Enterprise 2.0 on Massive Scale, Build it and They Will Come‚Ķ

Wow week three already! How time fly’s when you’re having fun and there isn’t anything more fun then Ent 2.0! Except for maybe Twitter ūüėõ Some of you may have noticed my new Twitter widget to your right. I have added this as I think its going to be the easiest way for both my avid fans and esteemed teaching staff to keep a track of my new-found fondness of the micro blog.

On topic and addressing week threes task. Seeing as I have undertaken some prior learning in the realm of web 2.0 it was an obvious choice to tackle task two and investigate who has already embraced enterprise 2.0 and had good results. First of all I’d like to thank the various people who tweeted the lists of case studies relating to this topic as it made the whole task that much easier!

While looking into who had been not only using but providing these Ent.2.0 tools the name IBM kept popping up. For a company that has been around for over a century IBM still manages to stay ahead of the game with a lot of their technologies and Web2.0 is no exception. IBM currently has a couple of Enterprise 2.o tools available for consumption with¬†the flagship for medium business, originally named BlueHouse, but being traded as LotusLive. This is a result of IBM realising sometime ago that by harnessing the collective intelligence and giving its employees the opportunity to connect the world over would yield some interesting and impressive results. A better explanation of this can be found HERE where Casey Hibbard the president of Compelling Cases Inc. has been researching IBM’s journey¬†more thoroughly.

IBM to this day has no official centralised blogging service nor do they have an official corporate Twitter ID. Instead IBM thought it would be better to give the tools to their employees and let them loose! They didn’t lay down any ground rules rather they let their employees define¬†them as they knew common sense would hopefully prevail.¬†This then paved the way for people to share their experiences and ideas with other staff members where normally these would go unheard and undocumented. These social interactions were then enhanced by the development of IBM’s own internal Facebookesque SocialBlue.

SocialBlue allows IBM employees to create a profile with the service and upload information about themselves, photos and status updates. This means that they are able to reconnect with other people they have worked with in the past and not only see what they have and are working on but share what they are up to. This kind of social aspect in the professional workplace fosters strong working relationships and furthers the rapport staff have with one and another. This in turn means they will find it easier not only to share idea with each other and ask for help but when it comes time to work alongside each other they already have a relationship thus making it easier for them to collaborate.

 This style of inter-connectivity in the workplace and enabling social collaborative and knowledge sharing tools exploits what Don Tapscot and Anthony Williams hypothesised in their book Wikinomics where openess, peering, sharing and acting globally to really harness the collective intelligence is changing everything. Another subscriber to this theory which also came as a surprise to me was the defence contractor and all round ideas factory Lockheed Martin.

Better known for their ability to build stealth joint strike fighters such as the F35 Lightning that deliver death and destruction like no other aircraft flying today they realised late 2007 that Enterprise 2.0 was something that might just benefit them. Adopting Microsoft’s document sharing platform the then new Sharepoint 2007; Lockheed Martin set about customizing the package to better suit their needs. Some of these tools included the addition of things like blogs, wikis and discussion spaces that were not at that time included and dubbed their highly modified version UNITY.

Lockheed Martin employs in excess of 150,000 people globally and around 50% of those are reaching retirement age within the next 5-10 years. This is a huge problem for a company with so much knowledge and know how in a highly specialised industry as when these people leave the company they will be taking all of their knowledge with them. They then needed somewhere for these √ľber smart individuals to compile their experiences, ideas, and know how for not only the current staff to use but also the future inventors of the company.

Stuff like the f-35 Lightning doesn’t just conceive, design and develop themselves and when your job is to come up with and build some of the most technologically sophisticated and advanced aircraft and devices on the planet sitting around and shooting the breeze just doesn’t cut it! By deploying a tool where all of their boffins could come together and share ideas has helped them stay ahead and continue to kill stuff better than anyone else. When your biggest customer is the US department of defence their motto of “We never forget who we are working for” always rings true.

One of the interesting things I found looking into Lockheed Martins use of Sharepoint was that Microsoft has not as yet included these tools as an off the shelf feature in their newly revised Sharepoint 2010¬†with the focus remaining on document collaboration. I can’t work out why they aren’t interested in supplying what i would consider to be a proper all in one package to a $45.2 billion USD company is beyond me. Especially when Gartner recently released their predictions for your workplace 2020 where they identify the ten key trends that will influence change in the way we do business over the next ten years.

When you look at how these two juggernauts of the technology world are singing the praise of this new way of thinking then you would hope that others will sit up and take notice. My employer is not exception! They employ some 35 odd thousand people many of which have been in their jobs for longer then I have been alive but do you think they ask them when they are trying to solve a problem or change a work process? Noooooooooo of course not! When super corporations like IBM and Lockheed Martin can realise that they have some of the brightest minds working for them constantly ticking away all they needed was a no pressure outlet to let their ideas flourish amazing things started to happen. IBM can new even sell this to others now that’s clever. I’m going to take Jason’s advice here and not name names but there are some clever people at my work and they know the industry inside out, so when¬†is management¬†going to stop listening to the fresh graduates who have never done the job a day in their lives and start listening to the real experts?

This is the total opposite of a micro blog but hopefully some of you found it interesting!



Week 2, Enterprise 2, and so much to do!

Well here I am back on WordPress about to bash out another semester of insightful and informative analytically profound blog entries inspired by the ever changing and evolving realm of technology but more specifically the buzz topic of Enterprise 2.0. Blogging is nothing new to me after taking last semesters Web 2.0 course at QUT and managing to scrape a passing mark by a whopping 14%! I was somewhat disappointed by this achievement but as always there are factors at play that effect the outcomes of everything in life and INB346 was no exception. I am however digressing…

BLOGGING! I was resistant to the idea of blogging at first as I had this prefixed notion of fat whiney keyboard warriors commenting on everything the social media dredged up that day or how Mel Gibsons latest outburst made them “feel”. It wasnt until I had written my first two that I really got into the swing of the style of writing and how empowering it is to be able to express yourself properly within a body of text that in this case is assessable!

I take great pride in my written works and have always spent countless hours agonizing over every character to ensure my submission was both accurate and sterile to appear completely factual and judicious. Unless of course it was a creative short story etc but the stress was the same. This is not to say that I don’t try to carry over the same amount of attention to detail and accuracy within each of my blogs but the stresses are different and the expectations although at academic level are similar the creativity in this forum seems to flow much easier and I am finding that I actually enjoy doing my homework!

Someone else who appears to enjoy doing their homework is Sacha Chua and the comprehensive documenting of both of her lives, professional and private. As part of our weekly activities this week Jason asked us to peruse Sacha’s website and read not only the topics related to Enterprise/Web 2.0 but also some of the others that we found of interest. Being an Enterprise 2.0 consultant its and obvious necessity for Sacha to be well versed in the ways of the social media and Web2.0 but further reading has revealed it to be more of an obsession rather than just a career. Namely the use of blogging that has stemmed from her early discovery of introspection and how it has helped her throughout her life. In her blog about her discovery she tells how through writing down her thoughts, feelings and memories she was able to make sense of it all and digest it easier day-to-day. This has led into the hugely popular and well followed web presence she has today with her quirky and entertaining daily updates on her career and the small goals she sets for herself each week.

One of the ideas that i have been struggling with it since undertaking Web 2.0 last semester is the need to establish a web presence and put forward your own personal brand. The concept that everything you create and publish on the web will link back to you. Not only that but the potential for that picture of you doing a keg stand at your formal after party taken by someone else on their iPhone will ultimately affect your chances of getting your dream job is abhorrence. The boys from YouTube’s Rock the Job channel paint us a pretty depressing reality regarding exactly this and Sacha touches on a lot of what they said but ultimately it’s looking as though i will in fact need to put the same amount of effort and sterility into my blogging as a thesis.

Lightweight Models and Cost Effective Scalability

When considering this weeks pattern of lightweight models and cost effective scalability my initial candidates were services that I had already discussed. Facebook was my first thought but that was a prime example of software above the level of a single device. Youtube was the next thought but that was discussed regarding data being the next intel, Amazon leveraged the long tail and eBay innovated assembly. This became a real head scratcher and as I so often do I turned to Wikipedia and then, eureka!

Wikipedia not only satisfies the pattern of a lightweight and scalable web2.0 application but it would also have been appropriate for just about everyone of the seven preceding patterns. This collaborative online community built encyclopedia project was convieved back in 2001 as a feeder site to the already established Nupedia, a scholar based collaborative effort. Wikipedia was built on the idea that anyone could create, contribute and edit the articles and by the end of its first year it had amassed over 20,000 articles in 18 different languages. ÔĽŅÔĽŅToday Wikipedia boasts over 15million articles, 3.2 million of which are in english, and recieves anywhere from 25,000 to 60,000 page requests per second. Its this exponential growth that has shown how lightweight and scalable Wikipedia has needed to be in order to keep up with its rapid rise to the number 6 website on the internet.

Being totally user driven the staff behind Wikipedia is scarce to say the least. Its parent company the Wikimedia Foundation only employs 39 people to perform the technical and legal tasks while alot of the moderation and administration is conducted by volunteers. The bulk of Wikipedias funding is gained via voluntary contributions to the service and grants from various industries such as universities and government. Being a not for profit venture revenue is purely to pay for the hardware needed and the employees to maintain it.

In terms of the effective scalability Wikipedia started out with a single data server with a custom made open source wiki software built ontop of the MySQL database technology. This single server stayed inplace up until 2004 when demand became too great and the transition to a multi tiered architecture took place. It has been through 3 subsequent phases of development as demand grew until 2002 when the MediaWiki interface was built. This model was designed in such a fashion that it was able to be modified and updated without the need of a major rethink. The next major change was in 2005 with the introduction of the Lucene database search technology and the scrapping of MySQL. The physical home for Wikipedia is an impressive array of some 300 Linux based servers based in Florida and another 44 in Amsterdam which are all referenced by front end Squid caching servers.

Wikipedia no frills approach to the appearence of the website is aimed at being functional and intuitive for the user to interact with without being overly taxing on resources and bandwidth. The majority of the bulky content such as images and video are hosted externally which reduces the amount of storage Wikipedia needs to employ as well as enabling the faster page load times and search results. Wikipedia is a true example of web2.0 and the power of the user. Transcending the desktop computer and becoming mobile it has become many peoples first stop for information. Its global adoption and rapid rise to one of the most visited websites has shown that the model behind Wikipedia has been built on a lightweight and easily scalable principal that has ensured its not only survival but flourishing web presence.

When someone becomes a Wikipedia contributer it gives the sense of being part of something big, something with a positive and promising outlook. The open forum gives infinite possibilities, anyone with an idea or an expertise can share their knowledge with the world and collaborate with others to build something unique. For a non profit organisation to achieve this global status shows just how cost effective it really is.

Wikimedia Foundation organization chart

ÔĽŅFile:EnglishWikipediaArticleCountGraph linear.png

Leveraging The Long Tail

Leveraging the Long Tail is a modern marketing¬†strategies¬†brought about by the dot-com era. Without going into great detail the actual leveraging of the long tail is ¬†basically being able to sell the hard to find not so popular items with relatively small outlay. That is to say that the online retailer¬†doesn’t¬†have to maintain one or multiple brick and mortar store fronts,¬†consolidating¬†its inventory in the one location thus enabling them to carry a larger variety of items that¬†aren’t¬†the Twilight saga. The best and by far the most successful example of down right¬†exploiting¬†the long tail is of course Amazon The brain child of American Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com was conceived all the way back in 1994, before going live a year later. Bezos was eager the jump on the dot-com boom and Amazon was going to be his meal ticket by being able to offer the consumer a safe, simple and rewarding browsing and ultimately shopping experience.

Amazon.com does not physically hold a single book in stock, ever. I¬†didn’t¬†know this at first but once it had been pointed out and explained to me its brilliant! Amazon is merely a search engine that has¬†cataloged¬†all of the publishers around the worlds inventory and facilitates the transaction between them and the customer. This means that the book is shipping directly from the publisher, or seller, to the buyers door, without ever going through amazon. This means very little overheads for Amazon in terms of storage and distribution however it has invested astronomical amounts of money into the development of its web services infrastructure, and has now evolved into an API.

Diversification has been another major aspect of Amazons sustainability. Originally started as an online bookstore their range of products gradually grew to include CD’s, VHS (what’s VHS again? :P) and DVD’s but now extends to electronics, furniture and so much more. They have adapted their proven method of ¬†connecting sellers of products with buyers globally to include just about anything you can fit in a box and FedEx.

Alexa.com ranks Amazon.com as the 21st most popular website in the world and at number 7 in the USA. With a staggering nearly 7millions hits per day its any wonder that it has become a ‘household’ name amongst the internet shopping savvy. Their ability to list more titles then any physical store and be able to offer competitive pricing is what has enabled them to bypass their physical competitors such as Borders books and Barnes and Noble in revenue. This coupled with the convienice of being able to just click a link any time of the day and the titles on its way has meant that fewer people are going into book shops. ¬†This graph shows the comparrison for this year: longtail.gif

These material book stores rely on the first part of the long tail principal that the most popular titles will sell in volume with the not so popular ones going by the wayside. This literally means having 10000000000 copies of the new Twilight DVD and  not bothering to carry stock of A Clockwork Orange DVD as every space on their shelves is costing them money. But to put this all in perspective for Walmart to put a CD on its shelves they need to sell at least 100,000 copies of that CD to cover the cost of buying the stock and paying someone to put it on the shelf, and then process the sale. This means that Beyonce will be in every Walmart store while little known Aussie band Dead Letter Circus will never be available in store. This means online music stores like iTunes or Amazon.com is their only hope to get the records out there.

It doesn’t cost Amazon.com anything to have the Dead Letter Circus record on their virtual shelves and as such they will always be able to list it even if they only sell one copy. Thats one sale HMV missed out on by being limited to the finite amount of space on their shelves. This long tail of niche content is only available thanks to the internet and the online stores that have realised the market out there for it.


Perpetual Beta

Perpetual beta is a different approach to the development and testing of web applications. This differs from the traditional style of beta testing conducted by companies developing an out of the box and installed piece of software. This idea of perpetual beta being used in the transition into a browsing experience dominated by user participation and increasingly rich content has only been available by the advent of web2.0. This evolution of the internet means that delivering large and complex applications to the user giving the experience of a installed piece of software. My favourite example of this is recently is using Pixlr, a browser based photo editing software. Having used photoshop extensivley for over 5 years I think it is a truly impressive service.

The best and most recognised example this style of development is of course Googles Gmail. Google launched gmail as an invite only live working beta service way back in 2004. This smaller initial launch of the site meant live testing with instant statistics and feedback from the users, who are essentially test subjects. I didn’t start using the service until it became public release early 2007 still sporting the beta title. This beta version that i was experiencing provided a better experience then the hotmail which without a beta tag must have been a finished product right? What i am trying to say is that this “work in progress” suggested by the beta tag was in no way different to that of established service e.g hotmail. this isn’t to say that Hotmail has been static for any period of time it constantly evolves and changes at a similar rate. This is title that Google employs with most of its new products like my previously discussed new favorite Googles wave.

The reason Google is using this method of a pre-release working version that eventually evolves seamlessly into the new and improved gmail non-beta, is they are developing an entirely different principle of software design than that used of traditional on the shelf programs. Google is rapidly dominating the information industry by diversifying its web presence so much that they have built an entirely browser centric operating system, Chrome OS. This is what differentiates Google from older generation software companies like the ever enduring Microsoft. Although anyone who’s used windows knows that its really perpetual beta in disguise with the windows update utility ūüėõ

Traditional software development employed the use of beta testing in a walled garden by developers or the select invited few. This is a costly and time consuming phase of software development however is critical to ensure a reliable product for the paying consumer. This software is then installed onto the PC and runs locally; all of the necessary data stored on the hardware or disc. This is expected to work without the need to be updated or fixed.

When building an application based in the browser none of this data is stored locally on the machine rather accessed and viewed via the internet. The user is always using the latest version without the need to download and install “service packs”, also meaning everyones using the same version. This shift from the use of local applications to efficient and intuitive web based technology will prove to be an exciting time coupled with the growing interest in the use of cloud computing. The potential for enterprise systems to become browser based means that perpetual beta is going to become a wider used method of development.

Software Above the Level of a Single Device

The best example of this that I can think of that is a plague sweeping the globe in my opinion is, that’s right, Facebook. This social networking¬†juggernaut¬†has long since left the humble desktop as its home and spread its clutches into mobile devices and even games consoles. ¬†With telco’s offering free Facebook as an incentive to sign on for a 24 month contract on their new iPhone plan its perpetuating this trend and further engraining into everyday society.

The Facebook app on the iPhone and indeed nearly every other smart phone on the market is enabling people to update their statuses a million times a day as well as making mobile uploads of pointless photos possible! Not only that but upon purchasing my new HTC phone it gave me the option to sync my contacts list with everyone’s Facebook pages meaning I would always have a fun up to date picture of who ever was calling me! Needless to say I resisted the urge to key in each persons email and tediously make it happen but the fact its a possibility even I will admit is impressive.

A similar function is built into the PS3. When you create your PlayStation network account it gives you the option of syncing it to your facebook so you can do a status update between every round of Call Of Duty I play! Now that’s a must!

Setting aside my dislike for facebook I will admit that it is a truly impressive service not only in terms of its sheer scale and user base but also with its ability to transcend the desktop computer and become a native app to so many devices. They have been a major part of pioneering this multi platform user experience enabling its consumers to maximise its functionality and personalize the service to their individual requirements.

This style of software above the level of a single device is proving to be an exciting and revolutionary step forward in the way people interact with the internet. Some of the companies i have already discussed in previous blogs are doing the same thing with YouTube being possibly my favourite mobile app of all time! But also eBay has gone truly mobile so it’s becoming fairly obvious that to be successful, or rather become part of your users daily life this kind of mutli-platform service is the way of the future.

PS, so glad we are now using NING for our class discussions, now I can delete my Facebook!

Rich User Experiences

One of the newest and most exciting web apps that provides a truly rich user experience is googles¬†“Wave”.¬† Acting as a hosted conversation tool google wave is googles¬†attempt to revolutionise email and the way in which people communicate and¬†collaborate. By simply starting a new wave and adding people to it you can then watch as the participants contribute the wave in real-time¬†adding text, photos, links and widgets. It has a raft of potential uses both for the corporate and social sectors whether its to organise a party or working together on a project. I have just started using it myself as a collaboration tool in my mobile devices subject for our group assignment and its proving to be extremely good!

We can all work on the same document at the same time as well as being able to chat about it. If¬†you leave the wave and return to it¬†highlights all of the changes and tells you¬†who and when they were performed.¬†It’s also one of the first web apps I have seen that enable the drag and drop ability of a program running on the machine itself. This in itself is excellent as there is no need to use the slow one at a time browse to upload tools or the often sluggish bulk upload utilities available on many of the forums I use.

It’s also¬†taking advantage of googles¬†many other services they offer by interacting with apps like google maps and¬†gmail¬†but also external services such as¬† youtube and¬†twitter with the ability to embed the wave into blogs etc. This means that someone who is an active blogger can share more of the online content they have generated with their social network as well as ensuring a rich and full experience. It also helping to transcend language barriers with a built-in¬†real-time¬†chat translator.¬†This means companies with offices around the¬†globe which employ non english speakers can¬†collaborate and get their point across effectively.

 This is this video is the most concise overview i have found that explains the key features of wave as explained by a pair of developers.