Tuesday, 23 October 2007

A sneak peak at Google's Programmable Search Engine?

Stephen Arnold just presented at the ICIC 2007 conference and discussed where he thinks Google are going based on an analysis of recent patent filings. One of the points he highlighted was the imminent implementation of the 'Programmable Search Engine' and where this might lead. You can read his analysis in this Bear Stern report. What is interesting is that currently if you go to the US Google server, this link will force you there, and search on 'back pain' or 'skin cancer' your search will return the option to further refine your search. I think what we are seeing is faceted search being implemented. Is this a glimpse of what is to come?

I suggest you check this out soon as Stephen indicated that Google tend to take these things down after he has highlighted them.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Can Enterprise2.0 beat the wiki 90:9:1 rule?

Two weeks ago I gave a presentation, ‘What is Enterprise2.0?’ at our mother site in the US. At the start I wanted to get a feel for my audience, about 80 people, so I asked a few quick questions around who was using what Web2.0 tools. When I asked the room how many had used Wikipedia ~90% said yes. When asked how many had made an edit this dropped to ~10%. This fits with the usage stats from public wiki’s i.e. 90:9:1 rule (90% read, 9% make occasional edits, 1% make regular edits). When the same question was asked about our corporate wiki ~50% of those present had used it but about ~50% of those had edited it. Two key messages here:
  1. We need to raise the profile of our corporate wiki but also what it is for and how to use it.
  2. Wiki’s inside the firewall can significantly beat the 90:9:1 rule.
This second point is very interesting and illustrates that there are advantages to be had around adoption and usage of Web2.0 tools within the corporation. All too often we focus on the negatives i.e. meet Charlotte. We should recognise that within the corporation we have a natural community; we all have the same goal and a common purpose. This is a big advantage when implementing Web2.0 tools as one of the biggest challenges is creating the community.

PS A great use case example of wiki implementation can be seen here.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Thursday, 27 September 2007

OnePoint! - Combining OneNote and SharePoint

OneNote - An electronic version of my paper notebook where I can drag and drop documents onto a page and annotate. A great user interface that seamlessly allows integration and management of your emails and MS Office files with free text annotations.

SharePoint - A good project level content management system (lets be honest the wiki and blog functions are not there yet) with a classically non-intuitive Microsoft user interface.

OneNote + SharePoint - An excellent collaborative electronic project notebook. All the power of SharePoints online content management system with fantastically user friendly electronic notebook interface.

There can only be one name for this combination - OnePoint

On a GTDware tip

I guess I'm a bit of a latecomer to this particular party, and thanks to Scott for putting me onto it, but check out the 'skin job*' SMBlive have done on SharePoint '07. For BT they have created a great example of GTDware. I for one would like to have something like this. If I'm going to have to promote SharePoint in my organisation then this sort of skin job would be a god send. I realise that out of the box SharePoint can already do most of this but this re-skinning brings a intuitive UI to the SharePoint functionality. Lower training and customer delight. I see this, in co-junction with OneNote, being a killer combination.

* Thanks to Simon for the play on Blade Runner and referring to SharePoint re-skinning products as 'skin jobs'.

GTDware - Lightweight project management software

What is the name for lightweight project management tools such as BaseCamp? How about GTDware? This seems to capture the essence of these tools everything from the sophistication of BaseCamp or GoPlan to the brilliant simplicity of Workhack. Afterall these tools all have one purpose and that is 'Getting Things Done'.

Monday, 24 September 2007

What information storage system should I use?

This is a question I’ve been hearing more and more regularly. It is clear my colleagues are becoming confused as to which tools they should be using to store their information. This is not surprising considering the different tools that are available to them; Livelink, Documentum, SharePoint, corporate wiki, etc. All these tools can be used to support collaboration and sharing of information but which should be used? This is a question I have been contemplating for a little while now. The problem is that each of these systems have their own strengths and weaknesses, no one tool meets all the requirements. Recently I had an epiphany and the penny dropped. By thinking about collaboration from a communications perspective you are able to consider the different needs of a group broken down by the audiences they communicated with. There are essentially two types of communication:

  1. Internal communication – the project is sharing transient information associated with the day to day running of the project i.e. meeting agenda, minutes, ideas, comments, etc. The key nature of much of this information is that at the time of generation it is often unclear it’s value. Only with time and additional information does the value of a piece of information become apparent. For example the value of a hypothesis cannot be judged at its conception only after testing and analysis.
  2. External communication – the project is producing reports that are aimed at informing the rest of the organisation about its status/progress. This might include stage gate documentation for example.
In the first situation the project team needs to consolidate information from many different sources including PowerPoint, Word, Excel, email, PDF, images, etc. This information needs to be made available to the whole team in an environment where comments and thoughts can readily be captured, shared and updated. By its nature this information tends to be unstructured and represents a log of the evolving thinking and progress of the project team. To the team and those who are familiar with the teams working style this environment should be readily navigatable. The drawback of this environment is that many outside the project will find this environment to be non-intuitive and they will require an investment of both time and effort to allow them to navigate to the information they want. However it is worth remembering that this ‘Project eNotebook’ is a tool primarily to support internal project communication. OneNote in combination with a file-sharing environment offers a user-friendly tool that is easy to learn and meets these requirements. As described previously, in this model each team member has a copy of OneNote on their PC and utilise a common ‘notebook’ that is hosted within SharePoint.

In comparison in the second situation the team is essentially producing reports summarising the progress or status of the project. The target audience for these reports is the external environment. In many instances these reports will utilise pre-existing templates or a formal reporting style. The team are producing structured information for consumption by an audience distant to the day to day working of the project. In this case the corporate wiki and a project blog probably represent the appropriate environment for the sharing of this type of information. Hyper linking should be used to provide soft intergration between this environment and the ‘Project eNotebook’/SharePoint site. It is envisaged that only a single document is maintained in the corporate wiki and that this is a living document that evolves with the project. Hence it is likely that as a project pass significant milestones snapshots of the projects status are archived into the appropriate corporate content management system.
This is summarised in the diagram below.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

The difference between Web2.0 & Enterprise2.0

While both Web2.0 and Enterprise2.0 use the same tool sets the environments in which they are implemented are very different. As a consequence you need to recognise that Web2.0 and Enterprise2.0 are very different beasts. The main differences can be summarised as:

Web2.0 vs Enterprise2.0
  • User: Millions vs Hundreds - In Web2.0 you only need a small percentage of the total user population to adopt a tool to see the network effect. In Enterprise2.0 you may need the majority of users to become involved to see the network effect.
  • Mind set: Fun vs Work - In your home life you do things for fun but at work do things because we are paid.
  • Organisational structure: Flat vs Hierarchical - Flat organisational structures encourage collaboration while hierarchical ones hinder. See Rob Patterson's 'Social Media and the Organisation' post on the FASTForward Blog for a great discussion on this topic.
  • Attitude: Sharing vs Hoarding - In your home life you share information freely without expectation of recompense while at work all too often people ask 'what is in it for me?'.
  • Skill set: Digitally savvy vs Digitally averse - In Web2.0 the users are all those who are web savvy by their nature in Enterprise2.0 your user base covers the complete spectrum from web guru to technophobe.
  • Visibility: Anonymity vs Recognition - In Web2.0 you are one of the herd, the majority of users can assume that there is anonymity in a crowd. At work people seek recognition for their contribution as career progression can depend on it.
  • Society: Public vs Private - In Web2.0 you are able to control the information you share and are free to create alternative persona's, masks, behind which you can hide. In Enterprise2.0 there is no anonymity, everything you say and do online can be traced back to you.
  • Cultural: Innovative vs Mundane - At home we are free to experiment and try new things. At work we have to use the tools we are given and are often told what to do, both of which stifle innovation.
What does this mean? Well simple put the models that work to drive adoption of Web2.0 may not work for Enterprise2.0. I have seen this recently with our own projects. We have been pushing a bottom-up adoption/implementation model but are now looking to get senior sponsorship to drive adoption to the next level. Sid highlights this nicely in his recent post and Bill Ives reflects that the importance of sponsorship is a classic change management tool over on the FASTForward blog.

Social Bookmarking in Plain English

I love this series of video by the Commoncraft team. Like all good things it's a simple idea but executed with really style. We were so inspired we've copied the style and adapted this video of theirs for out own social bookmarking project. It was really easy and Jason did a fantastic job putting it together in his office using a web cam and a couple of retort stands borrowed from a near by lab.

If you like this one then pop over to Commoncraft and check out their other videos in the 'Plain English' series including RSS & Wiki's.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Geting a Social Bookmarking Service Started

This years side project has been getting a social bookmarking service going. I've really been pushing this as I see this type of service as an easy entry point to the world of web2.0. Why an entry point, apart from this was how I got started, well the user gets an immediate return on effort invested even before they start to see the 'network' effect i.e. mining other users bookmarks. Just escaping from the bookmark hell of IE or Firefox favourites and being able to find what your bookmarks via tags is so liberating. I know I had given up bookmarking site as my IE favourites folder had become unnavigable.
Our first step in this project was to see what open source options we had available, after all we had no budget so whatever we did had to be cheap plus as is the case for most Web2.0 tools there are great open source clones out there that you can use to experiment with. If it doesn't work throw it away, if it does we you either have a great code base to develop from or at least understand the requirements for a purchased option. Anyway we opted for a del.icio.us clone called Scuttle and got this up and running first on WOS, then on a spare desktop. Turns out that Scuttle has all the basic features you would want and is very stable.
Next step was to seek some funding from the IT innovation fund and this netted some money but more importantly gave us enough of an official status to allow us to get a domain name from the corporate stack. We wanted something that everyone would be able to remember and you don't get simpler than 'tags.xxxxxx.com'. Now in possession of a decent domain name and enough funding to get us server space we got the new instance up. In true web2.0 style we started a 'private beta/invite only' recruitment campaign. Amongst those targeted were people who had good social networks. We did this for two reasons one in the hope they would get the social side and two because when we moved to the next stage we could get them to recommend the service to there network. No amount of advertising can counts as highly as a recommendation from someone you trust.
The service has been up and running for 3 months now and has been spread via word of mouth so far. We have ~60 users and something like 800 bookmarks with an associated 2400 tags. Interestingly almost half, ~30, users have only bookmarked one item so that shows just how active the other 30 have been. We need to follow up with these single bookmarkers and learn why they only bookmarked once. In the mean time we are about to run an advertising campaign and open this service right up to ~1000 people. It will be interesting to see at what point people start to see the social benefit from other peoples tags. Though actually capturing this is somewhat of a challenge and something I'm going to have to work on over the next month.

iPhone - A truely beautiful thing

Just got my hands on an iPhone. It is fantastic, so simple to use. I'm posting this from it and...

Ok so I only managed to get the first line done via the iPhone. There are a few incompatibility issues with this text editor and the Safari browser it would appear. Still blogger did save the first line so i thought I would make the post anyway.
I know iPhones are not really a web2.0 technology but Apple do do user interfaces that personify everything that is great about web2.0. It just works the way you expect it should. No bloatware, not hidden menus, just simple user friendly loveliness.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Freedom of Information

The need for cultural change in association with the successful introduction of enterprise2.0 tools cannot be underestimated. One of the biggest is the need to move the organisation to one which embraces freedom of information rather than the unfortunately more common 'knowledge is power' and the 'need to know' attitudes are prevalent. This is readily illustrated if we consider the difference between a wiki and a classic content management system. In the case of the content management sytem we all have had the following experience:

You received an email with a link to an folder inside the content management system. When you clicked on the link surprise, surprise you are told you don't have permission to access this area. Ok so we all have this issue, one quick email off to the sender and when they come into work you will have access. You moved onto your next email and there is a link to a SharePoint site, click through and again you are told no permission, right repeat above process. A third email and …….. Ok you get the picture.

Why does this situation occur? Because we assume that all information should be restricted to only those who need to have access. We have set the default permissions on our content management systems and SharePoint instances to closed, no public access. We create silos of information that you can’t access, you cannot search and so you don’t know what’s in them. They are lost and any knowledge held with in them is wasted.

Let’s consider a wiki, ignoring the differences in user interface, at its heart it is just another content management system. But our starting point is to set the system up as open, everyone has access to everything. What a difference this simple change makes. Nothing is hidden, nothing is lost. You can search everything. Knowledge is captured and available to be reused by whoever finds it useful.

So if an open system encourages sharing and a closed one promotes silos why not encourage an open culture? Why not set all permissions on all content management systems to open? Only where it is business critical should they be changed to closed. If we are to realise the vision of a enterprise2.0 enabled organisation then we need to make this cultural change.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Happily surprised by OneNote

Now those who know me know I'm no fan of Microsoft and I certainly have not been convinced by SharePoint but today I saw OneNote being used by a team to capture the day to day project thoughts, decisions and activities. This was done by using OneNote in combination with SharePoint. I have to say for the day to day transient project information this was working really well. The analogy is that they used OneNote as a project notebook that everyone has access to. It was organised by work area and had sub sections, essential a hierarchal file structure. What the team loved was the ease with which they could 'drop' information into it and the ability to move away from email.
Interestingly the person showing me this admitted that this was just a glorified file share. They also thought that OneNote only really worked for the project team. For those on the outside this environment is just too unstructured, maybe a little better than looking through someone else's file share but still with a lot of the same problems.
Now I've been trying to get people to use our corporate wiki to capture their project information and my first thought was 'Wow maybe I've got this wrong and wiki's aren't what is required!'. Then I recognised that different tools are needed for the capture of different levels of information. In this example the OneNote/SharePoint combination was capturing transient day to day information very well. However to capture the more persistent decisions and to support collaborative authoring of project documents then a wiki makes more sense. Finally as the project pass significant stage gates then the wiki page or sections of it can be published into a document repository to give a permanent snapshot of the project status. This model is very attractive as it seems to offer a way to manage the different requirements associated with the capture and sharing of different levels of information. I need to remember that one size does not fit all.

Monday, 27 August 2007

A starting point

Web2.0 tools such as wiki's, blog's, social networking have changed the way we use the web. Previously to these tools content on the web was read only. You visited a site and read what was there. There was no capacity to comment on it, add content or interact in any persistent way. With the advent of Web2.0 tools we are now able to interact with the web. Blogs and wikis allow us all to contribute to the content on the web. Social networks allow us to meet each other and interact on the web. All these tools allow a two way conversation to take place and this is why we are now talking about Web2.0. All Web2.0 tools have one thing in common they are social, they enable people to collaborate and share content.
The question now being asked is can these tools that have developed on the web be used within the business environment? The inevitable answer is yes. However we are only just starting to explore how we can use these tools and how the culture that exists within our organizations affect their implementation and adoption. What works in your private life may not translate into the work place. As stated above all these tools are social, their success depends upon the adopting the right cultural attitudes. Choosing the technology and implementing it will be simple compared to the cultural changes that will be need in many organisations. For example how do you implement a wiki when a "need to know" cultures pervades? Or how do you get blogging up and running in an organisation where it is perceived, rightly or wrongly, that negative comments, even constructive ones, can be detrimental to your career? And finally how does a bottom up culture like web2.0 fit with the classical top down management culture of many work places? These question are the ones I am struggling with currently and I will be exploring through use case examples and my own experiences/thoughts on the subject. I hope you enjoy them and find somethings useful in amongst the rambling.

Remember technology is easy people are hard.