Only three years to get your avatar unless you want to be lumped in with the bottom 20% — by 2011, Gartner says that the vast majority of Internet users will have avatars to represent them online in various gaming and non-game virtual environments. Which, I guess, are expected to proliferate. The clock’s ticking — Gartner predicted that last year at their Symposium/ITxpo 2007 Emerging Trends.
And they aren’t talking about the 2D image that pops up beside your posts in forums. I mean, even I have one of those. And she’s cute, if a little on the flat side. But she’s no Lara Croft — her ass-kicking ability is extremely limited. And I can’t see the world from her perspective, in a 3-D immersive world.
I have friends in virtual worlds, have had invitations extended — but so far, I haven’t wandered into one. I completely understand the appeal. Wow — talk about a rich fantasy life! My stock response, though, is that I don’t have time for my first life, let alone a second one.
I guess I’m going to have to make time. According to Gartner and near-futurists such as Gerri Sinclair, more and more of our online activities will move to virtual environments and our interactions will be conducted by 3D representatives with all the capabilities we and others possess in the real world — and then some. Sinclair is executive director of the master’s degree program for digital media at the Great Northern Way Campus in Vancouver and her students are creating a parallel virtual university.
Apparently, the future of online interaction is going to be pretty much conducted by avatars, in 3-D surround everything. I was thinking about that — my worklife avatar would be plunked in front of a computer looking at a computer screen and my online leisure time avatar would best represent me by sitting around chatting in book store cafes. But then, I guess, “I” could wander over to the shelves and find something to read or go get some sprinkles on my latte…
Maybe it’s just a failure of imagination on my part. In a 3-D immersive world I can be and do — virtually — anything… Hmmm… Well, it looks like I’m going to get sprinkles on my latte. Then… on the way to the counter I feel inspired to… do a triple backflip. Hey! Perfectly executed — and not a drop spilled! Now I’m going to drink my coffee. For real.
~ Ivy Wigmore
Three TechTarget editors interviewed Rishi Chandra, Product Manager, Google Enterprise, at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston.
Barney Beal, Zach Church and Alex Howard covered a wide range of topics over the course of this exclusive thirty minute interview, questioning Chandra about Google’s vision for enterprise applications, cloud computing, security, compliance and more.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-8109892106822178823" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]
spaceo.us is a social computing platform for the enterprise that sits on top of existing applications from SAP, Siebel, JD Edwards and others. The video isn’t short but is worth watching if you’re interested in collaborative software and mashups for the enterprise. It includes a demonstration and commentary about how social software can be integrated with existing enterprise applications and mashed up with external feeds.
Here’s the video:
[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=4641523459784523055" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]
Obviously, I still have a long way to go as a videographer, so apologies for the initial angle and any shaky transitions — but this is worth watching. spaceo.us from
Brian Kellner, NewsGator’s Vice President of Products, offers his take on “social computing.”
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/GdFs9UJMxm4" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Last week at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston, I was pulled into a podcast with Chris Brogan, Aaron Strout and Sam Lawrence. We talked about what was going on at the conference, what we’d learned so far and what strategies individuals, businesses and enterprise might find useful in using social media.
These guys are deeply immersed in the enterprise social software world, aka enterprise 2.0. Aaron is a VP at Mzinga, Sam is the CMO for Jive Software and Chris Brogan, is, well, everywhere in the social media world, along with being a VP at CrossTechMedia.
P.S. Feel free to call me “Andy” from here on out.
After downloading Firefox 3 today, I noticed the speed difference. Thankfully, there were no problems with transferring any settings or plugins, either. I’m a huge fan of the keyword search of Web history in URL address field. The sharp rendering by the Gecko engine makes for more attractive browsing as well.
Mozilla’s user experience guru, Mike Beltzner, took the time to demonstrate some of Firefox 3’s best features in this detailed screencast, embedded below.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://people.mozilla.com/~beltzner/overview-of-firefox3.swf" width="800" height="600" wmode="transparent" /]
Note: This screencast won’t scale to size, so it may look misformatted on this blog. Try the link above if the overhang is just too hard on your design sensibilities.
If Mozilla’s social media and other online marketing campaigns pan out, the answer to that question will be Firefox 3. Starting at 1 PM EST on June 17, 2008 (today!) the newest version of the popular open source Web browser will be available for download worldwide.
If you want to add to the record, check out the world record page at SpreadFirefox.com, pledge to download the app and then head over to the Mozilla homepage and download Firefox. More than 1.655 million people have already made a pledge worldwide.
If you just can’t wait, Digital Inspiration has blogged that Firefox 3 is available on on Mozilla’s FTP and Web servers. Here are the paths:
- FTP Mirror: ftp://mozilla.isc.org/pub/mozilla.org/firefox/releases/3.0/win32/en-US/
- HTTP (Win): http://download.mozilla.org/?product=firefox-3.0&os=win&lang=en-US
- HTTP (Mac): http://download.mozilla.org/?product=firefox-3.0&os=osx&lang=en-US
Keep in mind, however, that if you download the application from the FTP mirror, it may not count for the record. And really, can’t you wait a few hours more?
Happy World Download Day!
Given that I’ve become an avid user of Twitter, I’m frequently asked what, exactly, Twitter is and what in the world it’s useful for.
Isn’t it just it a presence messaging on steroids? What about a free global SMS addressbook? Or a hyperlink-enabled persistent chatroom? To be fair, I don’t hear that last often, but summing up what Twitter is and what it does is challenging — especially in 140 characters or less. Twitter’s own “social messaging utility where people can communicate in real-time” comes close. Twitter’s creators know better than most what they’ve created and how it works.
Other takes on Twitter range far and wide:
- Caroline Middlebrook described Twitter as “an incredibly powerful marketing & community building tool.”
- In a long post that describes how he discovered Twitter and how SocialText is using it, Ross Mayfield called Twitter “mobile social software that lets you broadcast and receive short messages with your social network” aka, “Continuous partial presence.”
- Wendy Boswell writes that Twitter is a “mini-blogging platform that you can use to send messages of 140 characters or less to family, friends, or just the general Web community.”
- Dave Winer explains Twitter as a network of users on a microblogging platform with its own open-identity system and ecosystem.
- Ed Kohler posted that Twitter is “a social networking site based around text messaging.”
WhatIsTwitter.com is addressing the question by hosting a contest that asks you to explain Twitter in 140 seconds. (It runs through 6/23/08, if you’d like to enter.)
When I tweeted the question to the Twitter community, Robbert replied that Twitter was “a great way to get in touch and ‘meet’ very interesting people!” and Liz tweeted back that “Twitter is a window into other people’s worlds. Scholars can get insulated so it is nice to hear the ups & downs in other fields.”
In the end, however, I think a shade on Wikipedia’s current definition comes closest: a free distributed social networking and microblogging service that may be updated from the Web, IM, cellphone or a desktop client.
The question of what, exactly, you can DO with Twitter is something else altogether. The session at Enterprise 2.0 devoted to microblogging addressed exactly that question. The discussion was lively, both in person and on Twitter itself, as we could all see on the screen as Laura Fitton (@pistachio) Twittered about the event.
Even though at least one member in the audience questioned the etiquette of such an embedded distraction, with respect to her engagement with the rest of the panel, the bulk of the conversation between the other Twitterers in the audience and those present was inquisitive, supportive and engaged. You can see the various streams of conversation around the session and the conference in general at Twemes.com by using the hashtags #e20, #en20 and #ent20.
With the notable exception of Loren Feldman from 1938Media, the panelists supported the idea of Twitter or something like it (call it “X enterprise microblogging platform”) being both useful and present within an enterprise in the near future.
So what’s the story? Have I lost you yet? Do many of the terms above need further explanation? A colleague looked at me recently with a quirked eyebrow and asked me if I seriously expected her to ask conference-going IT professionals to “Tag their tweets on Twitter” and all I could do was grin.
Like so many emergent services and ecosystems on the Web, Twitter has evolved its own lingo. I’ve blogged about Twitter for WhatIs.com before, of course, but it’s worth reviewing the basics. Here’s a quick guide to get you started and give you some of your own”Twitter-fu.”
The Basics: For the novice Twitter user
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/ddO9idmax0o" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
You can update Twitter from Twitter.com, which is how the majority of users access the service, from instant messenger or by texting to “40404” with a cellphone registered with the service. If you do use a cellphone, remember that there may be associated charges for text messages of .10 or .15 per message. Early adopters of the Twitter and the iPhone discovered to their chagrin that thousands of texts got quite expensive. If you’re planning on using your cellphone to tweet, seriously consider investing in an unlimited text messaging plan.
No matter what, you’ll need to register first. Choose the username that fits you, your brand, your company, service, product or simply your whim. Try to make it as short as possible; you want to reserve as much space as possible for others to use in replies, since they’ll need to include your username in a reply.
Here’s where one of the conventions that Twitter has introduced into the Web comes into play. Instead of remembering both a username and a domain name (firstname.lastname@example.org), all you have to do is remember a username (@johndoe). Just type in go to twitter.com, add the user name to the url and click “follow.”
If you want to publicly reply to a tweet from another user, just include @johndoe in your message and he or she will automatically see it. Just click “replies” on your Twitter page to see how has responded to you. You can also direct message another user by typing “d johndoe” — but only if they are following you. This is quite useful for conversation you don’t want the entire Web to be involved in.
There are other etiquette concerns, paralleling netiquette on the rest of the Web; read Chris Brogan’s post Considering Social Media Etiquette and Grammer Girl’s Twitter Style Guide to get a flavor of the conventions at play.
Ready to go? Start at the Twitter homepage, which includes a useful Twitter FAQ TwitterFeed. Each time you post to Twitter, it’s called a “tweet.” Each tweet has its own URL, just like a “normal” blog post has a permalink. Twitter’s 140 character limit means that brevity is crucial, so using URL shorteners like TinyURL.com is a must. You can make your first update just like a blog post on Blogger or WordPress. “Hello World” would work, if you’re stuck for inspiration.
Twitter isn’t much fun, however, if you’re just twittering into the ether. To get the most from the service, you’ll need to find some friends or find interesting feeds to follow, like @MarsPhoenix or @BarackObama. MC Hammer is out there too, by the way. You can always just search for people you know on Twitter or go to a user’s profile page if you already know someone you want to “follow.” Once you get rolling, you can use a service like WhoShouldIFollow.com to find more friends.
Following means that you’ll get all of that person’s updates, so choose carefully. If you choose to follow top Twitterers, expect to see a lot of messages. This is a great way to discover interesting new people, however, so even if you don’t follow @Scobleizer, @LeoLaporte , @JasonCalacanis, @KevinRose or other A-list bloggers or “cewebrities,” make sure to check their profiles to see who they’ve discovered. You can always unsubscribe if someone posts content or links you don’t want to see in your feed.
The other symbol you’ll see often is the hashtag, which is the Twitter version of a social bookmark. Think of them as a way to add your tweets to niche conversations, specific events or around products or services. Learn more at hashtags.org. I mentioned them earlier when I listed the various hashtags for the Enterprise 2.0 Conference. By adding a # sign and then a series of numbers and letters afterwards (try #beatLA, for Celtics-lovers) your tweets will be aggregated into the great conversation.
Twitter has opened its application programming interface (API) to the development community , which has responded by creating many desktop clients that you can use to update the service, manage your messages and friends.
To use my favorite client, Twirl, you’ll need to download Adobe AIR and install Twirl as a desktop client. Twirl includes a URL shortener and many other features that, in my humble opinion, richly enhance your Twitter experience. Twirl can also be configured to post automatically to Pownce and Jaiku, two other popular microblogging services. If you use a Mac, Twitterific might be a good fit, too.
Rafe Needleman has posted a terrific “Newbie’s Guide to Twitter” over at Webware.com, which I highly recommend if you’re still having trouble getting started.
Getting into the conversation: For the intermediate Twitter user
Now that you’ve gotten your feet wet, here are some more services to expand your horizons.
You can monitor whatever keyword you choose, like your name or your company’s brandname, at Tweetscan. Even if you don’t choose to use Twitter actively, this is an important component of brand and reputation management.
You can see threaded conversations with Quotably. This is a useful tool if you want to see an entire back and forth between users in one place.
Similarly, Summize helps you track Twitter conversations in real-time.
There’s a dedicated BlackBerry client called TwitterBerry too, which is worth looking into if you’re a “CrackBerry Addict.”
Facebook has a Twitter application that embeds your tweets in your profile and allows you to tweet from within the social networking environment.
Or, if you want to hook up your blog’s feed to Twitter, Twitterfeed will be helpful.
Watch Twittervision to see a mashup of a global Google Map and location-specific tweets.
Use TwitPic to share photos on Twitter.
For the Advanced Twitter User
If you’ve gotten this far and have been nodding your head all the time, waiting for something new, congratulations: Your Twitter-Fu is strong. The Twitter Fan Wiki should be your resource of choice, where new applications, services and software is aggregated and vetted by a strong user community. If you’re an alpha geek, make sure to check out the scripts page, which is chock full of geeky goodness.
I’m far from the first to try to explain what Twitter is an how it works, of course. Make sure to check out Tweeternet.com for an excellent explanation and outstanding list of Twitter tools.
If you’ve mastered the basic and intermediate tools and technologies, consider the following ways that Twitter has been put to good use:
- As a social justice tool, where people in critical situations can get the news out quickly
- As a crisis response and management tool (check out @RedCross)
- As a presence tool for emergency workers or individuals in a natural disaster zone
If you have questions, thoughts, additional resources, uses or any other response to this post, please use the comments. And, of course, Twitter about it. Do you think Twitter — or a client like it — is right for your business or enterprise? Let us know!
What is Unity? Lockheed-Martin’s implementation of a social computing platform wows Enterprise 2.0 conferees.
One of the unexpected hits of the Enterprise 2.0 Conference this past week was a presentation by Lockheed-Martin on Unity, its social computing platform. One of the world’s largest defense contractors would seem an unlikely candidate for early adoption of enterprise 2.0 technologies, or at least that was the impression when the session kicked off. By the end of the hour, audience members were asking “Where can I buy it?”
[Image credit: TechLuver.com]
Shawn Dahlen and Christopher Keohan talked at length about what they’d learned over the course of eighteen months developing the platform, kicking off their presentation by noting that there was a compelling need in government sector to collaborate through social media. Chris noted that embracing social computing at Lockheed Martin a major component of recruiting talented Generation Y IT workers, the so-called “millenials,” as showing the company’s prowess in the adoption of cutting edge tools was a key differentiator.
Before Unity was implemented, the state of collaboration at their enterprise should be quite familiar to most corporate workers : email, meetings and office docs like Powerpoint presentations emailed around as attachments. “Project Unity” was conceived as a way of applying Web2.0 technologies for “mission success.” To that end, the team resolved to provide a user experience employees would love, address “what was in it for them” and balance the need to share vs the need to know — crucial in a defense contractor. Unity’s designers wanted to foster a social computing ecosystem around a standardized platform, integrating blogs, wikis and other documents into their current platform. Over time, they added discussion forums, a social bookmarking tool called “uBookmark” and weekly activity reporting to capture usage and adoption patterns. They included a suggestion tool to solicit community insights on the project as it rolled out and created an internal homepage to aggregate popular content. Unity’s internal team of developers also made a priority of maintaining a cohesive user experience and to ensuring that all information could be both feed-enabled and integrated.
How did they pull it off? By integrating Google enterprise search appliance (GSA) , Microsoft’s Windows Sharepoint Services (WSS) and Newsgator’s Enterprise Server. Take a look at this demonstration of Social Sites 2.0 to get a feel for what this looks like. They Unity development team took a close look at how to use social computing tools in an everyday business context and took the time to understand how they would integrate and evolve from the existing email/Powerpoint/meeting model.
The crucial question, asked over and over again this week, was addressed head-on by Unity’s designers: “What is the value of social networking in the enterprise?”
Their answer was, in the end, simple: Being able to watch what other people are doing, easily, and then being able to search it and ask questions raises productivity and leads to improved collaboration and knowledge exchange. Instead of tracking what your friends are doing on, say, Facebook with a “friend feed,” an enterprise derives value from tracking an activity stream of interconnected colleagues. At any point, a worker can see what others are working on, access shared documents and ask questions on shared virtual workspaces or directly to the relevant decision maker or technologist.
Lockheed-Martin built the basic Unity platform in 07 and then ran a beta pilot of it over the course of the year with 40 engineers building, testing and experimenting with the release. After the initial release, it took just six months for a second iteration that addressed both information security and legal issues.
A crucial question that they were asked to account for again and again will be familiar to CIOs: How did they quantify the return on investment (ROI) for the dedication of internal resources and purchase of software? Each time, the traditional productivity savings of a user finding information was a factor. What really sold them, however, was the soft case of customers interested in their social computing initiative. Unity helped in Lockheed-Martin’s bidding process, especially proposals that involved knowledge managememt.
As the project rolled out, a crucial component was the in development and distribution of a “collaboration playbook.” New standards for playbook and best practices were laid out in its pages. For instance, as a team member, you should ask questions on a group page, not wander over to ask or send a broadcast email; this helps to capture questions and answers for everyone. Adding to documentation whenever possible was crucial, along with teaching people the power of linking and understanding which communication type made sense for different business cases: blog posts, wikis, email, virtual conferences or in-person meetings. In the end, the Unity team created the playbook as much for themselves as they worked as for the company as a whole, “eating their own dogfood.” They used a project management office (PMO) blog to keep colleagues up to date about what the dev team was doing.
One of their other key discoveries was that pervasive enterprise search is key to keeping documents both relevant and accessible.
What’s next for the team? Adding filters to content that depend upon the clearance of those accessing it. In highly classified work, user-assignable taxonomies are crucial for opening up content for collaboration while maintaining information security. Also in the works are adding recommended content, similar to the Digg-model of social news, employee profiles, export control filters and network-based search.
If you’re looking for a great case study for enterprise 2.0 adoption, look up Unity.
At the Enterprise 2.0 Conference this past week in Boston, Dion Hinchliffe offered a three-hour workshop focused on understanding both the progress of social software in enterprises and then drilling down into the details of implementation and techniques.
In Hinchcliffe’s “State of Enterprise 2.0” address (hereafter referred to as “E2.0”, he noted that in terms of the hype cycle around the term over the past two years, there used to be “lots of talking, little doing.”
That’s changed. Throughout the demo pavilion at the conference, dozens of of software makers presented competing and collaborative products that are viable tools for bringing social computing within the enterprise. The buzz was no longer so much about “what is enterprise 2.0” as “how do I start implementing it at my organization” and “how did you apply these tools to your business case.” Two years ago, very few people could create blog or wiki page on an intranet. When Dion polled the crowd for how many attendees could create either of those social software types, many hands went up. The devil, of course, is in the details.
The “blurring of the lines between consumer and social media” and transition from “top down term for bottom up world” presents challenges on both technical and cultural levels. Instead of single locked-down systems, workers can collaborate online — and if the tools aren’t available behind the firewall, consumer versions are being brought in, with associated issues of security, compliance and best practices.
Much of what we’ve learned about how networked applications work best is coming from the consumer Web. This represents a shift from historic trends, where enterprise architectures were the normal innovative path. In other words, the story begins with Web 2.0. There have been subtle changes in the way the Web being used. Software makers have shifts more control to users, in terms of the content created, how it is structured and the processes involved in production or implementation. Simpler software models that embrace the intrinsic power of networks are popping up, including virtually free applications that almost anyone can learn easily. The Web is now a platform, with “data as the next ‘Intel Inside.'” We’re seeing the end of software release cycle and have entered the age of the perpetual beta — just look at Google applications in the cloud.
As Hinchcliffe noted repeatedly, success stories are emerging, with reports of improved communication and collaboration, heightened productivity and cross-pollination between previously “siloed” groups or disparate locations.
Hinchcliffe noted other patterns emerging from enterprise 2.0 implementations, including the need for:
- Community management, both in terms of technologies to track usage and behavior and community managers to use them
- Social media guidelines for workers, with respect to the type of content posted and best practices for blogs, wikis or group pages
- Change management methodologies
- Driving adoption of E2.0 by commitment at the executive levels of an organization, especially CXOs, CIOs and CTOs
- Governance of E2.0 communities, like “How do you remove a post or link? Or make one? Which tags should you never use?”
- Measurement of outcomes, including ROI and social media metrics for usage and
Currently, cultural, infrastructure and security concerns are holding back adoption. E2 .0 tools are in their infancy — integrated search almost never is integrated, for instance. And organizationss with low levels of knowledge workers will benefit much less from these tools.
That being said, Hinchliffe asserted that the Cluetrain Manifesto was right all along . 10 years later, much of what was contained in those 95 theses was dead on — markets are conversations. He also offered one of the best condensed definitions for Enterprise 2.0 I’d heard:
“Networked applications that explicitly leverage network effects.” — Tim O’Reilly
In this sense, a network effect is when a good or service has more value the more that other people have it too.” (Wikipedia). Examples of this abound, like postal mail, aka “snail mail,” the telephone and telegraph, email, IM, Web pages, blogs or anything with an open network structure, including microblogging hybrids like Twitter. T
There’s an ongoing shift from institutional controls of information and video to collaborative filtering and reporting, as central production is moved to distributed networks of peer production.
So, what is E2.0? Emegent, freeform, social applications for use within the enterprise. The use of blogs and wikis to capture information, with social networks of peers using shared virtual workspaces. Globally-visible persistant collaboration with consistently verified improvements in productivity and innovation.
If this sounds a bit heady to you, it is. The bubble of Web 2.0 hype has moved into big business. The question now is how managers and administrators will implement wikis and other forms of enterprise social software. Fortunately, several case studies emerged from the conference that offer some insight, including Intellipedia, Serena Software and Lockheed-Martin. I’ll be exploring the latter in a later post.