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.

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.)

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.

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.

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.)

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.

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.