Monday, December 24, 2007

The Queen!

Robert Paterson summed it up nicely "Wow! A way of [the British Monarchy] talking directly to [the] people - hats of to the Palace"

The Royal Channel

The Christmas Broadcast or 'Queen's Speech' for 2007 will appear on that channel at approximately 3pm GMT today.

When will the captains of industry realise that they can use a similar trick to address their workforce?

Drink Scotch whisky all night long....

...and network all the time! Social networking for producers and consumers of whisky!

(Vodka is more my tipple).

Thank you for reading and have a great Christmas day.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Do not rush into purchasing a Gartner report!

Gartner really do not get it! I enjoyed Ken and Sheryl’s post over at Stardust and it prompted me to write. I think I can contribute a couple of points that I have not seen blogged elsewhere just now.

I usually have to wait two weeks for my 18 year old son to reply to my email. His presence on MSN nowadays is also erratic, but I know that I can get a near instantaneous reply via social sites like Myspace.

It is this generation that is now pouring out of higher education and into the workplace and of course they prefer to use the consumer web based tools because the work environments they are entering have been so slow to implement equivalent tools inside the firewall.

Another points is that the current workforce already finds that these tools are fun to use. How many companies can say that about their current CMS or KM tools?

I believe that by using tools like wikis, blogs and tagged person/skills finders, it is feasible now, for the first time, to do KM and as Euan Semple implies in his post, these things do not have to cost very much (perhaps lest than the cost of a few Gartner reports?).

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Jimbo no-show but lively wiki Wednesday none the less

London wiki Wednesday, 5th December 2007 at NYK Line / NYK Group Europe

Last night I hosted London Wiki Wednesday, with facilities kindly provided by NYK and refreshments funded by SocialText.

At the top of the bill was Jimmy Wales but although David Terrar delayed start of proceedings significantly, he did not show up. To be fair to Jimbo, apparently his commitment was along the lines of "I will try to be there".

Despite his non-appearance, we were by the presence of Alison Wheeler from Wikimedia UK who spoke eloquently and at some length about the charitable work of Wikimedia.

Well into the evening, I exited the room to look for stragglers (hoping to spy Jimbo emerging from the lift) and found instead Wikimedia's Sue Gardner, (great name for a wiki enthusiast!), who was hopelessly lost and wandering NYK’s 17th floor looking for the venue. To her credit, she immediately took to the lectern to further illustrate their altruistic work.

There were then a couple more speakers that I missed because I was busy organising stuff.

After that, I took the stage to give my brief talk on Enterprise Wiki Tips and our use of Confluence. I gave my typical, low key Lotoczko presentation but this was followed by a lively Q&A.

When I was discussing Person Pages and Skills Discovery one questioner asked if I wasn't worried that the wiki would degenerate into a dating site. I recalled a Euan Semple story that he had recounted during one of our many meetings/coaching sessions. It runs along the lines of: During the early days of Euan’s experiments with forums within the BBC, a body of staff appeared to be using the platform for dating. Undaunted, Euan allowed it to continue, a case of any use is better than no use. A while later a program maker found the material to be an invaluable resource when he was asked to make a documentary on modern dating trends. The story was well received (I think there was one BBC guy in the audience).

An animated and enthusiastic Hong Kong student guy Francis Wan gave an impromptu talk about his involvement with the Chinese language Wikipedia. Although it faces huge problems from Chinese censorship he explained that Hong Kong and Taiwan nationals were keeping it thriving as were the ex-pat Chinese community. I found this to be an enthralling account of social media helping to overcome imperial censorship.

I even received help from Alex Jerreat (wiki gardener extraordinaire) and Sean McClowry with the back-breaking task of re-assembling the boardroom tables, allowing me to catch my last train.

In all, one of the best Wiki Wednesdays of recent months, in my opinion.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Atlassian Steam into Europe

I have just returned from the Atlassian Amsterdam User Group meeting.
I give below my very rough notes of what happened:

Accenture Keynote: Michael Widjaja spoke. He stated that Gartner had placed enterprise wikis well to the right of the disillusionment area of the "hype - disillusionment - growth acceptance" bell-curve.

There is a company in Liverpool who are very knowledgeable regarding Confluence - can build plug-ins etc. They are very busy at the moment.

Jeffrey Walker (Atlassian) Introductions, then: Josh Wold, pre-sales support, has moved from the US to London. Can now give us support in our time zone. 37% of Atlassian's business is in Europe. They will establish a office in Europe in the next few months. They are talking to a team of independent developers in Poland who know the Atlassian products very well. They are in discussions. I predict that this team will probably become the backbone of Atlassian’s European support.

Atlassian were established 5.5 years ago. They had a 1M turnover - now 25M. They now have around 8,500 customers. They aim to always keep their costs low and the costs of products low.

The largest Confluence wiki is at SAP with around 800,000 signed-up users. An interesting customer is Pixar Animation Studios. All film production PM meetings have a scribe keying into a wiki page.

New releases of Confluence will come every 8 - 12 weeks. Features due to arrive soon are: UI improvements for Attach / Insert while in Edit; a new super user role - Manager with more powers than Admin; sorting of gallery pictures; other UI-like drop-down menus; page ordering; an easy installer.

Expect to see many commercial 3rd party plug-ins.

SharePoint Connector, which provides for Cross Search, imbedding of a wiki page in SP, wiki links direct to SP and a single sign-on.

The "Builder" product from has a tool that can turn an email archive item into a wiki page. We could use this to enable mail-in.

PIX Software produced a case study showing how a major bank had used JIRA as a large scale Bill Payment processor.

Atlassian are finding themselves adapting to the fact that their wiki is being used in the enterprise whereas at the start it was used in technical communities. This brings new requirements in the area of permission.

Lodovic Hirlimann from JOOST said that Confluence was used as their document repository globally. They found it very good for test cases and test results. They make extensive use of templates for page creation - using templates to auto-label pages. They use JIRA for their entire travel authorisation process!

Josh talked about uses for the wiki. He pointed to many case studies on their site such as BI reporting using charting plug-in.

Ideas that came from the floor: hold person-to-person brainstorming sessions involving senior managers. Get each of them to think of their (or their department's) 6 best successes / best practices then point them at a blank wiki page to write about them all.

On the wiki, build discussion trees / problem solving procedures.
Start CEO blogging using a personal space and the NEWS label. The CEO could make a physical desk visit to anyone who comments to give words of encouragement.

Use a Rate-this-page, digg style plug-in.

Second Life are big users of JIRA.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The cost effective wiki based intranet

Last Wednesday I spoke at he Intranet Benchmarking Forum’s Global IBF meeting in London.

Afterwards, I spotted Richard Dennison's post about one aspect of the event: the Financial Calculator.

Richard's post along with the single response by shaidorsai got me thinking about the cost/benefit equation of using a wiki for one's intranet.

During the meeting, while Lars Ploughmann of Headshift was giving his exelent talk, a senior figure from one of the global IBF members commented that a Confluence wiki was not that cheap. Though the licence fee was only GBP4000, the total installed cost was likly to run to 70 – 90k.

This could turn out to be true but I would argue that this expense is more-or-less a one-off.

During a typical year (for our Notes/Domino based intranet) I paid 30k for our business partner to develop an image library, 90k for a Powerpoint presentation storage and download area, and 20k for enhancements to a bespoke meeting booking system. This pattern was repeated each year as new business requirements emerged. For each requirement, a lengthy making-of-a-business-case process was needed.

Because the wiki imposes no business logic, process or work flow, once I have paid the first year cost, these types (and other currently un-thought off types) of application can emerge for free (OK, there is my salary and those of the business departments, but these would have been a factor of the old way of working as well!).

In addition, because the wiki supports self organizing, I expect business users to emerge, creating their own applications, with only a minimal amount of support from me (the central intranet management function).

If of-the-shelf commercial plug-ins, or even bespoke code is needed to support some of the more elaborate emergent apps, it should be possible to develop working prototypes for free using the base functionality of Confluence. Benefit could then be measured over a period and used to justify the additional spend as part of a phase II.

To steal a phrase from our head of corporate comms: "it's easy to get [financial] approval if the 'i' in ROI is kept small"

Friday, October 19, 2007

Use the wiki to bring in the lurkers

Often during my meetings with Euan Semple he refers to corporate intranets as "knowledge coffins". This is pertinent as one of my worries about the intranet that I manage is that, though I can see numerous items of fresh content posted each week, I am far from convinced that anyone is reading it!

I see enterprise strength wiki integration as a major way to address this and reinvigorate the intranet. Notification features such as granular Watch, E-mail Notification, and of course RSS, features of enterprise wiki offerings like Socialtext and Atlassian's Confluence will draw a regular audience into the wiki, and, just perhaps, the legacy intranet content via hyper-links.

This new crowd of active and frequent lurkers boost the ROI by consuming, and hopefully acting on, the wealth of business knowledge that the weekly posters so diligently supply.

To boost this effect, I would love to find a way to integrate the wiki's built-in search and labels (tag cloud) such that it returns relevant documents from the legacy intranet in addition to wiki pages. The converse of this would be to also have the intranet search include wiki pages.

Does anyone have experience of integrating wikis and legacy intranets in this way? I look forward to hearing your comments.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

DotNetNuke Goes Social?

I have just returned from the Software Developer Conference (SDC) in Arnhem. My area of interest was DotNetNuke (DNN) the open source CMS and web application framework for the Microsoft environment. An entire conference within a conference, (DNN Open Force 07) was planned.

Although I no longer develop I have recently used DNN to deploy a number of corporate websites. Readers of this blog will know that my focus of interest is the intranet and enterprise 2.0. My experience of DNN had taught me that it has huge potential for use inside the firewall for corporate intranet/extranet apps but that the social tools were rather weak and underdeveloped. I wanted to hear from the core DNN team, whether 2.0 was on their radar?

I was not disappointed! Shaun Walker’s (DNN’s dynamic founder and CEO) keynote bristled with references to the social tools he was determined to bring to the core product. The topic also came up in break-out sessions by Salar Golestanian, Stefan Kamphuis.

Blog Platform

I gathered from later sessions that plans for a blogging platform module “as good as any out there” were well advanced and perhaps we would see this within six to twelve months.

Although the blog platform tool market on the consumer web is more or less sewn up by the likes of Typepad, Google Blogger and others (therefore the barrier to entry is huge) I see a significant niche market within the firewall.

Forward thinking intranet managers are crying out for a economical business blog platform that can be easily integrated with core intranet facilities like authentication and notification. If DNN get it right (provide the essential features and also the permissioning tools to allow the intranet manager to balance workforce self-organising with an element of control for both employee and customer blogging) they will be on to a winner.

I am considering offering my services to help them with their requirements definition.

Tomorrow I will post about the possibilities for an enterprise wiki within DNN.

All comments welcome.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Reinvigorate that legacy intranet

  1. A recent post by by Stewart Madder on the Atlassian blog prompted me to explain how I believe an enterprise wiki can be used to re-invigorate a legacy intranet.

    Typically, the intranet tools which are in use today have somewhat clumsy publishing processes. There is a form to fill out with half a dozen fields (categories / sub-categories, Title, expiry, attachment and a few more) Some of them even have an approval/authorization process and other impose a conversion routine where word attachments are converted to HTML. Information is usually categorized via a taxonomy and it exists in silos that mirror the companies’ organizational structure.

    Thos who know wikis will appreciate the magical qualities they bring to content management, some of which are.

    - Incredible ease of publishing
    - Anyone can publish / anyone can read
    - There is no clear content owner. This reduces the feeling of intimidation thereby encourages others to pitch-in and improve the text.
    - The tags (labels) provide for a folksonomy and a way for one piece of information to be categorized in many ways thereby enhancing discovery.
    - Notification: Advanced enterprise strength wikis like Confluence have sophisticated “watch” tools that provide both email and (spam/virus free) RSS notifications of new and changed content.

    It is my hope that the workforce will create new documents within the wiki that reference, via hyperlinks somewhat more formal documents that exist within the traditional intranet thereby driving traffic to and reinvigorating the legacy intranet content (or the sub-set of that content that the workforce decide is still relevant/useful.

    As part of a future phase I would like to investigate Atlassian’s social book marking plug-in to see if this can be used to boost this effect.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Quechup Sucks!

I am very angry.

Yesterday I went through every contact in my Gmail account and inserted spurious characters into each email address. I then cancelled my membership at Quechup.

This morning at around 06:00 Quechup spammed everyone in my address book using the email addresses as they were when I signed up last Tuesday.

I implore all of you in the Blogosphere to get the word out regarding the shameful behaviour of this "service"

Thursday, September 6, 2007

A public letter to Quechup

I have canceled my account with Quechup. The cancellation process gave one the opportunity to give a reason. I reproduce my response below as an open letter to the Quechup operators.


I heard of outrageous and unacceptable behavior of your site/software re: spamming. I have read many reports of your software spamming every person in one's mailbox without first requesting permission!

I trusted your site with my Gmail password and elected not to email any of my contacts. I will be most annoyed if you spam them after I resign (as I have heard has happened to others)

I have blogged about this unacceptable behavior and advised everyone to stay away from your site. You have made a lot of people out here very angry with you. I suggest immediate cessation of the spamming and a public apology. Do not underestimate the power of the blogosphere to negatively or indeed positively impact your business!

You claim to be a social network is in my opinion rather unbelievable too. In my opinion you are a front for the iDate dating outfit!

Alek Lotoczko

Don't have anything to do with Quechup!

This is a WARNING. There are many reports of this new site (that claims to be a social network) spamming ones entire address book without permission or warning.

I received an invitation from Euan Semple to join him on this network and accepted (based on my complete trust of Euan) Later when I attended a meeting with him I learnt of the outrageous and unacceptable behaviour of this site. It seems that the spamming can occur at any time after initial sign-up and the act of resigning from the site often triggers spamming.

HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH QUECHUP!! and tell all of your Friends.

It seems that Quechup is operated by the iDate corporation: Shame on you!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Integrated Enterprise Intranet

Luis Suarez made an excellent post yesterday: Old Meets New: Lotus Domino and Atlassian - It’s All about Integration! the main theme of which was to endorse my view of integrating the new tools with the old.

“in such a way that the wiki would be the main tool used, but still in conjunction with the already existing” [intranet type apps]

As a result I decided to try to represent, in diagram form, my vision of this integration of old with new:
The new social tools are used by the workforce community to talk sometimes, about content that can be found within the legacy intranet(s) and within the dedicated (specialist) portals. Also, documents bound eventually for these “locked-down” dedicated portals might start life as a collaboratively authored document within the wiki.

In the opposite direction, basic workforce information flows from the formal HR systems to form the skeletal person pages within the wiki. The employee can then embellish these with the more social/transient sections (languages I speak, web sites(or intranet pages!) I find interesting, projects I am working on)

Luis goes on: “The key towards a successful implementation and deployment of social computing tools behind the corporate firewall is not going to be on the substitution of already existing collaborative tools, but in the integration, consolidation and augmentation of what is already available”

In my book, the definition of Web 2.0 is user-created content. If a social book- marking tool can be deployed over the top of the legacy intranets then users (the workforce) will use it to decide to reinvigorate the parts of the legacy intranet that the crowd judges to be still useful/relevant, by linking to it.

“by providing different ways on how those same tools would merge and integrate with the collaboration and knowledge sharing flow of what is already available”

As Dennis Howlett put it last week:

“There is no requirement to ditch incumbent applications that continue to deliver value"

A big thank you to Luis for so eloquently wording what must be our shared vision and also for his kind words about my contribution.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Dennis Howlett’s post Old meets new: Lotus Domino and Atlassian seems to have generated new interest in DominoWiki the excellent open source wiki by Ben Pool. I even saw a question on Ben’s blog from IBM’s Domino head honcho: Ed Brill! The question is: why did the project outgrow DominoWiki?

This caused me to return to earlier thoughts regarding what makes a wiki enterprise strength?

When I spoke to Ben at Lotusphere Comes To You early this year I outlined some of the bespoke changes we were making to the product. It became clear that some of these features were being looked at for inclusion in the core project, probably for V1.2 (I fully emphasize with the brand of open source developer who have to feed their families by way of day gigs while pursuing the development of the project by night. This inevitably makes for a slow rate of progress)

I needed some improvements quickly. These are the features I decided were needed in order promote interest and make the product highly usable within the enterprise:

Tag cloud: I noticed that the Categories function built-in to DominoWiki worked rather like tags. I renamed them to tags and had a tag cloud built.

Pages by tags view – users using the tags. I feel the process of discovering others who are using the same tag(s) is key.

All tags used by a user view - Discover other stuff that like minded users are writing.

Auto image tag insert One thing that caused a lot of confusion - "I uploaded an image but it does not show up on the page".

Improved tagging process - Existing tags (categories) were lost if one selected a new one. I combined a check-box system by which users had to uncheck a tag to remove it. Combined with the list of all tags in the wiki to select from and the field into which new tags could be entered (multiple tags separated by commas)

Many pages of help & advice - I composed many instructional pages to guide the new user.

Colour text markup

Alt-text markup for non CamelCase page name links - I could not see how to display text for a link that was not the page name

Things I am considering adding in the near future:

email-in - Any Domino user will know that the platform lends itself to this. This is a killer feature for any wiki as it allows reluctant users to compose within an editor they are familiar with. It also allows those on mobile email devices or within web cafe to utilise a spare moment to log an inspirational thought.

email Alerts

Granular RSS - down to page (and its children) level (RSS is a major component of Enterprise 2.0)

Delete Page Improvements - Giving consideration to history

Advanced Tag Cloud - Related Tags View, 20 most popular only etc.

"Newsworthy” checkbox - push a link to the homepage,

Permissioned Areas, - A major requirement for Enterprise

Rich-Text Editor

Printer Friendly facility

Atlassian, as a result of a presumably huge investment has given all of these features (and more) to Confluence in its out-of-the box form and the enterprise licensing costs are very competitive.

Despite this the DominoWiki based wikis (I now employ three) continue to provide real value and in my opinion have enormous potential.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The story so far

I had been in the intranet driving seat for two years. It was summer 2006. I had become aware of two things: the intranet was languishing a bit and all sorts of cool things were appearing on the consumer web.

Surely there must be a way to bring some of these things from the web to reinvigorate the intranet? I felt that the ease of use of tools such as Flickr, and Protopage were the key. If I could make the intranet publishing process as easy (and fun!)to use I would be on to a winner. But this would not deal with the other problem. I had heard comments from some rather senior people that they “could not find things” on the intranet and I suspected that, although we had a fair amount of content being posted each week, few people were reading it.

To address this, I was attempting to update the intranet’s taxonomy. I planned to use a card sort exercise to arrive at a new one. I anticipated that it would be a daunting task. I was also investigating enterprise search tools (but I got shocked by the sticker prices! – would find it hard to find the funding for that kind of money)

Then I started hearing stories of some enterprises using wikis to replace large parts of their intranets……. More in part 2 soon.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Sounds Familiar?

"NHS Orkney already had such a site, but it was rarely updated and difficult to navigate. Managing a traditional site requires considerable technical skill and effort. A good webmaster is a rare combination of techie, editor and manager: even if NHS Orkney had the resources to recruit a full-time webmaster, recruiting the right person would have been very difficult. Besides the simple matter of managing a site, anticipating and servicing the evolving needs of every department and group is an insurmountable task for one webmaster, much less an army of them. So the available technical skills were stretched too thin, the task too large, and the website became hopelessly out of date"

Traction, NewsGator Weave a Web That Works

Friday, August 3, 2007

Integrated is best?

IBM and Microsoft are moving rapidly to integrate the most popular elements of social computing into single integrated product suites. Of the two, IBM in my opinion has the most impressive effort to-date with Lotus Connections. This suite is centered on a Facebook style person profile which propagates itself as a corporate directory. Tagging is well supported as is a rather good social book marking facility inherited from IBM’s internal Dogear program. There is also good integrated support for blogging. Surprisingly there is no wiki (you have to look to another product: Lotus Quickr for this and even then you get a very basic wiki). Despite its name, Connections is not a Notes/Domino application, it runs on WAS.

I should also mention the work being done by Spikesource. They produce a package based on the Socialtext wiki product bundled with a number of open source tools to provide other aspects of social computing.

Last week I attended a ZDNet/Forrester webinar on Enterprise 2.0 They pointed to a demand from enterprises for integrated suites.

From the point of view of an IT guy. One that has to deliver real-world working solutions, a truly integrated package is an attractive proposition.

When I showed Connections to Euan Semple, however he was less than enthusiastic. He pointed out that when all the tools (wiki, blog, forum) are bundled together in the one tool, users got confused as to how they were supposed to use each element.

I can certainly appreciate that a fair amount of user training would be required to get Connections off the ground within the enterprise.

Once we get our hosted Confluence wiki onto our own servers I want to pursue the provision of workforce blogs via Confluences’ News tag coupled with personal spaces (not available on hosted) and also to explore the book marking plug-in (though I am led to believe this might not quite work in the way one would expect)

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


The project team has been following the rubric of only embedding links to wiki pages within emails and not duplicating the page content as text within the email thereby drawing readers into the wiki. But this has led to complaints from Blackberry users. They state that it would be more convenient to have the plain text of the message within the email.

I feel that I must now escalate the provision of Blackberry access to the Confluence wiki – something I originally intended to postpone to a later phase.


Tonight I will attend London Wiki Wednesday. The topic for tonight’s open discussion is: Encouraging contributors and participation. I am hoping to pick up some new ideas. The user population of our wiki has grown from 6 on the date we started our Atlassian hosted Confluence site (June) to around 93. The statistics for lurkers are quite good but I feel that the figures for content creators are languishing a bit so I am looking for fresh ideas to break out of the 1:9:90 rule.