business card and in the business card we have a link to their 'My Site'!!!!  So, let me recap that:  We integrated Confluence Wikis with Microsoft Sharepoint via Lotus Connections!

And the best part?  This all took no more than 1 hour.  Here's how the person card looks in Confluence:




BizCardfromConfluence




What do you think ?  You like it?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Making a fool of myself at National Car Rental

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As you may have heard, IBM now has an agreement with National Car Rental and Enterprise.  All IBM employees automatically get the 'Emerald' status which means that we can 'bypass the counter' and go straight to our car.

So I figured this would be the same deal as with Hertz.  All IBM employees also get status with Hertz and the way it works is you take the Hertz shuttle, look up your name in the Hertz #1 Club Gold board and from there you know in which 'stall' your car is located.  Easy.  Fast.  Simple.

Rewind to last week.  I made a reservation to go to SFO (San Francisco, CA) and help a customer integrate Lotus Connections with Microsoft products.  I decided to rent a car with National because (1) it was cheaper and (2) we can earn frequent flyer miles when we rent from National (we can't with Hertz #1 Club Gold).

Fast forward to today.  I arrive into SFO.  I've had experiences renting from Hertz @ SFO before, but this was my first time ever renting from National.  I find a sign that says "Emerald members proceed to Level 4 to pick up your car".  It took me about 5 minutes, but I then figured out I was already at Level 4 (that's where the AirTrain drops you).  So I head out to where all the cars are and a guy asks "National or Alamo?"

I say "National" and he says, continue on to your right and pick your car.  So I go on and I see a bunch of cars.  All of them have tags hanging from the rearview mirror (just like Hertz cars).  I walk up to a couple of cars to read the tags, but can't find my name anywhere.  Since I had to go to the restroom, I decided to go back to the guy.  When he saw me walking towards him he made a face that said "Oh geez!!! Another newbie who doesn't know how this works.  Dummy!!".  I continued walking towards him and then he starts walking towards me.

Guy:  "Anything wrong sir?"
Me:  "How do I know which car is mine?"
Guy:  "Just pick any car you like"
Me:  "Really?"
Guy:  "Yeah, just pick any of the cars and off you go.  Keys are on the door"
Me:  "Huh!"  (Thinking:  WTF!!  This can't be that easy!!
sad
)

So anyway.. it does work like that.. I walked up to the nicest looking SUV.. got into the car and off I went.  As I left the parking lot, they asked for my driver's license and off I went.  I may be a National kind of guy from now on.  Sorry Hertz!