Monday Jan 07, 2008

OneStop 2 Conundrum

We are planning on moving OneStop on to a new Confluence based platform, called OneStop2, by the end of our fiscal year. (June 30.) The Confluence platform is being extended with many new features including:
  • Contribution Equity, measured from contributing and rating content.
  • Robust, integrated document repository
  • Tagging Services
  • Expanded XML feeds (ATOM, RSS)

The Confluence platform (an enterprise wiki) is exciting in it's own right and will provide us functionality to move OneStop into the world of Web 2.0. The integrated features I am most excited about are WYSIWYG, access control, and a commenting service. This will enable a OneStop page to be easily updated (via WYSIWYG) by  either anyone, or people specified on an access control list. Our model of primary page ownership (or perhaps moderation) will continue.

The conundrum is the mapping of OneStop pages into Confluence. Confluence supports the notion of spaces. Each space has a home page and child pages.

Should each OneStop page be a space, or should OneStop pages all exist in a OneStop space? Unfortunately Confluence doesn't support the notion of space hierarchy, so for example, we can't set up a hierarchy on the order of OneStop -> HPC -> ClusterTools.

We also intend to move CEpedia on to this new platform. Should there be one CEpedia space, or several?

Currently the 5 most accessed OneStop pages are

  1. Sun Secure Global Desktop Enterprise Edition
  2. Sun Fire T2000 Server
  3. Sun Ray appliances
  4. Sun Fire X4100/X4200
  5. Solaris 10
I don't think many of these should be spaces in their own right, but perhaps should be children in other spaces. If you have thoughts on this, please comment.

Wednesday Aug 01, 2007

CEpedia OneStop CE 2.0 - what's this all about?

There are @3200 CEpedia users, @2500 OneStop users and many of them (you?) want to know what's happening with those 2 systems and what is CE 2.0.

Right about now most non-Sun employees may have tuned out, but just bear with me for a moment here and it might be worth your while (and if it isn't, what a wonderful opportunity to flame me, or whatever the current term is!)

Basically CEpedia and OneStop are 2 different systems we use at Sun to try and improve the information sharing within our customer-facing technical community. There's alot of information in most of their heads and/or laptops, and we are constantly trying to help them share it with each other so that our customers benefit - better answers to their questions such as "how would I..." or "have you ever...?"

OneStop today is a typical website - a collection of html pages which are editable by their owners. Terrific content because of the passion and knowledge of their owners/authors, but sometimes a little out of date because those authors are either busy solving customer challenges or else working on new Sun products/services/solutions.

CEpedia is a wiki we established a year ago to support our Customer Engineers (CEs) - kind of like Wikipedia (do i need a tm here?) for CEs. It has the advantage of wikis - easy to update by anyone who can access, so it can be kept very much up to date.

Now if I haven't lost the non-Sun audience, here's where I think it gets more interesting. Our plan is to:
  • merge OneStop and CEpedia into a wiki with access control so that not just anyone can edit everything (after all, you wouldn't want me to be updating anything remotely approaching technical content - trust me on this), but updates are easier and therefore more frequent.
  • We also want to host this outside of our intranet so that initially our partners can also have access, including update capability where appropriate. Over time we would like to share as much as possible of this information with everyone, but that will take more "cleansing" of what information should be public knowledge and what needs to be restricted
  • Additionally, we are introducing various Web 2.0 concepts - tagging, RSS / Atom aggregation, AJAX, voting/comments to drive search results, etc. so that we obtain the benefits of this more participatory technology (aka the Wisdom of Crowds) at the same time as understanding how to leverage this technology better for our customers.
This future vision we are calling CE 2.0 - basically a Web2.0 experience for our CEs, partners, eventually customers, developers and others. Stay tuned.

Monday Jul 02, 2007

Moving Forward With Confluence

This is not yet a done deal as we still have small things like licensing () and more functionality testing still to work through, but as Maverick says in Top Gun, "Things are looking good so far".

We asked the OneStop authors to play with our Confluence test instance, read about the functionality, and provide us feedback. The response was uniformly positive, a first with this vocal group of 300!

Kemer Thomson, the guy who runs the Sun Blueprints program had some excellent feedback worth sharing:

Confluence seems to address not only the challenges in creating wiki content, but makes it a pleasure and opens new possibilities. I have played around with great success. Everything seems to work. I ran into no problems ... nothing crashed. Cool features, like creating an RSS and adding tags worked intuitively.  I could recreate my entire OneStop content quickly and without any concessions to the content and structure. Indeed, the ability to add plugins and control access to pages opens up many possibilities.

I find it truly compelling that we can combine an almost seamless transition with features and functionality that will enable solutions we haven't even considered yet.

I can't wait to see what our smart motivated group of authors will do with this truly enabling platform.

Wednesday Jun 27, 2007

Our Wiki story evolves ..

Sometimes your first choice isn't always the right one - you learn through experience... and indeed I've talked about our wiki challenges before..


Our first choice for our internal wiki was mediawiki. For several reasons, it's stable, proven and continues to evolve and we could implement quickly without worry of license restrictions.
We've found over time though that even though there are lots of extensions to mediawiki they often do not meet what we need in an Enterprise environment - a robust tagging infrastructure, Enterprise Level access control with fine grained granularity, wysiwyg editing or that  the plugins are not portable across mediawiki releases as the codebase continues to evolve.

You may have already seen wiki.sun.com  is coming. It's currently still in Beta and will not open to the world at large for several weeks but we're hoping to leverage the fact that our DotCom group decided to go with  Atlassian's Confluence and possibly move to confluence.

Confluence has more of the pieces we need for an "Enterprise wiki" -a nice plugin architecture (with a good list of existing plugins) better editing, fine grained access control etc. plus it was good to find yesterday (amongst others) the Universal Wiki Converter  so hopefully we will be able to move most of our existing content into confluence without too much hassle.   I think it's time for some scalability testing and to double check the UWC works correctly ...  maybe play with some plugins too.

Tuesday Jun 19, 2007

The Information Overload of Social Networking

I have been exploring, along with many of my friends and colleagues at Sun, the value and use of social networking applications. There is definitely a lot of potential and value with tools such as Ning, Twitter, Facebook, Second Life, Delicous (aka Swanlicous for Sun employees) and many others.

My question or challenge is this: with so much information already available and difficult to find within Sun and on the open web (a challenge we have been trying to address with Grokker, Goolge Search Appliance, good information architecture and organization, tagging, etc.) - how are we going to ensure that these new high value tools that hold high value content are organized and the content findable within the organization (see The Magic of Findability blog entry by my friend and colleague Soctt Brown)?

A specific challenge for me are my Ning communities - there is nothing alerting me in any way when there is something new. Sorta like the beginning of static websites where you'd have to go to the site daily to see for yourself if there was anything new. I'd don't want to see us facing information and social networking fatigue.

If some things could be pushed at me via RSS/ATOM or email or IM or text message - that would be great and help with ensuring I don't miss the things I need to know on a daily basis. It would allow me to decide where I want the information and how I want to receive it. Then there is the discovery and findability of all that content - we need to be sure we are thinking about an approach so that 1-2 years from now we are not struggling to "find" the information we need to do our jobs, communicate, innovate, discover, and collaborate.

RSS/ATOM is certainly allowing me to aggregate some of the information from some of the tools. However, I don't have that one site where I can aggregate all the things that I'd like to - maybe this is the ultimate mashup and intranet for an organization. An interesting exploration is the Facebook Platform (see Facebook's app feeding frenzy) where developers can develop tools to integrate with Facebook - this alone has helped me to keep up on my Facebook connections as well as messaging from folks via Twitter.

At the end of the day, we are at a really interesting and booming time for social tools. I've learned so much already from our experiments with tools like these - things about colleagues opinions, interests, projects, skills, etc. that I would never have known otherwise. It's all really valuable and the heart of the information world - creating, sharing, collaborating, finding, discovering, exploring, using and accessing critical content and people - when, how and where I want.

Hey - maybe my avatar, Violet, can help me keep up? 

Sunday Jun 17, 2007

Communicating 2.0

My morning routine is to sit in my recliner, read the paper, and browse through email on my laptop. Being a baby boomer I still like the hard copy newspaper, but find myself mostly reading the local sections, and getting national news from  Yahoo!news on my computer. I get a daily email from feedblitz with postings of all the blogs I follow. It's that dinosaur thing again, I prefer email to feed readers and consolidators.

This morning my feedblitz email was full of juicy nuggets. A nugget to me is an idea, tool, or technology that I can maybe apply toward our Web 2.0 efforts at Sun. 

My first thought when I get an idea based on a nugget is to communicate with people who might care, either as an FYI or recommendation for action. The good news is that there are now many ways to do this, the bad news is that there are now many ways to do this. I found myself doing three different communications for each of three ideas. The sequence was:

  1. Twitter. I generally  hope other people are listening and will respond to me in real time. These are mostly FYIs.
  2. Email. This is where I'll expand on an idea, and possibly recommend further action. Some are emails to a group, others to a person.
  3. Blog posting. Actually I'll probably combine all three ideas into one blog posting, so it's really seven communications, not nine.

The next part of my Sunday routine is to walk my dogs to Starbucks. We've been considering a new puppy and are scouting breeders. We ran into a woman who highly recommended a breeder in San Diego. I asked my wife if she had pen/paper to make a note of the breeders name. It then occurred to me that my phone was in my pocket. I had never recorded a memo on my phone before, but it seemed like the right time. I couldn't figure out where the "Voice Key" was on my new phone, I had to settle for a text message to myself..

I wonder if my communications will be more consolidated in the next few years.

Tuesday Jun 12, 2007

The Twitter Life Cycle

I found this image in  a presentation given by Cole Camplese and Jim Leous to the 10th Annual Penn State Web Conference, June 12, 2007. [pdf slides] It came from a posting  Alan Levine made to his blog. (Links included not just as a courtesy, but as a jumping off point for further exploration.)

 

Monday Jun 11, 2007

Non Anonymous Search

On OneStop we have always resisted forcing users to login. Since it's mostly a read only vehicle a login doesn't add much value, and people find it annoying.

On CEpedia (our mediawiki based wiki) we insist that people login if they are going to edit a page. We find that at some point most users do login.

We host our own search using the Ultraseek search engine. It started out as OneStop Search, and has been extended for our other properties, CEpedia, IC Create, and AIM - to name a few. Since we started with OneStop search, the assumption has always been we had no user information to work with.

We have recently extended CEpedia with a registry that is hosted elsewhere, and while doing so figured out how to pass login information back and forth. All of a sudden we can know who is using CEpedia search!

We can now start saving a user's queries, combine that with organizational info from our corporate LDAP database, and their profile info from the registry - and perhaps offer a much enhanced search experience. While using CEpedia I tend to search for the same pages over and over. As a first step, having a quick interface to my last few searches will be a big time saver. 

Friday Jun 08, 2007

the death of email continued

Mike's been needling me to post ...  I've been traveling - it can be hard.

One of the joys of traveling is undisturbed time to think, that  and the cool pictures you can take from a 747's window - 2 favorites from this week included - SF downtown and a great view of the Golden gate bridge taken as we came in to land  Tuesday lunchtime.

But seriously Mike's posting about "the death of email" got my mind a whirling .. .

We're currently in the process of moving most of our properties to being edge based - outside the corporate network / firewall - secured using SSL and strict access control mechanisms, completely locked down only allowing ssh and scp for us to access them. The objective is to make them more easily accessible to field engineers as they travel to customer and partner sites.

So the thought crossed my mind - if the forum for conversation is moving from email to twitter, IM, blogs and forums this is surely in part because the 'standard access device' is also changing.


So we'll  also need to be target delivering our content to mobile devices -- so what will our wiki  or OneStop look like from a variety of PDAs / devices - how will you navigate them, how will we make information such as staroffice docs available to people who only have pdas / phones - and should we be postprocessing to pdf for people ? 

more to come ...

As an interesting side note I was also blown away to find this site on the Design of the Upcoming Boeing 787.

It continues to prove to me that computing and material science are changing the planet and the things we do in revolutionary ways.
 

Wednesday Jun 06, 2007

When will email be obsolete? part 2

Got a great comment from Jay Neely on my last post. (When will email be obsolete?) See his thoughtful  Innovation In E-mail posting. I have to admit that my feeling is mostly coming from the gut. I'm confident that future versions of email will address all the shortcomings. It will be secure, include guaranteed delivery, and will even include archiving and search with appropriate access control.

What I'm wondering is if the train has left the station. Mind you, I would love it if email continued to be the killer application. I grew up with email. I've always liked it because it is an efficient way to message. However, I can't get by that nagging feeling that we'll be moving toward a framework that will enable me to operate more productively.

Unfortunately I'm not close enough to Generation Y. Do college students consider email to be indispensable, or it mostly a way to communicate with their parents? Do people tend to send email from their cell phones? I'd think, not. I'm guessing that high schoolers and younger don't care about email all that much. Email is certainly a fundamental part of doing business today, but will that change?  I suspect so.

Tuesday Jun 05, 2007

When will email be obsolete?

I asked my thirteen year old son why he wasn't wearing a watch. His response was "I can get the time and date from my phone". This made me feel a bit like a dinosaur

I feel even more like a dinosaur when I use email as the framework for my day. I use it to communicate with peers, ask questions, and even to send notes to myself. It's a really awkward as it is not at all convenient to compose, archive, or search email - or integrate it with my calendar or phone.

We do have an email archive and search mechanism that works quite well, but it has no notion of access control. As most of my more important email isn't suitable for company wide consumption, the only place it is archived is in my mailfolders.

I was looking through my long email queue, and there is very little there that couldn't be handled more effectively by different means. Community discussions are better held in forums. Conversations with my manager or my group should be tagged and stored for only us to refer back to.

Several years ago our group used a product called Intraspect. (now Vignette Collaboration) This product is chock full of good ideas. It has excellent access control, email messages are first class citizens, strong tagging support, discussions, and a robust content repository. The product is now used company wide, but has a few notable problems that are inhibiting further success. The worst gotcha is that it doesn't scale well. It was a victim of it's own popularity. The second issue is that it doesn't communicate easily with other applications. It's difficult to impossible to index the content with an outside search engine. Writing widgets, or jython programs, is an awkward process that usually requires consulting.
 
Will email disappear as the social internet matures? From my dinosauric perspective it be nice if email were tightly integrated with a social network that supports tagging, search, access control, friends of friends, and content objects. (widgets, live feeds, etc.)

Sunday Jun 03, 2007

Twitter as a Team Building Tool

As I work from home, I interact with people at work on a face to face basis much less frequently than I used to. When I do see them it's usually at a structured event such as a meeting or dinner. I don't ever casually stroll the halls looking for a chat, and don't drop into people's offices. Even if I did, few would be there!

When I had an office at work I had pictures of my son and wife on the wall, model cars on my desk, and various and sundry mementos sprinkled around. These were very  useful as conversation starters . When a person I hadn't met dropped in on me, they invariably scanned my office and commented on something.

I'm wondering if Twitter can be a tool to help people build relationships and find common ground beyond their work roles. Yesterday I tweeted that "I was going to the car show in Pleasanton, CA". A colleague that I communicate with fairly frequently, but have never met, was going to the same show!

In a prior post I mentioned that I am not interested in the personal activities of others, but in second thought, I am. It feels a bit to me like a successful team building exercise. I'm getting to know my twitter friends better, and my followers are getting to know me.


Friday Jun 01, 2007

Facebook, not just for college students, anymore

Some say it's the platform for the social registry of web 2.0+. I recently registered and was able to indicate I was "at a company".  It automatically set me up with "Sun Microsystems" in my "Your Networks" section.

I forwarded this around to a group of colleagues and got an interesting response from Matt Stevens, Chief Engineer in Sun Learning Services. Matt noted, "Not looking for dates (if you will) I have not considered exploring FaceBook but I see that there are 1700 folks from Sun there.  Compelling that it was easy to be part of the SMC network - automatically really."

Last week, Facebook released a new applications platform and  invited other companies to create cool apps that can be used  inside Facebook. One app of note is the Twitter Facebook application.

David Sacks in an excellent recent article titled "The New Portals: It?s the Bread, Not the Peanut Butter" mentions:
Facebook has a new answer to the portal question. The “social graph,” or your network of relationships, will push information to you. You’ll learn from your friends. Thanks to Facebook’s new developer platform, the types of information being disseminated now include not just news, photos, events, and groups but also music, videos, books, movies, causes, political campaigns — and the list is rapidly growing into almost every conceivable category.
Somewhat coincidentally our group  is now building an internal registry  for Customer Engineers. Perhaps we should consider utilizing Facebook for our next version.

Thursday May 31, 2007

Web Surfer Must Haves

For the Firefox user ...
  1. del.icio.us buttons - Firefox Add-on. Your bookmarking woes will be gone forever. You can conveniently tag and bookmark any page, then access your bookmarks from any computer. Two buttons are added to your Navigation Toolbar, My del.icio.us and tag this which makes it incredibly convenient. (requires registration)

  2. Adblock Plus - Firefox Add-on. "Ever been annoyed by all those ads and banners on the internet that often take longer to download than everything else on the page? Install Adblock Plus now and get rid of them." It's better than Adblock as it provides the option of a filter subscription that blocks most ads automatically.
  3. StumbleUpon - FireFox Add-on. If you ever randomly surf, this site is the best. Add their toolbar, click the Stumble icon and you are directed to interesting sites. You specify categories you are interested in. I constantly bookmark these sites with del.icio.us tag this button above. (requires registration)
  4. 15 Coolest Firefox Tricks Ever. (from lifehacker.org). My favorites are CNTL L to go to the location bar, the tip to shrink the icons on your Navigation bar so your location box will fit a decent length URL, and the Speed up Firefox with pipelining tip.

Wednesday May 30, 2007

Collaborating with Twitter

My personal jury is still out with respect to Twitter, but the collaboration opportunities are shining bright. As I've mentioned in prior postings I've been quite impressed with the ETS (Educational Technology Services) gang at Penn State. I stumbled on this savvy bunch by surfing around in iTunes U.

They seem to be very enamored with Twitter. I'm not quite sure why at this point, but the best way to find out is to listen in on their tweets. I've set up the four folks who do the ETS podcasts as friends.

I'm not especially interested in most personal activities, but I am very interested in what they are thinking about with respect to collaboration, technology and learning. I was hoping that they might have assembled a list, web page, what have you, of interesting resources, links, and contacts. I wasn't able to find this page as such, but I'm hoping their tweets will send me in the right direction.(Yes, the blogs are a good resource, but more confined in a strange way.)

Many moons ago when I worked with people at Universities it was in the techie sales context. I'm not sure if the ETS gang is interested in what we are working on in our group at Sun, but blogs, associated comments, and maybe even Twitter are an interesting way to expand your information network.

Our group is currently experimenting with Twitter. One real change that we really haven't gotten our arms around is how public it is. Everyone shouldn't be privy to (some/most/all ?) our work related conversations. We  need to apply appropriate filtering.

Certainly twitter is more than a this is what I'm doing now vehicle, it's also a what I'm thinking now vehicle, as well as a really light weight group communications vehicle. Maybe there is a convenient way to twitter or IM to a restricted group of people, but I haven't figured that out, yet.

I work from home full time and what I most miss (from working at the office) are the unplanned and informal collaboration opportunities. I tend not to do my best thinking in a  structured environment.

Twitter is also fun.

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mbriggs

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