Last month I did a guest article
for Jemima Gibbons
monthly newsletter on Freshbusinessthinking.com
about Social Media Monitoring and Analytics
. In that same newsletter Nikki Pilkington
argued why WordPress is a good choice for your website
. I decided I wanted to argue, passionately, the opposite, and my article has just been published there this month. Here is the BTZ version. First I need to disclose that I'm a stakeholder in a particular CMS/Platform developer (author of WordFrame and PageTypes). However, I'll try and explain my case as objectively as possible.
The first thing to say is that Nikki's article starts with a vital, core truth - whether your website is created by you, some experts in your team, website developers you've hired or an external agency, it needs a content management system (CMS) at its heart. You need to be in control of the content without needing technical expertise. You shouldn't be paying an agency or a developer every time you want to change a word, add a page, or move a menu option. But is WordPress the right CMS for your website? It's a blogging tool, not a CMS
WordPress is great ...
There are changes underway across the worlds of social media marketing
, social media applied inside business (what some people would call enterprise 2.0
) and where these tools connect (or not) to the business processes in (Cloud
based) CRM and ERP systems. Products like Salesforce are adding Chatter
, and Twitter connectivity. Enterprise 2.0 tools that started as wikis or forums are adding micro-blogging along with more and more social functionality. Content Management Systems are adding or acquiring a social dimension. Marketing departments are struggling with, or looking for tools to help with, brand reputation monitoring and management. One significant segment of this change just got much clearer with Altimeter Group
's R “Ray” Wang
and Jeremiah Owyang
producing Social CRM: The New Rules of Relationship Management
R told the Enterprise Irregulars
earlier this morning that this report is the culmination of 6 months of research, collaboration, hours of white boarding, phone calls, and skype calls in the early morning and on weekends working with an ecosystem of 42 partners. The document identifies 18 use cases for Social ...
Probably the main reason I've been inactive on this blog for a while has been because of my involvement in ITBRix, the launch of WordFrame
, as well as a major WordFrame project. Let me explain a little. First, WordFrame is an enterprise 2.0
platform that helps you build web communities and manage content, that has evolved from Blogtronix. We have been a longstanding partner of Blogtronix, but the following change was announced on February 21st
After being "spaced out" on the empty floor at Conchango last month, London Wiki Wednesday got "intimate" at BearingPoint's London office in Paternoster Square. I guess we had around 50 attendees, with a room designed for 30, but that just meant we had to be more friendly. First I have to thank Andreas Rindler and Sean McLowry of BearingPoint for being such good hosts, and laying on great food, beer and wine. Then I have to thank Jeremy Ruston, who provided some excellent champagne, but then got called away at the last minute so he could work all night in an office in Watford avoiding some technical disaster or other. The champagne was by way of a bribe for allowing his BT Osmosoft team to be first up, with extra time on the agenda to show off their latest mashup.
Martin Budden stood in for Jeremy, ably assisted by Paul Downey on the keyboard. The BT Osmosoft team had taken many people's mobile phone numbers during the evening. They were all put in to a contact list in a TiddlyWiki, which they had hooked up to the BT SDK, so that they could connect people with a click. The VoIP system then called each person in turn and connected them for a 1 to 1 call or a conference call. The demo had been put together that afternoon, and the developer kit is available free for a limited number of test calls per day. Go to their site for further details, but this has enormous potential to add voice connections within online collaboration solutions at affordable costs. They also videoed the event, so you may see us all on YouTube very soon.
We then had an excellent discussion around the wiki collaboration concept about the need for locked, certified pages in areas of the corporate wiki, used as an intranet. Some were worried that controlling access and locking pages was counter to wiki thinking, and might stifle the collaboration that a wiki approach would bring. Others argued that there were areas of policy, or procedure where it would be unproductive to allow anyone to change them - for example an HR policy, or a specified cancer treatment. It was suggested that fixed information should be transferred to a CMS with links to the wiki, whilst others argued that wiki tools should allow different publishing workflow approaches for different categories of content. Some pages might be certified, but with a release cycle of controlled versions, others might be published and locked, but allow comments, while other pages are available for all to collaborate and change. We discussed anonymous comments and changes versus named access as a means of encouraging real feedback. The BearingPoint guys highlighted their Mike 2.0 methodology which addresses these issues. It was a valuable discussion. At the next meeting we will discuss approaches and techniques for increasing contributors and contributions from the community, to improve on the 1:9:90 rule.
I showed ReutersInteractive, their first online community site covering carbon emissions, green issues and clean technology. Anyone can sign up. The site is built on the Blogtronix combined blog, wiki, document management, RSS feed aggregation and social networking platform for web publishing. In addition I related the fact that Toby Moores and I have decided to start an Open Coffee Club style networking event focussed on creativity. The event will probably run every other Tuesday from 10:00-12:00 and alternate between De Montfort University and a London location. We hope to get a mix of both academic and business people interested in discussing and fostering creativity in all its forms. We'll also have a Blogtronix based social network, blog and collaboration site, which should be available within a month at CreativityCoffeeClub.com.
Lars Ploughman talked about a recent Headshift project where they replaced a failing, CMS based intranet with a wiki approach inside a few months. The wiki is owned and driven by the marketing department in this big, unnamed company. One of the ways they encouraged adoption was to allow all users their own wiki space they could use as a sandbox, as well allowing people ton get used to the concept by applying for an award, entering their details in to a wiki page.
Andy Roberts talked about communities of practice and social objects. They have been around as long as we have, probably since the division of labour and he discussed how they can be applied in the online world.
Steve Coast explained OpenStreetMap - a free, wiki style, editable map of the whole world. The project aims to do for mapping what Wikipedia has done for encyclopaedias. The map is being created by volunteers using GPS technology, plotting traces of streets as they travel. The organisation is a foundation, funded by sponsors, donations, and key partners, like UCL who provide hosting services. As well as mapping, they are slowly collating points of interest too. Some parts of the country and the world are covered better than others at present, but this is a very exciting project. There was also some interesting discussion on companies doing mashups using Google maps being open to copyright infringement under the Google terms of service, as their work is derivative of the maps that Google licences.
Paul Youlten closed out the sessions with a two minute explanation of Wiki widgets and SocialCalc, SociatText's collaborative spreadsheet technology developed by Dan Bricklin, the father of the spreadsheet.
There was plenty of opportunity for good discussion around the presentations, and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. The next one is scheduled for 1st August, with a venue and sponsor to be announced.
Technorati tags: londonwikiwed
I'm continually fascinated by the way connections are made in this new world of web 2.0 and social media. When I walked in to the OpenCoffee Club on Thursday a woman I'd not met before instantly recognized me and came over to talk. Being a guy, sadly my knee jerk (jerk being the operative word here) hormonal reaction was that my luck had changed. Actually, she was only saying hi, introducing herself and telling me that Dennis Howlett was looking for me. I'd had an e-mail dialogue with Amanda Lorenzani a few months back when Excite were re-launching in the UK. Not 3 hours after OpenCoffee I was involved in a Google Group exchange with the Social Media Collective. Julia French was talking about the Girls in Technology initiative over in Silicon Valley. I offered to hook Julia up with Sarah Blow and the London Girl Geeks. In the same exchange, my friend Emanuele Quintarelli offered to introduce Julia to Amanda Lorenzani, who organises the Italian chapter of Girl Geek Dinners - didn't know she did that. Follow this link to brush up on your Italian. That made me find her blog on Excite, and see that she had posted a couple items about Internet World.
If you look at the word "web" in the dictionary or thesaurus, you'll mostly come up with things like mesh, complexity, and labyrinth that relate back to it being the spider's trap. Instead of being a web, or maze with dead ends and blind alleys, the new Internet is all about opening new doors, shedding light and networking.
Amanda's posts reminded me I was going to write about Internet World 2007. I could only visit for a couple of hours, and I have very mixed, mostly negative feelings about the event. There haven't been many posts, or much reported yet. It was useful for me to talk to a number of CMS providers, because I have a multi-lingual website to redevelop and I wanted to check out the options. Most of the stands seemed to be all to do with enterprise content management, CMS, e-mail marketing and the like. There was a specific area for Web 2.0 companies, but apart from Linkedin, I didn't see very much of use there at all. This would be a reasonable show for marketing people in mid sized companies or corporates who want to enhance their web presence and e-marketing, but I feel like I'd seen it all before.
In contrast, I was disappointed I didn't have more time to listen to the Keynote presentations. Most of them looked like they had good and useful content, but I only got to see Loic Le Meur's pitch on the Future of Blogging and Social Media. Loic had about 120 slides for his 30 minute presentation. Rather than using the Guy Kawasaki 10/20/30 rule of PowerPoint (or whatever he was using on his Mac Book), he was following Dick Hardt's style of presenting, clicking through words and images, sometimes one for each word in a sentence. It's the first time he's used this style. It was pretty good, but he'll get better at it.
Loic talked about the major trends in the blogging and social networking world. He talked about the explosion of connections you can make with your blog, YouTube, Flickr, Del.icio.us, World of Warcraft, and Second Life accounts. You can end up with too many friends, and it becomes difficult to manage. He speculated about the astronomical rise of Twitter. Maybe that's becoming popular because it's one of the ways you can connect more intimately to just a small group of your closest friends. All of these tools help you have a much more comprehensive relationship with your close friends, who can check out what you are thinking, what you are reading, what you are saying, the music you are listening to and what photographs you took today. He also talked about Twitter in terms of micro blogging - our time is so compressed, maybe more people can get in to blogging when it's only a "one liner" to tell what they are thinking or doing. He talked about the changing face of broadcast media and TV. I agree with him when he says TV sucks, because it isn't searchable, but there are things happening with the likes of Veotag or Viddler which will help change that. He talked about the new tools that make it easy for us to stop watching and start creating for ourselves. Then he got in to the ways that the web and social media are affecting our culture. The new tools mean it is much easier for me to be my own boss, and my own marketing department. They break down the traditional hierarchies in companies, organizations and countries. The world becomes a more borderless place when I can easily connect and work with people all over the world. He got a bit idealistic when he talked about being a citizen of the world, and how this is helping move us slowly towards race being unimportant. I hope he's right about that. Then he moved in to the way many of these new web 2.0 tools are free, and the way content is user generated and shared.
I went on to have a good discussion over coffee with Loic, Sam Sethi, Dennis Howlett, Geoff Smith Jones and one of his friends - Sally. So the show was a mixed bag, but great for making more connections.
Update: Geoff dropped by and highlighted I'd got his name wrong - doh! Fixed!
Technorati tags: Internet+World+2007
, London+Girl+Geek Dinner+11
ZDNet, the WSJ and others are reporting a very interesting move by Salesforce.com. They've acquired a 9 person web 2.0 firm called Koral that I met at last year's Office 2.0 conference. Mark Suster, their founder and CEO has become General Manager of Salesforce Content in the move.
When I saw it last year I said:
"Koral is a content collaboration environment for business. Their intention is to make it "painfully easy" for people to collaborate with a nice drag and drop, widget based interface. Rather than store things in nested folders, where you can never find anything, their system has tag, folksonomy based approach. They don't integrate with e-mail systems yet, but they provide an excellent repository, with mechanisms to push information out to the user with e-mail alerts and RSS. The pricing starts at $9.95 a month, with an Enterprise edition at $30 a month."
I'm sure the product has moved on since then, and I know it's been available on AppExchange for some months. Now called the ContentExchange platform, here's what the Salesforce top man has to say:
"We are another step towards our vision of managing all information on demand," said Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO, salesforce.com. "Now, with Salesforce Content we not only manage a company's traditional structured information, but their unstructured information as well. And, best of all, we use the power of Web 2.0 to make it all possible."
I remember that Koral handles version control, and check-in and check-out of documents while they are being edited really well. The system allows you to rate documents, and to subscribe to documents so you are informed when they've been updated. Bringing all of this technology through to the new platform will provide the kind of tools that will help organisations manage their content much better than traditional document management systems.
I'm hoping they'll get the new pricing structure right, so they get healthy adoption. I'm looking forward to seeing more detail, but I think this is a very good move by Salesforce.com in to unstructured content management that will compliment the rest of their application and platform functionality very well.
I'm always envious of people who have Grazr based widgets in their sidebars. So much more dynamic than a static blogroll. I'm part way through designing a makeover to Business Two Zero, so I took time out of the working day to spend a few minutes researching where to start to learn what to do (expecting it to be pretty technical).
I went over to my friend David Tebbut's blog because he knows this stuff inside out, and two coincidences occurred. First he had just posted about using Google search in a Grazr window - really clever. Second, whilst I was nosing around figuring out how difficult it would be to host an OPML list of the blogs I want to reference, he made contact on Skype IM, which then turned in to a Skype call.
Within a minute I'd found my disused Bloglines account which I used to create an OPML file, which feeds Grazr your list of feeds. That's as straightforward as sorting out what feeds you want to present, clicking on the option to export feed, and saving the file somewhere. It contains OPML, a form of XML, but you don't need to worry about all of that. The only issue with Bloglines is that you can only get an OPML of all your feeds. Other readers might allow you to create specific sets of feeds. That doesn't bother me, because I'll keep my Bloglines account for this specific task.
Within another minute I'd registered with Grazr and got an account. As part of the set-up wizard (or under My Files) you upload the aforementioned OPML file. This is a new addition to the product - they now host OPML files for you. You then click on the "create a widget" button and configure the way you want it to look. You can apply one of a dozen theme styles, change the size, configure from a few different pane view options. It even gives you all of the code options for different blogging tools or CMSs and guidance on how you cut/paste the code in to your particular one.
What a brilliant tool. Here's an example of how it works. Whereas I had expected to do 10 minutes of research to set myself up for some further reading on how to do all this complicated stuff, I had a working example inside 5 minutes (might have been quicker if the double glazing telesales guy hadn't interrupted us on another line!) . This will get added in to the makeover, which should happen sometime in the next week. My thanks to David for some excellent guidance and advice.
Over the last few weeks I've been musing about innovation and the software development process, partly because I've taken on a number of new Microsoft products and have been wondering about their origins, and partly through discussions with various people comparing what small teams have achieved set against those in much larger companies. Over at Sandhill, fellow Enterprise Irregular Erik Keller is looking at this from the point of view of the negative side of the consolidation going on in our industry. I'll come back to that issue, and ask why is the best software is so often developed by two guys in a garage? First though, closer to home, some software on my desktop.
I've recently upgraded to Microsoft OneNote 2007 and switched to Windows Live Writer, so now I regularly switch between three different text editors (including Word 2003) on my desktop. Why do I need three? Although they all come from Microsoft, they all seem to be developed by different teams?
In researching OneNote I came across this 2005 Channel 9 video podcast from August 2005 of Scobleizer talking to Chris Pratley and Owen Braun in the atrium of building 18 at Microsoft's HQ. Just as an aside, this highlight's how raw video podcasts can be and still be quite effective - just a guy holding a cam corder, asking questions of a couple of guys he grabbed between meetings. At the time Chris was group program manager for OneNote, Word and Publisher, and Owen was Lead program manager for OneNote. Chris explains that OneNote came out of a conversation he had with his senior VP. Chris had been wondering about creating something to handle all of those "factoids" you accumulate and deal with during the working day. The VP thought they should create a new application to deal with the process of preparing to make a document, and Chris wondered if they could expand that to a program for dealing with:
"managing all the bits of junk you have."
That fits with me perfectly, and so OneNote was born. OneNote is where I log everything, and start to create things that eventually get published as a Word document, or a PowerPoint presentation, or a blog entry, or a brochure (where I might use Publisher for the layout).
But how about Windows Live Writer? I found this Harrison Hoffman LiveSide podcast interview with J.J. Allaire, the architect of Windows Live Writer and founder of Onfolio. So I learned that Live Writer came with Microsoft's acquisition of Onfolio. They had already started developing Writer as a web publishing tool to compliment their other products prior to the acquisition. J.J. explains that their vision was to extend Onfolio from collecting and acquiring information in to publishing.
He describes the three key things they wanted to do well that make Live Writer different and that they hope will make people switch over:
- The WYSIWYG editor picks up the style of your blog so that as you edit, you get the look and feel of the way it will actually look on the site. As well as this option there is a standard WYSIWYG edit mode, a preview mode so you can see how it will be published in situ and a HTML source code view.
- They handle graphics in terms of uploading, accessing online systems like Flickr or maps, positioning, thumbnailing, use of effects and resizing in a comprehensive and easy way.
- They built a developer SDK and the ability to create plug-ins to allow people to add enhancements to Live Writer.
Their goal for the product is to be compatible with all of the blog platforms that are being used, and it already covers a large range of services right "out of the box". They use the various web publishing standards, and over time they plan to extend the product to handle all forms of content for web publishing for things like wikis, image galleries, support for picking up product data with embedded links, handling content with microformat markup for events and reviews and the like.
I can see that trying to put all of these different note taking, lay out and editing capabilities in to a single product would just make it too complex and unwieldy. The idea of content starting as a "scrap" or one liner and being developed in OneNote, and then subsequently being picked up by Live Writer, or PowerPoint which are optimized to the way I want to present and publish that content makes good sense. It would be nice if the interface wasn't, more often than not, cut and paste. But it is interesting that Microsoft have examples of good product emerging from inside such a large organization, as well as innovations acquired through acquisition.
However, Erik's point is that the current consolidation in our industry has the potential to stifle that innovation, so I'll be coming back to that in an upcoming post.
One of the frustrations of the current web 2.0 and enterprise 2.0 world is that there are great social networking and collaboration tools that each cover a limited range of functionality or do one thing well. It's good for these companies to have focus, but for a more complete, enterprise wide solution I'd love to have several products connected together with a single log in, with my favourite bits of functionality from a few others included too. The other aspect is that many of the tool providers have a more consumer oriented approach, which works well for initial adoption and training within a department, but leads to concerns over how scalable the solution will be, and how acceptable it will be when the CIO or IT get involved in a more significant, enterprise wide rollout.
George's starting point for Blogtronix addresses these two key issues. Firstly, he has assembled a collection of collaboration tools that cover blogging, wikis, document management, RSS feeds and social networking in an integrated approach where the design philosophy is "no boundaries". Secondly, he has adopted Microsoft .NET and SQL Server technology as the platform, as well as a choice of deployment options. This approach, plus the fact that Blogtronix already have a live implementation with 50,000 users, 5,000 of whom are active, will mean that most CIOs will take the solution very seriously. For the rest of us, provided it has the functionality we need, we shouldn't care what the underlying database and platform is.
Blogtronix is a community based, web publishing and collaboration platform that will be useful to most businesses, and have a variety of applications. Major organisations like the BBC have implemented social networking to connect together like minded people in their organisation and to facilitate collaboration. Euan Semple put together their approach, which developed over time using a number of different tools. They started with an internal bulletin board, which has been used by over 18,000 of their 24,000 employees. Then created their own social networking tool called Connect, which helps them track down specific expertise in their organisation, and form interest groups for particular projects. After that they started using blogging tools for internal communication. There are currently over 130 in the organisation, one of which is regularly read by over 4,000 employees. They have also implemented use of wikis as well. Around 500 people have access to them in a controlled way to do things like creating procedural documentation, or for project collaboration. The big advantage with a product like Blogtronix is the BBC could have done all of these things with just one platform to learn, and a single log in.
Blogtronix has an impressive and flexible security system. You can set up as many groups and sub groups as you like, maybe with some form of tree structure. These could be internal within your company, or external with partners, customers or suppliers, or you could set up areas of your system that are publicly available. Your membership will define which groups you belong to, your rights and security access, but it's also important to understand that you could be on Blogtronix's Software as a Service hosted service, using their appliance, or deploy the product behind a firewall. With some configuration and set-up, any Blogtronix user can be connected together with any other. anywhere.
Within a particular community there are facilities to show you who's online, recent content, recent comments, the most read posts, the most discussed authors, user ratings for authors and posts. The post editor allows you to upload files, access the system's image and file manager, insert audio, HTML objects, add tags, Technorati tags, categories, create an automatic post summary, making this a strong blogging platform in its own right. You can add video from YouTube, and there is a separate module for video blogging. Their wiki functionality is comprehensive, but not as strong as some products, but they are working to improve it. For example they don't have a wiki spreadsheet editor yet. However, from a document creation point they have everything you would need to create and store documents and sub documents in a hierarchical folder structure. You can attach images, flash, video, attachments, links, and export content to Word. All changes are properly tracked so you can view the complete document history, compare changes and restore previous versions.
The document management system can store any types of files, and links to the wiki document system. Within document management or attachments there is comprehensive version control, where the system will automatically increment the version number when another version of the file is uploaded. Categories and tagging with key words is available with documents and the wiki as well.
As a user I can set up a personal profile and a corporate profile. This could include my work history, education history, skills, responsibilities, job function, training, notes, anything. If I have the appropriate admin rights, I can search for people by criteria and keywords, and then make connections with people for a particular project or topic. Of course, within the system I can send a message to any other Blogtronix user.
From an administration point of view, I have the facility to set up forbidden words, or track particular warning words. I can drill down to see when and how the system is being used, and easily identify the content and opinion creators within particular groups or organisations. From a content management point of view, the system has trigger and workflow capability to help you manage the drafting and publishing process.
My overall take is that Blogtronix is an excellent collaboration and web publishing platform that will be useful to a wide variety of organisations. Their hybrid deployment approach and technology choice will make the product attractive to major corporations. The application lends itself to creating a community environment in a company with thousands of employees. However, this product will be just as useful to small and medium businesses as well. It provides an integrated approach to content production and community interaction, so that it could work as your company intranet, support system for partners or customers, or even your customer facing website. One of the downsides of this kind of tool is that it is so flexible, with so many different applications, that the message of how useful it could be gets lost within the options available. Although the Blogtronix website touches on the possibilities, the strength of the product doesn't come across - they need more examples to bring it to life. I don't know what their marketing strategy is, but I would narrow the focus on to some specific niche markets to build up a customer base. I'm already thinking of some specific applications in our customer set - practice management for example. In any case, this is an enterprise 2.0 product you need to take a serious look at.
Here's a bit of an advert. Today the website we designed and built for London accountants Goodman Jones has gone live. We're quite proud of the way Glenn, our designer, captured what we intended in the design brief and gave them what they wanted. They were aiming to have a site that jumped them ahead of their competition, and the rest of the accounting practices they know. I'll leave it to them to explain how they think we did, and time will tell on what the market thinks. We're different to most web design companies because we are, first and foremost, a business consultancy that understands the power of the Internet and the importance of design, rather than a design or Internet development company approaching the business issues from the other direction.
Dennis has talked about the new site elsewhere, as we contracted his wordsmith skills to help us hone and improve the content provided by the client. It was a great collaborative effort all round. We work with the guys at Tribal Internet in Reading to provide the open source Content Management System (CMS) that drives the site, as well as their web technical know how. Liz, who's based in Columbia, translated the design in to PHP and HTML code, and then the heavy work on the content, with Philip and Daren from the client, could start. It aims to be different from the average accountant's site, and is part of GJ's move in to an online strategy to help them win more business. As well as the new site, they've taken on board Software as a Service (SaaS) based online accounting, a Blog aimed at SMEs, an online support service developed to help their online accounting clients, and a marketing strategy to underpin the new approach. E-mail marketing and some other ideas will come in to a second phase. It's great to see a practice moving ahead in such an innovative way.
We aim to talk through the collaboration process in a podcast that will be published on Dennis's site shortly. I'd be very interested in people's comments and feedback.