Monday, June 30, 2008

Is Twitter an investor's new best friend?

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Lately, I've noticed people are posting their customer wins in Twitter. I, for one, I'm guilty of this crime. I won't say customer names, of course, to protect their privacy, but I would say something like:

Lotus Connections just beat Sharepoint at a customer in the southeast of the U.S.A.

And lately, I have seen a lot of similar comments! With comments like this, I can't help but wonder if investors are using this information to help predict what a stock is going to do in a quarterly basis. For example, they can go to Summize and enter a pretty simple query to figure out if IBM is going to have a good quarter. Here's another example comment:


Based on what I see about what's being posted for Lotus, looks like it's going to be a good Q2. Perhaps somebody is already working on a mashup to leverage Twitter data to predict the direction of certain stocks ? If not, since Twitter is strapped for cash, perhaps that's one way for Twitter to make money -- based on the data entered freely by users, they could "sell" market predictions to investors.... !!!

What do you think? If Twitter does this, would that be a turn off for users ?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Lotus Connections -- it's just too easy to integrate!

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I'm writing this blog entry as a guest author to the Synch.rono.us blog. That blog is kept by Suzanne Minassian, who recently did an awesome job demonstrating that our product is better than Microsoft's, and two software developers: Joseph Russo and David Brooks. I personally think it's great that we can hear directly from the product development team and keep up to date with what's happening in their world.

While I generally prefer not to market Lotus Connections to IT, it's always helpful to help them understand how flexible and extensible our Lotus Connections platform is. I have already blogged about some of the cool things that you can do with Lotus Connections, but I wanted to summarize them here in an easy to find blog entry. Before we get started, you should know that Lotus Connections follows the SOA principles and it's mostly built on RESTful services and open standards. As such, you can re-use and leverage these services from pretty much anywhere!

Lotus Connections Plugins

Let's first start with how users will access Lotus Connections. Typically, users are forced to use a web browser to access a web application. Lotus Connections, however, is not your typical web application. As I mentioned above, it's built entirely on services and as such, these services can be accessed from anywhere. And the best part? There are already a lot of plug-ins out there available for FREE on our Connections catalog. Here's a sampling:
  • Lotus Connections Plug-In for Sametime
  • Multi-Service Portlet for WebSphere Portal
  • Lotus Connections Plug-In for Lotus Notes v7+
  • Lotus Connections Plug-In for Microsoft Office
  • Lotus Connections Plug-In for Microsoft Outlook
  • Lotus Connections Plug-In for Windows Explorer
  • BlackBerry Client for Lotus Connections

So where do you do your day-to-day work? In Sametime? Mobile with your BlackBerry? In Microsoft Office? In Microsoft Outlook? From any of those, you can download and install a free plug-in and access your social data instantly! And with Lotus Notes v8.5, you will be able to take Lotus Connections Activities offline! All of these are just examples of what can be done with the Lotus Connections Atom APIs!

Lotus Connections Home Page

The landing page of Lotus Connections can be easily extended by IT. An administrator has total control of which widgets can be deployed to the page. An end-user has total control of which widgets they want to see and the layout of these widgets. Currently, I'm working with a colleague on publishing an article to developerWorks which will describe how to create your own widgets. Therefore, stay tuned to the Lotus Connections page on developerWorks.

In the meantime, you should know that one of the easiest ways to get started with widgets, is by using existing ones. I recently worked with a customer where we added Google Gadgets to the Lotus Connections Home Page. And we did this in a matter of minutes!!! Thinks about this for a second... and envision the vast variety of Google Gadgets out there. How cool is it that you can get one of these loaded into Lotus Connections in a matter of minutes??? Awesome, huh??!!

Other widgets that we have developed internally are:

  • Twitter feed display
  • Quickr Entry files - view the most recently posted files
  • Atlas Search - Easily view how you are connected to other employees

While you can build widgets on your own, Lotus is also coming out with a widget building tool. With the Lotus Widget Factory, IT will be able to create their own widgets very easily!

Lotus Connections Profiles

Our best-of-breed Profile component is easily customizable without writing a single line of code! The Profiles page, like the Homepage, is also a Mashup of widgets. As such, an IT administrator can easily change the layout of the screen or even add their own widgets created with the Lotus Widget Factory.

Check out some of the other things you can do today!
  • Field names (e.g. Change 'Department Name' to 'Business Unit Name')
  • You can add up to 99 extra fields
  • You can change the order in which the fields are displayed / edited
  • You can change which fields are editable and which aren't
  • You can specify which fields are synchronized back to the data source and which aren't
  • You can specify which fields show up in the business card
  • You can add extra links in the pop-up business card
  • You can change the layout of the screen
  • Branding
Oh and Profiles also has the concept of Profile Types! This means that you can define different types for your organization, for example: Legal, IT, Executive, Non-Exempt, and so forth. With each profile type, an IT administrator can control which personal fields are displayed for users that have that profile type. The request that I hear the most from my customers is the need to hide email address for some employees. With profile types, this can be configured in minutes!!
Of course, we can't leave out the person card.

The person card is one of the biggest value adds for Profiles. With a single line of JavaScript (which, of course, we give to you) you can enable the person card around someone's name. Think about this for a second. Think about all the pages you have in your intranet where a name appears. Wouldn't it be nice if you could immediately get information on who they are and access to their social data ? Of course it would!! Oh, and did I mention that the person card includes presence awareness ? So again, with a single line of JavaScript you can add the person card to any web application, regardless if it's J2EE, .NET, php, plain HTML, etc.!!!!!

Say what? Your users live more in rich-client applications than in web applications? No problem!! You can also get the person card in rich client applications!!! As an example, we've added the person card to Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, and Lotus Sametime!

Lotus Connections Dogear

Have you seen those buttons out there in the web that say "digg this" or "Post to del.icio.us" ? Wish you could do the same for your Dogear implementation? Well, you can and it's super easy to do!! And no, you do NOT need to know anything about AJAX, XML, or Java.

First, add this line to your HTML's HEAD element:
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.acme.com/dogear/tools/doglink.js"></script>

Then, add this line to the <BODY> element of your web page (right now it's a DIV but you could make it a button if you wanted to...):

<div onclick="javascript:DogLink.makePost(location.href, document.title, 'tag1 tag2', 'Description of this page');">dogear this</div>

That's it!! Nifty, eh?

Another great function of Dogear is the ability to add a list of 'Related Bookmarks' to your pages. Think of your intranet portal. Think of all the pages that are out there. Let's take for example a news item about how your company is expanding its business in Asia. Wouldn't it be nice to have a dynamic list of links related to business development in Asia ? And with Dogear, this is super simple! And again, you do NOT need to know anything about AJAX, XML, or Java. In fact, no coding is necessary at all!

All you have to do is, copy-n-paste. Simply open the Dogear page, do a search for "business development" and click on Add to Site in the bottom of the screen.
200806161310.jpg

Copy-n-paste the generated code into the page where you want to add it and voilá! You are done! That simple! A process that can not take more than 5 minutes. Cool, right?!?! I think so.

It simply can't get any easier than that! As a techie/developer, that's yet another reason to love Lotus Connections.

Lotus Connections Communities

Most customers ask me if group membership in Communities can be used in other applications. For example, can membership in a community control whether or not a user has access to a Quickr place ? In the next release, this will be done out-of-the-box. In the meantime, this can be easily accomplished by using the Communities API and retrieving the members for a particular community.

Do-It-Yourself

So is there anything that you would still like to do and I haven't covered it? I doubt it . Kidding aside, there may be cases where you need to do your own custom development to integrate Lotus Connections into other environments. To prove that you can really integrate Lotus Connections into any environment, IBM ran an internal challenge called "50 ways to leave your bookmark". In it, 11 developers posted samples on using the APIs with Java, PHP (with cURL), Ruby, JavaScript, Perl, ActionScript, Shell Script, wget, Message Broker, AppleScript, ColdFusion, and the list goes on and on! Check out the article for all the great samples.

In addition, here's a sampling of what else has been done with the Lotus Connections APIs:

Really. The possibilities are endless. I even worked closely with a customer who decided not to use the User Interface that ships out-of-the-box and completely create a brand new user interface leveraging the existing services!

Summary

The great value of Lotus Connections is its flexibility to be customized mostly through configuration. There's very little that needs to be done with actual code. This helps increase the adoption rate because end-users feel comfortable using an environment that fits in their day-to-day lives. Additionally, IT has a LOT of power and control over the environment mostly through configuration!!! Moreover, the application has been designed from the beginning to be embedded into existing applications. And because Lotus Connections abides by the SOA concepts, this is easily done as shown here. The Lotus Connections APIs are so powerful that I'm sure I'm missing something.

Friday, June 27, 2008

My company blocked Facebook - now I want to quit!

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So I'm coming late in the game on this one, but have been busy tackling some "fires".

A recent survey by IT services provider Telindus apparently finds that ~40% of 18-24 year olds would seriously consider leaving their job if their company blocks access to Facebook. That's a significant number, and it's always something I mention to my prospective customers, because it's true.


If that generation doesn't have access to social software tools inside of the firewall, you can bet that they are going to go outside of the firewall to use it! And sure, companies may try to block sites like Facebook and MySpace, but there are so many ways to get around those blocks, such as using web proxies (a web proxy is a site you go to that lets you surf other sites without being blocked by your firewall).

So why fight it? Fighting social software/media/networking or whatever you are going to call it is like fighting instant messaging back in the 90's. Instead, realize two things:

  • To attract the younger, skilled workforce, companies have to adopt social software
  • Human beings are social by nature! By being social, we learn from each other, grow, and become more effective

I, for one, wouldn't consider leaving IBM if they take away social bookmarking (Dogear), for example. But I can certainly guarantee that I would become much less effective in my day-to-day work, effectively costing my employer more money in the long run.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I have to say, Portlet Factory is pretty cool

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I'm currently in the process of writing an article for developerWorks to describe the process of creating portlets that use the Lotus Connections APIs.

As you know, I'm a "true" developer. Thus, I cringed at the thought of using tools such as Visual Basic (back in the day) or Portlet Factory. I didn't feel comfortable having a machine generate code for me. I didn't feel comfortable not owning the solution. I didn't feel comfortable not writing a single line of code. I didn't feel comfortable not being in control. What if the machine generated code didn't perform well? How complicated will it be to build a UI with drag-n-drop? And so on, and so on...

Anyway, as I was saying, about a month ago a co-worker approached me and pitched the idea of creating an article that described how to use the Lotus Connections APIs from WebSphere Portlet Factory. I looked around and found no step-by-step example on how to do this. I only found a site with some examples, but it didn't explain how those examples were built. Therefore, I figured it would be of great value to the community to create this and, at the same time, it would be a good learning experience to get to know Portlet Factory.


Fast forward to today, and my section of the article is done! I was able to write two portlets that talked to each other and retrieved data from Dogear by using its RESTful APIs. And how much code did I have to write? I had to put together 10 lines of HTML!!! That's right! I didn't have to use Java, XML, Atom feeds, JavaScript, or anything like that!!!!!

I did run into two snags, but I was able to resolve them within hours thanks to the WebSphere Portlet Factory Support Forum. Stay tuned to the Lotus Connections developerWorks page where the article should be posted in the coming weeks!

Friday, June 20, 2008

What happened to Microsoft last week ?

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Unless you were on vacation in Tahiti with no BlackBerry or laptop, then you should know by now about the IBM-Microsoft Bake-Off that took place last week at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston. According to the press, analysts, and attendees, IBM clearly won and came out ahead! The best part, in my opinion, when was Microsoft said that our product was better than theirs!

Anyway, yesterday, I picked up a blog posting from Mike Gotta. He was the person who planned and moderated the session between IBM and Microsoft. In it, he provides some great background information as to how the session was planned and organized.

I particularly like the post because it helps me, a non-attendee, really understand what happened last week. How can Microsoft mess up so badly? Was it just that their speakers were bad? Or was it that their product was really not up-to-par? After reading Mike's blog post, I can now answer those questions very easily: Microsoft's product is really no way near what Lotus Connections provides!

Mike says that the session has been in the works since January of this year. That's right, the speakers had 6 months to prepare! The session outline was clearly given to them and they knew exactly what to expect during the bake-off. So was the Microsoft disaster due to lack of preparation? Nope!

Here's my favorite quote from Mike's blog entry:

IBM was the clear winner across the board. The storyline and narrative woven around the presentation and demonstrations was near-perfect. The IBM team established the use case scenarios and drilled down into those scenarios in a way that allowed people to make the connection (no pun intended) between the use cases and functional components.

I strongly encourage you all to read it!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Upgraded to Lotus Connections V2

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Yesterday, I took upon the task to upgrade the Lotus Connections v1.0.2 PoT (Proof-of-Technology) image to the GA version of Lotus Connections v2. I wasn't sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to do the upgrade. At a high-level, here' s what you need to do:

  1. Run a wizard to update the database schemas ( 5 mins )
  2. Run a wizard to create the new Homepage database (if needed) (7 mins)
  3. Run a wizard to uninstall Lotus Connections v1.0.2 ( 10 mins )
  4. Run a wizard to upgrade WAS to 6.1.0.13 (1 hr )
  5. Run a wizard to install Lotus Connections v2 (20 mins )
  6. Install any appropriate fixes.

That's right, assuming you download all the software first, you can do the upgrade in about 2 hours!!! (though it depends on processor speed, and hard disk speed). There were a couple of snags that I ran to. I don't know if it was because I did something wrong during the upgrade, or my v1.0.2 environment was messed up, but I'm documenting here just in case:

  1. The port numbers weren't set to 80 as before. I had to go into the <WAS_PROFILE_ROOT>\config\cells\<cellName>\LotusConnections-Config\LotusConnections-Config.xml and set the ports there.
  2. I had to re-map the modules to the HTTP server
  3. I had to re-generate the WAS plug-in
  4. I had to re-run the TDI assembly line to update the user's GUID with the correct value from my Domino LDAP.

After fixing those items, I got Lotus Connections v2 up-and-running! And wow...It runs extremely fast!! Of course, more detailed information can be found in the InfoCenter. Can't wait to see what's coming in the next release


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lotus Connections Deployment Wiki is Now Available

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In case you missed it, the Connections Blog today announced the availability of the Lotus Connection Deployment Wiki. So, if you have questions on:

  • Integration
  • Deployment
  • Customization
  • Administration
  • Troubleshooting
  • etc..

head over to the Wiki today. And, of course, if you learned something, please share it back with the community!


Monday, June 16, 2008

Why IT loves Lotus Connections

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Before I became the social software pre-sales techie, I used to be in Lotus Services. As an I/T consultant, my job was to deploy IBM/Lotus solutions to customers, integrate those solutions with existing enterprise applications, and perform any necessary customizations.

As such, I spent numerous days and nights reverse engineering some of our products to determine the best way to integrate with them. In 2007, I took on Lotus Connections while I was still a software consultant.

Of course, every customer wanted to integrate Lotus Connections with their enterprise apps and customize it to their needs. And I think, as a developer, that's when I truly fell in love with Lotus Connections. As a techie, I could NOT believe how simple and easy it was to customize Lotus Connections.

You can pretty much do whatever you want simply through configuration with very little or no coding. In terms of integration, there's nothing easier than with Dogear.

For example, say you have an intranet page dedicated to business development. Wouldn't it be nice to have a dynamic list of relevant links? Of course, it would!! And you ask: "But that's complicated right? Somebody probably has to sit down, read the Connections API documentation, get familiar with REST and Java, and code something in JSP, right ?"

NO! All you have to do is, copy-n-paste. Simply open the Dogear page, do a search for "business development" and click on Add to Site in the bottom of the screen.


200806161310.jpg

Copy-n-paste the generated code into the page where you want to add it and voilá! You are done! That simple! A process that can not take more than 5 minutes. Cool, right?!?! I think so.

It simply can't get any easier than that! As a techie/developer, that's one reason to love Lotus Connections.

36 hours in Rio de Janeiro - Part III

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This is a continuation of Part II.

Lunch with IBMers

I met an ITA (link to Marcelo person card) who has been blogging internally for about 2 years. He strictly blogs in Portuguese because he feels he needs to target his local peers and evangelize social software. He communicated that he was a bit frustrated because people were commenting on his blog by email, instead of posting a comment directly on his blog. I encouraged him to set an example and comment on others' blogs and show people how it's done.


LuisBrazilLunchSugarLoaf

Meet with a customer's IT department

Challenge: Convince customer not to use various open-source solutions and instead use Lotus Connections

Result: Success! Customer wants to start a pilot!

This was another 1 hour meeting that became 3.5 hrs due to the customer's excitement. I had no presentation for this. I used 1-2 slides from various presentations (perhaps I need to combine them into one?). I started talking about the IBM-recommended 12-step adoption plan and emphasized the principles of social software architecture. Here were my talking points (in somewhat order of importance):

  • Don't go at it alone! Partner with the business side to understand pain points
  • Use tools that integrate to everything
  • Use tools that work from everywhere and anywhere
  • Choose the right pilot audience. IBM has the international experience of how to do it right. We've learned from our failures and the failures of others.
  • Use tools that are intuitive and easy to use
  • Use tools that work in your native language
  • Start slow and let your pilot audience become your evangelizers

The inability for disparate open-source solutions to work together and integrate seamlessly was, I think, the deal breaker for them. Lotus Connections, like no other, integrates seamlessly with pretty much anything. No other tool in the market can claim that! (It also helped that they are a big BlackBerry customer!)

I suggested starting with a 6-8 week pilot, which customers usually frown upon because it's "too long". They, however, insisted that that was too short! And they want to plan a pilot that lasts at least 3 months. I see success in their future.

Next steps: Customer wants to know which customers in their industry are using Lotus Connections and more about the Microsoft disaster at the Enterprise 2.0 conference. I'm going to create an Activity, of course, in the Greenhouse to continue my collaboration going forward. Oh, and I told the customer that I would be glad to come back, especially during Carnaval .

Friday, June 13, 2008

36 hours in Rio de Janeiro - Part II

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This is a continuation of Part I.

Day 2 in Rio de Janeiro started with me looking outside my hotel window and getting to see Cristo Redentor. I didn't realize the night before I had such a beautiful view of the statue.

Roundtable with Business Partners

Got to IBM at 9:15am (15 minutes late). Luckily, things in Brazil are like in Puerto Rico... meetings start about 30 mins late . Maybe it's a Latin America thing. I presented on the Business Value of social software and shared my personal success stories. I also talked about the how IBM is promoting adoption to its employees. I also did a demo of Connections 2.0 and the business partners were blown away by all the new features in 2.0 (which ships this Friday!).

Some business partners had a background in KM. When I talked about the typical adoption rate and how 90% of users are lurkers/readers/consumers, and only about 10% are actual contributors (comments, bookmarks, blogs, etc), they were surprised. I argued, however, that in the KM days if we ever got to more than 1% of active contributors, that was a LOT. They agreed!

One of them was also very experienced with 'change management' and we had a great discussion after the round table concluded. He said that the 12-step adoption plan that I presented was great, and it really applied to any organizational change. He also commented that he believes integration is key to adoption. The ability to use social software from anywhere is a must because people naturally contribute/collaborate in different ways. He, for example, blogs by using a voice recorder and then transcribing his thoughts into a blog! Very interesting approach, I thought!

Here's the feedback that I got from one of the BP's after the session was done:

O bate papo sobre Connections foi muito produtivo. Termos alguém com conhecimento para tirar nossas dúvidas comerciais e técnicas no formato apresentado realmente é muito bom. Ainda mais nos novos produtos da Lotus os quais ainda não possuímos expertise.

Recomendo repetir esta experiência sempre que possível.


36 hours in Rio de Janeiro - Part I

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I'm now in a plane back to the Puerto Rico after spending 36 hours in Rio de Janeiro evangelizing social software and discussing adoption best practices. Below is a summary of the activities I was involved in:

Meet with a customer's Online University Team

In the first 12 hours, I got to meet with the business owners of the company's Online University and the ones in charge of promoting educational offerings to the rest of the employees. I'm noticing, by the way, that this is a trend. A lot of people who have a background in eLearning are now moving on to social software.

Anyway, I discussed the IBM-recommended adoption program and went through all 12 steps in detail. I emphasized most of the ten principles of social software. The customer agreed wholeheartedly and even asked if IBM provides services to help them through the process. The answer, of course, is yes .

The customer LOVED Lotus Connections, but asked me to help convince their IT department that this was the right tool to use AND that IT needs to work together with them on their adoption strategies. Currently, the IT department is looking at using various open source tools (more on this later).

I, unfortunately, realized later that not everyone knew what Lotus Connections was so I did a demo after talking about the 12 step plan . We, however, had some great discussions.

  • Cultural Shift - they stated that they need to go through a cultural shift to encourage people to share. I told them about IBM's deployments worldwide and how we have the experience to guide them through the process. Also, about 30% of the employees are set to retire in the next 5 years! What motivation do they have to share ? I encouraged them to set mentor relationships with the younger generation and get the latter to Blog!
  • Diversity of workforce - Additionally, about 40% of the workforce has been hired in the last 3 years! (what a gap, huh?) and their turnover is pretty high too (only about 10% of the employees last more than 10 years). I told them they need to capitalize on this and get them all connected. Using Social Network Analysis (SNA) they can quickly visualize these gaps and work towards closing them.
  • Pilot audience - They said they didn't feel comfortable choosing the right audience for their pilot and they also didn't know how long a pilot should be. I told them how important it was to choose trusted employees who are always willing to try new things. They must also be willing to add content to the system (nobody likes an empty site, right? Imagine going to Facebook and none of your friends are there. Would you come back ? Probably not, or probably in a year or so...
  • Getting started - The customer said that Lotus Connections may be "too much". And I agreed. In fact, I told them that IBM recommends starting small - usually Profiles and one more service. It's easy to start with Profiles because as soon as you import data, you can get value out of it. Then I encouraged them to figure out what's the biggest pain point. Is it intranet search? If so, use Dogear. Is it having an easy way to share ideas and collaborate? If so, use Blogs. Is it finding communities of practice and leveraging their knowledge? If so, use Communities.

What was supposed to be a 1 hr meeting, became a 3 hr meeting. And the best part? The customer was the one that did most of the talking! They can't wait to get started.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ten architectural principles for Social Software

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I recently read a blog entry about the Architectural Principles of Social software and thought it was great. Tim Bull outlines what he thinks should be in the mind of IT and Business professionals when they are going to deploy a social software solutions, such as Lotus Connections.

In summary, he presents the following principles:

  1. Limit social software data to basic security only
  2. Social software should leverage authoritative data for relevant information
  3. Simple ubiquitous online access
  4. Global sharing
  5. Modular, highly integrated services
  6. Configuration, not customization
  7. Build for rapid growth

If you are following me on Twitter, you know that I just visited several customers in Rio de Janeiro to evangelize social software and discuss adoption strategies. I strongly focused on points 3, 5 and 6. Access to social software tools from the context I already work in is essential. If users live inside a Portal, that's where social software should be. If users are mobile, that's where social software should be. If users live in a mail client, that's where social software should be. Remember, you are "throwing" a new tool at your users. Don't make it a hassle to use it, otherwise adoption will not happen.

As such, I would like to add to the principles listed above:

  1. Simple to use UI - the user interface must be self-explanatory. Anything more complicated than that will be a turn-off for users
  2. Eliminate workflow - don't require posts/entries to require management verification. This would be another turn-off for users
  3. Internationalization - the UI should be translated into the user's local language which makes users feel welcome
So there you go. Your 10 steps architectural principles for social software to ensure that your implementation is a success and adopted by end users. What do you think ?

Microsoft is in big trouble!

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(Updated on 6/12/2008 @ 10:54am to include more links based on comments)

(Updated on 6/13/2008 @ 9:19am to include link from ZDNET)

My blog about the IBM vs Microsoft shootout has generated a lot of buzz in the blogosphere. So much so that I commented about to customers and business partners during my most recent trip to Rio de Janeiro. And the consensus was the same from everyone: "Send me the links to all this information". Therefore, this blog entry tries to capture all the comments from blogosphere so that I can send just one link going forward. Enjoy!

Comments from IBMers (biased of course):

Comments from non-IBMers (perhaps more valuable!)

(Updated 6/20/2008): How the Bake-Off was organized and why IBM won

I'm particularly impressed by the amount of non-IBMer feedback. Feedback that's not biased and clearly points to the fact that IBM is the clear leader, with no competition, in the social software space. I'm so proud of being an IBMer!

So there you have it. If your customers want proof that Sharepoint has no play in the Social Software space and that Microsoft admits to the fact, send them a link to this entry!

P.S. If I find more I will update this entry and mark the updates. And if you know of more, add a comment to this blog.

Monday, June 9, 2008

IBM wins round 1 against Microsoft!

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I've been dilligently following the developments of today's presentation where both IBM and Microsoft are presenting their social computing platforms. IBM, of course, is pushing Lotus Connections. Microsoft, is trying very hard to push Sharepoint, their document-centric solution. (they still don't get that social software applications should be person-centric...oh well!)

Since I'm not at the Enterprise 2.0 conference itself, I've been watching what the Twitterverse is saying about it. Clearly, IBM has won this round!! I'm so excited to hear non-IBMers get excited about Lotus Connections and see how Sharepoint really doesn't hit the mark. Here are some recent comments:

trib: #e20 MS failing dismally at showing off Sharepoint collab tools. IBM totally ate their lunch.

kpearlson: watcihng MS demonstrate SharePoint in an 'out of the box' manner...seems very slow and not as intuitive as Lotus Connections

gialyons: hearing Lotus Connections (Suzanne and Heidi) is winning the E2.0 debate with LLiu and Sharepoint. No surprise here.

eughenes: MS presenting SharePoint's as social computing platform, nice try but not serious at all. It is NOT a SC platform.

jhariani: MS getting pummelled on their SharePoint for SNS demo: http://community.e2conf.com/community/sessions/monday/t1

kreid451: listening to SharePoint demo at E2.0. It's really not in the same ballpark with Lotus Connections, the last demo

robberthomburg: #e20 IBM connections 2.0 seems more complete than SP2007! maybee less flexible?

Up to this point, I have NOT seen anything positive feedback about Microsoft. I'll keep watching the Twitterverse, but it definitely looks like IBM and Lotus Connections have won this round! Congratulations to Suzanne Minassian and Heidi Votaw!

Want to stay tuned to the Sharepoint vs Lotus Connections battle? Subscribe to this feed now!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Woo Hoo - I can now take Activities offline!!

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Suzanne Minassian reported on her blog that we can now take Activities offline! The trick is that you need to start using Notes 8.5 and modify a configuration parameter. Here's what you need to do:

  1. Download the new Notes 8.5 beta client here.
  2. After getting Notes up and running:
    1. Stop Notes
    2. Edit \framework\shared\eclipse\plugins\com.ibm.openactivities.client.common.service_3.0.1.2008MMDD-HHMM\plugin.properties
    3. Reset the final setting... activities.enable.offline=yes
    4. Re-start Notes

I downloaded the Notes 8.5 client, but the Activities plug-in is still not part of the Mac client. A co-worker and I have been trying to figure out what the issue is there, but no one seems to know.

Anyway, I kicked off my Windows XP VMWare image in Fusion and downloaded and installed the Notes 8.5 client there. When you launch Notes 8.5 and open the Activities sidebar, you'll notice a new 'Online' section.

When you click on it, you are given a configuration dialog and you can choose which Activities to take offline!!

After a couple of moments, the Notes client downloads all your Activity information and you can start working offline. It simply doesn't get any better than that! Thank YOU, Lotus Connections dev team. This is great!! (oh, and please hurry with the plug-in for us Mac users )

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Collecting usage metrics in Lotus Connections

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Lotus Connections v2 (which will be released in less than 2 weeks) adds some very nice capabilities to visualize usage metrics. These metrics are useful during a Pilot and/or Production phase of deployment.

During a pilot, it's important to see how much the servers are being used so that we can use that information when estimating a deployment architecture for production. It's also valuable to see how adoption is progressing. I, however, wouldn't rely strictly on usage reports to gauge the adoption within an enterprise. Instead, I think that's a task that the Atlas component for Lotus Connections can do much better!!

During production, it also helps to see how the system is utilized to help gauge whether it needs more capacity. Don't, however, rely strictly on these reports. You should definitely use better server reporting tools.

Anyway, I figured I would share with you some of the reporting capabilities that will be available in less than 2 weeks! Here's a preview of what you can expect:

Activities:

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Blogs: (updated 06/05/08 to add missing Blog screenshot)

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Communities:

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Dogear:

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Homepage:

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Profiles:

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Why did IBM create Lotus Connections ?

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Have you ever wondered why IBM/Lotus created Lotus Connections? What's the actual business value to us as IBMers? And for our customers ?



Suzanne Minassian
, product manager for Lotus Connections, gets interviewed by a fellow IBMer,
Douglas Spencer
, to figure out why Lotus Connections was created. Suzanne discusses the roots of Lotus Connections, the research behind it, and how it was adopted internally at IBM


One of the key important points that I always talk with my customers is: integration. Integration is critical for user adoption!! Think about it! If you have a BlackBerry, do you use TwitterBerry or Facebook on it? Doesn't it make it easier to adopt those tools when it's pervasive in everything that you do? I think so!


Thus, I also like this video because Suzanne, also discusses the free integration capabilities that ship with Lotus Connections. The video finishes with some things that IBM is looking at beyond 2.0. Enjoy!




Monday, June 2, 2008

Should we add workflow to social software ?

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Today, was one of those days where I got the same question from multiple people. And you know that when that happens, it's time to blog about it! I first got the question from a customer during a 2 hour workshop on Lotus Connections and its business value and integration power. The question was: "Is there a workflow associated with a user creating a forum thread or a blog entry?"

I asked what kind of workflow they were thinking about and the answer was a simple 2 step process asking for management approval.

Later in the day, I got the same question from David Clarke. My answer to both is: "No, and I don't think workflow is such a good idea in social software. In fact, I would argue that workflow would be a huge turn off and would be a barrier for user adoption".

The customer didn't seem too convinced. To which, of course, I said: " Lotus Connections does have tools, however, that let you, as an admin, manage inappropriate content. And, it's not that complicated to customize the application if you need it".

But, the question remains: "should we add workflow to Lotus Connections (and other social software)?"

Would you:

  • blog as often as you do if you knew your blog entry was subject to management approval each time?
  • create a forum thread as often as you do and wait for management approval?
  • upload videos to YouTube and wait for the powers-that-be to approve it?
  • upload photos to Flickr and wait for someone to approve it before you can share with family/friends?

What are your thoughts ?


Socializing with my customer

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Today I had the pleasure to "socialize" with one of my customers. And no, we weren't wasting our time. In fact, we were collaborating and discussing the migration from Beta 2 to Beta 3 of Lotus Connections V2. He then asked how we were coping with the loss of a recent employee. I said that it wasn't that bad since with Lotus Connections we have captured all her knowledge up to the point when she left! He said: "You know what? That's so true. That's a great selling point for Connections!" Indeed it is! smile The funny thing is that we used 3 different tools to communicate in a span of 1 hour:

  1. It all started with GTalk
  2. Then we used Lotus Sametime
  3. Finally used Twitter

As we finished discussing the upgrade process, he told me "I'm in Westford this week". I said, "I know I saw it on Twitter". Then he said "I saw your voted in the primaries", and I'm like "Yeah, it was interesting" and he finished by saying "I know, I saw it on Twitter". A light bulb lighted on our heads. We both realized it at the same time. With Twitter, we can quickly let everyone what we are up to, so that when we collaborate, it's truly about business. It's as if Twitter removes a barrier to communication! Pretty cool!