Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Collaboration Matters Podcast - Episode 4 - My Journey From eLearning to Social Software

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I recently had the pleasure to join Neil Burston and Stuart McIntyre as part of their Collaboration Matters Podcast series! While I had already created several podcasts internally at IBM, I had never done one externally. Needless to say, I was very excited that they reached out to me in order to create my first external podcast.

If you are already following the Collaboration Matters blog, then you already know the news and probably even heard the podcast already! If you are not subscribed to the podcast, I would like to encourage you to do so. In Episode 3, Heidi Votaw and Suzanne Minassian talk about the latest and greatest in Lotus Connections 2.0.

So what is this journey from eLearning to Social Software ? Well, as I've mentioned before, I used to be an eLearning developer and consultant before taking on my current role. Thus, Neil asks me how I got into this whole social software space and how I became so passionate about the subject. We also talk about some challenges that I've run into in the past 2 years. In fact, let me give you a quick overview of what the podcast is about:

  • 01:30 - Good morning to you - Buenas tardes desde aquí!
  • 02:00 - Collaboration Matters is running the Connectr event (see slides below) and Lotus Connections Blog
  • 02:20 - Luis, tell us about yourself, what you do, your role and how you got into this
  • 03:20 - My job as an eLearning consultant and my first transition to social software... a "expected" evolution/transition
  • 03:50 - How I learn by contributing content in the social software space
  • 04:30 - The beauty of living in Puerto Rico
  • 05:30 - My own, personal introduction to Lotus Connections
  • 06:40 - Evaluate social software as an eLearning approach / solution for a customer in Tampa. I had been blogging since early 2006 and was familiar with Social Bookmarking but was not an avid user. I had to make a case for how these technologies could help solve their elearning needs.
  • 07:55 - Results of the social software for eLearning pilot. Challenges that we encountered re: privacy in this multi-national environment
  • 09:30 - Legal blocks to social software deployments in Europe
  • 11:30 - My view, as a millenial, on the benefits of sharing knowledge with social software
  • 14:00 - Why it was so hard to share before social software
  • 16:20 - Which industries are using social software ?
  • 18:10 - What really blew me away... social software at construction companies!!!
  • 21:00 - How the product itself promotes adoption
  • 22:45 - Have you seen any downsides to not having any formal processes behind knowledge sharing?
  • 25:30 - How Lotus Connections, as an enterprise social software platform, promotes self-policing
  • 27:35 - Tell us about the usage of social task management and Lotus Connections Activities
  • 31:15 - The role of repeatable human processes and social software
  • 32:40 - What's your favorite feature of Lotus Connections ? Definitely, Dogear, the social bookmarking component of Lotus Connections
  • 35:00 - How feed readers help in my day-to-day job
  • 36:40 - Complete the following sentence: "I love Lotus Connections because..." - it works with me! It's always with me, I depend on it, I trust it
  • 38:00 - Closing comments...

2008-09-30_1149One success story (of many) behind all this, is that I met Neil and Stuart strictly through social software. More specifically via my blog and Twitter. By using social software we collaborated effectively even though there was an 8 hour difference between us!! (It was 7:30am my time when this was recorded).

Neil, also told me that he was able to capture our conversation as a MindMap. I didn't know what a MindMap was until today. But no worries, I downloaded MindManager for Mac and was able to look at it. Pretty cool!!! The tool looks really interesting and I'm going to start playing with it more to see how I can use and apply it to my daily life. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Here are the slides used at the Connectr #6 event:

Slides from the Connectr#6 event:

Connectr #6
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: connectr lotus)

Ready to start listening? Subscribe to the podcast or download the MP3 from here. I hope you like it!

Monday, September 29, 2008

OpenSearch Integration for Lotus Connections

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200809262042.jpgA while ago, I noticed that one of our competitors uses OpenSearch to provide quick, easy integration with the browser. You see, any page that implements this specification will automatically show up in browsers such as Mozilla Firefox v2+ and Internet Explorer 7 (see the screenshot). Searching social data from the browser is very powerful because it encourages adoption. If a search doesn't return the expected results, all a user has to do, is change the search engine in the browser and re-submit. Easy. Simple.

Not to be outdone, I decided to read the specification and see how complicated it would be to add this to Lotus Connections.

Turns out, it's a 15 minute task! Basically, you create one XML file for each search capability you want to provide. As an example, I created 6:

Each file looks roughly like this. If you want to use them on your deployment, simply change the host name as shown in the screenshot below. If you want to add more, simply do the search you want to provide and then copy the URL format to the template section.

200809262034.jpg

To add this to Lotus Connections, follow this simple process:

  1. Copy the files above to <DOC_ROOT>/search ( e.g. /opt/IBM/HTTPServer/htdocs/en_US/search or C:\IBM\HTTPServer\htdocs\en_US\search)
  2. Go to <WAS_PROFILE_ROOT/installedApps/<CELL_NAME>/Activities.ear/oawebui.war/WEB-INF/jsps/html_prototype/fragments/mainpage
  3. Save a backup of setupajax.jsp
  4. Open setupajax.jsp with your favorite text editor
  5. Add the following lines inside the <HEAD> section of the file

    <link rel="search" type="application/opensearchdescription+xml" title="Search Profiles by Name" href="/search/searchProfilesName.xml">
    <link rel="search" type="application/opensearchdescription+xml" title="Search Profiles by Tag" href="/search/searchProfilesTag.xml">
    <link rel="search" type="application/opensearchdescription+xml" title="Search Activities" href="/search/searchActivities.xml">
    <link rel="search" type="application/opensearchdescription+xml" title="Search Blogs" href="/search/searchBlogs.xml">
    <link rel="search" type="application/opensearchdescription+xml" title="Search Communities" href="/search/searchCommunities.xml">
    <link rel="search" type="application/opensearchdescription+xml" title="Search Dogear" href="/search/searchDogear.xml">

  6. Save and close the file
  7. Repeat steps 3-6 for the following files:
    • Blogs.ear/blogs.war/themes/blog/_header.vm (and for each theme)
    • Communities.ear/tango.web.ui.war/WEB-INF/jsps/html/tiles/frameworkHeader.jsp
    • Dogear.ear/dogear.webui.war/h3/jsp/main/h3.jsp
    • Profiles.ear/peoplepages.war/WEB-INF/jsps/html/tiles/frameworkHeader.jsp
    • Homepage.ear/dboard.war/web/jsp/main.jsp

And there you have it! You may want to change the code above just a bit so that, for example:

  • when you are in Profiles only the Profiles search shows up
  • when you are in Blogs, only the Blogs search shows up
  • etc...

That's left as an exercise to the reader.... For now, follow these simple steps and you can start searching across Lotus Connections from your browser!!

Friday, September 26, 2008

"Are you Luis, from Socialize Me?"

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This was the question a prospective customer asked me when I introduced myself. But before I tell you more about that, let me give you a bit of background.

The adventure begins

Tuesday (yes, 3 days ago), I woke up at 4:45am for the first flight of the day from SJU to SFO. I flew via JFK because AA now has in-flight internet service for flights between JFK and SFO, LAX, and MIA. Unfortunately, however, I didn't quite read the fine print: in-flight internet is only available on those flights that happen on Boeings 767-300 and my JFK to SFO flight was on a Boeing 767-200 . What I thought was going to be a productive 5.5 hr flight from JFK-SFO turned out to be a relaxing flight watching The Office and Two and Half Men.

Arrival to San Francisco

I arrived at SFO at 5:50pm (8:50pm my time). I called the IBM crew and they were still in the office working on the finishing touches. I drove into the office and met them there, but not without some complications. You see, the IBM office is at 425 Market St, and while the GPS did a good job of getting me there, finding street parking was a mess. With the Oracle Open World conference going on, traffic in downtown was pretty heavy. To add to that, I got into "one-way-and-no-left/right-turn" hell. After 30 mins I was able to find street parking. It was now 7:15pm (10:15pm my time).

We reviewed the presentation and went over the demo items again to make sure we were all set. At 9 (12am my time), we went to a nice, enjoyable dinner at Osha. We got back to the office at ~10:15p (1:15am my time) copied the VMWare image into my local laptop (it's always better to demo from a Mac ). Now because of the aforementioned Oracle conference, I couldn't get any hotels downtown. The closest hotel was 20 miles away. After initially getting lost, I was able to get on I-80 and checked in to my hotel at 11:59pm (2:59am my time). That's right, I have been up for 22 hours straight. I'm thinking to myself: "How will I perform tomorrow at the customer demo?" One thing is certain: Starbucks is going to make a lot of money out of me tomorrow!

Customer meeting

On Wednesday, I woke up at 5:45a after a 4.5 hr sleep. I went downstairs and had a power breakfast (coffee with eggs)! As I drove into San Francisco, I had to take the Golden Gate Bridge. As I approached it from the north, there was a spectacular view of it! Fog had completely covered it. It was awesome and very beautiful. As I entered the fog, I could only see 2 cars ahead of me.. So spooky!

Over at the office, we did yet another practice run to make sure we were still ok. Once we arrived at the customer site, I introduced myself and 2 different people asked me: "are you Luis, from Socialize Me" ? I was in shock. "Yes!! How did you find my blog", I asked. "Just randomly as we did our research on different social software platforms", they replied. AWESOME, the customer has already gone through my blog! This is fantastic! Lotus Connections pretty much sells by itself after reading my blog, I hope...

The meeting with the customer went from 1p-5pm. In my opinion, the meeting went very well and the customer had a lot of questions. I could tell that the customer had already listened to our top competitor. Once the meeting was "done", the customer asked us to stay for a bit to discuss some follow on items. I, unfortunately, had to leave to the airport to catch a 6:40p flight to LAX.

Will the adventure end?

I decided to fly SFO-LAX-JFK-SJU instead of SFO-JFK-SJU because the former was going to get me home 4 hrs before the latter. The SFO-LAX flight was a snap. The LAX-JFK flight boarded on time, but then we sat for 1.5 hrs at the gate because of a cockpit light that wouldn't go off. The flight arrived in JFK 10 minutes after my connecting flight had departed. That meant that I got stuck in JFK for 5 extra hours until the next flight. My expected 4 extra hours with the family quickly vanished! When it was time to board the JFK-SJU flight, the flight attendants were MIA (no, not in Miami, just Missing In Action). That meant an additional 30 minute delay.

When the plane finally starts to taxi to the runway, the pilot welcomes the travellers. He says that today's trip will be 300 miles longer because "we have to fly around some weather". At usual plane speeds (500 mph) that means an extra 36 minutes!! I am now getting home 6 hours later than my originally scheduled flight.

I just hope my bad luck with planes this week doesn't mean that the customer is not choosing IBM over our competitors...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Using Lotus Connections from a Ruby Web App

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200809251003.jpg Continuing to demonstrate how easy it is to consume Lotus Connections content from other applications, the Top Story today at developerWorks is an article that explains how to build a Ruby on Rails (RoR) web application that consumes Lotus Connections content via the REST API.

The article, written by one of IBM's Portlet Factory architects (Thomas Beauvais), is very clear and concise. It walks you step-by-step on how to create a Ruby web application and configure it to use to use data retrieved via the REST APIs instead of a database. Thomas explains the code needed to call the Dogear REST APIs to get a person's bookmarks and tag cloud. To my surprise, there's very little code needed to get this going!

One of the things that I like about it is that it's a great tutorial for Ruby beginners (like myself) on how to create a Ruby web application. After reading the article, I feel like I can build any type of Ruby application. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to work on this with one of my customers!

Ready to read more? Check out the article here. And don't forget about the article that I co-authored which explains how to use Portlet Factory to create a portlet that consume Dogear via the REST APIs.

P.S. Is it just me or does the title open itself to a bad interpretation ?

How to add button to view private Dogears

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As you may know by now, Dogear is my favorite component of all the Lotus Connections services. It has even become my primary search engine over Google. For those of you who don't know, Dogear is the social bookmarking component of Lotus Connections. It lets users tag any URI, be it a HTTP URL in the intranet or in the internet (i.e. http://....), an FTP address (ftp://....), a Notes Database/View/Document (i.e. notes://...) or any other URI addressable resource.

200809230845.jpg To tag (or bookmark) a page it takes the same amount of clicks (sometimes less) than to bookmark a page locally in your own browser! As such, I've found no need to bookmark anything locally (especially since I tend to use multiple computers and it's just easier to share bookmarks between computers if they persist in a server). Dogear, of course, also provides the capability for you to bookmark pages 'privately'. In other words, only you have access to them.

And while Dogear provides a My Bookmarks view as shown, it shows all your public and private bookmarks. Recently, a colleague asked in an internal forum how to add a button to show only someone's private bookmarks. I thought I would share the answer with the general population.

To view your private bookmarks, simply add access=private as one of the parameters in the URL and voilá! So if the 'My Bookmarks' URL is: http://connections.demoibm.com/dogear/html/mybookmarks?lang=en change that to: http://connections.demoibm.com/dogear/html/mybookmarks?lang=en&access=private.

Well, ask and you shall receive! To add a button follow these instructions:

  1. Go to <WAS_ROOT>/profiles/AppSrv01/installedApps/<cellName>/Dogear.ear/dogear.webui.war/h3/jsp/main
  2. Save a copy of bookmarks.jspf
  3. Open bookmarks.jspf with your favorite text editor
  4. Find the following section in the file
  5. Add the line in bold
  6. Save the file
<c:if test="${myBookmarks && p.totalItems > 0}">
<script src="${pageContext.request.contextPath}/script/my-bookmarks.js" type="text/javascript"> </script>
<span class="lotusBtn lotusBtnAction lotusLeft"><a href="#" onclick="displayLinkNames('notifyMultiForm', 'notifyLinksSpan');return false;"><fmt:message key="jsp.bookmarks.notify.multi"/></a></span>
<span class="lotusBtn lotusBtnAction lotusLeft"><a href="#" onclick="displayLinkNames('addtagMultiForm', 'addTagLinksSpan');return false;"><fmt:message key="jsp.bookmarks.addtag.newtag" /></a></span>
<span class="lotusBtn lotusBtnAction lotusLeft"><a href="#" onclick="displayLinkNames('retagMultiForm', 'reTagLinksSpan');return false;"><fmt:message key="jsp.bookmarks.retag.multi" /></a></span>
<span class="lotusBtn lotusBtnAction lotusLeft"> <a href="#" onclick="deleteMany();return false;"><fmt:message key="jsp.bookmarks.delete.selected" /></a> </span>
<!-- Added by Luis -->
<span class="lotusBtn lotusBtnAction lotusLeft"><a href="#" onclick="javascript:window.location.href=window.location.href+'&access=private';return false;">View Private</a></span>
<!-- End by Luis -->

<span class="lotusBtn lotusLeft"><a href="#" onclick="menuUtility.openMenu(event, 'multiEditActionsMenu');return false;"><fmt:message key="jsp.bookmark.link.moreactions" /><img src="<c:url value="/nav/common/styles/images/btnDropDown.gif" />" alt="" /></a></span>
</c:if>

And the result should be:

200809230912.jpg

Isn't it beautiful and awesome when you can do cool stuff like this by simply modifying 1 line of code ??

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How to disable SSL in Lotus Connections

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I've gotten this question several times so I figured it was time to blog about it. While I don't recommend this for a production environment, some customers have asked for instructions on how to disable SSL for Lotus Connections. This can be more convenient than using a self-signed certificate which may cause some annoying pop-ups.

Here's the simple procedure:

  1. Disable SSL in the config file
    1. Go to <WAS_ROOT>/profiles/AppSrv01/config/cells/<cellName>/LotusConnections-Config
    2. Save a copy of LotusConnections-Config.xml
    3. Open LotusConnections-Config.xml with your favorite text editor
    4. Set all the SSL_ENABLED flags to false
    5. Save and close the file
  2. Modify the login page to go over port 80 (HTTP) instead of 443 (HTTPS)
    1. Go to <WAS_ROOT>/profiles/AppSrv01/config/cells/<cellName>/applications/<featureEAR>/deployments/<featureName>/<featureWAR>/WEB-INF
    2. Save a copy of web.xml
    3. Open web.xml with your favorite text editor
    4. Look for the following section:

      <user-data-constraint>
      <transport-guarantee>CONFIDENTIAL</transport-guarantee>
      </user-data-constraint>


    5. Change the transport-guarantee from CONFIDENTIAL to NONE
    6. Save and close the file

That's it! Now, if you are wondering what <featureEAR>, <featureName>, and <featureWAR> mean, take a look at the table below.

Note: You are at your own risk here

FeatureEAR Feature Name FeatureWAR
Activities.ear Activities oawebui.war
Blogs.ear Blogs Blogs.war
Communities.ear Communities tango.web.ui.war
Dogear.ear Dogear dogear.webui.war
Homepage.ear Homepage dboard.war
Profiles.ear Profiles peoplepages.war

Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lotus Connections and Microsoft Sharepoint Integration v2

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First, I would like to thank all of you who responded to my request for feedback on my first Lotus Connections and Microsoft Sharepoint demo on both my internal and external blog. Now, some of you sent me your feedback via email. Next time feel free to post it as a comment to the blog . That way other people can build on your comment and further generate ideas.

Here's the overall flow of the demo:

Ready? Click here to view the demo in full screen.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lotus Connections PoC in a box

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It seems like business partners are all the buzz in the last few days, huh ? First, we have a Microsoft Business Partner publish a Lotus Connections solution for Microsoft Sharepoint. Next, we have an IBM Business Partner create a solution to socialize CRM applications.

The latest and greatest ? Ascendant Technology now has a Lotus Connections Proof of Concept (PoC) appliance!!! This gives you the pre-installed Lotus Connections software on a enterprise-class IBM Blade Center server configured for up to 300 users. Here's a snippet of what you'll get:

Solution Experience vs. Proof of Technology/Proof of Concept


This solution allows a subset of your organization to experience a complete solution without being constrained by the cost and time of implementing the software in your environment. Rather than installing a complete enterprise on your site, we bring the enterprise to you.

Managed Engagement

The Ascendant Services team provides 3 days on-site for installation and workshops, then provides remote support/coaching for 5 hours per week during the engagement.

I have to say, I like Ascendant's tag line for their Social Software practice: "Innovating through integration". Similar to my "innovating through socializing", there's just no other social software platform that integrates as well as Lotus Connections!

Want more information? It's all in the Lotus Connections Solution Catalog, but here's a direct link. Also, if you are interested, Ascendant provides a Social Software Business Value Assessment, which is similar to that provided by ISSL.

Friday, September 19, 2008

CRM goes Social with Lotus Connections!

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More and more companies are realizing that they need a social networking platform they can integrate into their existing applications. Without this capability social software adoption may not be as fast as desired and may deem a social software deployment useless.

As I've discussed in the past, one of the things that I like as a developer and that my customers like is how easy it is to integrate Lotus Connections into existing applications. Even Microsoft business partners see the value of Lotus Connections and have built solutions to bring Lotus Connections content into Microsoft Sharepoint. A couple of weeks ago, I talked about adding social networking capabilities to mainframe (old school) applications. Now, we have another old school application going social: CRM (sorry, but when I hear CRM, I think of Siebel, which makes me think of old school application.. )

This week Ted Stanton, sales advocate for Lotus Connections, announced on his blog that iEnterprises and IBM have introduced a new integration capability to create Social CRM (Customer Relationship Management system). Ed Brill had also teased us about it the day before yesterday.

My favorite quote of the article was:

"It's like the virtual coffee machine chat -- where a massive information pool can be readily called upon, but here it's more targeted and therefore more purposeful," said James Mead, Royal Caribbean's Project Manager for International IT, and an iExtensions CRM customer. "We're excited about this integration; it could help us tap collective experiences and get answers faster. It also opens doors for cross departmental sharing -- so sales, finance, marketing, and call centers can swap their customer communication histories and build relationships."

The integration between the iExtensions CRM and Lotus Connections is based on a service oriented architecture (SOA) approach.

With so much stuff going on, it's hard to stop blogging for even a day!! W00t!!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Blogs 2.0: Merge Blogs and Discussions Forums ?

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For quite some time, I've been pondering about this. Should Blogs be completely eliminated in favor of Discussion Forums ? Now, before you go off to write me a nasty comment, hear me out.

Using Blogs as a Forum

I have seen many blogs used to ask questions to whoever stumbles upon the blog. In fact, I even do that sometimes. Sometimes, however, the amount of responses that I get in particular blog entry can be overwhelming (in a good way!!). Case in point, the blog entry where I asked socialites their opinion on business cards.

In other cases, I've participated in discussions as part of a blog. These discussions can get so long and after a certain point, it's hard to track what people are replying to. Other times, the conversation gets diverted and a whole new topic is born. At that point, it's up to the reader to figure out which blog comments are related to the original blog topic and which comments are related to the new topic that came up as part of the discussion in the comments.

This, I believe, is the biggest problems with Blogs today. Comments need to be threaded so it's easier to keep track of who's saying what and who's replying to what.

Using Forums as Blogs

Looking at the issue from another perspective, I've seen some people use forums as blog entries. They actually post entries in a forum to advertise something, point readers to a link, and even just posting documents. When you read these entries in the forums, you can clearly tell that the author is not expecting a response. And sometimes others would comment. Usually, though, no more than 2-5 comments are added to these types of entries. These authors could have accomplished the same thing by posting the content in a blog!

Why have 2 ?

My thing is, why have 2 things that work almost for the same purpose ?? If nobody responds to a question / issue posted in a forum, how is that different from somebody writing a blog entry and nobody commenting on it? At the same time, say someone posts a question in their blog and get a multitude of response. How is that different from posting it in a forum, which has the added advantage of providing a threaded view of the comments?

Therefore, I propose that we kill Blogs or Forums. Or perhaps merge them together and create a new concept: Blums or Forlogs or even Discussion Blogs . Although, adding the capability to have threaded comments in a blog would be a huge step forward, I would hate to have 2 different solutions that share 99% of the features.

Others have also brought this up before, so at least I know that I'm not alone.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Lotusphere '09 Best Practices Track goes Social!

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2008-09-17_1052Lotusphere '09 is now open for abstracts and submissions are pouring in! I recently found out that Mac Guidera is the track manager for the Best Practices Track.

I've known Mac for 2 years now when we started working together on Lotus Connections. Thus, it's no surprise that he has decided to take abstract submissions social! Mac is encouraging abstract submitters to post their ideas in the LS09 Best Practices category over at IdeaJam.

Even if you don't intend on submitting an abstract, you can submit an idea for what you would like to see and let others in the community develop your idea. I was thinking of submitting an abstract for a session on social software adoption. Before I do, however, I wanted to get the feedback from the world.

Do you think such a session would be valuable at Lotusphere? If so, head over to my idea, vote and comment on it. If not, let me know what you think would make it better, or post your own idea!!!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Case study: Social Commerce

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A while ago, I mentioned we had a customer in the Retail industry that was using Lotus Connections. At that point I couldn't mention their name, because it was an internal reference only.

Last week, however, Stuart McIntyre brought to my attention through The Connections Blog that the reference has been posted in the public IBM website. Moosejaw Mountaneering wanted to become more competitive in the market for outdoor gear. To do this, they decided to create a customer experience where the "appetite for extreme sports is matched by a hunger for communication and collaboration".

In one of the first cases of using Lotus Connections for social commerce (that I know) Moosejaw is combining Lotus Connections, WebSphere Commerce and IBM POS systems to create a brand new "community shopping experience across every sales channel". Here's an excerpt from the success story:

For instance, by integrating IBM Lotus Connections social networking software with its retail solution, Moosejaw is adding social commerce features like product level blogging, public facing customer profiles with photos, videos, adventure stories and gear lists for upcoming trips. Customers can interact with Moosejaw staff and with other customers on the Moosejaw Web site and then connect those threads on their mobile phones and when they come into the Moosejaw retail stores. Perhaps more valuably, it provides Moosejaw with a ready-made platform for integrating these social networking capabilities deeply into its commerce platform.

To read the success story, click here. Want to see this social commerce solution in action ? Visit the Moosejaw Mountaneering website.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sharepoint Web Part Builder for Lotus Connections

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prodBannermagnolia.pngBy now, you are aware of some of the cool integration points between Lotus Connections and Microsoft Sharepoint. Mainly:

  • Expose Dogears in Sharepoint
  • Expose Blogs in Sharepoint
  • Expose PersonCard in Sharepoint (documented in my article)
  • Link to Profiles (instead of the Sharepoint user info page) when clicking on a user's name in Sharepoint (documented in developwerWorks my article)
  • Use Communities as an access control into Sharepoint sites
  • Adding a 'Dogear this' button to Sharepoint pages
  • Add a widget to the Lotus Connections Homepage with 'My Sharepoint Sites' (similar to the Quickr porlet: My Places)
  • Add 'My Sites' as a link in the PersonCard which takes someone to a user's list of Sharepoint

And, of course, you are also aware of how Lotus Connections doesn't really compete with Sharepoint (mostly a portal/document management system). Instead, Lotus Connections adds value to an existing Sharepoint deployment.

Today, that's even more true than ever. The Lotus Connections development team has just made me aware of a new plugin available for Sharepoint built entirely by a 3rd party!! And not just any 3rd party. A Microsoft Gold Certified Partner!! Even Microsoft business partners see the value of Lotus Connections; enough to build web parts for the Sharepoint portal.

CorasWorks Corporation, a company that bills itself as the leader in Workplace Software for Sharepoint, has built a Data Integration Toolkit which, after you buy it, allows you import and "play" with Lotus Connections data from Sharepoint without writing custom code! Here's the information provided by CorasWorks:

The CorasWorks Data Integration Toolset for Lotus Connections provides integration between Microsoft SharePoint and IBM® Lotus Connections. It allows organizations to build modular applications in SharePoint that leverage the social computing capabilities of IBM Lotus Connections without requiring custom code development.

The CorasWorks Data Integration Toolset provides a robust, modular application development toolset for SharePoint. This core product has been extended with functionality to integrate with IBM Lotus Connections to build integrated solutions without the need for custom code development. Thus, organizations are able to build applications in SharePoint that leverage the powerful social computing capabilities of IBM Lotus Connections.

An example of an integrated application is a Work Order Approval Process. It is used to process work orders with SharePoint with appropriate approvals, workflows and document control. However, the work orders require robust collaboration. Using the DI Toolset, you are able to extend each work order item to leverage the Activities application of Lotus Connections. You can now have robust Activities collaboration around each work order. This integration enables the document centric world of SharePoint to integrate with the activity centric world of Lotus Connections. The result is that you get solutions that combine the best of both worlds without having to build the integration.

The plugin has been announced in the Lotus Connections Catalog and can be found here! According to CorasWorks, the product will be GA next week.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lotus Connections and Social Software displace eLearning

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This week I'm down in Sao Paulo training some of the Tech Sales resources in South America on, what else, Lotus Connections. I stayed at the Hilton Sao Paulo and had the following great view of the Octavio Fritas de Oliveira bridge from my hotel room's window.

At the office, I got to meet one of the local tech sales resource who told me the story of how Lotus Connections has completely displaced an eLearning program that was set up at a university. At that point, I'm like "Are you kidding me?? I just blogged about this a couple of weeks ago!!"

Use Case: Lotus Connections at a University

So here's the situation. The local ministry of education allows technology courses to be 20% online. Thanks to this, a bachelor's degree can now be completed in 3 years and all homework submitted online. Last year, the university tried an eLearning solution, but it didn't work because it was designed for courses that were 100% online. At that point, the university decided to deploy Lotus Connections.

Professors have blogs which talk about the classes and give another perspective on a day's session. They also use it to follow up on questions from the student body that could not be answered during class. This also allows those students who weren't able to attend, to get course information through the blog. Some professors also use Dogear to link to related materials for a specific course.

Promoting adoption

Additionally, when students join the university they are highly encouraged to work in groups. At the end of the semester, they have to do a presentation based on what they've learned. This is purposely done to simulate the professional work environment. This group collaboration happens through Lotus Connections Communities. Each team created for a particular course has a corresponding community in Lotus Connections. However, there are also more generic communities for Java, PMI, etc.

Students also have to create a team blog for every student group to exchange information about their specific project. Professors are encouraged to participate in the blog by commenting, or perhaps by being a co-author to the blogs.

To help coordinate these efforts and facilitate adoption, the university has set up coordinators. These coordinators create an Activity Template with all the due dates for each individual project. Once the professors approve the Activity Template, student groups create an activity based on these templates. Students then post their documents and other collateral in the activity. Professors then review the material and can suggest corrections or grade them as needed.

Partnering with other universities

Finally, a partnership was reached with a college in Florida where students from both universities work on projects together. All information exchange must happen through Lotus Connections and follows the same model as above (i.e. team blogs, activities, and communities).

This university will soon be a reference for Lotus Connections. Once I have the "go" to publicize the names, I'll do so in this blog. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Working in the west coast is exhausting!

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Last week I went to Seattle to kick off an internal social software project. (Sorry, that's all you get. If you want more details, go to my internal blog) . I got there on Tuesday at 11:30pm PDT (2:30am EDT). The week was not off to a good start! Nevertheless, I was lucky enough to have a view of the Space Needle from my hotel room. I actually took this picture with my MacBook Pro's camera. You must know that I'm very disappointed that my BlackBerry 8830 doesn't have a camera!!!

Anyway, I had all day meetings Wednesday to Friday. Still, I signed up to do demos to my east coast customers early in the morning . (Hey, revenue is still important!) The problem ?

200809081628.jpg The demos were scheduled from 8am - 10am EDT (5-7am EDT). That meant that I had to wake up every day ~4:30am PDT. The meetings at the IBM office went all the way through 6:30pm PDT (9:30pm EDT). Therefore, I was having 17 hr work days!!! And that doesn't count the time I spent back at the hotel catching up on those emails that accumulated throughout the day.

After I left the office on Friday, I hooked up with one of my friends from middle school who now works for Microsoft. We hung out for a couple of hours and then he dropped me off at the airport. I took the red eye, Seattle to San Francisco. While waiting at San Francisco there was a 4.1 earthquake reported at the airport, but I didn't feel it. From there, I flew to Philadelphia, and then finally to Puerto Rico, arriving at 11:30am!

To say the least, it was a very long week. Now I'm off to blog more about the project in my internal blog.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

How to add Google Gadgets to the Lotus Connections Home page

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2008-09-09_1528Fresh off the presses! This is HOT! You were probably anxious to know what the big surprise was all about, huh?

This is so HOT that I probably get asked about this 2-3 times a week. I promised in an earlier blog entry that developerWorks was about to publish an article that describes how to deploy Google Gadgets to the Lotus Connections Home page. If you didn't know about it, that's another reason to subscribe to the Lotus Connections page on developerWorks. Let's first review what the Lotus Connections Home page is:

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.

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??!!

Up until now, the only documentation that we had on the Lotus Connections widgets was in the Lotus Connections RedWiki. In there, you can find instructions on how to code your own widget or how to use the Lotus Widget Factory to easily create widgets for the Lotus Connections Home page.

Adding Google Gadgets to the Lotus Connections Home page

Today, we finally have the step-by-step procedure on how to do this! The article also explains, at a high-level, how to create your own iWidget (if you weren't using the Lotus Widget Factory). Here's a sample of how the Google Date and Time Gadget looks, as a widget, in the Lotus Connections Home page:

200808251101.jpg

What does this mean? You now have free out-of-the box integration with:

  • Facebook (for those of you who weren't too happy with my first approach)
  • RSS readers
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Skype
  • Google Docs
  • or with whatever any of the 45,000+ Google Gadgets provide!

Additionally, remember that the Profiles page is also made up of widgets. Therefore, you could also deploy the Google Gadgets to the Profiles page. Neat, eh? Ready to get started? You'll find the article and the sample widget here. Enjoy!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Today I don't blog because tomorrow is huge!

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'Nuff said!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hacking Notes 8.5 Public Beta 2 for the Mac

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Remember all those great Lotus Connections features on Notes v8.5 that I blogged about two days ago? Well, just like I hacked Public Beta 1, I have now hacked Public Beta 2 so that us Mac users can enjoy those cool new additions!

You know the drill. This is completely unsupported and is provided AS-IS. And you can't hold me responsible for anything! However, whether it works or not, please post a comment to this blog entry with the following information:

  • OS (e.g. Ubuntu, Mac OSX Leopard, etc)
  • What specifically didn't work

I'm hoping that most of the comments will be successes and that will put pressure on the development teams to ship this hack (which is really just copy/pasting a bunch of JARs from Windows to Mac) as part of the product later this year.

To get it, go and download Lotus Notes v8.5 Public Beta 2 from here. Once you have it:

Ready to get started ? Here's how to install:

  1. Uninstall the previous hack if you had it installed. (File > Application > Application Management)
  2. Go to File -> Application -> Install
  3. Select Search for new features to install and click Next >
  4. Click on Add Remote Location...
  5. Set the Name to Activities Sidebar
  6. Set the URL to http://kensethdewalt.servicesolution.com/luis/site.xml
  7. Click Ok and then Finish
  8. Follow the remaining steps and restart Notes for the changes to go into effect

Note: You will see several categories listed. Make sure you select the category named: Notes 8.5 Public Beta 2.

If you do NOT see the Install option on your Notes menu, make sure you follow these instructions.

Enjoy! I've been using it for 1.5 days and have only noticed one issue: Searching Lotus Connections doesn't work due to a ClassNotFoundException: org.apache.xerces.parser.DOMParser. . Oh, and I tried moving the Quickr plugins from Windows to Mac, but they have some Win32 specific things in them.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Lotus Connections and Microsoft Sharepoint Integration Demo

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Ever since I first integrated Lotus Connections and Microsoft Sharepoint (wow, over a year now), I get requests on a weekly basis to see a demo of this functionality. I even created and posted an article in developerWorks with step-by-step instructions. Demo requests, however, didn't stop and most people said that they would prefer to have a video (instead of screenshots) to demonstrate the capabilities.

Well, you asked for it, and here it is. (View in full screen).

Note: Removed the embedded video because it was created with Jing and it doesn't resize properly. Please click the link above to view in full screen.

Please take a peek at this 5 minute video and give me your feedback as to what you liked / didn't liked. Even let me know if there's anything specific you would like to see. And though I have .NET development experiences, don't ask me to develop a custom web part. That's just out of scope for now!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Cool Lotus Connections integration capabilities on Notes 8.5 Public Beta 2

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The release of Notes 8.5 is around the corner and I like how the client it's taking shape. About 3 months ago, I blogged about the new capability of taking Lotus Connections Activities offline. And, if you are a Linux/Mac user you can also get this functionality by doing this hack that I blogged about.

searchbox.jpgTed Stanton, our new Americas Sales Advocate for Lotus Connections, blogged last week week about some nice features added to Notes 8.5 public beta 2 to further integrate the mail client with Lotus Connections. These are:

  • Get someone's person card when viewing an Activity's membership list
  • Tracking your Activities/To-Do's in your Notes Calendar (This is HUGE!! Almost all customers are asking for this)
  • Search Profiles from Notes
  • Search Activities from Notes
  • Search Blogs from Notes
  • Search Communities from Notes
  • Search Dogear from Notes
  • Dogear (tag/bookmark) Notes documents/views/databases
Looking for the eye candy ? Check out Ted's blog entry or download Notes 8.5 Public Beta 2 today! And because I know you'll ask, no, these don't work in the Mac beta yet. But just like I hacked beta 1, I intend to hack beta 2 so stay tuned to this blog!