Nlab Social Networks conference

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending the Nlab Social Networks conference, held at De Montfort University in Leicester, UK. Big congratulations to Sue Thomas and all involved with organising the event. What was particularly great about this conference was the level of networking that took place between sessions. Arguably, we could have done with double the time allowed for coffee and lunch. Unheard of at your average conference…

All the sessions were great but three stood out for me (a.k.a. I took some notes). Here you go:

The Future of Work: Amplified Individuals, Amplified Organisation – Andrea Saveri, The Institute for the Future

Andrea introduced a new term (for me, at least) entering the workplace: Amplified Individuals (perhaps a flavour of AI that will really happen…) Amplified Individuals are highly collaborative, highly improvisational and highly augmented.

Highly Collaborative: Able to tap in to and contribute to the intelligence of crowds. Act as social filters for massive amounts of information (demonstrated in the use of tools such as, Flickr, Diff, Friendfeed etc.) Enable the use of prediction markets (see related blog post: More on idea markets)

Highly Improvisational: Create ad-hoc resources and infrastructures, as and when needed to achieve a specific goal. Have the motivation and know-how to bypass traditional constraints and form new relationships within and across organisational walls. Serena Software are a great example of this, what started with ‘Facebook Friday’ (see related blog post: Web Wisdom) became their new intranet (see recent news: How one CEO Facebooked his company, Fortune)

Highly Augmented: Employ systems, tools and hacks to enhance cognitive abilities and coordination skills (the drug Provigil, aka Modafinil, crops up again).

Amplified Individuals possess Superhero powers for business, including:

  • Mob-ability – ability to work in large groups, a talent for organising and collaborating with many people simultaneously
  • Influencing – able to be persuasive in multiple social contexts and media spaces
  • Ping Quotient – your responsiveness to requests from other people for engagement
  • Protovation – fearless innovation in rapid, iterative cycles (i.e. prototype first, discuss requirements later…)
  • Multi-capitalism – fluency in working in different capitals: social (reputation), financial, intellectual, natural (green)
  • Signal/Noise management – able to filter meaningful information
  • Co-operative radar – able to sense, almost intuitively, who would make the best team for a particular task (across employees, partners, customers, etc.)

Bioteams: What we can learn about nature’s social networks – Ken Thompson, Swarmteams Ltd

It’s difficult to describe Ken’s session, because it mostly involved an experiment requiring audience participation. And my inability to use my mobile phone (ruins my Ping Quotient) at anything more than a snail’s pace interrupted note-taking. You can try it for yourself at the Swarmteams web site. It’s an interesting concept. You create a group on a web site. People can then join the group by sending a text message from their mobile with the line ‘join group username’ (e.g. ‘join nlabs joiningdots’). The web site sends out a question, and everyone in the group receives it on their phone and can send a response back, all via text messaging service. (Great, given I have 3 billion unused text messages on my phone contract.) And the web site gathers all the messages together in a single folder. It’s a little like Twitter. And is a great way of organising groups on the fly for a niche event, or to gather feedback on a given subject (i.e. a perfect tool for those Amplified Individuals).

What was most interesting was Ken’s reasoning behind this idea. The use of short instant messages to communicate (or, rather, synchronise) is common place in nature – the bee’s waggle, fireflies flash, ants waft pheromones. Be it motion, or emitting light, sound or smell, most animals have the need and method for instant short-term communication. Humans do too, but few organisations recognise, acknowledge or take advantage of the tools freely available…

If you’re interested in the connection between nature and business, here’s some books I have enjoyed on this subject:

Social Networking beyond the Dogma: Let’s Make Some Money – Jim Benson, Modus Cooperandi

Wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw the title of this session. But Jim delivered some grounded comments about why businesses should be using social networking tools. His use of concept maps, rather than traditional slides, to convey his message was very effective. I’m planning to try something similar when I get the chance (it reminded me of a comment Euan Semple made a couple of years ago, about how the software interface for collecting knowledge should be like walking through a village…) Here’s a sample of what was said:

  • Small businesses do not need more stuff to do… but they do need advice, peers, customers and partners, all of which comes from communities
  • Communities create value through participation, which takes time
  • Time is expensive therefore invest it wisely
    • Understand intangibles, which include more clients, future services and business partners
    • Employ judgment – in the use of social tools like networking sites and review sites
  • Learn – your community, your limit, your market – by experimenting
  • Start now – small and directed, what fits immediate needs and your personality

Finally, Steve Clayton did a great kick-off presentation about how Microsoft has approached blogging and social networking. My non-amplified self sulks at giving him links when I’m wallowing in the lower ranks of Technorati 🙂 but his presentation is available online. Multiple hat tips to all the speakers. They delivered some great content and I have captured a mere sound bite of it here. And thank you to everyone I met on the day and have chatted to since on Twitter, some great conversations all around.


And hat tip as always to Wikipedia for assisting with references. (Even if I did have to navigate past the band Fire Flies to locate one of the pages.)

Related Blog Posts:

Filed in Library under: Social Networks

Technorati tags: Social Networks | Social Computing | Collective Intelligence | Smart Mobs

Friday thought: do books matter?

Over the past month, I’ve listened to Baroness Susan Greenfield three times. First, reading an article in The Sunday Times. Second, in the audience at one of her talks. Third, hearing an interview on the radio. The same topic came up at all three events (not surprising, since she has a new book to promote) – the effect new technology is having on learning. Or, rather, the disastrous effect new technology is having on learning.

And I have to say, I disagree with her argument and pessimism. Now she is a professor, at Oxford no less. And I am a mere mortal without so much as Bachelors degree to my name. But her belief seems to be that books are absolutely essential to educational development and learning. If you don’t read books, you’ll never progress beyond the mentality of a young child. It’s a wonder how we ever invented books in the first place…

Central to the argument is that children are now flitting between multiple different information mediums, nibbling lots of content but never chewing it properly before swallowing. And those pesky computer games are distorting our perception of reality. (I’d argue that, if anything, it has the opposite effect – making reality so depressingly clear that people prefer to live in the virtual.)

I agree that lots of nibbling is no substitute for a good book, if you want to dive into the theory and history of a subject. Just as books and computer games are no substitute for real-world experience. But I’m not sure the future being painted is quite as apocalyptic as the baroness believes. Computer simulations introduce all sorts of possibilities and new ways of learning. Imagine if we were living in the time when writing was just invented. The theory then would have probably been along the lines: “Writing words down will destroy the art of story-telling. It will ruin our ability to bond and form emotional connections with one another, to learn first-hand from our elders, transforming our identity of who and what we are.”

Agree, disagree? Here’s a link to one of her interviews – iD: The Quest for Identity in the 21st Century by Susan Greenfield (The Sunday Times, May 08)

Programming Office

The reaction to a previous post – Rethinking Office – has been interesting. Quite a few people have argued that Microsoft won’t make an online version of Office available until they absolutely have to, because it will destroy sales of the full product. It makes sense to protect the full product, given it contributes a third of total revenue (generating a nice $4.7bn in the last quarter). But I think it’s a mistake to assume that an online version of Office will cause Office sales to plummet.

I’m not a Gartner or Forrester and haven’t conducted a huge amount of research here. But with the 100 or so customers I have talked to during the past 12 months, not one has the remotest intention of moving all of their data into ‘the cloud’ any time soon. Privacy, compliance and security concerns are the top 3 reasons, closely followed by reliability and speed (or lack) of Internet connections. They want to be able to do some work in an online environment but not everything. That’s why I think Microsoft is crazy not to plug this gap now, whilst it is still so immature. The only people likely to switch completely to online tools are those who almost certainly aren’t paying for the product anyway. But demand for online capabilities is beginning to grow. The collaborative features provided by Google Docs is gaining traction within education – i.e. the next generation to enter the workplace. People are looking for tools to publish docs online – as being demonstrated by the popularity of tools like Slideshare and Scribd (acquisition prospects?)

Not only does Microsoft give the impression of ignoring demand for online features, they are not doing a great job of promoting what the products can do for business. Here’s a simple example. I am currently building a new portfolio management system for a small financial services business. Their information-working habits have barely changed in the past 10 years. A simple review of their current processes and it became obvious that we could reduce their administration overhead by approximately 25%, all but eliminate the potential for errors, and do analysis to highlight business development opportunities. How? Automating manual processes and calculations. What with? A combination of Access, Excel and Word. Access will hold the database, forms and reports. Excel will be used to create a performance dashboard and real-time summary report. Word will be used for mail merge (currently completed manually – there’s the first fix)

Target return on investment (ROI) – 6 months.

Why use Office? Simple. I can use macros and VBA (Visual Basic for Applications – built into Office and therefore doesn’t require specialist developer tools) to automate as much of the data entry as possible, including workflow-driven forms to manage business processes and automatically generate client letters pre-populated with data. Data validation rules will capture and correct anomalies. By building the solution inside of Office, the administrators will still have access to all the other standard features. For example, they can create queries, ad-hoc reports and custom mail-merges (such as creating a targeted newsletter) without requiring me or another technologist to come in and do it for them at cost. I don’t have to second guess every possible requirement and charge them for developing features they might not use as much as they initially think. The user interface is consistent and familiar-ish (I’ll be spending half a day with them to help acclimatise to the new ribbon system), and, to save my bacon, is Microsoft’s responsibility to support. I can concentrate on making the forms, reports and processes as user-friendly and intuitive as possible. The programmability side of the application is a lot more mature and secure (especially macros) than in the 1990s.

There isn’t an online alternative to rival this capability, yet. The nearest appears to be Zoho. They are building online versions of traditional software applications covering just about every type of information-related activity you can imagine. Last week, they announced support for macros, programming and advanced functions such as pivot tables. The barriers to adoption? The reasons already given for not wanting to go fully online, product immaturity and lack of a partner network to help implement and customise the service. That’s probably going to change.

What’s interesting at this moment in time is the growing perception that Microsoft isn’t focused on software any more. Perhaps in part because of the news coverage. Steve Ballmer is the CEO and all he talks about is… Customers don’t know about the benefits offered by new versions of Office. They’ve never seen the visualisation features within Excel. They haven’t heard of Office Business Applications. Some still haven’t heard of SharePoint. And some that have don’t really know what it means. They can’t find examples to relate to or events to attend that might explain it all (‘Too techie’). They don’t notice the ‘people-ready’ adverts, different to the ‘realising potential’ ads from last year and the ‘dino-heads’ from the year before. They can recognise an IBM advert, just show the blue borders and they can recite their favourite line: ‘…so who’s responsible for getting this fixed?’. They joke about the PC vs Mac ads. They’ve seen an iPhone (Windows Mobile? Not so sure). They do know Microsoft is competing with Google and was trying to acquire Yahoo…

Anyone remember the scene in Jurassic Park, where the park warden explains the challenge of avoiding Velociraptor? You focus on the Raptors you can see up ahead. The one you didn’t spot comes in from the side and eats you.

SPC2008 – BillG Keynote

Having sat in on Bill G’s keynote at the Office DevCon 3 weeks ago, it was interesting to see what would be in the SharePoint conference keynote… Has to be said, the content had a bit more zing. Yes, the ‘last day at the office’ video was played. And as always, the Q&A threw up some great quotes.

Usual disclaimers. These are my scribbles taken live at the event. They are not a transcript, no guarantees regarding accuracy, etc. Enjoy.

Technology Trends

Same mega trends highlighted as at the Office DevCon. Talking about BI benefitting from chip improvements. Lowering storage costs enabling recording/indexing of media content. Natural user interfaces such as touch, pen and speech will transform apps. See MS Surface being integrated into meeting tables, white boards. Building up to the online services announcement:

“Historically, software was tied to a specific piece of hardware. Now software is becoming much more abstract, distributed across resources.”

Business Productivity focus areas:

  • Unified communications
  • Social computing
  • Enterprise search
  • Business intelligence

Comparing SharePoint Pie to Office suite 15 years ago. Previously, people had separate client applications for word processing, number crunching, presenting. Packaging the tools into a suite and lowering the cost made it easy to assume that everyone had the required tools to open and work with relevant content. Today, SharePoint is taking the same approach with server applications. Currently, many organisations have separate tools for business intelligence, search, web content management, CRM etc. SharePoint is tying them all together. Not necessarily about winning in each category, but creating a broad infrastructure that makes it easier to get stuff done. Simple scenario – rich new visualisations created within Excel 2007 that you can publish up to a web site hosted on SharePoint.

Software + Services Platform

Running software on-premise versus subscribing to a hosted service ‘in the cloud’. There are trade-offs in terms of ownership, resource management etc. It means that some elements will stay in-house (at least for a while), but other elements are straightforward enough to be hosted elsewhere. Expecting many organisations to have a hybrid scenario, a mix of installed software and subscriptions to hosted software in the cloud.

Announcing SharePoint Online and Exchange Online: Microsoft Online Services

Opening up the beta (previously, was private beta for customers with more than 5,000 seats). Aiming for general availability by end of year, regardless of organisation size. At the high-end, working with Coca Cola Enterprises, taking all their SharePoint work and putting it into an online environment. The new environment is a strong fit for the kind of work they are doing.

Demo of MS Online Services – John Betz: Login to MS data center – Microsoft Online. An administrator will get an admin view, e.g. add users, set roles, enable account and assign licenses for services to be made available for account. Can sync internal applications with online services (e.g. enterprise email synced with online mail). A sync tool for connecting to internal resources, including AD. Means you can external accounts to the GAL. (Assuming they act as external recipients)

For end users, the sign-in client looks similar to logging into an instant messaging service. The first time the user logs in, will have option to connect online service with user’s Outlook profile to auto-sync email. The quote from John Betz:

“the promise of enterprise class software being delivered as subscription services”


Microsoft has three levels of search:

  • Entry level = Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express
  • Standard = Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007
  • Specialised = FAST

Announcing availability of Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express today

Search Demo – Richard Riley: Showed Search Server delivering federated search results, including integration with Symantec Enterprise Vault. Presenting a customised results page, with images presented alongside structured results (similar to the example in To click or not to click). Demo’d FAST, showing a preview pane within the web page built on Silverlight. Very nice demo. (Looks a lot like the Album preview you get in iTunes.)

Back to Bill:

Talking about business data connectors letting you get to information of all types. Search is great when it gets you to documents but becomes more powerful when you can also get to structured data sources.

Looking ahead, people shouldn’t have to worry about where the information comes from. The software takes care of connecting to the backend information stores. The SharePoint environment will enable new ways of interacting with data. Modelling is an important focus area – simulating what’s going on in the enterprise. This approach should reduce dramatically the amount of code that needs to be written. Currently at the early stages but it will make the value of information even more impactful. (He’s talking about declarative programming – see the Office DevCon Keynote Q&A for more information.)

Q & A

Q – Data access and data storage – concept of universal data access still isn’t there. Is it going to change in Office 14? And what about the Exchange storage engine?

A – Storage unification is a big deal at MS. A big opportunity to simplify the programming and admin model and ability to do integration. In SharePoint, you’ve got these lists that are better than tables in some way, but in SQL you’ve got the flexibility and scale that goes beyond what you have in lists. What’s the answer? Want to have the capabilities within SQL as a native capability within SharePoint. In the next version of SharePoint, we’re taking a big step in terms of putting a table from SQL into SharePoint and enabling those richer capabilities. The direction is straightforward – we want list semantics to be in the database engine itself, without giving up the reasons we invented lists – the approachability and ease of use. On to storage unification. (Side note: Bill said that SharePoint has always been built on SQL… Er, no. He must have forgotten about the first version being on the Exchange web store.) AD had its own way of doing distribitued info replication. Now moving more to a metadirectory – will be based in SQL and then do replication out to the stores that do distributed login capabilities. Exchange has its own store, SQL doesn’t do the hierarchy stuff that Exchange needs. To model that hierarchy, we need SQL to cope with tables within tables. Tnat will simplify the underlying store. But no timelines.

Q – When do you plan to go relational with data store: allow nested tables, relational dropdowns within SharePoint?

A – Lists today are pretty powerful, were built for the kinds of things people do in SharePoint. The idea of tables within tables – we’re taking a big step towards that goal in SQL 2008.

Q – What’s MS plan in being ahead of competition, i.e. Google Sites and Team Edition

A – SharePoint is about end users and being able to get their work done. Hilarious – Bill said “the day they announce the product is it’s best day… I may be biased…” It’s great that people have choices. The breadth of work required to build the likes of SharePoint is very high…

Q – MS-Yahoo?

A – We are very serious about competing in consumer search. We’ve learned alot about how to build up the data center in terms of hundreds of thousands of serv
ers. Needed as we host Exchange and SharePoint. But also need to develop what we can offer in terms of software management that can also help customer data centers. Shouldn’t have to have people on call 24 hours a day (i.e. software needs to be self-healing). That’s what we are working on in our data centers. The boundary between desktop search, SharePoint and web search is blurring – we are going to see more solutions drawing on all these different areas. It shows our bullishness about search and software regardless of whether or not MS-Yahoo happens – that is speculation at the moment.

[Update: 04 Mar 08] See the comments for a link to a YouTube video covering Bill’s comment about Google. You can view video of the keynote, and find the official viewpoint over on Microsoft’s web site – SharePoint Conference 2008 Virtual Press Room

Related posts:

Technorati tag: SPC 2008

Office DevCon – BillG Keynote

Bill Gates delivered the keynote speech to kick off the Office Developer conference in San Jose. Unsurprisingly, the ‘Last day at the office’ video was played. If you haven’t already seen it, it’s quite a good chuckle:

(The YouTube version isn’t complete but you get the picture)

The content of Bill’s speech wasn’t hugely exciting. Probably because Office 14 is still being kept under wraps publicly. The following are some brief notes. The Q&A at the end is where it gets interesting…

It was curious to see the Server Platform referenced as being SharePoint Server, Exchange Server and Office Communications Server. No sign of Groove… Bill made lots of references to data connections between client, server and online services. The Business Data Catalog (BDC) is a new feature in SharePoint Server 2007. I think it is a safe bet to assume that this feature will be maturing rapidly over the next couple of product releases.

FedEx provided a demonstration of integrating their online services into Office applications. They also announced their intent to build web parts that will integrate natively into SharePoint. This could be particularly interesting in context of Office Live Small Business (see later). Resources are being posted at It looks like FedEx has twigged to the benefits Amazon has realised from enabling people to hook into their online services and data storage…

Bill outlined programmability across clients and servers, integrating into online services.

For the client:

  • Presentation = Fluent UI (aka the ‘ribbon’) + Task Panes
  • Logic = Object model
  • Data = OpenXML file formats

The ribbon is seen as a big success in changing and improving the client UI. It is planned to expand it into other applications.

Examples given: AdSage – specialist ribbon within Excel for analysing the performance of advertising key words (integration with AdCenter); Mindjet MindManager is using the ribbon (makes you wonder if MS will one day buy a mind mapping tool…) and Xobni (‘inbox’ spelt backwards) that has created a task pane within Outlook to display email trends and social networks.

For the server:

  • Presentation = Higher level services (don’t ask) + web parts, pages and
    templates (aka SharePoint)
  • Logic = workflow
  • Data = business data connections (yup, referencing the BDC again…)

Web services span all three, from data through to presentation

Examples given: MSW (Microsoft’s internal intranet built on SharePoint) integration with Siebel to increase productivity and improve usability (anyone who has used the Siebel client will understand that philosophy); PNMSoft (MS partner in Israel) has built a business process management (BPM) solution using SharePoint and Office to connect processes across back-end applications and visualise them (nice).

Visual Studio 2008 is being launched and the Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO) are now built-in.

Office Live Small Business Winter 2008 Release

Well that’s what was on the slide – looks like the product/service names are getting longer again… let’s just call it OLSBW08R 🙂

OLSBW08R is basically hosted SharePoint with some tweaks. It includes a web-based tool called Office Live Site Designer (let’s call it OLSD… no ‘funny’ comments please.) OLSD isn’t to be confused with SharePoint Designer or Office, but it actually looks like a hybrid of the two. You get a built-in ribbon and the page is broken into components that can have web parts added to them… imagine that, web parts. Like, I don’t know, you wanted to track parcels. Wouldn’t it be useful if a delivery service like FedEx agreed to build web parts to integrate into SharePoint… 😉

OLSBW08R, despite being in dire need of a better name, looks to have some interesting features that I’ll likely cover in a separate blog post (I’ve had a half-written ‘Google Apps vs Office Live’ waiting to be finished since before Xmas). The demo in the keynote showed how you can quickly integrate images and make connections to services such as Virtual Earth. I’ve got a non-techie friend who I set up with an Office Live account last September. It took him about 30 minutes to find Virtual Earth and drop it into his web site. That’s quite impressive. And a useful application of Web 2.0

More about OLSBW08R can be found at dev.

To close the keynote, there was nearly 30 minutes of open Q&A with Bill. This was a great treat that made you realise just how far apart Bill is from other senior folk at MS. He was able to answer questions on any subject with a reasoned opinion, even if it was a topic he wasn’t that close to. Other execs seem to lack that passion or intensity (Balmer not included).

The following is not a word-perfect transcript. It’s just the typing scribbles I made during the Q&A session, anything in brackets are my own comments added. No guarantees about accuracy blah blah blah (I’d put ‘without prejudice’ but that’s just taking blog writing far too seriously…)

Q – What’s with Yahoo?

A – Yahoo has done great work. They have great engineers but the question has always been should they become pure media or keep a mix of engineering and media. Using an ad model, you need scale. Only one company has that scale (yup, it’s not just Balmer who avoids the ‘G’ word). How do you combine engineering R&D with scale? There is a strategy of giving up engineering and just doing media, and give up engineering to somebody else. We don’t believe in that approach and plan to keep engineering core to the business

Q – What’s the next killer app?

A – Not sure we are going to have one killer app that takes over everything. In a sense, SharePoint is becoming central – the potential to replace email attachment culture with attaching to a web site instead. Excel will continue to be very important for BI (business intelligence). The fastest growing module in Office is OneNote. It is way behind the others right now but I see it joining the others as an equal in the future. It is great for gathering disparate data together from a variety of different applications

Q – What’s with Unified Communications?

A – Unified communications (UC) is a big deal. The desktop telephone has always been a separate entity, why can’t it be software driven? Once it is, you can automatically transfer calls to the mobile, to the PC, create interactive applications, set up behaviour rules to determine calls you will and won’t answer depending on context. This all becomes possible when software drives the hardware. Things like presence information becomes ubiquitous. This can save time and money – reduces the cost of telecomms and saves costs through better interaction. (Bill became very animated about this – big clue that UC is important to Microsoft going forward)

Q – MS vs Open Source

A – (Bill now a lot less animated). (Didn’t capture the response in words but he didn’t make the distinction between free software and open source software. Instead just focused the response on not paying for software, how MS has always had free elements of software, that other types of free software typically have a cost associated such as a support contract.)

Q – Why is the SharePoint documentation not so good

A – SharePoint is playing catchup to the client. SharePoint has caught us by surprise. We always knew it would become a mainstram tool but it has really accelerated in the last 18 months. Please give you us your feedback during th
e conference about what you specifically want to see, this is an area we are working on. (SharePoint is certainly getting the most attention, despite this being the Office DevCon and a separate SharePoint conference coming up next month.)

Q – What’s with the new declarative ‘D’ language

A – Most code that is written today is procedural code. It has always been the holy grail of development that you shouldn’t have to write so much procedural code, you ought to be able to do it on a declarative basis. In the past, data models were too weak. But we now have stronger data models, such as XML schemas. They are much richer and, in that environment, a lot of business logic can be done in declarative form. Don’t know just how much can be done today, we are doing a lot of research in this area. But we believe that declarative modelling should take the requirement for procedural code down to 10% of what it is today. This is something that will change software development but more likely in a 5 – 8 year timeframe than overnight. (Bill was clearly very passionate about this subject – add it to the ‘hot topic’ list to track.) (Side note: I often get asked about why so much of SharePoint’s UI customisations are done as XML – here’s your answer. It’s not a perfect solution today, but it’s a starting point for reducing the amount of compiled code required to customise the product.). This question and answer cropped up on Techmeme straight after the keynote – Infoworld: Gates talks up declarative language – I’m assuming it was the reporter who asked the question, ‘else spotted its importance)

Q – Office for Mac and the Fluent UI

A – (it appears that the latest release of Office for Apple PCs does not include the ribbon UI) Mac Office is somewhat diverged from traditional Office, to take full advantage of the Apple hardware and their system direction. It’s forked code. Some elements of extensibility do cross over, such as OpenXML formats. Some features do not translate. The aim is to make Office for Mac as Mac-ish as possible. Not all features translate.

Q – Google Office works everywhere. How can we avoid VPN with MS stuff

A – There are several answers to that one. SharePoint needs to be able to render a broader set of documents into rich HTML. We are also working on things that are equivalent to OWA – that’s what to keep in mind. We want the equivalent of OWA for Office, won’t be full functionality but should be able to do the common tasks. This is part of the O14 dev plan. (Bill became quite passionate again about this one.)

Q – Customising MOSS is sometimes harder to do vs just build from scratch on ASP.NET

A – There is a huge thing that I am very keen on driving is that our richest data store by far is SQL Server. Big theme in the next version of SharePoint is to let you manipulate actual SQL tables as lists (insert fanfare audio), you don’t give up the ability to have lightweight lists like today but these will be ‘super’ lists. A big theme is how much split there is between .NET and SharePoint – how much is stored within SharePoint versus SharePoint being the user interface (UI) for incredibly rich data structures that exist natively underneath. (Bill became quite animated again – it’s them data connections…)

Additional references:

Filed under: Microsoft

Mobility replacing PCs

That mobile devices are more prevalent than traditional PCs (desktops and laptops) is well known. But a recent talk at Davos highlighted just how much more important the mobile device will become during the next decade. Notes taken from the TechCrunch report

Eric Schmidt (Google CEO):

¨Mobile devices will have GPS and other features that will allow for new kinds of applications, as well as location-based advertising¨

Wang Jianzhou (China Mobile CEO):

¨If someone doesn’t have a mobile phone they will lack the basic functions of what it is to be human¨

Now you can argue the CEO of a mobile phone company would make that sort of comment. But the numbers in China are sooo big – 317 million subscribers today and adding 6 million new subscribers each month!

If you’ve never read it, there is a great book that highlights the impact that mobile technology can have on society – Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, by Howard Rheingold. Getting a little old now, given it was published back in 2002, but some great examples


Filed under: Mobility (new library topic)

Technorati tags: mobile technology

More on Idea Markets

In a previous blog post – Web Naivety – I cited an example of tapping into social networks (well, people in general really) to spot new business opportunities. The example given was a company that encouraged employees to submit new product ideas and then democratically vote on them. The end result was a new product, that would have been lucky to survive the traditional management approach to business development, that now accounted for 30% of total sales.

Here’s another example. Reported in the New York Times – Google’s Lunchtime Betting Game. The article is worth a read in full, and covers some insights from experts in prediction markets. Here’s the short version:

Google is encouraging employees to go online and place bets on a prediction market. Whether its questions about what Google might be up to or its competitors, play money – Goobles – is used to track results. Google has set aside $10,000 of real money per quarter to convert Goobles into bonuses. You could argue its another example of Data as Currency. In this example, Google acquires insights that are more likely to be well-reasoned (useful when challenging conventional wisdom and expected outcomes) and the whole process is turned into a fun activity with potential rewards all round for being right.

Enterprise Search Trends for 2008

CMS Watch has posted a summary of Enterprise Search Trends for 2008. Given it’s already a summary, I can’t really do any more summarising here 🙂

The benefits of a good search solution are obvious – helps you find what you are looking for (and even shows you stuff you didn’t know you needed to look for until it found you). The challenge for organisations is that ever-improving search solutions – particularly on the Internet – make it easier for customers and competitors to find out information about you that you may not realise exists. Handling the fall-out from search needs to be an integral part of an information strategy. Customer complaints are getting organised (link courtesy of Cognitive Edge)

Employers versus Advertisers

BBC News is running an article about a social networking survey – Young warned over social web sites. The report highlights a concern that young people could damage their future careers due to what they post about themselves on the web. Irrational beings that we all are, I daresay managers would look favourably on someone with no history on the web. And yet, perhaps it is the hidden histories that people should become worried about in the future…

But, on a lighter note, it is great to see that those surveyed (two thousand 14 to 21-year olds) have their priorities in order. 71% said they would not want prospective colleges or employers doing a web search about them without first removing some material. (School computer classes evidently don’t teach much about data archives as well as data security here in the UK.) But a massive 95% were concerned about their details being passed on to advertisers.

When IT doesn’t matter

I’m currently reading ‘The Labyrinths of Information: Challenging the Wisdom of Systems‘ by Claudio Ciborra. I haven’t gotten very far through the book yet, it is written in an academic tone which always slows me down. But early on, I stumbled across a very interesting point of view.

IT architecture is popular topic right now. You can get enterprise architects, software architects, infrastructure architects, information architects… the list goes on. One of the focus areas for architecture is the adoption of standards and consist methods for the design, development and deployment of IT systems. All sounds very sensible and measurable.

But Claudio makes a simple observation that suggests such architecture doesn’t matter, in that it does not help an organisation to become successful. Instead, architecture is a simple necessity of doing business digitally. This argument concurs with Nicholas Carr’s controversial article (and subsequent book) ‘IT doesn’t matter

A sample from the book: (note – SIS refers to strategic information systems)

“…market analysis of and the identification of SIS applications are research and consultancy services that can be purchased. They are carried out according to common frameworks, use standard data sources, and, if performed professionally, will reach similar results and recommend similar applications to similar firms.”

So what do you need to do to become an innovative company? Claudio suggests:

“…To avoid easy imitation, the quest for a strategic application must be based on such intangible, and even opaque, areas as organisational culture. The investigation and enactment of unique sources of practice, know-how, and culture at firm and industry level can be a source of sustained advantage…

See, I have been telling those techie-oriented IT folk for years, collaboration and knowledge sharing are far more important than your boring transaction-based systems 🙂

…Developing an SIS is much closer to prototyping and the deployment of end-user’s ingenuity than has so far been appreciated: most strategic applications have merged out of plain hacking. The capacity to integrate unique ideas and practical design solutions at the end-user level turns out to be more important than the adoption of structured approaches to systems development…”

Sounds like an argument in favour of mash-ups and wikis to me. See also: Let’s make SharePoint dirty