Category: social-software

A Social Sickness

Hmm.. how about this. This is an social app that allows people to record themselves as “sick” with various degrees of granularity:

Who is sick?

From the site:
Who Is Sick was started in 2006 with a mission to provide current and local sickness information to the public – without the hassle of dealing with hospitals or doctors. With a strong belief in the power of people and a faith that user generated content can be extremely valuable, our team set out to create an entirely new system for tracking and monitoring sickness in your area and obtain sickness information. Information retrieved by tracking sickness in my area can also be used to map sickness trends in my region.

Given the relatively slower adoption of internet and “web 2.0′ technology by much of the healthcare industry, our team of healthcare professionals, technology entrepreneurs, mothers, fathers, and caregivers set out to create a simple, user-friendly, and valuable website for the average consumer. We are currently building out our team and expanding our technology breadth across new and exciting areas of healthcare with Who Is Sick as our first offering. Stay tuned for more!

Building the Flickr Community

The Future of Communities Blog » Blog Archive » Building the…

At South by Southwest, Twitter just went bonkers. It was the ideal environment for it–lots of influential geeks in a small area, all wanting to tell each other what they were doing, and all talking about how Twitter was going bonkers, and blogging about it. I wonder: Was that an anomaly? Can small companies ever count on seeing their product explode onto the scene all at once like that?

[Caterina] Fake: You can’t count on that kind of thing, ever. We very carefully built the community on Flickr, person by person. The team and I greeted every single person who arrived, introduced them around, hung out in the chatrooms.  It was a very hands-on process, building the community

Qumana has changed my blogging life

If you haven’t tried Qumana yet, you need to. It is by far the best blog editor that I have found. Many thanks to Luis (aka Captain KM) for his suggestion.

One of my favorite features is the droppad. I keep mine in the lower right hand corner of the screen. It’s great for cliping little quotes or images that I want to blog about, but more importantly it serves as a little reminder to keep my blog fresh.

And while I’m at it, I’d also give a nod to FastStone Image Capture as one of the best screen capture / editing programs I’ve use.

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Cisco acquisition of Five Across

I suspect most have heard of the Cisco acquisition of Five Across (the parent company of tribe.net). The NY Times has a short write-up:

"But along with the recent purchase of a social network design firm, Five Across, the deal will give Cisco the technology to help large corporate clients create services resembling MySpace or YouTube to bring their customers together online. And that ambition highlights a significant shift in the way companies and entrepreneurs are thinking about social networks."

Analyst Mike Gotta has some thoughts on the acquisition that bode well for IBM, particularly the comments about required partner model, and professional services:

As I mentioned in an earlier post on the Five Across acquisition by Cisco, there are many factors ranging from brand (what people associate with Cisco), professional services (building out any type of community-oriented strategy requires more than technology competencies), and partner model (Cisco may not attract partners that it might normally have been able to do business with since they are not competing with vendors at the application layer) and so on. Unless one of these acquisitions delivers credibility outside the technology aspect of social networking, I remain skeptical that these moves will amount to anything.

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Live Blogging Lotusphere – Social Computing Keynote

While the laptop battery lasts…

Jeff Schick – VP Social Computing – Lotus Connections is enterprise ready social software.

Here are select paraphrased quotes from Jeff’s talk:

Innovation can come from anywhere in the org chart, and flow in any direction – from the bottom, from the top, or even from outside…

Imagine how much Wisdom is resident in the people in your company who are about to retire.

Social software has emerged as a an important enabler of innovation.

There are five components in Lotus Connections:

  • Actvities – tool for ad-hoc collaboration
  • Blogs – individual and community blogs
  • Communities – tool for inte
  • Dogear – social bookmarking tool
  • Profiles – rich, web based enterprise directory

Ajamu Wesley – Senior Technical Staff Member in Social Software.

Profiles are the foundation of discovery as they tell people who we are, what we do, and what we’ve done.”
Communities bring people with shared interests together.” Communities can have blogs and bookmarks, shared missions and content.

Dogear [social bookmarking tool] unlocks buried information allowing people to discover resources through others’ experiences”

DEMO – Profiles, Dogear, Communties

Dogear – Enterpirse bookmarking with features much like del.icio.us. Bookmarklets and a Firefox plug-in for user’s convenience. Bookmarks can be associated with related communities and allow for a pivot search against these communities. They can also be pivot points for people’s records in the Profiles directory.

Ronnie Maffa – Director, Community-Centric Collaboration.

Blogs provide a new direct connection between communities of people inside and outside of our business.”

Activities help you organize your work, plan next steps, and collaborate easily with others to execute on your everyday deliverables”

DEMO – Blogs and Activities

Blogs: Customized version of Roller that is integrated into the rest of the services in Lotus Connections.

Activities: “Its about the work that you do”. Connected to the Profiles system to allow the user to share the content or ownership of the activity with other users. Activities is written with a REST based ATOM api that allows for integration into other platforms. An example is shown of the Activities integrated into Notes 8.

MySpace and the Future of UI Design

I love my cousin Ana, which is why I hate to say this, but her MySpace page is horrendous. Last I saw it there was a giant background image of pirate ship, the controls for sending her messages, adding as a friend etc. where unrecognizable, and there was more than one element on the page that deformed it and contributed to the more than 1 screen width’s worth of horizontal scroll… oy vey.

But it really doesn’t matter. At least not as far as the purpose of the site is concerned. Ana and her friends use the site just as the creators might have intended it – to share music tastes send messages and most importantly in this context – to express themselves. A view of Ana’s page on any single day shows a new song and a fresh page full of messages from her friends.

My page has a very standard layout and I’m lucky if I get a message every other month.

So clearly, for the intended audience, Ana’s two page wide, horizontal scrolling, pirate ship’d page soundly kicks the crap out of the online manifestation of my OCD.

So here is what I want to know… what is an enterprise web application admin console going to look like when Ana get her hands on it? (Not that she’ll go into software – she’s headed for something more than that I think… but you know what I mean). There is something coming out of MySpace, that although “eye-bleedingly bad” as Tom Coates mentioned, is very free and, in a way, unspoiled by the constraints of conventional design.

Don’t mistake me. If I see a giant pirate ship background in an admin console, or any other piece of software I come across, I’ll toss it instantly … but I am really interested to see where free form design like this will take us…

A Lession in Perceived Value

“These sliding alert windows must stop.”

That was the text of an instant message from an executive talking about some software I was writing, along with a few members of the WebAhead team at IBM. It was 2002 and we had released an internal project called IBM Community Tools (ICT) that combined instant messaging with Broadcast Messaging. The anonymous executive’s request was not without precedent from other users of the software – but they where not in the majority.

The Broadcast messaging tool used a Pub/Sub engine written by IBM Research that allowed for messages to be sent to a large number of users subscribed on a particular topic. These messages weren’t email, just bytes over the network. It was up to the receiving software to determine what to do with them. In the case of ICT we sent around XML messages that originated as requests from individual users for response from the community in the form of a poll, group chat or 1-on-1 chat. For online users subscribed to the topic (community) that the requester was using they were alerted with a sliding window that contained the content of the request. This window would slide into the user’s screen from the right, wait 10 seconds, and slide away.

This was based on a previously successful system, with a small cult following that alerted the users with an even more intrusive pop-up that did not go away until the user closed it. When we were building out the system for a lager audience we realized that that type of interface would not scale for the broader user population.

It’s important to mention here that by default all users were initially subscribed to the “everyone” community. This was the default community for questions that did not have a clear category. The software allowed for client side filtering so that instead of subscribing to messages for a large list of communities the users could list key terms that would indicate a message they were interested in. We fooled around with an adaptive filtering scheme at one point, but filtering in general was largely unused.

This meant that most people who were logged on to the system got the messages sent to the “everyone” community. It also meant that most people got messages that were really not relevant to them, but *most* users didn’t complain. It’s funny to think about it – in essence we built a spam tool and just put it out in the IBM internal wild and let it run loose. At first glance its surprising that anyone enabled it at all.

From the beginning there were people who “got it” and they were on board right away. For the people who considered it a livable minor annoyance, over time, we noticed a pattern, there was a very simple tipping point that changed people’s minds. If they used the system to find the answer to a question that they had no other clue about how to answer they were hooked. There seemed to be an instant transformation in their opinion not only of the tool, but their perceived inconvenience with receiving broadcast messages. These people then started to become evangelists, slowly changing the minds of others.

I believe that this principle applies in most social software and is more evidence for what Tom Coates mentioned in his talk. There must be percieved value to the user. In the case of ICT, that perceived value might not have come for some time and I am sure that, dispite its relative success internally, there might have been something that we could have done to show that perceived value from the beginning.

Mike Gotta on Social Software: “It’s the Design Criteria that Counts”

Mike Gotta posted a piece over at Collaborative Thinking on some thoughts that he had w.r.t to social software…

Often I find that the consumer market is also an interesting environment to examine given that many of these tools remain emergent within the large enterprise. To over-generalize what happens:

  • Consumers begin to use socially-oriented sites for their own purposes
  • They end up sharing content more easily with friends, family and so on
  • Along the way they discover that they can find information and activities that are of interest more rapidly
  • And in doing so, they continue to connect with other people, forming relationships, communities, etc.
  • Which persuades them to create, customize, and extend their own social environment which in turnÂ…
  • Encourages reciprocation; adding value back across their associated networks, groups and communities

This lines up nicely with Tom Coates assertions from his Future of Web Apps talk. Its a philosphy we’ve been talking about at IBM recently that we’ve called the Discover -> Connect -> Execute cycle. Mike also relates this consumer pattern to the business environment:

Studying consumer patterns and correlating them to possible use case scenarios within a business environment is a pragmatic approach that can benefit enterprise strategists. There are similarities that people can learn from and apply internally.

  • Workers use tagging and social bookmark tools to capture and organize information for their own purposes
  • The public and accessible nature of tags and bookmarks enables workers to share information more easily with other co-workers
  • Other workers that rely on such tags and bookmarks to find information in turn, post about such information in their corporate blogs
  • Other workers that subscribe to the RSS feeds of that blog read the commentary on the information originally captured by the tags and bookmarks and create a wiki to begin co-authoring a report for a project where that information happens to be very relevant
  • Other project members connect from the wiki to the blog to the bookmarks and discover that there are many other people in the organization that have similar interests or are involved in similar activities
  • The person who originally tagged and bookmarked the information shares additional resources that has been collected with the project team and begins another wiki in parallel that acts as a community site for those involved in similar projects across the enterprise

In the work that we’ve been doing within the Lotus brand, especially with our internal social software projects, we’ve seen this happen time and time again. There have been instances where entire projects (admittedly of varying scale) where formed out of little more than
people meeting across our blog system and using the blog system, bookmarking system and wiki system to move from socializing to actively collaborating. The discovery portion of that cycle was what made the real difference.

Tom Coates on Social Software

tom coates

Carson Workshops held a summit on the future of web apps back in September of 2006. There where some interesting talks, but by far my favorite was given by Tom Coates of Yahoo. He had some insightful generalities that he believes about social software and what makes it valuable. It’s definitely worth a listen. One of the observations he makes is this:

How you can use social software to build aggregate value… in a nutshell:

  • An individual should get value from their contribution
  • These contributions should provide value to their peers as well
  • The organization that hosts the service should derive aggregate value and be able to expose that back to the users.

Thats just one component of the talk – theres a good deal more packed in to the thirty-eight minutes and forty-two seconds. You can get it from the future of web apps site.