Apr 29, 2009

Official Google Blog: Adding search power to public data

Now all they need to do is mash it up with maps.

We just launched a new search feature that makes it easy to find and compare public data.

Official Google Blog: Adding search power to public data

Apr 23, 2009

Starting your own Facebook- Lessons Learned from NASA’s Spacebook Project » Socialfeds

I love the name, Spacebook. This is a very nice post listing lessons learned about launching a successful social network. Lot's of good resource links for further reading too.

Spacebook is an enhanced Intranet designed around user profiles, forums, groups, and social tagging. The goal of the project is to use social media to help NASA be more competitive and innovative, encourage collaboration and information sharing, and take better advantage of the information & resources they already have. Emma Antunes (@eantunes), Project Manager for Spacebook, recently gave a great webinar to share how she approached this project, got the buy-in from users, contractors, and management, and other invaluable lessons she learned in getting this implemented.

Starting your own Facebook- Lessons Learned from NASA’s Spacebook Project » Socialfeds

Apr 22, 2009

Lawyers Enter Twitter Tempest - NYTimes.com

I recently blogged about Identity Squatting and how it's been a problem for a friend of mine. The issue is now being challenged in the form of a "satirist" not only tweeting but also blogging using a Daily News food critic's byline and name. This situation pushes the argument that the fake posts are a creative writing exercise in parody and legitimate entertainment - you know like the Daily Show or Saturday Night Live.

One question is whether Mr. Rucinsky’s writing exercise, with a few more than 300 followers on Twitter and minimal blog traffic, is legitimate parody. Or does he mimic Ms. Freeman so closely that, despite recent disclaimers on his sites, a reasonable reader might not be able to tell the difference?
This issue has been bubbling to the surface as Twitter gains mainstream mind share. Ashton Kutcher's recent challenge to CNN founder Ted Turner that he would beat CNN as the first Twitterati to get 1 million followers (I don't get why Ted Turner gets punk'd here but it sure got peoples attention and a lot of mosquito nets for a good cause). Ironically, the CNN Twitter handle, @ccnbrk, was not actually owned by CNN, but rather was maintained by an individual user, James Cox. CNN remedied this by acquiring the account, which lead to further brouhaha, and a services contract for Mr. Cox, since selling free account names violates Twitter usage policy.

Lawyers Enter Twitter Tempest - NYTimes.com

Apr 21, 2009

Ages After Yahoo And Google, Microsoft Finally Enables Web-Based IM In Hotmail

Better late than never I suppose.

I’ve said this before: easily dismissed by geeks and savvy web users, Hotmail has a gigantic mainstream userbase who are not likely going to switch to an alternative webmail service en masse provided Microsoft keeps up with the times and lets Hotmail evolve the way its users are increasingly demanding it to.

But make no mistake about it: Microsoft is ridicously late with adding this functionality to Hotmail.

Ages After Yahoo And Google, Microsoft Finally Enables Web-Based IM In Hotmail

Windows Live To Add More Social Network Partners (Digg, MySpace, Facebook, Last.fm And More)

Where social worlds collide...

Today Microsoft will announce a number of new data partners, including Facebook, Digg, Last.fm, SmugMug, TypePad and Yandex. This is, apparently, the first time Facebook feeds can be pulled into a third party service

Windows Live To Add More Social Network Partners (Digg, MySpace, Facebook, Last.fm And More)

Apr 20, 2009

Defending with Social Software

Last week I had the pleasure to read this new study, Social Software and National Security: An Initial Net Assessment, by Mark Drapeau and Linton Wells II from the National Defense University. It was refreshing to see such clear headed thinking on these topics. What's more useful is that while some of the information was government oriented much of the assessment applies to non-government use.

The study is a bit Twitter heavy on the examples, however, an interesting pattern emerged. In most examples Twitter was the primary tool for situational awareness and communications, followed by the use of visual media (photos or video) as supporting material. The other parts of the social network, profiles, chatting, blogs, etc. became secondary tools for more in-depth collaboration and coordination, but in general microblogging ruled the examples.

I think one item that wasn't stressed enough in this study is the need to get Identity right early on. This is especially true for government where administrations and posts change so rapidly, but in general it's a big concern with social software overall. In the social world who am I? Karen Hobert of Boston University, Karen Hobert of Top Dog, or Karen Hobert? In general, social software revolves around identity and a user profile. If I move from one position to another I am still Karen Hobert and would want to take my identity with me for many reasons such as reputation, login consistency, and maintaining my social network. Yet many social solutions are being built as grassroots efforts creating walled identity gardens that don't allow users to take their identity with them.

I went through an "identity crisis" when I left my last company. For many sites I couldn't reuse my login since it was tied to a dead email address so I had to create a new login (not easy in some cases), obliterating all my previous social network and work. In some cases that's good - like a corporate network - but in more public networks it's resource intensive and defeats the whole purpose of joining a social network in the first place.

Another interesting facet of social software was highlighted in some of the examples, that is how social software disrupts the middle management of hierarchies. Many middle managers serve as go-betweens disseminating information to and from the ranks and the upper management. It can be a powerful job acting as a filter and a buffer of information. I’ve found that many in middle management fear social tools since they reduce the barriers of communications and collaboration. Some managers have gone so far as to deliberately prevent use of tools because it waters down their power. I imagine this would be a problem for government, especially when it comes to rigidly hierarchical groups like the Department of Defense. Yet it also seems from the examples, that breaking some of those barriers (with safety in mind) has proven extremely helpful.

Which brings me to the one of the most realistic points of the report; government workers will use social software no matter what. Why? Because social software exists in the commercial world and they like using it, especially since it comes at such a low transaction cost. This spins the technology development equation on it's head compared to how things operated in the 20th century. Until now the USG has been accustomed to buying proprietary systems to support their IT needs, usually because nothing else existed. Today we're in a post-military industrial complex where commercial off-the-shelf solutions supersede proprietary solutions not just because they are more cost effective but that they inter-operate with other systems using standard technologies. This is a powerful paradigm shift that is still being worked out in Washington, D.C.. At least now there's some more awareness of the benefits of this change.

The White House - Blog Post - Weekly Address: Efficiency and Innovation

President Obama announces Aneesh Paul Chopra as the new US CTO:

Chopra serves as Virginia’s Secretary of Technology. He leads the Commonwealth’s strategy to effectively leverage technology in government reform, to promote Virginia’s innovation agenda, and to foster technology-related economic development. Previously, he worked as Managing Director with the Advisory Board Company, leading the firm’s Financial Leadership Council and the Working Council for Health Plan Executives.

Personally I love how the White House is using social software to keep us informed. A blog and weekly YouTube videos are a breath of 21st century fresh air.

The White House - Blog Post - Weekly Address: Efficiency and Innovation

Apples to Kumquats: Comparing Cloud Service Offerings

I recently read through a new Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) Partner Guide called 7 Keys to Comparing Google Apps Premier Edition with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. Discrepancies and misdemeanors aside, the biggest problem I have with the piece is that it's the wrong comparison if you want to sell Google Apps to customers. The piece is great collateral to demonstrate the differences between on-premises and hosted services but it does not say why way GAPE is say better than Microsoft Exchange Online.

To be fair, and not to single out Google, I've found that the collateral from major cloud computing vendors (including IBM and Microsoft) tend to do a pretty good job at presenting arguments in favor of cloud-based services versus on-premises deployments, but they tend to confuse the comparison as justification that their particular services are better than another vendor's services. Wouldn't the Google piece have more value if it were called 7 Keys to Comparing Google Apps Premier edition with Microsoft Exchange Online?

Of course cloud computing is the hot new item and currently represents a huge new promised land for enterprise computing; what if you could have all of the benefits of email without all the fuss? It's like dating without commitments. In reality there are commitments and right now vendors see huge opportunities as long as they can get the huge economies of scale that make it all pay off. It's big business.

Last week I blogged about a recent McKinsey report that shoots some holes into the cloud argument. My best advice to any customer is to consider these delivery models carefully and make strategic decisions according to thier unique business, technical, and security requirements. The real comparison is two-fold; is cloud computing a good choice for you, and which cloud offering will meet the needs of your firm?

Apr 17, 2009

Thinning Clouds? Report Questions Value Of Cloud Computing - Software - IT Channel News by CRN

Follow the link in the article to the McKinsey report, it's a highly worthwhile read. I think the last comment sums of the net effect of McKinsey's observations and how nascent the market is, especially for cloud services:

But IBM said it is seeing many customers adopt a mix of public and private cloud models to reduce the cost of supporting specific applications such as business resiliency, information protection and collaboration services.

Thinning Clouds? Report Questions Value Of Cloud Computing - Software - IT Channel News by CRN

Cloud Services: What do you want?

I ran across this IDC chart on what customers want with cloud computing service providers. The survey is from August 2008 so it's pretty current.

Overall not so surprising that cost and performance are at the top of the list. I was a bit surprised that an established provider fell into a lower percentile. I guess that's mitigated by the #4 response, the ability to "move offerings back on-premise"; assuming that means being able to move data back on-premise. I would have figured that being an established provider would be more important.

A recent Information Week article on the closure of Goghead (a low-cost application platform hoster) highlights the risks of cloud computing, especially when the provider goes out of business. Still I guess if you're joining the cloud frontier you'd expect some risk. Even if it's a "large, established" provider there still are risks in the "how do I get my stuff back" area. As IW the article points out:

Choosing a stable vendor can reduce some of the risks of cloud computing. But even Google acknowledges that the migration path off the Google App Engine, should its customers want one, needs some work. "This is an issue, and we know it's not as easy as it should be," said product manager Pete Koomen.

Apr 15, 2009

Microsoft Unveils Exchange 2010 With Public Beta

Microsoft releases Exchange 2010 for public beta today. From the press release:

A public beta of the server is available for download starting today at http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/2010...Exchange Server 2010 will become available in the second half of 2009. Microsoft Office 2010 and related products will enter technical preview in the third quarter of 2009 and become available in the first half of 2010.
Information Week provides some more details on the release, including some hints at Outlook Web Access upgrades:

Outlook Web Access -- and likely the other versions of Outlook, though Microsoft wouldn't confirm -- will include an instant messaging client compatible with Microsoft Office Communications Server and Live Messenger. Microsoft will offer APIs to allow other third-party IM clients to work in Outlook Web Access.
To me the big news is the integrated e-mail archiving, which finally gets Microsoft into the e-mail archiving market. Some are concerned about it being a disruption to the existing e-mail archiving vendors, however I think it's about time that there is more seamless integration of archiving into messaging platforms with centralized controls. I'm still unsure how it's implemented, which is all the difference if this is disruptive or not. My specific questions include where are the archives stored, what are the archive file formats, do the archives support stubbing/re-stubbing or single instance store, and does the archive system provide record disposition or tiered storage management?

Apr 13, 2009

What type of social media swimmer are you?

The Social Networker

Nice post from Chris Miller on where in the social networking water you find yourself. I like the Deck Chair Lounger commenter.

Apr 9, 2009

Moderation in Moderation?

I moderate my comments, mostly to ensure that there's no spam getting through. But sometimes I end up in a quandary about whether to publish a comment that does not participate in the conversation and is aimed to incite or sell some other service. I tend to not publish these types of posts. Maybe I should (more later).

Here's an interesting case in point. Last night a comment came in on a post I made about LotusLive Engage last week. The comments were more of an anti-IBM and LotusLive rant and went into a Silverlight endorsement. I decided to think about publishing the comment since it was a week late and borderline off-topic. Then I looked at the comments to my friend Volker's excellent blog post summarizing LotusLive, Microsoft Online, and Google Apps pricing. Lo and behold an identical comment to the one I received, word for word from the same author, was on Volker's post.

I mean if your going to troll the Internet for blog postings on a certain topic and write negative comments about the product and/or vendor, you might as well have some imagination and make each comment unique. Otherwise, what a boring job? Needless to say, people following blogs that talk about specific topics and vendors are likely to see duplicated commentary and consider the comment author a fool or at least someone not to pay attention to.

This is not in defense of IBM or LotusLive, that is better done elsewhere and through a community that is interested in the product and the discussion. It's about any commentary on any vendor or topic that serves no purpose. In general I don't want to have my blog become fodder for off-topic sniping, and I have the inclination to control it. However, this is the sort of stuff that comes with free-range social software and I should probably let nature take its course. What do you think?

For the record, I'm not going to post the comment since it clearly isn't serious.

Apr 8, 2009

Putting a Price on Social Connections - BusinessWeek

Looking forward to reading the entire study (link in article).

Researchers at IBM Research and MIT's Sloan School of Management found that the average e-mail contact was worth $948 in revenue. To unearth that and other data, they used mathematical formulas to analyze the e-mail traffic, address books, and buddy lists of 2,600 IBM consultants over the course of a year. (Their identities were shielded from researchers, who viewed them only as encrypted numbers, known as hash codes.) They compared the communication patterns with performance, as measured by billable hours.

The last section of the article discusses how IBM is looking at ways to direct or manage higher-value outcomes. In business it's natural to do so. However, as with all social endeavors, the outcome is dependent on the whims and perception of the participants. The matchmaking efforts of IBM researchers illustrate this issue:

In their matchmaking efforts, the IBM team tried a variety of approaches. One used a tool favored by Facebook, recommending friends of common friends. Others analyzed the subjects and themes of employees' postings on Beehive, words they use, and patents they've filed. As expected, some of the systems lined up workers with colleagues they already knew. Others were better at unearthing unknowns. But fewer of them turned out to be good matches. To the frustration of the researchers, some of the workers noted that recommendations looked good, yet they didn't bother contacting the people. "They put them aside for future reference," Geyer says.

While, it's good to know the value of a connection and try to enhance that relationship, social relationships can not be wholly dictated or managed. As Clay Shirky points out in his book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, the value of social tools is to provide a "service that lets groups set out on their own." The transaction cost for directing social software behavior is high. A systematic approach to social software ups the ante for success which usually ends up in a bias towards substandard usage. So like many other systems that require human input, it's best to take a middle-ground approach, provide guidance without dictating usage.

Putting a Price on Social Connections - BusinessWeek

iCloud Adds Collaborative Features, But Browser Support Lacking - NYTimes.com

Another sign of the collaboration times; take everything, even the desktop, to the cloud. That way you get defacto synchronization to any device with a browser (in this case only IE for now).

iCloud is an impressive web application. It’s an OS-like desktop, complete with storage space and a Microsoft Office-like application suite, that runs in a browser that you can access from anywhere.

iCloud Adds Collaborative Features, But Browser Support Lacking - NYTimes.com

Why You Should Pay Attention to the National Broadband Plan - NYTimes.com

Broadband is an important channel for communications; not just for economic reasons but also for security and safety purposes. Follow the embedded link to read about how Australia is approaching national broadband.

The Federal Communications Commission will open up on Wednesday a Notice of Inquiry for the forthcoming National Broadband Plan, kicking off what interim FCC chair Michael Copps calls “an open, participatory, public process.” I hope it is, but traditionally our citizens have been quicker to complain to the providers of web-based services than to the agency that regulates the pipes over which such services are delivered. For those of you who want to participate (and don’t want to let Verizon or AT&T lobbyists dominate the conversation), I encourage you to file a comment.

The FCC does read them. When the agency solicited comments on the issue of Comcast blocking P2P files, it received thousands of them, some of which significantly influenced the proceedings. And the issue at stake with the National Broadband Plan is, quite frankly, far more important. The commission is expected to issue a series of questions in the hopes of figuring out where the U.S. currently stands with regard to broadband penetration and where it should go in terms of access technologies and speeds.

Why You Should Pay Attention to the National Broadband Plan - NYTimes.com

Apr 7, 2009

5 Ways to Get Your Clients to Follow Your Work Process - NYTimes.com

Generally this is article is a high-level lesson in good project management but it's a useful reminder to me. I know a lot of freelance people who would appreciate the reminder too.

“Just do your work and then I’ll pay you.” I couldn’t believe what I was reading. My client had told me to just do (my) work, yet he didn’t want to discuss any of the things that I needed to know to get the work done in the first place. He wanted to do away with the needs analysis stage and just get me to write a 50-page e-book based on a vague, one-paragraph description.

Here's the scary part of the lesson:

Choose only the simplest tools. For less technically-savvy clients, I stick to email and instant messaging as our main communication/collaboration tools.

I've gone through the heartache of trying to get customers to use a tool they would never use otherwise, so I understand his point. On the other hand I find it virtually unbearable using email to iterate through versions of work and follow progress on a project. I can do it, but the process is extruded and painful for me. Yet I can't find a happy medium where I can provide a simple and secure web-page for collaborating on content that customers will agree to use. The irony is not lost on me here since I am usually helping the customer establish communications and collaboration systems. The key to the issue is the simple and secure. Email is both, and at least for today, the place where most information workers prefer to do work. I've already ranted on how as a conscientious partner who takes contracts and NDAs seriously I will not use Google Docs. So for now I'm going with the flow and I am building my own solutions that I can control and secure. I can usually get my project team to work more efficiently using a collaboration tool, which is one half of the battle, but I still need to work with the customer on the project management stuff in other channels.

5 Ways to Get Your Clients to Follow Your Work Process - NYTimes.com

Apr 2, 2009

Microsoft SharePoint Team Blog : SharePoint Designer available as a free download

Designers like free tools.

Today we are excited to share with you some news about SharePoint Designer 2007. Starting now (April 2, 2009), SharePoint Designer 2007 will be available as a free download! We want more of you customizing SharePoint and feel that this a good way to put the tool in the hands of more people.
Although the heavy lifting still requires Visual Basic, SPD is more helpful to web site designers and publishers. Still the audience is limited by the SharePoint design policy and how many designers will be allowed to make modifications beyond the customizations allowed on the web site.

Microsoft SharePoint Team Blog : SharePoint Designer available as a free download

Apr 1, 2009

IBM makes big online collaboration move with LotusLive Engage - NYTimes.com

More is being revealed about LotusLive Engage, a bundle of the LotusLive products, at Web 2.0 this week.

You can read more details at the Engage site, but here’s a quick breakdown of features:

* A standard web meeting service, complete with desktop sharing, recording, and security
* A professional network of contacts with whom you can collaborate using the other Engage features
* Online file storage and sharing
* Project tracking, to-do lists, and brainstorming
* Form and chart creation tools
* Instant messaging, including photo- and file-sharing

None of this sounds particularly groundbreaking, but putting all of these features together in one place could be pretty compelling. Oh, and there are already 30,000 users in Engage’s beta testing program. The product will be available for everyone on April 7, with pricing from $10 to $45 per user per month.
It doesn't look like LotusLive Engage include any email messaging (just chat messaging). A quick look at the LotusLive E-mail page (linked to off the LotusLive main page) only discusses LotusLive Notes which is essentailly IBM Lotus Notes Hosted Messaging making it primarily available to companies over 1000 to 10,000 users (although they will "customize" for smaller or larger businesses). The pricing seems to be a large spread in monthly fees.

IBM makes big online collaboration move with LotusLive Engage - NYTimes.com