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 ...
London Wiki Wednesdays is finally back! After a long hiatus, some of the core team got together for a drink last month, although I couldn't join them. Alek Lotoczko volunteered NYK Shipping (our regular fall back venue - Alek and NYK are firm and valued supporters of LWW) but with the short notice we couldn't do much promotion, or get any sponsorship. The guys asked me to carry on being MC, and Wednesday 7 October w...
, one of the founders of Wikipedia
,was due to come and speak at the last London Wiki Wednesday. Sadly he cried off at the last minute saying he was under the weather, but he sent Alison Wheeler
and Sue Gardner
to speak on his behalf, and they did a great job (my late report coming soon). However, while he was in London he made time to face some HARDtalk
from Stephen Sackur
on BBC News24
. You've got 5 more days to follow the link
and watch the 23 minute interview
, which covers the kind of questions I'd hoped Jimmy would answer. Stephen wasn't as vociferous as he can be in his questioning, or maybe it's just the Jimmy is quite skilled at answering those questions accuracy and trust by now.
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
Charles Leadbeater has spent the last few years writing a book called We-Think: The Power of Mass Creativity. It's due to be published in the summer, and a draft has been available for sometime on a website, to allow comments and contributions from anybody. He's developing the book using the very phenomenon that he is writing about.
There are two important angles to this. The first is that the current connected world and web 2.0 technology allows the masses of users to contribute content in ways that were never possible before. The second is that often innovation doesn't actually come from big corporations, or serial entrepreneurs pitching their next big idea to the VC community, but from the users and consumers themselves.
In this great TEDTalk from July 2005, Leadbeater explains with some great examples. Mountain bikes weren't invented by some bicycle manufacturer. Enthusiasts made a mashup from available bicycle components, and the sport was around for years before the first specialist manufacturer Marin started. It was much later before mainstream bike manufacturers took the concept on board. Another example he uses is Rap music. If you turned the clock back 30 years, would you have had much success pitching the genre to the average music company executive? Now it's a multi-billion sector of the music business.
Leadbeater describes the new approach to tapping in to the community as a development resource. There may only be 1% of active contributors in any given community, but think how that can multiply a company's productive resources. As he says, we now live in a world that has turned:
"users in to producers, consumers in to designers"
This is the key to the success of the open source software movement. It's why initiatives like SAP's SDN are so significant. It's why the availability of products like Teqlo or Yahoo Pipes are so important in allowing power users to create new application mashups. I'm sure there will be some very significant new products and sectors that are created by the users rather than the developers during 2007.
This was a great TED talk from a while back. TED starts today in Monterey, California, so I'm looking forward to some great ideas and presentations being broadcast in the coming days. I wish I was there.
If you go to their Startupzone, you can find out about their various partner programmes, marketing initiatives, and special licence deals for startups. An online profiler allows the startup business to explain their proposition, and get directed to the correct member of the team to start the ball rolling on potential cooperation. The site itself has blog posts from all of the team members involved, with some useful insights. I had a great chat with Dave, swapping stories about our ERP background and credentials - he comes from Great Plains, and before that Boeing Computer Services and Ernst & Young. My impression of him, and reading the blogs, is that this corner of Microsoft is much more business oriented rather than technology focused, probably because many of the team come from the more recent Microsoft acquisitions. I'll be investigating this further in the coming weeks to see how useful it might be, but at face value this looks very interesting.
"Having made the decision to further improve the database technology that underpins our products, we chose MySQL as it proved to be the most powerful and versatile solution available. MySQL embraces an open source methodology which injects rigour and agility into the development process. This approach accelerates innovation, and has allowed MySQL to become an incredibly flexible technology.
In addition, MySQL reduces overall cost of ownership as it is not dependent on one platform or stack, and it has low hardware requirements which keeps costs down for SMEs and gives our customers choice in how they use their Sage products in relation to operating systems and other applications."
Over at Dennis's place , he's interviewed Klaus-Michael , but didn't get much more from him. They are holding back anything more significant to be announced at their upcoming connections conference . As well as explaining more to do with their Open Source direction, I would expect them to properly announce their Sage Hosted version of Line 50, which I know they are about to beta test with some practices.
"Let us help you innovate with Open-Source and private-source software leveraging best of breed for total solutions. IBM's extensive software, hardware, and services portfolio, as well over 600 developers working with the community on over 100 open source projects are here to serve you."
The site has interesting links and FAQs and Bob points to this explanation of what they are trying to do:
"This is IBMs first Web site solely devoted to Open Source and acts as a starting point to engage all levels of IT with prerequisite information to begin an Open Source discussion. The portal covers the following topics:
- IBM and Open Source innovation - integrating Open Source software into your IT strategy alongside private source software
- Open Source relevance to the IT industry - the Open Source survey affords customers a concise snapshot of recent Open Source integration by industry and company size
- Open Source and Open standards - a white paper located in the About Open Source section covers the role these entities play
- Key access to Open Source links - key web site referralsArticles on Open Source - Open Source articles from the Linux Executive Report magazine"
One of the smart people was Chris Hearn, Product Marketing Director. SAP are keen to emphasise their openness, and open source credentials. Their NetWeaver development platform embraces Java and .NET, as well as handling their ABAP proprietary language. More than once at the show I heard mention of the fact they were the first enterprise software company to achieve Java EE 5 Certification - I'm not sure what that means, but it's to do with keeping up with standards, which must be good.
We had a fascinating conversation with Chris where he used SAP's dialogue with the Venezuelan government to discuss Open Source. Apparently through a combination of revolutionary thought and anti-US feeling, there is a big, government mandated shift away from proprietary software from the likes of Microsoft and SAP. This has culminated in an open source law coming in to effect last January, which has decreed a two year transition to open source in all public agencies, although it also covers their oil industry (which accounts for 70% of the country's economy). With a little further research I now see the "software libre" movement is happening in Brazil, Chile, Cuba and Argentina too, all with the aim of saving government departments millions of dollars in licence fees. In Venezuela, if you want to install anything that isn't open source, you have to justify it to the Ministry of Science and Technology. Apparently this ministry is even going so far as to build their own computers using Chinese technology and Linux as the desktop operating system.
Of course SAP have something like 80% market share in enterprise systems in the country, and there really isn't much of an open source alternative, but it means they have to be working closely with the government to get dispensation for their implementations.
Chris was keen to point out that, whereas 10 years ago SAP development was limited to their own ABAP and APIs in which you needed significant expertise, with NetWeaver you can use pretty much any scripting language you like. For example he talked about Lufthansa's website which is written in PHP, but is driven at the back-end by their SAP system. He also highlighted the source code for ABAP itself has been available since 1992. SAP have to support 26 different implementations of Linux, and of course they have provided their own Max DB to MySQL so that it is available for public download.
Elsewhere at the show we saw Duet, their product which brings SAP information and activities directly in to Outlook, or their business browser. However, I do wonder about the scale of development required. Sig Rinde and I were shown an interesting demo of Enterprise SOA by Uwe Pyka, Manager Operations EMEA, Enterprise Services Community. This showed a mySAP system connecting to web services from major banks to pull together a portfolio of financial services product options to be presented to a client. Obviously the important thing here was the definition of the services from the banks, which could then be easily integrated in to the application. However, when we asked how much development to pull the demo application together, one of Uwe's colleagues said 3 days. I can't help feeling that pulling together the half a dozen screens in a product like Thingamy would be somewhere between 30 minutes and a few hours, and that similar development environments I saw at the Office 2.0 Conference would also get that sort of job done in a few hours at worst.
I mentioned before that I talked to Eric Wood of SAP Labs. He is full of good ideas on enterprise widgets, or the fact that "drill down sucks" and everything should be about tags and associations rather than hierarchies - something the Irregulars have been discussing only this week. He was discussing different widget approaches, liking the Yahoo approach, and commenting that their users and the SAP Developer Network are pushing us in:
"Bringing the consumer experience to the enterprise, and holding us accountable."
This is a good maxim for any enterprise software author, and I hope the more "legacy" elements of the SAP company can respond.
Recently Dennis highlighted that EditGrid might be the best online spreadsheet available. A few days ago I had a session with David Lee, who told me all about the company, based in Hong Kong, and their strategy. Subsequently David gave us an account on the system and we have had a chance to play. I can confirm that we rate this product very highly, and will be partnering with EditGrid in the future. Let me explain a little.
We've looked at Dan Bricklin's WikCalc, which is complex, and the Zoho product, which is straightforward for simple worksheets, but restrictive. David's product is still in public beta but has a lot more potential. The product is a function rich spreadsheet, offered on a Software as a Service basis. They aim to keep the product free for personal use, but to offer a subscription service for corporate users including additional administration and management features. They are looking to spread the technology through partnerships, and collaborations which will make use of their API or additional modules that could be developed. The current product is Public beta 13, and they expect the next version 14 to be available around the time they announce their commercial options and pricing in a couple of months.
Their development approach makes good sense, and is probably the key to their progress against their opposition. They are making use of open source projects like Gnumeric for their spreadsheet logic, and OpenOffice for componnents like PDF support, and so concentrating their development resources on the user interface and user features. They are working on and encouraging various add-ons and mashups with partners, but plan to release these back in to the community as open source. In addition, the product is being translated in to 7 languages with the help of the partner community. They want to make it easy to use EditGrid with other web 2.0 technologies, and so you can publish spreadsheets to a blog or using iframes.
Our Excel expert is David Wynn. He's had a serious look at the product, and compared to Zoho he is impressed with it's simplicity and functionality. Sign up is very straightforward, and most of the spreadsheet functions you are used to are available in EditGrid. Here are some of his comments:
- Cell formatting works well but the formatting window stays in view until it is closed manually, which is irritating
- The properties view is very useful, but we would like to see users that are in the shared list with separators (it can be confusing if there are spaces in user names)
- The revisions functionality is excellent, with roll-back to previous versions and even autosaved versions, but it needs to display version description when the sheet is opened, and who has changed what
- We'd like word wrap to auto expand row height as this has to be expanded manually to see the result
- Import of a spreadsheet creates a new spreadsheet, not a new sheet in the current spread