Picking up from where we left off yesterday, let’s jump right into part II of our Lotusphere Q&A. With the volume of news announced, there’s much to parse and more on the way so it would not do to get behind.
Q: With the disclaimers made yesterday, we can probably skip that. So let’s get on with it: anything you omitted from the Connections discussion?
A: Quite a bit, probably. But one important angle that was not discussed and needs to be mentioned is the web based nature of most of the application set. Connections is not entirely web based – the integration with Sametime being exhibit A of this – but big portions of it are delivered through a reasonably attactive (read: not typical IBM) Ajax style interface. Much like with Jazz, the product teams have spent quite a bit of time leveraging some of the typical Ajax libraries and so on to deliver an experience that, at least from the demos I’ve seen, is comparable to what’s available in the consumer world. I’ll have a better read on just how well they’ve done once I get my hands on the technologies, which should be within a week or two, but at a minimum it’s fairly usable.
Q: What importance do think the Ajax style interface has with respect to adoption of these technologies?
A: It’s vital. You can’t, for example, expect bookmarking (which you may have seen called Dogear) and tagging to flourish if you’re trying to deliver them via a tool other than the browser: the barrier to participation and usage is just too high. Likewise, it’s important for this offering to be available to non-Notes users, which delivery via the browser permits. Improved as the Notes client might be – and we’ll get to that – a great many users today live in their browsers, so making their tools available in the context of that client is important.
Q: What about the question of organization size and critical mass? Are those legitimate?
A: Someone brought this up during the press Q&A yesterday, essentially contending that the utility of some of the features – such as bookmarking and tagging of assets – go down when the pool of contributors is small – say less than a 100. Supporting this notion – in theory – is the network effect, observable via the increasing effectiveness of a tool such as del.icio.us the more users adopt that tool.
From where I sit, that analysis is regrettably binary in its either/or assumption. There’s no question, certainly, that the network effect does have a significant impact on social computing tools. But I do not believe that that necessarily precludes them from having value in small organizations. The IBMers trotted out the example of Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation – a 10 or so person organization according to my notes – as an example of a smaller customer to whom Connections has definite relevance. And can I envision a utility for, say, tagging of assets and the activity functionality for RedMonk, a four person organization? Sure. So no, I do not buy the assertion that social computing tools such as Connections are applicable only to organizations of a certain size.
Q: Speaking of the tagging of assets, what can you tell us about the Quickr product?
A: Beyond the cutesy, Web 2.0ish name – which I’m frankly shocked got by the IBM naming and brand police – Quickr is somewhat interesting. Unlike Connections, I had not seen this product previously and thus have limited exposure to it, but essentially I’d describe it as a Sharepoint-ish like content store with some good Web 2.0 style features to it. If you can see past the too-trendy name, it’s sort of a file system layer that does all the typical content management things, while providing connectivity to rich client tools like Office, Notes and so on. While the press releases mention wiki functionality, I haven’t seen that yet and am not sure how it’s been implemented – call me skeptical on that front.
The most interesting features, from where I sit, are a.) support for the tagging of individual assets and b.) the ability to syndicate to them. In other words, much as you would with Flickr, you can tag any individual asset within Quickr, and also see who else has tagged it and what tags they used. From there, you can also subscribe to an Atom or RSS feed for the asset to track changes, updates and so on. Potentially useful, I think.
It’s also worth noting that Quickr will front-end a variety of different content repositories, so it won’t necessarily require you to decommit from an existing ECM or Sharepoint implementation.
Q: Interesting. What about the unified communication story, has there been much chatter about that?
A: Yes, that’s received quite a bit of attention, and about time too. As many of the Lotus folks can tell you, I’ve been giving them a hard time about their unified communications story for several years now, particularly since Microsoft’s had some interesting technologies in this space for quite some time. The latest iteration of Sametime, fortunately for their customers, permits not only unified voice but point to point video as well.
The video, frankly, doesn’t interest me nearly as much as does basic voice, if only because I don’t see a tremendous amount of demand for it (ask yourself why we still don’t have video phones – the answer is not technology). But there are use cases for it.
The voice functionality, however, is increasingly important. As discussed in Part I, consumer VOIP technologies such as Skype have exploded in popularity over the past few years, and there’s growing interest in related open source technologies and frameworks such as Asterisk, FreePBX, Telepathy, and so on. There’s very little question that from a demand perspective, technologies that can wrestle the voice channel to the ground and manage it electronically are going to be table stakes in the very near future.
What IBM offers is the ability to integrate the VOIP technologies into a.) your existing tools infrastructure (think Connections:Profiles and Sametime) and b.) your existing telephony infrastructure (think Avaya, Cisco, etc).
Q: You’ve mentioned Sametime more than a few times: have the IBMers made any progress convincing people that it’s more than just an IM client?
A: Some. I attended a session yesterday that was articulating how to use Sametime to integrate presence into everything from web pages to spreadsheets, and it was full. Likewise, yesterday’s demos of the unified communications functionality met with the expected oohs and aahs. But this is, at the end of the day, a self-selecting audience.
When I speak with those less familiar with Lotus about Sametime, it’s in the context of an IM client – if they’ve heard of it at all. That’s a shame, because the technology really is pretty interesting if you see it. It’d be great for IBM to have someone doing screencasts of some of the more whiz bang features, like screen sharing or the geolocation plugin.
The bigger shame, of course, is that something like Sametime isn’t available to a wider audience, but that’s a whole other can of worms.
Q: What about the new Notes in general? What is there to like about Hannover?
A: There are lots of changes to the product in terms of usability and so on that I won’t cover here, but the most compelling to me is the look and feel. Yesterday’s keynote featured a quote from my colleague calling the release “pretty freaking slick” (which was, I believe, a slight editing for this more general audience), and I concur. Notes 8 client is, simply put, one of the nicer looking Eclipse RCP based clients I’ve seen to date, on par with what Microsoft is delivering in its quite attractive new Office release. The look and feel might seem superficial, but it’s a much more significant factor than you might think with end user adoption and training. Kudos to the UI design team here.
It’s also worth noting, as Simon does here with something of a backhanded compliment, that Notes 8 will support ODF fully for office productivity purposes. Maybe the IBMers will now be able to use the ODP presentations that I hand them 🙂
Q: Lastly, what about the SMB portal announcement?
A: I haven’t had the time yet to sit down with Larry Bowden to dig into the news, nor have I played with the technology itself to see how accessible it is, so I don’t have a good read on this. The pricing isn’t terrible at $2300 for 20 users, but I’m a bit skeptical as to whether small businesses would choose that route or simply go with something like Liferay. But more on that later.
Q: Ok, how about pricing, availability, all that fun stuff?
A: Pricing is mostly TBD, and as far as releases it’s mostly second and third quarter. So not tomorrow or next week, but relatively soon.
People Over Process » Blog Archive » Lotus Connections (formally “Project Ventura”) says:
January 24, 2007 at 3:00 pm
[…] Having all of this stuff locked up behind-the-firewall or a secure cloud will take away the benefits we see on the web. Part of this concern is one of scale: will this “work” for 100 people instead of the 1,000’s who use public web services? Steve addresses this point well in his second Q&A on the Connections. […]
James Governor’s Monkchips » IBM: the world’s biggest enterprise social software rollout says:
February 1, 2007 at 4:46 am
[…] RedMonk tends to agitate for IBM to hurry up and gets its new social software out from behind the firewall, which its finally doing as per our recent Lotus coverage here, here, and here. But there is another way of looking at this, which James Snell talks to. Its fashionable for the blogerati to laugh at “enterprisey” but funnily enough most enterprises don’t. IBM seems to have a lead over its enterprise competitors, including Microsoft (Sharepoint is not the answer to all social software questions, as Burton Group and RedMonk agree), for the simple reason that IBM’s social software project was so big, and so managed (in terms of audit trails, identity, directory expertise management and so on. IBM’s social software is about managed, rather than unmanaged spaces, and that makes it powerful). I still don’t know why Sun doesn’t want to make money from Roller, but if IBM want to wear the t-shirt… This is from snellspace. Today IBM has what may very well be the largest corporate social networking environment in the world. We don’t know that for sure because there’s not a lot of great information out there about how many folks are actually using these technologies within the firewall. Here are some numbers: Our BlogCentral environment supports 25k+ registered users with over 3k+ “active” blogs. There are over 100k posts and comments with over 10k+ unique tags. Our dogear server has over 200k+ distinct bookmarks to resources both inside and outside the firewall and is generally more reliable at providing quick access to important resources than our Intranet search servers. Our activities server has over 11k activities with 69k+ entries and has 35k+ registered users. Generally impressive statistics, especially if you consider that use of the blogs, bookmarks and activities servers is entirely optional and there is no corporate mandate that Thou Shalt Blog or Thou Shalt Bookmark. Instead, a small group of people heard about it and started using it; they told some others about it and they started using ti; then they told some others about it and they started using it… and it evolved from there. And it’s not just bookmarking, blogging, activities, and so on. We’re also podcasting, collaborating through wikis, tagging pretty much everything in sight, participating in internal “open source” projects, organizing “hackdays” and generally just having a lot of fun. Thing is, I’m not sure that anyone has really figured out a way of measuring the tangible impact the use of these technologies has on our bottom line. What we do know is that the employees who are making use of them have generally found them to be far more useful than anything that’s come before and that there is genuine excitement about the new tools. […]
tecosystems » More Than an Enterprise Facebook: Project Vulcan and Analytical Collaboration says:
January 18, 2010 at 4:42 pm
[…] It’s easy to view the recently previewed Project Vulcan from Lotus as the Facebookification of Notes because, well, it is. In the waning years of the last century in particular, the Lotus enterprise collaboration suite looked it, lagging significantly the next generation collaboration user interfaces evolving, daily, on the web. But midway through the ought’s or whatever we’re calling it, the folks from Lotus began expanding their horizons, taking their cues from the web. The first product manifestations of this design evolution were Connections and Quickr. […]