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Archive for December, 2007

Connections is like the global lunch room. Beehive? Global cocktail hour!

Posted by Gia Lyons on December 19, 2007

I’ve recently been explaining Lotus Connections as a global lunch room. It’s where you can share the stuff you’d normally share over lunch in the company cafeteria, but through blogs, social bookmarks, community forums (R2), personal file sharing (R2 or Quickr 8.x, not sure, so don’t ask me), etc. instead.

Beehive, an internal IBM Research application that feels like Facebook, is more like a global cocktail hour. It’s where you share information and ideas about work initially, but then you slowly digress into talking about movies that scare the crap out of you and your favorite types of beer.

I had a recent conversation with a pal of mine who explained Beehive this way (and I paraphrase):

You know when you see some little kid in a game arcade playing Skee-Ball for the first time? They see all those tickets spit out, and their eyes just go wide. WOW! Now, you know those tickets aren’t worth much – they’ll maybe get you some plastic trinket or two – but that kid will keep throwing those balls until their arm falls off, just to get more tickets. That’s what Beehive is like.

I’ve given up trying to explain the business value of Beehive (to IT people!), and I’m just having fun in there. The by-product is that my colleagues get to learn way more about me than they’ll ever learn in the lunch room.

And maybe knowing more about me is the best way to form an even deeper trusted working relationship with me. Benefit? I’ll help you before I help the other guy or girl.


“Global lunch room” engenders trust between colleagues.

“Global cocktail hour” engenders friendships in the workplace.

Or maybe I’ve just had too much honey to drink.


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SharePoint My Sites: It ain’t just about profiles, people.

Posted by Gia Lyons on December 10, 2007

Many, many, many customers are enamored of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2003 My Site’s extensive profiling feature. This is because a popular business need is, “Help me find experts more easily.”

Not familiar with My Sites? Check this out:

MOSS MySite Entry Form

Yes, anything stored in an LDAP, a directory, or some other personnel data store can be automatically brought forward into My Sites, just like you can in Lotus Connections Profiles. It uses the Business Data Catalog to accomplish this, similar to how Lotus Connections uses Directory Integrator to bring data into the Profiles database and synchronize it with its sources, which is included with the Connections license.

And yes, a person can choose whom they share each individual morsel with – check out the right side of the pic. What, however, would be the point, since I’d be inclined to just lock my stuff down to the people I already trust, who probably already know what I know? But, that’s another blog post. Maybe it’s just a nod to the command-and-control cultures of old-school hierarchical organizations (my god, I work at IBM, and I typed that with a straight face!)

This is an email I just sent in response to a customer’s request.

Here’s the story I always tell to people who put their faith in some huge profiling system alone:

There are Seekers and Contributors in any organization.
Seekers are always searching for an expert in something. They love extensive profiling systems, because it enables them to locate people who they think are experts in a particular topic. Once they locate them, they email, instant message, or call that person for assistance.

Contributors hate filling out profiling systems. Why? Because it means yet another email, IM, or phone call, asking for their expertise. And if they are a true expert, their collaborative plate is already overflowing. They ask, What’s in it for me? What benefit do I get from completing an extensive profile? All I see is just more people wanting my already-spoken-for time and energy.”

The result? The real experts never fill out their profiles, never keep them updated.

What we’ve found at IBM (Note: there is no definitive research supporting the following, only anecdotal evidence):

After almost 10 years of from-the-executives, repetitive, consistent pressure, only 60% of all IBM profiles are kept updated. (Note that Lotus Connections Profiles is the productized version of IBM BluePages, which has been around since 1998.) And that’s even with an automated email sent out every 3 months to remind people to update their profiles, plus a visual progress bar indicating how complete or incomplete a user’s profile is, plus people’s first-line managers constantly reminding them to update their profile.

This top-down-only approach doesn’t cut it. A bottom-up (or, bottoms-up, if you’re drinking), grassroots approach must accompany it in order to achieve success.

Once we gave Contributors the choice about how to share their knowledge and experience, we found that they were more likely to contribute using these social options, since they realized that the result would be fewer emails, IMs and phone calls asking for their basic expertise.

“Read my blog.”… “Check out my bookmarks.”… “Look at my activity templates.”… “Read my community forum.”

…became the new ‘RTFM‘, if you will.

Now, once Seekers find an expert via Profiles, they are able to consume some of their knowledge and expertise without disrupting them. The nature of the remaining email/IM/phone requests from Seekers were about their deeper experience, their knowledge that will always remain tacit.

In effect, Contributors sharing their more ‘basic’ expertise online enabled Seekers to accelerate whatever collaboration they further required from Contributors.


How did we do this?

We accomplished this by giving Contributors the ability to:

  • share their important sources of internal and external information via social bookmarking, which are automatically associated with and are accessible from a user’s profile, as well as via a RESTful API. Also, Seekers can discover experts simply by subscribing to a particular topic from the social bookmarking service – no need to go through a profile first.
  • share their experiences and expertise via an internal Internet-style blog service that enables not only individual blogs, but team blogs, and offers all blogs on a single website for easy browsing, searching, and integration with other applications via a RESTful API, also automatically associated with and accessible from a user’s profile. Seekers can discover experts simply by subscribing to a particular topic from the blog service – no need to go through a profile first (but you can if you want).
  • share their experiences and expertise via Communities that are automatically associated with and accessible from a user’s profile, as well as a RESTful API. Seekers can discover experts simply by subscribing to a particular topic from the community service – no need to go through a profile first (but you can if you want).
  • share their “good practice” about human processes through Activities and Activity templates, which, of course are automatically associated with and are accessible from a user’s profile, as well as a RESTful API (seems to be a theme here). Seekers can discover experts simply by subscribing to a particular topic from the activities service – no need to go through a profile first (but, of course, you can if you want).

For a wonderful (and short) education on this very thing, view: When social networking meets knowledge management

Final Thought:

Don’t just give Contributors a profile to fill out, that only enables them to list their skills, projects, etc., and that requires Seekers to use email/IM/phone – and social capital – to gain Contributors’ deeper knowledge. Give them the ability to actually share what they know through many social software choices, so that more Seekers can acquire that knowledge with fewer emails/IMs/phone calls, which degrade the Contributors’ productivity.

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