Microsoft-Yahoo deal: links for Feb 13, 2008

February 13, 2008

Updated links relating to Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo! from eweek, zdnet, forbes and fortune.
Read at

Facebook’s dilemma: To be OpenSocial or not to be

November 2, 2007

By Dan Farber

Facebook is now the lone wolf, the only major social network not to partake of Google’s OpenSocial APIs. This is understandable. A radical change of course is not easy to contemplate. Facebook is the social networking leader, not in raw numbers but in momentum, demographic goodness and potential. The company was greatly lauded for opening up its platform and social graph to empower developers with APIs and a markup language.

Now Facebook is facing the hordes, 200 million foot soldiers–members of competing social networks. Google, MySpace, Six Apart, Ning, Bebo, hi5 and other social networks are giddy with delight in that now, in the name of greater openness than Facebook and comparable functionality, they have a Trojan horse to stalk Facebook, which has been rapidly colonizing members across the globe.

Developers are obviously delighted because they can leverage their code across multiple social network “containers.” Users will far more utility as popular applications spread beyond Facebook, and more developers get into the game.

Facebook’s has some immediate challenges. From a press perspective, the company has not been very transparent regarding its thinking on OpenSocial.

Facebook’s official statement as of yesterday was:

Despite reports, Facebook has still not been briefed on OpenSocial. When we have had a chance to understand the technology, then Facebook will evaluate participation relative to the benefits to its 50 million users and 100,000 platform developers.

In fact, Facebook has been very much aware of OpenSocial within the last week and talking with Google’s OpenSocial team. Facebook team members attend last night’s Campfire 1, where OpenSocial was formally rolled out, but weren’t ready to talk to the press, somewhat like deer caught in the headlights.
In contrast, MySpace, which was going down a similar path to Facebook with its own APIs and markup language, found out about OpenSocial about 36 hours before it was launched, saw the light and created some compelling demos with Flixster. MySpace’s uphill battle to compete with Facebook for the most valued users just got much easier.

All of this is a clear sign the Facebook is carefully weighing its options, and unsure as to how to deal with the shifting landscape. This dilemma comes just after Facebook was celebrated for its $15 billion valuation and Microsoft alliance, a validation for 23-year-old CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s and Facebook’s crown as the new prince of Silicon Valley.

Facebook could continue to plow ahead with its own APIs and markup language, maintaining its walled garden approach.

Analytics firm Compete points out that Facebook attracts a different set of entrenched, core users than MySpace and other competitors. “It will be difficult for this group to leave, and questionable as to whether they would even want to,” said Compete’s Max Freiert.

Facebook members have strong loyalty to the service–50 pages per day per person on average, according to the company. That is a position of strength. Facebook has built a service that people are flocking to by the millions per month, growing users at more than 3 percent per week.

But a downside is that its competitors and developers will paint Facebook as a pariah hiding behind a walled garden.

This could impact how members of the community think about their social networking home base. The scenario would not be much different from a political campaign–one unintended, ill-timed scream and Facebook’s members could lose faith and move their support to another service, which have been newly empowered by the OpenSocial APIs.

It’s a tough choice for the young company. Funding is not an issue, but pride and doing the right thing for users are. Zuckerberg has said that not providing users with more control over their data on Facebook is a flaw in the service. That would indicate that more openness is good for users, and developers.

Bottom line, if the OpenSocial APIs give Facebook and its application developers what is needed to build great applications, then it seems like a no-brainer to grit their teeth, revamp the platform as needed and embrace the more open APIs.

This choice doesn’t mean that Facebook will end up with lowest common denominator or just me-too applications. The likely scenario is that social networks (the containers for applications) will develop extensions that leverage unique aspects of their platforms and provide some differentiation.

If Facebook has a significant competitive edge because of its pioneering development platform, then adopting OpenSocial makes less sense. And on a practical front, giving Google de facto control of the core APIs for user profiles, friends and activity streams will be a cause for discomfort. On the other hand, so far Google is taking input from partners (who are also competitors) as the API specs have evolved.

Anil Dash of Six Apart, a member of the OpenSocial fan club, sums up the bigger picture of what is going on:

It’s not true to say that Facebook is the new AOL, and it’s oversimplification to say that Facebook’s API is the new Blackbird, or the new Rainman. But Facebook is part of the web. Think of the web, of the Internet itself, as water. Proprietary platforms based on the web are ice cubes. They can, for a time, suspend themselves above the web at large. But over time, they only ever melt into the water. And maybe they make it better when they do.

For reference, Google and others have been chipping away at the proprietary Microsoft iceberg, but it is melting very slowly into the water and continues to mint money for itself and its ecosystem of developers.


The state of Enterprise 2.0

November 1, 2007

by Dion Hinchcliffe

Industry analysts, CIOs, and business leaders around the world are continuing to try to read the industry tea leaves in 2007 when it comes to the subject of Enterprise 2.0, the increasingly popular discussion of using Web 2.0 platforms in the workplace. The primary topic of interest? Whether Enterprise 2.0 brings real bang for the buck by making the daily work of organizations measurably more productive, efficient, and innovative. Investors and executives are just not going to make significant bets on Enterprise 2.0 in terms of resources and risk exposure without good information on the likely returns of implementation.

Up until recently, the lack of mature Enterprise 2.0 products, good case studies, and feedback from early experiences that successfully dealt with some of the challenges that these frequently disruptive and occasionally subversive tools introduced. This immature state of affairs was often holding back even corporate pilots of highly promising candidate Enterprise 2.0 technologies such as enterprise blogs, wikis, and even mashups.

However, increasing evidence abounds that Enterprise 2.0 adoption has begun in earnest with a typical example being Wells Fargo taking the plunge, having rolled out Enterprise 2.0 platforms to 160,000 workers. It has become clear that we’re moving out of the early pioneer phase to a broader acceptance phase. From the production side, a brand new analysis indicates that the business social software market will be nearly $1 billion strong this year and over $3.3 billion by 2011. In these and other ways, such as the growing collection of success stories, Enterprise 2.0 has arrived.

The big question for many of those on the fence now is: 1) Do we now have the right capabilities in terms of ready Enterprise 2.0 products? And 2) Do we generally understand how to apply them properly to obtain good returns on our investment in them? Knowing the answers to both questions will almost certainly tell us if we’re ready for mainstream adoption of adoption of Enterprise 2.0 any time soon.

Enterprise 2.0 redux

Professor Andrew McAfee of Harvard Business School famously introduced the term and concepts behind Enterprise 2.0 last year and it’s had a heady ride across the industry and in the press ever since. Initially defined by McAfee as “the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers”, the broader global community has attempt to expand, reinvent, and co-opt Enterprise 2.0 with varying degrees of success. But the essential, core meaning has largely stayed the same: Social applications that are optional to use, free of unnecessary structure, highly egalitarian, and support many forms of data.

McAfee even coined a menmonic to make it easy for everyone to remember what appeared to be the key aspects of these social platforms. Called SLATES, it was an easy checklist to verify that the tools you were considering had the right essential ingredients. Under this initial definition Web 2.0 poster children blogs and wikis were identified as Enterprise 2.0 platforms (provided that they provided reasonable support for SLATES) as well as more sophisticated tools such as prediction markets and even vertical business applications like customer directed taxi cab dispatching were given as early examples of richer Enterprise 2.0 applications.

Examples platforms that failed to make the cut as Enterprise 2.0 because they didn’t have the qualities that were believed to be important for business business outcomes? These included most corporate intranets and portals, most groupware, as well as e-mail and “classic” instant messaging. Why? They either didn’t provide access to a voice for workers to communicate and collaborate with or they didn’t create results that were persistent and globally visible. In the end, Enterprise 2.0 takes most of the potent ideas of Web 2.0, user generated content, peer production, and moves them into the workplace.

Did the original articulation of Enterprise 2.0 have the right focus and point us in the best direction? And has the conception of it evolved from this vision to reflect that which we’ve learned along the way? Going back again to our two questions that will inform us as to the state of Enterprise 2.0; what have learned from our experiences with the early platforms and initial rollouts of Enterprise 2.0 and what does it teach us?

state of Enterprise 2.0 – Fall 2007

Here is what appears to be what we’ve learned about Enterprise 2.0 up to this point in time. There is of course no way to make this list complete though I believe it covers most of the big lessons. Also, entirely in the spirit of Enterprise 2.0 itself, I strongly encourage that you add anything that you think I’ve left out in TalkBack below or in a link from your own blog.

Lesson #1: Enterprise 2.0 is going to happen in your organization with you or without you. Enterprise 2.0 is now happening on its own in many organizations and it’s up to the business and IT to not so much take control but to enable it with things such as effective enterprise search and which helps prevent silos and duplicate, yet unsynchronized data from forming.

Lesson #2: Effective Enterprise 2.0 seems to involve more than just blogs and wikis. The discussion often starts with these simple freeform tools but should progress beyond this to other platforms that are better for specific situations such as enterprise mashups which enable for user-created Web applications what enterprise blogs and wikis for user-created content and structure. Predictive market products such as HP’s BRAIN platform and online innovation facilitators such as Innocentive are other potentially more sophisticated examples of Enterprise 2.0 platforms. Social bookmarking is also starting to gain speed in the enterprise as way of providing a rich information discovery mechanism internally.

Lesson #3: Enterprise 2.0 is more a state of mind than a product you can purchase. While a widely covered report from Forrester earlier this year clearly showed that CIOs would prefer to buy one single Enterprise 2.0 suite instead of cobbling together a combination of point solutions for blogging, wikis, RSS consumption, and social networking, the reality is that even the best Enterprise 2.0 suites will be missing key pieces for a long time. To get decent returns from Enterprise 2.0 implementations, organizations will require really good enterprise search, access to enterprise data from within Enterprise 2.0 tools, the ability to create mashups at a low level to the more sophisticated Enterprise 2.0-style products at a higher level. That’s not to say an Enterprise 2.0 suite such as SuiteTwo or Microsoft SharePoint can’t form the core of your Enterprise 2.0 strategy, but other products and integration work will be required to make it provide real business results in your local IT environment. This will include products that will make your Enterprise 2.0 suite support single sign-on, work in your portal environment, provide management and moderation controls, as well as integrate with your ECM and other traditional enterprise platforms.

In other words, by the time you’ve installed, configured, customized, and integrated all of the ingredients you’ve brought together, if you’ve lost sight of the specific reasons why Enterprise 2.0 is supposed to work better, your effort will have been in vain. I see this often when Enterprise 2.0 projects don’t provide, say, read access to RSS feed readers to workers or fail to make it easy to create a blog post or wiki page from the Intranet and a dozen other minor decisions made on top of the Enterprise 2.0 tools selected, yet contrary to their spirit and that will be significantly detrimental to the outcome. Best advice: Clearly understand the benefits of these news tools and ideas and then do your very best to ensure they aren’t negated.

Lesson #4: Most businesses still need to educate their workers on the techniques and best practices of Enterprise 2.0 and social media. Just like the previous generation of workers received computer literacy classes en masse and learned how to use business productivity applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, and email, the same will be required for the current generation of workers and Enterprise 2.0. The hurdle is making sure that workers have a clear understanding of the specific techniques of how to apply Enterprise 2.0 tools to their daily work. Social media information formats such as project status wiki pages to departmental news blogs are still foreign to most workers today and proactive worker education will be required to make sure the investments in Enterprise 2.0 are being appropriately reaped.

Lesson #5: The benefits of Enterprise 2.0 can be dramatic, but only builds steadily over time. One major benefit of the open, globally visible information in Enterprise 2.0 platforms is that organizational retention of knowledge actually begins to accrue on a wide scale. But it’s a continuous, linear build-up and almost never a sudden and pronounced business benefit. Adoption and habits also take time to form and it’s quite typical to see 6 months go by before significant activity begins to take place in the Enterprise 2.0 platforms in an organization. Do not expect big immediate wins but carefully measure your rollouts and make sure their network effect is being established. Particularly if your tools aren’t following SLATES, and many platforms, such as SharePoint often don’t follow SLATES by default, then growth and uptake can require a great deal of work. But like compound interest, it doesn’t take forever to begin achieving respectable results on a regular basis and all the best rollouts we’ve seen have given their Enterprise 2.0 strategies the time and support to work organically.

Lesson #6: Enterprise 2.0 doesn’t seem to put older IT systems out of business. In fact, this seems to never have happened. In fact, instead of competition, enabling connections to existing IT systems can provide significant benefits and allowing reports, views, and documents to be hosted by or connected to Enterprise 2.0 tools and can help make sure that there isn’t another silo of content in the organization. Having a blog post on the budget for FY 07 with the actual current numbers being displayed in an HTML table live from an RSS feed from the budget system is an example of this. In this way, Enterprise 2.0 seems to work better when it lives in close contact with existing IT systems than in isolation. The biggest impact of this lesson is that these new tools are so different and generally support such different types of knowledge than usually captured, that impact to existing systems seems to be minimal. Interestingly, you might see a decrease in the use of e-mail or ECM when the conversations that formerly happened on those platforms make a more natural home in Enterprise 2.0 platforms.

Lesson #7: Your organization will begin to change in new ways because of Enterprise 2.0. Be ready. Beyond simple productivity gains, other sorts of more subtle returns often accrue around Enterprise 2.0. McAfee has recently noted that these types of tools tend to create many more links between workers and different groups in an organization and that these types of links tend to provide better benefits than the stronger, more frequent links between organizational entities and individual workers. For this reason and others, Enterprise 2.0 platforms seem to foster a new type of collaboration that exhibits more innovation, creativity, and cross pollination. And because these tools are generally so freeform, they will regularly be used in ways they were never originally intended. Blogs and wikis in particularly can be put to just about any use in terms of accumulating knowledge and collaborating over a network and increasing I’ve seen Enterprise 2.0 initiatives finding them being used in entirely unexpected ways. Enterprise 2.0 enables a rich canvas for workers to think about and construct their information landscape and anything is possible.


It’s still quite useful to read Nine ideas for IT managers considering Enterprise 2.0. Almost exactly a year later, all the advice still rings true despite what we’ve learned in the interim. Nevertheless, we’re just now beginning down the road of Enterprise 2.0 and an enormous amount has yet to be learned. The increasing pervasiveness of the tools and knowledge of Enterprise 2.0 will continue to have a growing impact on our businesses for better and worse. Success stories will continue to emerge as well as the first major issues such as information spills, IP theft, and other potential problems when so much critical business information is made so much more leveragable. How to access the benefits while minimizing the risks will continue to be a major topc in the Enterprise 2.0 community.

In the meantime, I’d like to try an experiment and extend the SLATES mnemonic a bit. My biggest issue in using it in its present form to communicate Enterprise 2.0 is that it doesn’t itself capture the social, emergent, and freeform aspects that we know are so essential and so I’ve added these. I know SLATES is supposed to be capability based but it also needs to convey the intended outcomes clearly, and social capability in particular is missing. Thus, I’ve used an anagram generator to create another (hopefully) pithy mnemonic, FLATNESSES, which itself captures yet another important aspect of Enterprise 2.0, its egalitarian nature. FLATNESSES is depicted in the diagram below containing these three key aspects added to SLATES as well as a fourth which I discuss below. I hope you find this a useful conception to discuss the vital elements of Enterprise 2.0 in your efforts and would love your feedback.

Finally, I’ve also added one more capability to the new mnemonic, network-oriented, to reflect that all these aspect of Enterprise 2.0 must apply not only to applications that are fundamentally delivered over a network but that their content be fully Web-oriented, addressable, and reusable. The atomization and portability of information, such as what RSS has enabled, has been vital to the successful growth of communities like the blogosphere and one vital point about Enterprise 2.0 and Web 2.0 that many organizations don’t yet fully understand: Our enterprises are NOT the Web. And to get the full benefits of the Web 2.0 era, we must begin adapting our organizations and their information and IT resources (with suitable enterprise context) to this network-oriented model that has worked so for us globally on the Internet these last 15 years.


Significant workplace inroads for Enterprise 2.0?

November 1, 2007

By Dion Hinchcliffe

According to a random poll I recently conducted on Facebook, just over a quarter of 300 respondents — 27% of them in all — answered in the affirmative that they are provided with an easy way at work to post on a blog or put information on a wiki. I often ask this same question to gatherings of people whenever I get the chance these days and have been getting roughly the same answer for the last few months. Businesses are apparently starting to take Web 2.0 for a more serious spin.

A year ago, accessibility to blogs and wikis in the workplace was less than half this number in my informal sampling. The growth trend seems clear and appears to be increasing. So while this data might be fairly unscientific, I suspect the number is pretty accurate, and social media, aka Enterprise 2.0, is finally making some measurable inroads in the workplace despite a few open concerns about these mediums.

Facebook as a measure of social media in the general workplace?

Of course, Facebook users in general are probably more digitally literate than the average population, will look for blogs and wikis on the local Intranet to use, and thus some say they may be more likely to gravitate to workplaces and jobs that would provide an environment with familiar tools. However, one odd breakdown in the demographics of the poll is that the youngest group, 18-24 year-olds, reported the least access to social media. Perhaps it’s because this group also includes a great deal of students or that entry level workers don’t have as much computer access as workers farther up in the hierarchy.

Poll respondents were also pretty sure when they weren’t being provided with these tools with only 21% reporting that they didn’t know if they were being offered them. A whopping 52%, just over half, said that they had no social media tools offered to them in a way they could access.

The poll question was also carefully posed to uncover if tools were being “brought in the back door” by workers using the hundreds of free social media platforms out in the Web with their browser at work, or if the workplace itself was providing enterprise blogs and wikis. In my opinion, this makes the 27% “yes” number almost surprisingly high. But, while some respondents may not have parsed the question clearly, the trend is strong enough to stand on it’s own:

Blogs and wikis may finally be seeing fairly widespread “business approved” adoption in the workplace.

Getting good business outcomes from social media while managing downside

While blogs and wikis continue to show the potential to greatly improve collaboration, create higher levels of knowledge retention, and generate more reusable business information over time, it’s also probable that in attempts to access the benefits of Enterprise 2.0 platforms, these new platforms will incur some issues that IT departments and the business will have to deal with, particularly if these platforms are exposed outside the organization.

What are the business benefits and issues of social media? The diagram above depicts the world of traditional software and native PC applications with expanding access to the “2.0″ generation of new software models and platforms. Here’s a more detailed run down of the pros and cons that will have to be balanced in most organizations when deciding on providing access to these types of social media tools to their workers.

Notes: Social media is just one important aspect of Enterprise 2.0, but the one most likely to see near-term, widespread adoption. Also, the diagram above clearly shows the social media is a new aspect to the enterprise and will more likely to enhance existing IT systems over time rather than replace them outrighte with the possible exception of enterprise content management.

Reported social media in the workplace benefits:

  • More ad hoc collaboration between employees who can find each other’s work and team together.
  • More globally persistent, discoverable business information is made available over time.
  • Social media tends to capture more institutional knowledge that’s reusable.
  • A deep hyperlink infrastructure begins to form, built by continuously by workers using social media. tools to forge links, making business information more discoverable.
  • Tagging and other emergent organization methods allow business information to be organized and cross-referenced from every point of view.
  • More efficient access to information as more business information becomes available internally and externally via syndication.
  • Potentially higher levels of innovation and productivity as more previously unavailable enterprise thinking is available to be accessed, repurposed, and built on top of.
  • Increased efficiency in conversations: social media scales up to mostly resource and time friendly conversations among thousands of asynchronous participants, yet excludes those uninterested in them, unlike e-mail distribution lists and conference calls.

Reported social media in the workplace issues:

  • Productivity: Users employing social media tools for non-productive purposes such as socializing.
  • Security: Information that should be under tight control appearing on publicly via social media, either accidentally or intentionally.
  • Control: The level of control over what appears on an organization’s Intranet will decrease with the rise in use of social media, for better or worse. Also note that unlike e-mail, control of social media can be more successfully retroactive.
  • Outcomes: Ensuring that social media tools are generated pre-defined, specific goals is difficult when the the extremely freeform platforms of social media can be used for everything from managing projects to tracking a department’s fantasy football game.
  • Another silo: Right now social media is primarily a consumer-side invention, like many aspects of Web 2.0. Consequently, most enterprise blogs and wikis don’t have good access to feeds of enterprise data and this can encourage cut-and-paste publishing of information from traditional enterprise IT systems into social media, creating another silo of data.
  • Trust: How can the usefulness of the content in social media platforms be trusted. The Web has partially solved this with techniques such as inbound link counting, but reputation and voting systems are starting to appear, often as plug-ins such as the highly capable new comment and reputation add-on release from Intense Debate, for social media tools. Despite this, until the tools become mature, trust will likely continue to be an issue for many uses of social media in the workplace.
  • Not-enterprise ready. I’ve talked plenty about the enterprise context for blogs and wikis last year. The good news, many of these issues are starting to be addressed in the latest crop of Enterprise 2.0/social media offerings.

I’ll continue to run this poll on a periodic basis going forward and see what we can learn about the adoption of social media in the workplace. In the meantime, please share your stories about blogs and wikis at work in Talkbalk below.


Google’s OpenSocial: What it means

October 31, 2007

By Dan Farber

Google’s open social networking platform play is the buzz of the blogosphere tonight. Indeed, it is called OpenSocial in that the set of APIs allows developers to create applications that work on any social network that joins Google’s open party. So far, besides Google’s Orkut social net, LinkedIn, hi5, XING, Friendster, Plaxo and Ning have joined the party.

Oracle and are also supporting Google’s OpenSocial efforts, which indicates that they have plans to add social networking elements to their application platforms. OpenSocial will officially launch on Thursday.

Plaxo emailed a statement about OpenSocial this evening, getting ahead of the stampede:

“Dynamic profiles redefine what users should expect in terms of how they can represent themselves in a social or business network,” said Todd Masonis, Co-Founder and VP of Products for Plaxo. “We believe that users should have full control over what they share with whom – and that the catalog of widgets that they can choose from should be as open and diverse as the web itself. We are excited to support in dynamic profiles any application written to Google’s just–launched OpenSocial APIs. ”

According to TechCrunch, which first reported on Google’s larger social networking ambitions, OpenSocial consists of APIs for profile information, friend information (social graph) and activities, such as a news feed. OpenSocial users Javascript and HTML rather than a markup language as Facebook does.

This comes on the heels of the Facebook’s dynamic growth based on opening its social graph to developers and Microsoft’s $240 million investment for 1.6 percent of the company. However, unlike Google, Facebook doesn’t open its APIs to support other social networks. The other social networking giant, MySpace, is also planning to open its platform to developers.

This openness is part of what Vic Gundotra, Google’s head of developer programs, meant when he said last week, “In the next year we will make a series of announcements and spend hundreds of millions on innovations and giving them away as open source.”

He explained the newfound openness as more than altruism: “It also makes good economic sense. The more applications, the more usage. More users means more searches. And, more searches means more revenue for Google. The goal is to grow the overall market, not just to increase market share.”

What does OpenSocial mean for Facebook?

Facebook has a lot of wind behind its sails, but OpenSocial will cause developers to rethink their priorities. Developing OpenSocial applications will be easier than creating Facebook apps and will work across different social networks. However, Facebook is winning because 50 million users like the service and the applications. Unless the other social networks, which in aggregate have more members, have greater appeal to users, Facebook will continue to gain ground and developers won’t abandon the Facebook Platform. Facebook could also consider supporting OpenSocial in addition to its own APIs and markup languages as a way to be more open. It will be interesting to see how Zuckerberg and company, as well as the MySpace team, respond.

The New York Times story by Miguel Helft and Brad Stone quotes Google’s Joe Kraus on the Facebook topic.

Joe Kraus, director of product management at Google, said that the alliance’s conversations preceded Microsoft’s investment in Facebook. “Obviously, we would love for them to be part of it,” Mr. Kraus said of Facebook. Facebook declined to comment.

What does OpenSocial mean for Google?

As cited above, OpenSocial is part of Google’s quest to increase usage of the Web. More applications can mean more searches and ad searches. You could also expect some new advertising services based on tapping into the OpenSocial APIs that work across all compliant social networks. In addition, Google will weave OpenSocial across its services beyond Orkut, such as iGoogle, and eventually embed the social graph in the Internet fabric for its users.

This could create some issues for Facebook, which is rumored to be cooking up a targeted ad service that can follow its members across the Web. And, Google, taking a page from Microsoft, has some confidence that over time it can build or buy its ways into a leading social network. Google will try to have its cake and eat it too.

What does OpenSocial mean for users?

For users, it means more applications that can tap into user data, social graph, feeds and other content on a variety of social networks. They will have more choice of social networks and potentially some degree of portability as the APIs evolve and Google and other heavyweights push for more standardization.

What does OpenSocial mean for developers?

For developers, they have more opportunity to spread their work across different networks without significant cost and complexity. Many of the top Facebook developers are expected to support OpenSocial APIs. In the end, the top developers will flock to the social networks that have traction, leaving room for others to build apps for the less popular networks.

What does OpenSocial mean longer term?

It could become a kind of identity fabric for the Internet–with user profile data, relationships (social graph) and other items associated with an individual, group or brand that is used as a basis for more friction-free interactions of all kinds.


Dashwire mirrors your mobile phone content to the web

October 23, 2007

Dashwire is a service that mirrors the content on your mobile phone to a personal web account. At this time, Dashwire mirrors your photos, videos, text messages, bookmarks (Internet Explorer Mobile only), contacts, and phone calls. The great thing about Dashwire is that it is a web 2.0 service and thus they can roll out updates and new features on the server at any time and they do have lots of great features planned for the future.

There is a small Windows Mobile client that runs on your device and the web server client. They plan to roll out clients for other mobile phones in the future as well so hopefully anyone with a mobile phone can use this services.

Profile:In the profile area you can manage your account (email, password, and selected phone) and your public page. You can select what items (photos, video, comments, friends, purchases) appear on your public page and who can view your public page (everyone, friends, no one but you). I don’t think all the pieces of the public page customization are working yet as mine shows videos and photos even if I remove that from the selected content. You can also change your image/avatar and the background image of the page. There are several stock background images to choose from and customized backgrounds are not yet supported.

Photos: Dashwire picked up all the photos I have taken with the Advantage that are stored on the 8GB microdrive with no issues at all. On the Dashwire Dashboard you can see thumbnails of the photos I have taken. Clicking on a thumbnail opens the picture in a larger preview screen with options to send, download, rotate, delete, and close along the bottom of the photo. I did get an application error when trying to download so that will need a bit of work. This would be an easy way to send photos to Flickr or other online photo sites if you wanted to maintain those site with your photos.

Videos: Videos appear as thumbnails on the Dashboard like the photos. Clicking on a video opens another preview screen that actually loads and plays the video. You can pause, make the display larger, and control volume in the player. You also have the options to send, download (I get the same application error right now), delete, and close the video.

Messages: The text message module is one of the coolest things I have seen on Dashwire. You can quickly filter/search your test messages, which may be helpful if you have a ton of messages and want to see a conversation with someone you had. You can show them all, sent messages, or received messages. The new message option lets you quickly enter a recipient and then enter your message right from your PC. The message then gets sent out to the recipient through your mobile phone carrier’s text message plan so it comes through your phone and not through the internet. Using text messages this way is likely to satisfy any wireless carrier concerns with hijacking their text messaging service and since I have cheap unlimited text messaging through T-Mobile I am fine with this strategy. Maximizing the Messages module shows you the date and time of the message, full message text, phone number/contact, and status (sent or received).

Bookmarks: Bookmarks sync your Internet Explorer Mobile favorites to the Dashboard. You can’t mirror bookmarks from Opera or other browsers, but with Opera on the Advantage I can easily import IE Favorites so that isn’t a big issue for me. It is much easier to enter a URL on a full size keyboard and managing bookmarks on multiple devices has always been an issue for me that is now going to be much easier to control with Dashwire.

Contacts: Your contacts appear with their assigned photo (if you have this setup on your device) or default icon in the module. Clicking on a contact’s icon opens up another pop-up page that lets you edit the contact details if you desire. You can also assign tags to group contacts and navigate faster through the Dashboard. You can send SMS, send email, delete, and close the contact pop-up page as well. Like SMS messages contacts can be quickly searched for in the module. You can maximize the Contacts module and see thumbnails of your contact details as well.

Calls: Calls appear in a list and can be filtered by all, dialed, received, or missed. There are colored arrow icons to denote the status as well. A search box allows you to quickly find calls. Maximizing this module lists your calls and shows the date and time of the call, call duration, phone number/contact, and status.


A checkpoint on Web 2.0 in the enterprise (Part 2)

October 23, 2007

The last few weeks have seen a series of interesting new reports, studies, and papers on the past, present, and future of Web 2.0 concepts and applications as applied to businesses. Most notable for many industry watchers have been fairly rigorous new works by McKinsey & Company as well as Forrester, whom have each released the results of broad surveys of executives in various industries. The focus of both surveys was to capture a picture of the interests, activities, motivators for Web 2.0 adoption of several thousand C-level executives in medium to large companies.

While both the McKinsey study and Forrester report have summaries online — and you can read a detailed breakdown of the fascinating adoption numbers in Nick Carr’s excellent roll-up of many of the key numbers in the reports — what stands out clearly from the state of Web 2.0 in business last year is the almost surprisingly high levels interest in some of the more advanced, and powerful, concepts in the Web 2.0 practice set.

Gartner, for its part, had its own take on things last year with their widely covered hype cycle report on Web 2.0, indicating the things like collective intelligence (ostensibly the core principle of Web 2.0) would be a long term, transformational business strategy that they felt at the time would take at least 5 to 10 years for broad industry uptake. However, the report from McKinsey intriguing suggests something much different may be taking place.

The numbers McKinsey provides from actual business leaders seems to indicate that broad, active interest in collective intelligence is rapidly forming in the offices of many company’s CIOs, CTOs, and other executives. McKinsey cites that fully 48% of the nearly 3,000 leading executives surveyed are actively investing in collective intelligence approaches. What makes this interesting is that this number is a good bit more than executives are currently reporting that they are investing in other well known Web 2.0 approaches including social networking, RSS, podcasting, and even wikis and blogs, which come in about 1/3 lower in overall interest. In fact, out of all the Web 2.0 trends surveyed, only Web services has a bigger footprint than collective intelligence in terms of current investment. This strongly suggests some kind of sea change in business thinking since last year.

This is a fascinating outcome since at a grassroots level in the enterprise, and certainly out on the Web, the rise of wikis and in particular blogs, are a much more common phenomenon than apps that focus on collective intelligence, the latter which would manifest itself as any software which aggregates the combined user created input of employees and/or customers, partners, and suppliers en masse to create better knowledge and decisions. And although both wikis and blogs both accumulate collective intelligence (albeit relatively unstructured) via user participation — open group editing of content in the case of wikis, and conversations via comments and trackbacks in blogs — it’s probably the more formal, more structured, and centrally driven collective intelligence model that respondents were likely referring to since blogs and wikis were already represented in the survey.

Collective intelligence leads blogs and wikis in terms of business interest?

Taking a look at these results in general reminds us that many of the outcomes that Web 2.0 technologies enable — the free flow of information, emergent structure, higher levels of social activity, and decentralized do-it-yourself peer production — are sometimes subversive and even somewhat disruptive to traditional corporate structures and management processes. Because I suspect that a survey of these same items taken of the general user community — and not management — would find a different set of answers, and one that would likely emphasize the Web 2.0 platforms that are under more end user control. By this I mean the aforementioned blogs and wikis, but probably social networking applications as well.

Why is this an important distinction? This question takes us to the actual changes that the consumer Web appears to be imposing increasingly on our organization from the bottom up. The diagram I have above shows which aspects of Web 2.0 tools and technologies are primarily created and controlled with relative democratization by users (which is why they’re called peers in this case), and which ones are primarily enabled, in fact are made possible at all, by centralized IT. Web services, APIs, and mashups are classic examples of centrally created things which need governance and management, not to mention good design and architecture, something that is still just not very DIY, at least yet. On the other hand, blogs and wikis are simple, elemental Web 2.0 platforms for self-expression and participation and are as simple to create by anyone — along with the latest best practices — as spending 30 seconds in the setup pages of your favorite enterprise blog or wiki hosting site.

However, as we’ve seen with things like IBM’s promising QEDWiki platform that allows wikis to be the front end of an SOA, the world of end-user powered Web 2.0 platforms like blogs/wikis and the world of enterprise IT infrastructure and SOA — the latter which organizations world-wide have been pouring billions and billions into the last few years — are not separate worlds at all. In fact, it’s increasingly apparent that the Web 2.0 technologies which emphasize the most user control are also the very tools that can unleash the investments the business world has been making in information technology for almost a decade, particularly around interoperability and reuse based on the open Web services model. The best way to exploit and leverage our businesses is increasingly likely to use the combined power, reach, and ease-of-use of platforms such as blogs and wikis to tap into and make use of our vast, and all-too-often underutilized islands of data and IT infrastructure.

And as I discussed in my previous post, effective Web 2.0 in the enterprise, whether that’s basic Enterprise 2.0 or a much broader and expansive view of Web 2.0 design patterns and business models which I’ve called Product Development 2.0 for lack of a better term, actually requires the active support of both the users on the ground as well as the top levels of an organization to really take off. Business are structured much differently that the consumer Web and major impediments to use of Web 2.0 production and consumption scenarios exist. This include lack of good enterprise search, mountains of closed legacy systems, the challenge of securing highly open, deeply integrated applications, and conflicting data models (XML, relational data, rich media, and more.) These are all challenges to the ultimate success of Web 2.0 in the enterprise, even to the point that some organizations are increasingly at risk of IT users doing so much themselves that the IT department can begin to lose control. That is, unless they jump into the trenches with their users and help guide the application of Web 2.0 tools without significantly hindering forward progress.

Source: ZDNet’s blog

A checkpoint on Web 2.0 in the enterprise (part 1)

October 23, 2007

By Dion Hinchcliffe,
ZD Net

For well over a year now we’ve seen reports and announcements from a major industry analyst firms and others tracking the movement of Web 2.0 ideas into the enterprise. Gartner, Forrester, McKinsey, and many others have all weighed in on the trends or made recommendations, sometimes cautious and sometimes optimistic, that organizations should start heading down the Web 2.0 path. And public interest in Web 2.0 in the enterprise is widespread too, not in the least exemplified by the fact that Web 2.0 trends of all kinds — business and consumer both — are tracked closely here in many blogs on ZDNet.

We’ve also seen that the term itself has moved from passing familiarity in the leading edge of the technical community to nearly universal recognition in both IT and mainstream business circles. That Web 2.0 is a complex topic there is little doubt since it’s often described as a grab bag category of the latest ideas and movements that include — but are by no means limited to– wikis, blogs, RSS, podcasting, content tagging, mashups, and social networking.

The big question? What do you really need to know today about Web 2.0 in the enterprise?

Reducing all of these ideas into an underlying set of principles is what people like Tim O’Reilly have been doing for several years now. It’s generally understood by most people that the Internet has changed considerably in the last half-decade and that those changes have reached a tipping point that’s enabling brand new business models, unleashing a wave of innovative products, influencing public behavior on a large scale, and in particular, resulting in entirely new types of online businesses. But as I discussed in last year’s discussion on Web 2.0 reductionism, trying to get at the core motive force behind things as disparate as rich user experiences and collective intelligence is no small task.

Fortunately, we are indeed as an industry starting to get a handle on how all the pieces of Web 2.0 fit together. For instance, it’s now clear that having hundreds of millions of people globally connected together pervasively via one single high speed two-way network (aka the Internet) will result in many of the things we’re now seeing in the marketplace. It seems a fundamental new widespread focus on leveraging that two-way aspect of the network deeply in our online products, as well as increasingly playing to the fundamental strengths of the network that is the Web, is teaching us invaluable lesson after invaluable new lesson for our businesses. The result is that the living laboratory of the Web is now the source of the greater part of our innovation in business these days. Today’s World Wide Web is a larger ecosystem and with far more brainpower and activity that any single organization could ever hope to match.

Web 2.0 Transforms The Business Landscape

The story of Web 2.0 began with things like open source software, which is nothing more than entire products created ad hoc by volunteer armies of contributors that now outnumber — by virtue of the sheer capacity the network — the world of commercial software efforts. It’s not lost on careful watchers that open source software tends to be more feature rich, secure, and bug free that commercial software, despite being created by thousands of loosely coupled, self-selected contributors. Since then, this idea of commons-based peer production of products on the global Internet has spread through just about every other type of product that can be delivered over the Web from marketing, advertising, collaboration, news, customer service to banking, investment, fund raising, disaster management, and dozens of other types of business and civic activities. This reflects the fact that the majority of productive power is on the edge of our networks and always has been. We’ve tinkered for a couple of decades to build good networked software that took advantage of this fact but we didn’t yet have enough knowledge of the best techniques for creating them. That things like peer production are now moving to the center of the design of online products finally shows a maturing realization that our older, more traditional views of networked applications were just not effective as they could be.

Combine the rise of peer production with the Web growing up into a true software platform as part of the rise of rich user experiences and SaaS. Then witness the movement of the Web out into the world in the last few years and exploding into thousands of types of new Internet devices, mobile and otherwise, that deliver — and just as importantly if not more — capture value in every corner of the globe and in every conceivable setting.

An overarching and compelling new business vision

And while there more trends beyond these that are driving Web 2.0, the upshot is that the productive capacity of the world is increasingly wired into the Web and can be leveraged by building online products that encourage the close cooperation and involvement of those at the edge of the network. You can get now people on the Web en masse to build innovative software applications or help you accumulate vast and almost infinitely rich databases of information and even foster enormous online populations for which you are the preferred intermediary and of which you can tap the combined intelligence.

It’s this more comprehensive and integrated vision of Web 2.0 and its ingredients consisting of 1) people, 2) a pervasive two-way network, 3) continuous, around-the-clock activity by a billion Web participants, and 4) products that actively leverage the first three items that gives us a better perspective on understanding the strategic advantage of Web 2.0 to our businesses. Individually sorting through the collection of Web 2.0 techniques and technologies tends to ignores the forest for the trees and prevents us from getting any more than a tactical approach to transforming our businesses to a more Web 2.0 model.

For it’s this shift in power and control from the center of the network to the edge that has been the hallmark of the Web 2.0 era. For businesses to succeed in the 21st century will require a change in many of the assumptions and long-held ground rules for what works and what doesn’t when it comes to creating successful products and obtaining better business outcomes.

It’s presently not easy task to create a roadmap for businesses to create an orderly transition to Web 2.0 models. For one, the pace of change and innovation on the Web today is daunting, making roadmaps age and become obsolete almost as soon as they are complete. The second is that many aspects of Web 2.0 approaches are fundamentally disruptive and will require businesses to do serious soul searching and often take on real risk to the brands, reputations, and many a product line’s long-term future. However, the dilemma is that standing still is just not an option as we increasingly see industries remade in surprisingly short times. One of the best examples is YouTube’s sudden and near complete dominance in online video, eclipsing in less than two years an industry (broadcast and cable TV) that had built up over 40 years, by using a small team of talented entrepreneurs who had a solid understanding of the rules of Web 2.0. This type of disruption is likely for most industries in the next few years — and is even actively taking place today in some — and is the broader part of the more serious and transformative aspects of Web 2.0 that is increasingly getting attention from business leaders.

Web 2.0 in the enterprise: Strategic or tactical?

For many managers and workers however, these great and historical shifts are beyond their scope or mandate, and they just want incremental improvements to their area of the business and avoid obsolescence. In fact, this is currently one of the more sustained and germane aspects of Web 2.0 for most businesses in the short term and is an important part of Web 2.0 in the enterprise story. Most organizations will be focusing on tactical experiments and pilot efforts as they begin to dabble with Web 2.0 and see how they can apply it to their local corporate culture and unique business situations. But whether one is looking at completely transforming a business at a strategic level, or just applying a few Web 2.0 techniques to a corner of a business that can benefit from it, the message is clearer and clearer business leaders: Significant change is afoot and now is the time to start looking hard at how to embrace it.

So for many business and IT leaders it can be a significant challenge to keep a current and up-to-date understanding of Web 2.0 and how it applies to the enterprise. What sort of changes to the fabric of the organization is required? What kind of technologies and platforms should be created? How should online products be tweaked or transformed to deliver more value to customers and get even more back?

To help answer this, I created an up-to-date Web 2.0 in the enterprise visualization (above) that is my take on the major elements of Web 2.0 and how it applies to the two great aspects of Web 2.0; the social and the technical. I’ve further divided the visualization into the internal and external aspects of Web 2.0 (with full realization there is heavy overlap and blurring between the two) and to convey that there is indeed for most enterprises important differences between how they will apply Web 2.0 to their customers, partners, and suppliers and how they apply Web 2.0 internally. This distinction will likely erode in coming years but for now, there is certainly still a very clear division between the insides and outsides of most organizations.

Note: I’ve liberally mixed technologies, platforms, and concepts together in the above visualization. The only criteria was that an item had to be of significant enterprise importance to make the cut. There are many aspects to Web 2.0 as you can see from this popular visualization, but these are the probably the most important ones when thinking about Web 2.0 in the enterprise.

The aspects of Web 2.0 in the enterprise as of mid-2007

We’ll now do a brief clock-wise tour of the key aspects of Web 2.0 the enterprise as presented above. The four quadrants of the visualization divide the world of enterprise Web 2.0 into social and technical halves vertically and external and internal halves horizontally. There are certainly other ways to divide the concerns of Web 2.0 but this method is good for several reasons. One is that the social dimension of Web 2.0 is often underappreciated in IT circles (my experience) and calling it out at top conveys both the change in focus for IT and how important it is from a business perspective. The second is that aforementioned bright line that presently exists between internal IT solutions and external offerings. These have very different contexts and while the same Web 2.0 platforms can often serve both, they are provisioned and used very differently right down to what filters and controls are applied.

Internal Social Aspects

Wikis: Popular collaboration and sharing platforms like wiks are sometimes offered to customers these days but are primarily an intranet presence in most organizations today. Wikis, or shared Web pages anyone can write on (leveraging the two way network) are part of the burgeoning Enterprise 2.0 story and are also one of the most easily adopted Web 2.0 platforms in the enterprise. I often hear stories from organizations that witness wikis sprouting like crabgrass in their organization. Wikis are a true Web 2.0 platform as opposed to a mere application and can form basis of almost any kind of user-generated Web building inside an organization. Itensil and IBM’s QEDWiki are great examples of the full potential that is achievable today.

Read a discussion of enterprise context and wikis.

Collaboration 2.0: An unofficial term that refers to tools similar to wikis but a bit more structured, often around workflow. Examples of products in this space include things like SharePoint and ClearSpace, which provide alternate models to achieve ad hoc outcomes by accumulating user generated content and structure. Complexity is the killer of contributions in almost all types of software and the most effective Collaboration 2.0 products are extremely simple yet use models that often don’t resemble the wiki, which is why it gets its own listing.

Not sure why Web 2.0-style collaboration is such a big deal, read about the potential productivity gains by enabling tacit interactions.

Emergent structure: This is not a type of Web 2.0 software but an important and highly desirable outcome created by the operation of well-designed two-way networked applications over time. It’s no accident that Web 2.0 sites typically have very little structure and what they do have is highly freeform. Tagging is a pre-eminent example of emergent structure. I often find that tagging is overemphasized while the overall value of emergent structure in user-powered software is not nearly appreciated enough and I subsume tagging into this enterprise Web 2.0 bugged.

The underlying concept of emergent structure is that we guess far too much up front about the features of the software we need or the way the data should be organized. We speculate how applications will be used and over-predefine the requirements and design of our networked systems, forcing them down paths before we have enough experience to find the right path. Web 2.0 applications strongly favor emergent structure and coevolution with communities of users because it creates better long-term results that evolve organically and stay up-to-date. Agile project management methods have longed understood this but with Web 2.0 it’s even more extreme. Encouraging emergent results is vital from a business perspective because it creates solutions that fit best and continue to fit long term. Also, emergent structure is more efficient that enormous requirements gathering exercises; just pull the information in real-time from the other end of the network.

Explore how agile methods have begun evolving into Web 2.0 methods in the age of the perpetual beta.

Expertise Location: I am conflicted about making this a top level aspect of Web 2.0 in the enterprise but I’m also amazed that this continues to be one of the more serious problems plaguing many large enterprises: Who in an organization actually knows what you need to know right now? Web 2.0 platforms, which usually tie contributions back to the original contributor allow the location of workers who are most likely to have the information you are looking for. This means an organization must have public, social platforms like blogs and wikis in an organization and they will also have to be widely used. But once they are, the efficiency gains, reduction of duplicate efforts, and emergent collaboration that results have enormous business potential.

Collective Intelligence including Prediction Markets: Often referred to as the core principle of Web 2.0; collective intelligence refers to turning the combined information in all the minds at the other end of the network into the richest and most updated online product possible. Unfortunately, collective intelligence is still poorly understood and under-leveraged both on the Web and in the enterprise. Questions about its ability to create accurate products, to reach desired outcomes predictably, and even a good sense of where it can be applied most effectively are still open questions for many. Yet there is no denying that many of the most compelling and successful products on the Web are creating using collective intelligence approaches. Wikipedia is one of the best known examples, but so are search engines, which take the combined output of the Web that we’ve created as inputs and give a mirror to look at it.

As a result of this, approaches like prediction markets — which have been with us for a while but are ideal in a Web 2.0 environment — are coming into play which have ways of filtering out the bad information and mining the best results from a host of contributions, such as Slate recently did for the 2008 presidential race. One of the best ways to tap into the Wisdom of Crowds, collective intelligence also creates the strongest, richest, and most resilient products and business solutions possible. Collective intelligence can be very loosely or very highly structured depending on the desired outcome, from the unstructured comments in blogs and peer production news sites like to highly focused predictive markets like Pickspal or DigStock. I put collective intelligence on the internal side of the enterprise here but it really belong across the spectrum in the enterprise. The reason it’s the internal side for now is that I believe it will tend to take off inside of organizations at first as they learn to apply it.

Ad Hoc Social IT: It’s amazing that even chat systems are relatively rare in the enterprise, but what’s happening increasingly are easy-to-deploy tools of the Office 2.0 variety which understand the value of two-way and multi-way social communication including making it permanent, searchable, and joinable. Arguably a branch of Enterprise 2.0, this concept applies to the multitude of communication mechanisms we now have in the enterprise from SMS, MMS, email, chat, IM, forums, groupware which is suddenly growing much more powerful because of Web 2.0 augmentation. Example: The SMS texting protocol for mobile phones is generally point to point, but make it social and connected to your social network, such as with the well-known and popular Twitter application, and now you have an application that is taking an underpowered Web 1.0 protocol and leveraging the full power of the network and its audience to achieve the maximum possible network effect.

Employee Blogs: One of the most frequent polls I do in my conference talks is to ask the audience if they have an easy way to create a blog on their intranet. The answer is “yes” usually in the 10-15% range. Yet blogs are an ideal Web 2.0 platform that workers can use to create “channels” for their content and work on the intranet. Blogs, and as importantly, the content in the comments, can provide the information or the answers to questions that workers desperately need and can find via search, but can’t find an enterprise’s closed email environments and file systems where so much knowledge resides. The most senior workers in organizations are often plagued with providing the same information over and over again, year after year, and usually have to go through complex and time-consuming processes to get information posted on the intranet that would offload them. Blogs work so well because they are incredibly simple, support syndication, and harness collective intelligence in their comments. Though really a part of Collaboration 2.0, I broke this out separately because many enterprises are very behind in deploying blogs to their workers even though they are usually sorely needed. To get a sense of how to add enterprise context to make blogs work in your organization, here are some strategies I’ve assembled.

Web 2.0 platforms can liberate an intranet and make it a vibrant, employee-powered collective intelligence platform.

Internal Technical Aspects

Data aggregation: I like to say that most enterprises are awash in data and we are mostly failing to bring this information forward into Web-based platforms for use, remixing, and productizing. This also true of many older Web-based systems and there is not nearly enough service-enablement and exposing of data via highly consumable forms such as RSS, APIs, or even badges and widgets. A lot of data is also just not being collected or is kept behind walled gardens like data warehouses, relational database, and other storage forms which are difficult to use without extensive programming or expensive products. The Web, however, has largely solved this problem in the large with the development of search engines, syndication, aggregation, hyper-aggregation, and other techniques and I would not that this is a much larger problem for the most part. By following Web 2.0 best practices, enterprises can liberate their data, make it more relevant on a daily basis to the organization, and make sure it’s being readily incorporated into new online products and services.

Enteprise mashups: The prevalence of many high value services and easy ways to combine them together to form new business solutions on-the fly has led to the concept of situational software, where users can create nearly instant business value by leveraging the full IT resources of the enterprise as well as the open Web. Enterprise mashup platforms can enable this, though most mashups are created by simple copy-and-paste solution for now until the tools mature. I’ve written about this extensively before and you can read about mashups as a major new software development model here.

Rich User Experiences: To become a true software platform the Web page model had to grow up and the result has been rich user experiences. A rich user experience is nothing more than a Web pages that has the interactivity and immersiveness of desktop software installed on PCs. Ajax, Flash, and Silverlight are three key ways that rich user experiences are created on the Web and intranet today. The advantages of rich user experiences is they are always up to date, require no installation of the application on the desktop, can be used from anywhere with a Web connection, and more. Disadvantages include immature tools, security concerns, and a breaking of the Web model including content crawling, search, and analytics to name just a few. However, it’s clear that rich user experiences are here to stay, are very popular with users, and can boost worker productivity and potentially cut costs of acquiring, managing, and maintaining software significantly.

Choose an rich user experience platform poses challenges today.

Perpetual Beta: In the Web 2.0 era, online products and services are really never finished and must continuously improve to compete. However our traditional project management processes tend to force us into a linear process with a well-defined start point and end point. The most successful Web 2.0 products are continually co-evolved and developed with their users in an ongoing cycle, leading to a natural end-point sometimes called Web Development 2.0 that is far more extreme and highly competitive than we are generally used to in the enterprise. Going hand it hand with emergent structure above, the perpetual requires a significant rethinking of internal processes for product development and maintenance. Those that don’t adopt the processes that support the perpetual beta will likely face the unpleasant prospect of competing with businesses that use these approaches to innovate much faster, have products that their customers identify with more, and out-evolve their counterparts in the marketplace.

Syndication: One of the signature realizations of the Web 2.0 era is that content is of very limited utility when it’s located in just a single place. Letting it flow across the network to where it’s needed is a much better way to get results and make sure it gets leveraged. Despite years of experience, we’re still just learning about how to fully take advantage of syndication for better business results. The bottom line: Most enterprises are currently not projecting actionable data to where the business needs it because there’s just not enough syndication of vital business information. Examples of useful feeds: What unfilled positions are outstanding? What project schedules are late? Who are the new hires and what do they do? These are all simple but useful datapoints that anyone could pull within the enterprise if such feeds existed, but they usually don’t. Syndication is also of vital importance externally and that will be covered in open APIs and feeds in the next section.

SOA + WOA: The vision of a completely integrated enterprise was the promise of service-oriented architecture or SOA. Despite tens of billions of investment spent by enterprises around the world each year in integration efforts, SOA is still fighting an uphill battle despite being largely based on Web technologies. However, integration tends to work quite well on the open Web, but interestingly by largely not using SOA models, which tend not to be Web-oriented. I’ve summarized this issue many times in this blog and elsewhere but the bottom line is that traditional SOA isn’t going away and Web-oriented techniques are coming to the fore. This will help us achieve everything from using rich user experiences as the face of SOA to enabling ad hoc integration like enterprise mashups. While it may sound like a low-level plumbing issue, WOA can achieve real and actionable business results by adding a Web model of integration and architecture that can put many of the benefits of the open Web directly into worker hands.

It turns out that Web 2.0 and SOA have a core set of identical goals but often go about them in a different way.

SaaS: The world of installed desktop software circa the 1990s and early 2000s is rapidly giving away to software that runs entirely on the network and uses Web technologies. This is known as Software as a Service (SaaS) and is one of the fastest growing models for software, if not the fastest. You can have SaaS without rich user experiences but increasingly the best SaaS tends to be a blend of traditional Web page-based apps and rich user experiences both. SaaS can be on premises or off premises and this allows economies of scale to be offloaded to SaaS providers, can upfront software acquisition costs, and can greatly improve deployment, manageability, and licensing headaches. The entire Office 2.0 software list is a great example of Web 2.0 era SaaS and will increasingly replace existing apps right down to Microsoft Office and other popular business productivity applications.

Source:ZD Net

The 10 top challenges facing enterprise mashups

October 19, 2007

The promise of remixing existing online services and data into entirely new online applications in a rapid, inexpensive manner, often referred to as mashups, has captured the software industry’s imagination since the release of first major example,, in early 2005. Since then, mashups have offered the potential to finally make widespread software reuse a reality, enable SOA initiatives to achieve positive ROI, and radically drive down the cost of application development while satisfying large applications backlogs that plague organizations almost everywhere.

Applying mashups in a business settings is often referred to as “enterprise mashups” and recently we’ve finally begun to see the tools emerging to bring real mashup capabilities to consumers, business users, and IT professionals.

However, though anecdotal evidence seem to abound — there are a good number of stories about businesses creating isolated mashups here and there — and mashups are again getting placed on hot tech trends lists for 2008, we’re clearly still not yet seeing the flood of mashup-based apps inside of organizations despite their consistent and steadfast growth on the consumer Web.

ProgrammableWeb’s mashup graphs (left of page) currently reports that over 2,400 mashup-based apps currently exist.

The public Web of course has been a global laboratory for innovation for 15 years and it’s not surprising that experimentation and creativity in such a large pool of resources of people and services would generate some interesting outcomes like the several thousand mashup applications currently available. But the question has been: Where is the same result inside our organizations? Thoe same organizations that often desperately need software to solve problems that simply isn’t available — at least without extensive customization — because a typical business problem’s unique nature. In previous posts I’ve discussed how spreadsheets are often the only end-user development tool available to the average person to meet this need today.

So what exactly is holding back enterprise mashups from becoming a more popular phenomena inside our organizations? This has been in contrast to many other aspects of Web 2.0 inside the enterprise, where openness, network effects, and radical power and simply are often driving extremely fast uptake and adoption of new apps and technologies. By many indications, mashups — particularly in the enterprise — have so far fallen short of their potential and the question is why?

I’ve discussed this with a various people in the mashup community and analyzed a number of the leading mashup platforms and have boiled the outstanding challenges down to 10 points I believe are the biggest obstacles. Some of these challenges are counterintuitive and some of them might be self-evident to those that are struggling to enable them but nevertheless are still major issues. But given that SOA, composite apps, Web services & open APIs, and widgets are all receiving significant venture capital and corporate investment in 2007 and heading into 2008, the enterprise mashup space is poised for tremendous growth by all other indications. If only we could discover and resolve with the remaining barriers for their creation and use. Here are what seem to be the biggest issues with widespread adoption of enterprise mashups:

The top 10 challenges facing enterprise mashups in late 2007

  1. No commonly accepted assembly model. The reason that spreadsheets are still so enormously successful is that they are really a highly capable functional programming environment. A spreadsheet has an easily understood visual grid model that can hold data of many different kinds that can then be processed by cell references and user written formulae turning hours of previously tedious work into automatic processes. Spreadsheets are largely intuitive, easy to learn, and used by millions of people on a daily basis. It’s been so successful that some mashup tools actually use them as their preferred model, most notably the pretty interesting Instacalc and BEA’s AquaLogic Data Services Platform that offer good consumer and enterprise example respectively, though there are other players as well. Spreadsheets offer a mashup fabric in a model that is already proven and generally accepted by consumers and business users virtually everywhere.But most mashup tools take a different tack and either reinvent the wheel by offering completely new and unfamiliar types of models, some simple and some quite sophisticated but virtually all of them foreign to anyone who is not a developer. And of course the issue is if mashups remain a developer only phenomenon the larger bulk of their business value will be lost. If only developers could process data with computers, we’d still be in the era where personal computers were primarily used by the few people with coding skills. Spreadsheets liberated computers to be used for number crunching by the masses and mashups have the potential to liberate the browser for software creation by the masses. The big question is who will hit upon the right model that will provide both an incredibly easy on-ramp that also supports the creation of useful business applications but one that can support sophisticated applications and be easily maintained and supported over time.Is the spreadsheet model for mashups the answer? It’s too early to tell, but with IBM’s QEDWiki and Serena’s functional flow model in their business mashup product for end-users, we’ve seen compelling alternative models. So the jury is out on the best mashup model, and when that jury finally comes in — in the form of the mashup platform that gets fast uptake — we’ll have a much better sense of which direction is best.
  2. An immature services landscape. Mashups are predicated upon the ready preexistence of ready-to-use Web services and network APIs which are ready to be used to build on top of. Though many of the leading Internet firms have extensive Web services divisions that offer much of their data and products up through feeds that can be plugged into browser-based mashups, the reality is that the rest of the Web has been somewhat slow to follow. It’s just now becoming well-known that APIs can greatly reinforce the value of a Web application and allow it to be reused hundreds or thousands of times in other products, leveraging a form of Jakob’s Law.But for now, even in organizations that have SOA initiatives in advanced stages, not nearly enough information and functionality is currently “Web-enabled” via feeds and services and hence can’t be leveraged inside a mashup application canvas. Products such as Kapow and other Web-clipping tools have put a decent dent in this problem recently, but we have a way to go before we have enough ready Web services to feed our mashups. The good news: There are a lot of high value APIs that do exist on the open Web today and increasingly inside our organizations particularly in the form of RSS that can unleash the mountains of data and functionality lying largely fallow inside most businesses today.
  3. The splintering of widgets. One of the most exciting phenomenons on the Web today has been the advent of widgets; mobile Web parts that can be used by anyone with a cut and paste. Web widgets actually form the basis of a primitive yet highly end-user friendly mashup model and have been gaining enormous popularity as a quick look at the widget gallery on WidgetBox shows us. It’s the user remixable Web at its best and widgets are distributed and used by millions of people a day.It also turns out they are the other key ingredient to mashups along with Web services/APIs but they are uniquely significant because they are entirely end-user friendly whereas most APIs require much more technical savvy to use. Consequently, widgets make a compelling and ubquitious packaging system for mashup functionality, particularly since most widgets also provide automatic API connectivity back to its originating site (for example an eBay listing widget connects back to eBay from a mashup or Web page live to pull auctions from the API.) However, the widget world is very informal and there are no official standards (yet) and widgets have been co-opted by countless companies and named badges, gadgets, modules, and other things. Some of these companies, particularly Microsoft, Google, and a few others, have been imposing their own gadget models that allow businesses to plug into their ecosystems of users but largely keep their gadgets captive.The real issue is that mashup creators need to have access to the Web’s full inventory of functionality and the different widget models are fostering silos of widgets that it’s not likely most mashup creators will have full access to with their tools. The solution? A simple, open standard for widgets. Are we likely to get it? Not soon unless someone with authority, in a manner similar to the way RSS 2.0 was created and spread, steps up to the plate.
  4. Management and support of end-user mashup apps. If enterprise mashups unleash hundreds of new applications inside an organization, then who will catalog them, support them, maintain them, and fix them when they break? The IT department? The business units? Using what tools? This is an objection I frequently get from enterprise IT about their fears that mashups will bring back the horrors of having unsupported Microsoft Access-based apps running loose in their organization, though much more widespread because of their collaborative, open, network-distributed nature. This is a genuine challenge and the best mashup platforms have some answers to this baked in but there is lots of room for improvement.
  5. Deep support for security and identity. The most useful enterprise mashups will have access to a user’s private individual data and other corporate information protected by security and identity systems. Consumer mashups are challenged in a similar way since it’s hard to provide vital function if a user isn’t willing to trust a mashup with the user IDs and passwords necessary to obtain the data from the back-end services guarding the information the mashup needs to function.The common enterprise solution to this, Single Sign-On (SSO), has not made it fully to the mashup world and the problem is only exacerbated if a mashup is also meant to be used by many types of users including consumers, partners, and suppliers which will all have their own identity requirements and infrastructures. Initiatives like openid are helping but are not a complete solution. Like widget models, this too needs a leadership figure to definitely resolve for the industry or many types of useful mashups are not and will not be possible in the near future.
  6. Data quality and accuracy. This is the classic “truthiness” problem Nick Carr brought up way back when mashups first began to get attention and are still a critical issue as far as enterprise mashups are concerned. How do I know if the data displayed in a mashup is correct I’m often asked? Particularly in many types of applications, the veracity of data is paramount yet in a browser-based mashup, who is to say where the data really came from and if it’s fresh. Formal IT systems have an advantage in this regard, at least for now, because they have controls to ensure they are the system of record. However, the recent advent of reputation systems and provenance indicators can help but there’s lots more work to be done here so that users can be sure of what they are looking at, where the data came form, how it processed, and how recent is it?
  7. Version management. When users can tweak, recombine, share, adjust, and otherwise change a mashup on-the-fly in “edit mode”, how does a business deal with issues of consistency and change management when so many more versions of applications exist than before. Fast rates of change are increasingly becoming the norm both on the Web and in our organizations and mashup platforms that don’t directly have features to support and enable rapid changes in mashup applications will be bringing to their customers as many issues as they solve. IBM’s QEDWiki stands out again as a model where mashups are automatically versioned, just like a wiki page, so that even the mashup can be mashed up again and its clients pinned to particular version. Several of the most recent mashup platforms are making this kind of capability a priority and by the end of 2008, mashup platforms that don’t support version management robustly will likely have serious issues gaining an audience.
  8. Awareness and realization of the potential of mashups by the businesses community. One other problem, probably not helped by the term ‘mashup’ itself, is the general awareness of the business value of mashups and their potential to solve tough business problems by providing faster, cheaper access to the right information and IT capabilities than ever before. The fairly immature state of tooling doesn’t help but a lot more has to be done to educate and bring awareness to the general business community and educating them that an important new model for software is emerging. Businesses should be aware of the potential that smart, appropriate application of mashups in many business problems can bring by unleashing productivity, increasing institutional knowledge, and creating new business opportunities and outcomes that simply weren’t possible before. Prior to mashups, there was generally few ways to buy or create a custom software application in a timely, inexpensive manner.
  9. Low levels of support by major software firms. Though open source software tends to power the public Web, a large percentage of the infrastructure running businesses today, especially in medium to large organizations, are still largely based on commercial software. And commercial software vendors have been slow to provide explicit support for an enterprise mashup friendly environment. What’s lacking? A number of things including support of Web-Oriented Architecture, offering application functionality in useful API forms, “widgitized” content and functionality, offering rich support for RSS feeds and notification, mashup security solutions, and other related topics. This ensures that enterprises have a lot of work to do on their own before mashups are commonplace in their organizations.The good news, Service-Oriented Architectures are growing more common that understand mashup approaches, which strong prefer standards that support easy consumption in the browser, will help but commercial software needs to be much more mashup friendly. Why are commercial software firms slow to support mashups? Part of it is the typically slow pace of commercial software development as well as a wait and see attitude by many to see how mashups impact their business models, particularly around professional services and integration.
  10. Few killer demo mashups. Because of many of the issues above, particularly around security, clearly useful business mashups can be hard to find. Where is the mashup that shows the average user an easy-to-use combined view of all of their calendars: home, business, and mobile? How about the app that allows someone to wire together data from the data warehouse, local SOA, and enterprise content management system? These are still to hard to create for the reasons in the list above and until compelling stories emerge from businesses that have reached the tipping point, enterprise mashups will, like the SOAs that power them, remain a fascinating idea for most but not a significant business motivation.

You might think I paint a bleak picture of the enterprise mashups world and nothing could be further from the truth. The last couple of years have taught us an enormous amount about what is possible and what needs to be changed. Most of these items above will likely be addressed in some form or another in the next year or two. Even solving a couple of the key issues will change the software development landscape considerably. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to provide a front-row seat to the unfolding story of what appears to be the next major new software development model.