You can see brand-new Lotus Connections v2.0 video demonstrations, thanks to Suzanne Minassian, Lotus Connections Product Manager, and her producers, Ron Sebastian and Doug Spencer.
Pass it around…
Posted by Gia Lyons on May 14, 2008
You can see brand-new Lotus Connections v2.0 video demonstrations, thanks to Suzanne Minassian, Lotus Connections Product Manager, and her producers, Ron Sebastian and Doug Spencer.
Pass it around…
Posted by Gia Lyons on May 5, 2008
Posted by Gia Lyons on April 25, 2008
Tagging’s yuck factor for the traditional worker
T.W. says, “Urgh. Tagging. Look, I just want my dang folders. It’s what I’m comfy with. Piles of papers all over my desk. More papers in filing cabinets underneath it. Documents in folders on my computer. Like the little rooms I imagine are in my head, where I store all the crap I’ll forget when I’m older.”
Ah yes, Grasshopper, but you can usually only put something in one folder at a time, right? Wow, that’s a lot of cognitive pressure to come up with THE magic folder label for that thing on the spot, and then somehow remember what you called it later. I take it you enjoy doing mental gymnastics every time you need to find something again.
Tagging is the reverse of foldering: instead of putting something into one folder, you put lots of “folder labels” onto the thing.
After T.W. clicks “Bookmark This!”, and before she clicks “Save”, she can put some “folder labels” on that bookmark. TIP: use tags that you would normally type into Google to find that thing again.
So now, T.W. can categorize something in many ways, not just one. She can find it again later by remembering any of those tags, then either searching for it, or clicking on it in her tag cloud in Dogear. And, she can use Dogear to bookmark anything she can browse to, inside or outside the firewall.
T.W. will eventually find loads more stuff from other people who’ve used the same tags, and then, “wow! look at that! I was just looking for that last week! Heyyyy, this bookmark/tag thingy is cool! Hey, T.C.W. (Traditional Co-Worker)… c’mere and look at this…”
Back to my customer discussion.
We talked about the value of using a tagging service to let people type tags directly onto intranet web pages themselves, like this:
But, since traditional workers are not used to typing directly onto a web page (that’s not Web 1.0!), and since this method doesn’t really place that page into their own personal bookmark stash, they skip it.
Maybe you’ll find those who’ll tag pages directly for the needs of the many, since they outweigh the needs of the few, or the one, (unless you’re the one). But those folks are going to be a minority for now.
I say, address the “What’s in it for me?” thing first, before guilting them into helping out the rest of the company.
Posted by Gia Lyons on April 24, 2008
(Read Part I for context)
T.W. (Traditional Worker) says, “Whuh?”
Ok, let’s walk through this, nice and simple. IT wants to make intranet search better, so they deployed an internal social bookmarking service, like Lotus Connections Dogear. They’re trying to get people to use it. By the way, here’s a secret to getting people to use new software faster: try to take advantage of people’s existing behaviors. For example, most folks already have the brain-dead motor skill of bookmarking a website in their browser. So, it’s a minor physical change to get people to start clicking Dogear’s “Bookmark This!” button in their toolbar instead.
Anyway. Somebody sits down with T.W. to teach her how to use Dogear. T.W. is an influential “node” in the organizational network, because she seems to know everyone, and everyone tends to go to her to learn stuff. The hope is that if she “gets” it, she’ll tell hundreds more. (Insert your social network science terms for what T.W. is here. But remember, T.W. doesn’t give a ratfart about social network science. She just wants to churn out those TPS reports and go home.)
T.W. finds a website she wants to remember. She clicks “Bookmark This!” in her toolbar, then clicks “Save” in the resulting pop-up window. Done.
The URL, page title, her name, and the date are stored in the Dogear database, listed in her “My Bookmarks” page, searchable by others, and ready to influence relevancy rankings in intranet search results (batteries not included).
She could stop here, but something’s missing. T.W.’s a foldery kind of gal, who likes to place her bookmarks into folders so that her brain categorizes it up there in her grey matter – this is the reason many of us physically put stuff in folders, so that it’s easier to do so mentally – she’s got a new thing to learn: tagging.
Tomorrow, Part III: Tagging’s yuck factor for the traditional worker
P.S. Here’s a 2005 high-brow version of that last paragraph for all you cognitive science geeks.
Posted by Gia Lyons on April 23, 2008
Program Note: This mini-series is for those of you who “get” social software, and have the task of helping your more traditional co-workers “get” it. It’s in many parts so that you don’t glaze over after three minutes.
I spoke with a large telecom customer yesterday. One interesting idea resonated well, especially in light of the all-out push to slurp knowledge out of an organization’s “wisdom holders” before they exit, stage left. Um, good luck with that, by the way. My advice? Get them to trust/mentor/repeatedly talk to a new hire who likes to blog. People typically only share their precious information with people they trust, either in person, over the phone, in email, or instant messaging.
Where was I? Oh yeah. Tabling the whole social-software-as-neo-KM discussion, let’s get simple. Let’s talk about where it hurts every day.
Traditional Worker (T.W.) says, “Why can I find more information about our company using Google on the Internet than I can searching our intranet?”
Well, finding intranet content is vastly different than finding Internet content, and even deploying Google’s search appliance internally won’t magically give you Google-like search results. Why?
Google makes use of the vast and growing user participation on the web to find the good stuff based on reputation through a secret and ever changing formula.
Andrew MacAfee said it best back in 2006:
[The Web’s emergent nature] is a key difference between the public Internet and private Intranets. Public Web sites are built by millions of people, while most Intranets are built and maintained by a small group. Emergence requires large numbers of actors and interactions, but Intranets are produced by only a few people (even though they are passively consumed by many). In addition, most Intranet pages aren’t as heavily interlinked as pages on the Internet.
Another important difference is that Web 2.0 has accelerated the rate of emergence on the public Internet. I think of Web 2.0 tools and technologies as accomplishing two important goals: increasing the number of people who are contributing content (and the ease with which they can do it), and increasing the number of ways to let content creators (and consumers) interact with each other. These new interactions are the further mechanisms, beyond linking, for emergence – for letting patterns and structure emerge from low-level behavior.
Andrew gives us something to shoot for, later in his entry. To paraphrase, corporate intranets could stand a large dose of user participation in order to make search better, but it’s hard to get people to participate, because these new tools are not intuitive for a Web 1.0 mindset. But, once they start using them, it’s hard to stop them.
Tomorrow, Part II: T.W. says, “Whuh?”
Posted by Gia Lyons on April 11, 2008
Edit: I used to be the IBM Lotus Connections Technical Evangelist. I am now the Social Enterprise Evangelist at Jive Software. I have left this blog post on my blog, simply because I should.
Disclaimer: I’m not part of product management, development, or marketing (I am well connected to those groovy folks, though, who have approved this message). I’m part of IBM Lotus Technical Sales, and it is my job to help folks understand what Lotus Connections is and how to use it well.
In my opinion, IBM Lotus Connections is primarily social networking software, not collaboration software. The social task management bit, however, is all about collaboration. And arguably, collaboration has spontaneously occurred in the blogs bit more than a few times (e.g., a problem with our internal intranet search was fixed because of a blog entry). And ok, the same could be said for forums inside the communities bit.
But still – it’s about networking, I swear.
There are two ways to use social networking software.
First, I’m not collaborating with you when I look up your past projects or shared bookmarks, or read your blog or your community forum posts. Instead, I’m trying to decide if I should collaborate with you. Are you really competent in what you say you are? Are you nice to work with, or are you a jerk? Usually, you do this by asking people you already trust for recommendations. “Hey, d’you know anybody who…?” But, when you don’t find someone that way, a social networking online environment is the next best thing.
Second, if I participate in the stuff you post – comment on your blog, watchlist your shared bookmarks, respond to your forum posts – you learn that I exist, and hopefully, you’ll look up my stuff and learn more about me. So, why does this matter? I’m trying to develop a trusted working relationship with you. Because I know that all your really good stuff is inside your head, and you’ll probably never blog about it, bookmark it, put it in a file, a wiki, a forum, a profile, a teamsite, or anything else.
But I know that if you trust me, you’ll tell me what you know over the phone, in an email, instant message, or face-to-face. These, by the way, are the four most common collaboration tools on the planet.
The other way to use social networking software is to lurk-n-learn. I’m just absorbing your stuff, but will never contact you, never comment on your blog. Maybe I’ll just use what I learn from your stuff to do my job better (try to measure that ROI). Maybe you’ll never know I exist. By the way, this is the most common use of social networking software inside IBM, judging from the number of social contributions vs. the number of reads.
Ok, got it. So, what is Lotus Connections?
Lotus Connections helps you:
Lotus Connections includes five main components:
There is an additional component, Homepage, that lets people (I used to call them ‘users’) decide how to view the content from the other five components, plus anything else your IT folks put in a widget:
Within the Homepage, a person can search across all components. This search finds the following:
This is my preferred search method for both people and information. For example, if I’m looking for someone with experience in financial law, or any information about same, I simply search for “financial law”. The beautiful thing is that I’ll get a list of the most active people, even if they’ve never even touched their own profile. Oh, and relevant content, of course.
Find people and their stuff from any application
There is a sub-component available if Profiles is installed, called the Person Card. It is designed to be added to any application in your company that shows a person’s name. When you hover over that name, you’ll see the card:
This Person Card can be customized and extended by IT. For example, you could add a sixth link at the top to a person’s shared files wherever they are (Lotus Quickr, SharePoint, whatever), or perhaps you want to add a link to a person’s teamsites. Or patents. Or shared pictures.
The point is that people will be able to quickly find a person’s information and social content, no matter where they find that person’s name, in any application in your organization.
There is also a Community Card that functions similarly:
Out-of-box access from multiple clients
To help folks naturally discover people and their knowledge from the tools they use everyday, some or all of the Lotus Connections components are accessible out of the box from the following clients:
* available in the next few weeks
And of course, we have rich Web experiences for Firefox and Explorer, for Windows and Mac.
“I just took a new position in my company, and I don’t know how to get plugged in to the people and information relevant to this job. I need to get up to speed ASAP.”
One of my customers has a program that requires each MBA grad to do a “tour of duty” in each of their business units. Another customer follows Six Sigma practices and rotates their black belt folks through different divisions every two years. And then there are the thousands of new hires and current employees moving into new positions every day in every organization.
It’s hard to do your new job with your old network, so you need to get plugged into a new network ASAP.
You could search across all of Connections for your job’s main focus. Let’s say you’ve just joined corporate marketing’s Web team, responsible for all online marketing efforts for your organization’s website. Search Connections for “marketing web”. Find a list of the most active people, most active tags, and the most relevant content (along with the contents’ authors, tags, and descriptions).
Next, pick the first most active person in the list, and see where she sits in the organization by reviewing her profiles. See how others view her contributions by reading the tags they’ve added to her profile. Read her most recommended blog entries and comment on them, skim the sites that she’s bookmarked and copy them into your own shared bookmark area, then find the communities she’s active in and join them. You now have a good idea of what’s going on in her head.
And that’s just in the first two hours in your new job. Coffee break, do it all again with the next most active person (who may not even be on your team). Or, maybe you just reach out to that first person and ask to meet with her.
By the way, this is also a great way to shop for a new position inside your organization.
“I have an idea for one of our products, but I don’t know who the product manager is, or if they will even talk to me.”
True story. I started blogging inside IBM in October 2006, before I had my current job. I blogged about a soon-to-be-announced new product (it was Lotus Connections, obviously). I also found all of the developers by searching for the product’s codename in Dogear, and found and read all their bookmarked sites. Emboldened, I sent them an enthusiastic email about how excited I was about this new product. Not sure if any development team has ever received fan mail before at IBM. In any case, they now knew who I was, and welcomed my enthusiasm.
Anyway. Early in 2007, I received an email from an IBM Research person in Israel, telling me he was working on a research project that would make a great fit for the product I blogged about. He asked if I could introduce him to the developers, who were based in the U.S.
I did, they talked, and his research project is currently in plan for a future release. Would they have found each other without my blog? Perhaps. Did they get connected faster because of it? Absolutely.
“We need to find all the Chinese speakers in our company.”
I spoke to a global retailing company who needed to find all the Chinese speakers in their gigantic organization. They were worried about how to get employees to log into Profiles and add that they could speak Chinese. I explained that they’d probably get greater participation if they simply created a community called “Chinese Speakers”. Why? Because many people perceive that they’ll get more out of joining a group of like-minded people versus filling out a profile. The beauty of this is that this public community is really just a group that anyone could send email to, or engage via the community forum, or whatever other tools the community decides to use.
“I need to find the person who originally created this training video a year ago and have them update it.”
One customer decided to compare what worklife was like before and after Lotus Connections. Their goal was to find the person who created a training video for end users about how to change their intranet password, because the video needed to be updated. The only information they had was that this person worked for the User Experience team. And this wasn’t a department name.
Before Connections, they would search their intranet for “user experience video” and get a bunch of links to “Usability Lab” stuff, which was not the same group. Nothing turned up about the video in question, either.
With Connections, they did the same search, and found the “User Experience Community.” They looked at the Members list, and started hovering over each name to view their Person Card information. They looked at a few profiles, and found one tagged with “video”. A ha! A quick instant message to that person confirmed that they were the person who could update the training video.
A bit hit-and-miss, but isn’t it the same when you use your network the old school way? “Jeri, d’you know who to contact to get this video updated?”… “Um, try Heather.”… “Heather, d’you know…”… “Um, I think Nguyen used to do that.”… “Nguyen…” and so on.
“I’ve got to plan a local ‘how to use power tools’ seminar, but I’m not sure how to go about it.”
Home improvement stores are all over the place, and many of them conduct ‘how to’ seminars for their customers. Let’s say you’ve just been promoted to Lead Associate in the power tools department, and one of your tasks is to plan and execute a how-to seminar. But, you’ve never done one before, and the guy who used to do them is long gone.
You’ve got two choices: Either figure it out from scratch with the help of your local co-workers (not a bad way to go), or find someone else in another store somewhere who does them in their sleep.
You search Lotus Connections for “how-to seminar”, and since it’s the weekend, the busiest part of the retail week, you know better than to try to talk to someone directly. But, there’s an Activity template written by someone from Store #386 (you checked out his profile and found that he’s been with the company for years) in the results page that catches your eye. Click.
This template, or “recipe”, lists step-by-step how to plan for and execute a how-to seminar. It includes to-do’s that you can assign to others and check off when they’re completed; website links to caterers who give your company a discount; PDF sign-in sheet to capture customers’ email addresses; a list of lessons learned so that you can avoid the big “oops” moments; and so on. It’s all arranged by when you do what. And, you discover that you can edit the template to provide your own tips and tricks.
You create a new activity from this template and get to work. You invite a couple folks to the Activity and assign them a couple of to-do’s. They invite a few more people (you can do that in an Activity) to help with the planning. The eventual result is a well-planned, well-executed how-to seminar, with fewer emails zooming around, fewer “what’rewegonnado?” meetings.
“We just acquired a company, but I have no idea who their local sales reps are. We need to coordinate our customer activities ASAP.”
Another true story. IBM acquired Cognos recently. Right away, many Cognos employees started blogging inside IBM. I stumbled upon David’s blog one day, and added a comment, welcoming him to the IBM family. A few days of mutual commenting, and we felt like we really knew each other. He’s a senior software engineer in the UK.
Anyway, a week later, I’m in Texas presenting to a customer, and I overhear the IBM sales guy lament that he has no idea how to find his local Cognos counterparts. They’re all in our Profiles application, but there are no Cognos-identifying marks anywhere.
That night, I pinged (IM’ed) David and asked him to start tagging all his Cognos peeps’ profiles with “cognos”. Word spread, and as of the writing of this post, there are 73 IBMers tagged with “cognos”. Now, I’ve just got to tell that sales guy to search for “cognos”. If he doesn’t find his local rep, he now knows of 73 people who could probably get him connected.
The five components are .ear files that run on IBM WebSphere Application Server (WAS) 6.1. None of them require any of the others, but if they’re installed in the same WAS cell, they are loosely integrated via configuration files. Many languages, hardware platforms, and operating systems, LDAPs and RDBMSs are supported.
A REST-style API using Atom Publishing Protocol (Atompub) and Atom Synchronization Format (ASF) is available for every component.
Lucene search engine is included with every component. There is a separate engine for each component so that you can deploy one, some, or all of them without dependencies on anything else.
The cross-component search feature uses a unified search engine (or, “heterogeneous interrelated entity search”, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing).
Lotus Connections Application Architecture
The directory is usually an LDAP. It is used for authentication to all components, and can be used as a datasource to populate the Profiles database. We support Lotus Domino, Tivoli Directory Server, Microsoft Active Directory, and Sun Java System Directory Server. We also support CA SiteMinder and Tivoli Access Manager for single sign-on purposes. Also, check out how to integrate Lotus Connections (well, WebSphere, really) with Windows SSO using the SPNEGO TAI.
Tivoli Directory Integrator (TDI) is included in the Connections license. It is the data synchronization tool used to populate and update the Profiles database.
Each component maintains a separate database. We support DB2, Oracle, and SQL Server.
The file system – either on the application server or a SAN or some other location – is used to store various things, including full-text indexes, favicons, content from Activities (optional), images uploaded to blogs, etc.
The “Other Enterprise Services” box depicts the optional integration points that IT can configure. For example, if you want to use the notification features throughout Connections, you’ll need to configure an SMTP mail server. If you want to use the integration between Connections Communities and Atlassian Confluence, SocialText, and/or Lotus Sametime broadcast tools, you’ll need to configure that.
All administration is done via the WebSphere administration capabilities, using JMX management beans. Additionally, the Blogs component offers a Web UI for some of the administration options.
The navigational header is the banner across the top. It is customizable.
More about Profiles
You can aggregate people data from HR databases, skills databases, LDAP, employee directory, Excel spreadsheets, Microsoft Access and Lotus Notes databases – you name it – into Profiles. This is accomplished with Tivoli Directory Integrator, which is included in the Connections license. You can lock down which fields can be edited by people, and have Directory Integrator write back any updates to the master datastore, if you want.
You can add additional fields to Profiles and customize the Web UI look and feel.
You can also include Atlas for Lotus Connections, an add-on asset not included in the license, that does the following:
A blog written by our product team
Lotus Greenhouse: Check out Lotus Connections 2.0 Beta 1 (requires registration, and the email of an IBM business contact)
If you’d like details about deploying Lotus Connections, check out the IBM developerWorks article series written for version 1.x. I recommend starting with Planning and architecture considerations.
Fifty ways to leave your bookmark: An experiment in social authoring: Check out how to add Dogear bookmarking features to just about any application, using just about any programming language.
Posted by Gia Lyons on April 2, 2008
Just got word from product management that IBM will be deploying a beta version of RIM’s BlackBerry applications written for Lotus Connections in the next week or two. (No need to start pinging/ emailing me if it’s still not here after two weeks. My answer will be, “it’s coming, please be patient.”)
Other customers are participating in RIM’s beta as well. Wonder if they’ll blog about it…
RIM hopes to ship these applications in the next six weeks. Go sign up for availability updates on RIM’s site if you’d like to know the millisecond they’re available.
Posted by Gia Lyons on March 11, 2008
Check out Suzanne Minassian’s responses to a recent customer’s questions about Connections. Methinks they were almost coached by someone from Microsoft (that never happens, I’m sure. )
Posted by Gia Lyons on March 1, 2008
David Brooks explains Activities 2.0 quite nicely, using a plausible scenario that highlights the new features quite nicely. Screenshots galore, too.
Posted by Gia Lyons on February 15, 2008
Lotsa you are salivating, waiting for RIM to make their client for Lotus Connections available for the BlackBerry.
Here’s an excerpt from their February 2008 online newsletter:
The new BlackBerry® Client for IBM® Lotus® Connections software provides mobile users with access to Lotus Connections social software for business, making available many of the same benefits and functionality found on the desktop version of Lotus Connections directly from their BlackBerry smartphone. These include the ability to collaborate on projects with teammates, locate internal subject matter experts by name or topic, and to effortlessly share information and research to improve decision making. Availability is expected to be later this year as a free download.
Get more detail and sign up for availability updates at www.blackberry.com/go/lotusconnections.