Virtual project rooms (for architects)

Here’s something I found lately, a short german language article, focussing on “project room” uses for architects (“Virtuelle Projekträume im Internet”). Sadly there’s no explicit treatment of wikis, but you know – that’s why I’m here and blogging.

I hold that most of the outlined specific industry needs could also be handled with project wikis. After all architects are knowledge workers too, who need adaptive platforms for succeeding in their job (and projects), who work in closely interconnected networks of specialists, who need to stay in touch with their customers and more.

Wiki usability and Enterprise software sexyness

There’s an interesting debate going on, which is definitely worthwhile to follow. Arguments are exchanged whether, and if so how enterprise software can be as “sexy” as the all new web. Robert Scoble triggered it off (but somebody else called for it in the first place), got criticized and even flamed badly, others came to help, and so on. You know the game, see Techmeme for more. I am sure you will be enjoying the discussion in all branches and forks as much as I am.

While discussing UI, usability, user-friendliness and all is interesting (though putting lipstick on a pig really doesn’t help much) – well, even the endless arguments of “industrial-strength-software proponents” are entertaining in a way because we know better (this is dire stuff, and I ask myself if those guys ever worked with enterprise-style-software like R/3) – I want to chip in some observations from another perspective.

As a long-time enterprise software user, developer (yes, I was – years ago in my old life) and today enterprise 2.0 & enterprise social software consultant, I want to offer look at this from a position of wiki advocate (-evangelist, if you want).

Are enterprise wikis sexy? Most people don’t think so – but I think they get it wrong: Enterprise wikis are interesting not because of their advanced technology, their polished user interface or their neat mark-up language – in fact these are kind of disadvantages most of the time when we want corporate adoption to take off. Like when people doubt whether the wiki markup language will be accepted in their companies – they sure don’t deem wiki markup sexy. Yes, these are no shiny tools, they don’t offer eye candy, but they are well suited for doing their job.

The key is to start from business applications and needs – not tools. If the starting point is a specific business application like e.g. project management or business development support, users will judge the sexyness of the application in a different way – they will look for personal use and business value primarily.

Wikis soon gain “cool tools status” – just because they offer room for flexible emergent uses, coupled with great simplicity. In this light Dave Snowden opens a can of worms, which should attract more discussing, when he’s pointing to the inherent differences between complex social software and standard enterprise ware.

So yes, wikis can even be fun to use, and while sexyness is always a matter of taste, this is a good start and adds to the other wiki benefits like scalabity, connectivity and cost effectiveness that stand on their own anyway. This is no “fantasy land”, this is today, the 21st century and the changes will be great, and they won’t be about technology or tools:

Enterprise 2.0 is already upon us, providing us attractive, usable, reliable and secure applications. We just haven’t made the move to adopting it. But it’s happening now, with Generation M, mobile, multimedia, multitasking and here. Now.

Barcamp Berlin Tag 1 … Yahoo! Pipes session

OK then, I’m in for two more sessions, starting with Yahoo Pipes – Mashup Your Life and then at 6pm Drupal – Introduction & Concepts.

Yahoo! Pipes is a neat way for fast prototyping, and to pull together little applications, filters and stuff. One example is my little pipe “ frogpond RSS feed“, that cleans up the original RSS feed of this site, i.e. that excludes the links from the feed, and provides only my generic posts. I needed this for my BMID-sidebar, where I wanted to include the last ten frogpond-posts but had no need for these “standard for the day” posts. With pipes I managed to build this little helper in practically no time …

Some good information on pipes is here “Learn How to Build a Pipe in Just a Few Minutes“, and have a look at my pipes posts on the BMID-blog.

What is OpenSocial? Yes, it’s a business model innovation

There’s a myriad of posts on OpenSocial already and I know that I’m a latecomer to the party. Yet I will try to put down some observations and notes, if only because this has rattled the plans for my planned BarCamp session this weekend. I have to update my slide deck now, thanks Google. OK, most of the stuff I’ve written before remains valid and/or got valified through this move (see e.g. Portable soziale Netzwerke, and my post on NoseRub, german posts also touching on big hairy questions like privacy of data).

Some observations from a strategic / business point of view:

  • Google is proposing an open approach with the goal of integrating a variety of networks – they are not building up yet another social network. This is a platform approach, not a product or services innovation.
  • And this is also a cool business model innovation move – Google is opening up the social networking space to the many developers outside with a standard platform, i.e. they have learned the Facebook lesson and expanded on it – turning the table for Facebook in effect. Now who’s leading the charge in the web OS game …
  • Google understands that there’s more value to be gained from a shared ecosystem and from the long tail of distributed communities, than from a walled garden even if it’s big. There’s no need for an one and for all über-network, but for an easy way to integrate the many existing social networking sites (and communities of people in fact).

Nice before/after picture:


Some snippets (via Richard MacManus, …):

OpenSocial is not a social network itself, rather it is a set of three common APIs that allow developers to access the following core functions and information at social networks:

* Profile Information (user data)
* Friends Information (social graph)
* Activities (things that happen, News Feed type stuff)

For developers there are lots of benefits. They can build an app that easily works across all the OpenSocial partners. And they can use normal HTML, Javascript and Flash – instead of the proprietary languages Facebook forces developers to use.

You may also check out the Google guys view on all this, here at the all new OpenSocial API blog (“The web is better when it’s social“)

Then, for those with more time on their hands there’s also this one-hour explanatory video:

And here’s a little video by Marc Andreesen of Ning explaining the concept of container and apps:

Find more screencasts like this on Ning Network Creators

Interested in more analyses? Go visit Techmeme and bring lots of time. Or take my short list of cool posts, starting with Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester (“Explaining OpenSocial to your Executives”), this is a good short status report, short excerpt:

What is Open Social?

Google says: “OpenSocial provides a common set of APIs for social applications across multiple websites. With standard JavaScript and HTML, developers can create apps that access a social network’s friends and update feeds.”

Translation: Social Networks, and other websites (we can call them platforms or containers) can let mini-websites (applications or widgets) to be shared and interact with existing online communities (social networks, social graphs, communities).

Jeremiah also expands on the opportunities this offers, namely in the community building space (Efficient development, harness existing communities, open standards help long term, your existing applications become social, future brings social to your website). Recommended analysis, gets you up to speed quick.

Then there’s Anil Dash of Six Apart (“OpenSocial, Killer Apps and Regular People”), on why the opened social graph can help people in their networked lifes:

This gives regular people on the web more control over the social networks and applications they use.

Interesting times ahead.

More upcoming events at Web 2.0 Expo …

Planning the next five days, here’s some more: There’s an evening session on “The Starfish and the Spider” at the newthinking store (10117 Berlin Mitte, Tucholskystraße 48) on Tuesday evening 7pm-9pm.

Warum sind Wikipedia, Craigslist und Skype so erfolgreich? Wieso versetzten Kazaa und Napster der Musikindustrie einen solchen Schlag?

Weil sie das freche Seestern-Prinzip nutzen, das auf Dezentralisierung, Vertrauen und Kommunikation unter Gleichen aufbaut. Mit ihrer Wandlungsfähigkeit setzen die flinken Seesterne die hierarchischen Spinnenorganisationen immer wieder Schachmatt – und verändern damit die Welt.

Rod is an interesting guy:

[…] Stanford-Absolvent und Unternehmer, der sein erstes Unternehmen CATS Software Inc. an die NASDAQ brachte und u.a. auch ein früher Investor bei eBay war. Er engagiert sich für Umweltthemen und soziale Belange und half etwa bei der Gründung des Silicon Valley Social Venture Funds und des Environmental Markets Network. Zur Zeit verfolgt Rod mit der Firma die Entwicklung von Wikis als open-source enterprise software.

Some reviews of his book, via newthinking store and my bookmarks:

Handelsblatt (german)
Welt (german)
Firstmedia (german)

Some english reviews: David Robertson and Harold Jarche, and here are some distilled book notes at the Socialtext Open Wiki – i.e. “main content of the book, but without the stories and examples”.

A critical analysis of Social Graphs (and some learnings for social networks in the Enterprise)

There’s a critical analysis of the recent Facebook craze here in the Economist, arguing along solid economical reasons ….

There’s less to Facebook and other social networks than meets the eye
[…] the future of social networking will not be one big social graph but instead myriad small communities on the internet to replicate the millions that exist offline. No single company, therefore, can capture the social graph

This article also holds some learnings for the design of social network infrastructure in the enterprise, but the one above is central in my mind: You better start with the individual knowledge worker that is embedded in small communities of practice – and provide the means for a range of networks, organizational settings and “blended arrangements”, i.e. allowing for diverse mixtures of real-life and virtual networking.

After all, this is what McAfee’s SLATES concept calls for – emergent, freeform collaboration, i.e. letting the communities and networks evolve and emerge from the factual interactions and work practices.

And yes, the importance of small networks and platforms to support them could also be discussed from a business model innovation perspective, well at least for “people who are interested in how Social Networks will play out“, especially in the NGO- and nonprofit-space (more on the upcoming NGO-BarCamp).