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, de.lios.us 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.