A summary of the topics at the recent O'Reilly Web 2.0 conference the three significant ideas that emerged were:
- lightweight, loosely-coupled programmable systems - think syndication not coordination.
- it's all about community
On the first idea, the focus is on syndicating outwards your data, and not trying to control what happens on the other end of the connection. This is a crucial idea that many companies are not quite prepared to handle. Legal and marketing groups in many companies have so long focused on exactly how some offering is presented that they may balk at the thought that in Web 2.0, they need to loosen their grip. There's always the worry of "what happens when someone does X or Y with it?" It's not quite so terrible.
This is actually quite related to SOA terms. Essentially, what you establish is a service-level agreement and a level of trust in your users and customers. The SLA defines your service endpoint, how it can be used, and how it will perform. You then trust the consumer of that service to make use of it according to the defined policies.
Once you use the word "policy" (however loosely), it seems to put the hawks more at ease. Obviously even "policy" is a vague and relative term. Watching Pirates of the Carribean
(again) last night, they should think of it more as guildelines than as The (Pirate) Code. :)
Coincidentally, that is just where the fear stems from: that it would lead to "piracy", "stealing" or misuse of a service.
To paraphrase Princess Leia Organa to the Imperial Grand Moff:
"The more you tighten your grip, the more [they] will slip through your fingers."
With our shift towards the more social interaction of Web 2.0, we're currently trying to figure out what makes sense in terms of defining topics and taxonomies in developerWorks.
We already have an internal taxonomy which is used as a table of data in things like our search boxes (see the choices for "topics").
Now we are tackling the issues of how do we build a new taxonomy-like structure that also allows community members to contribute. This is very much in the folksonomy
concept in sites like: del.icio.us
First, a quick review of things that contribute to complexity of these issues.
There are a number of faces of the same thing which I'll define to point out the differences:
- an item - a piece of content
- a topic - a specific area of content that may contain a number of separate content items brought together. It may contain other subtopics.
- a keyword - a term or abbreviation that has a definition. It is often used for search engines (a search term), glossaries (an entry), etc.
- a tag - similar to a topic however, rather a collection of content items, it is used as a marker or attribute to designate that a content item is of that topic
- a taxonomy - an organized or hierarchical layout of topics, keywords, or tags. An ontology is a similar concept.
In addition to these concepts, dW itself has some concepts we use regularly, primarily the zone
which covers a major topic that we want to publish information on. Thus a zone is a variant of a topic. We also have had "special topics" (smaller than a zone), an "area" (also smaller than a zone), a "station" (guess what: smaller than a zone). continued....
Continued from my previous post
As I said, we already have an internal taxonomy data structure that is used for our internal search engine, for categorizing our content, etc. It's crucial to keep this or things start going array when those tools are used. Each item in that taxonomy is used as a tag for marking items.
Now for dW Community, currently only the bloggers have their own "Category" tags, which are separate from the dW taxonomy. Because each blogger can create their own tags personally categorizing any of their posts, this can result in many variations of the same tag (same idea, different names), conflicts in the semantic usage of tags (different ideas, same name), and even ownership of those categories. Thus, you can think of these tags as having their own "individual scope" and exist in a different tag space than the full dW taxonomy.
Thus, there are now two scopes of tags: personal, and dW.
Next comes the issues with the big improvements coming in 2006. The plans for 2006 have been laid out but we haven't completely worked out the full tasks and implementation model. Hence, I haven't really described it yet... BUT it is coming and it will have a BIG impact in change! (we hope for the better in many ways)
So, with the new plan, we will start considering another scope of tags: those that span community-wide as a general folksonomy (see previous post).
In this scope, dW Community members can create a tag that exists in the public scope that anyone else can add, modify or even delete items from. This is where we start trusting our users to do what's best for themselves.
With any folksonomy there is potential for abuse and disaster when:
- picking a topic tag so big that it could contain a whole lot of other tags
- spamming into these tags
- malicious deletion of entries
Thus, a pure folksonomy can become total chaos if the facilities to backtrack, undo, alert, or generally administer those tags are not available.
Yet another way to do this is to introduce a new type of scoping. You still have a folksonomy, but you subdivide topics at a high level, and break them down into groups. Each group can have its own tags created by anyone in that group. It's folksonomy in limited scale and actually breaks the original idea some, but limits widespread chaos.
So thus the potential is that there may be a number of scopes: individual, group, dW, global
How do you refer to each of these scopes?
Globally-unique naming of each scope is usually enough.
Roblimo of Slashdot fame brings out some useful lessons learned about the use of the Internet and the fate of newspapers in his Slashdot post
The lessons point to some of the underpinnings of Web 2.0 that many organizations are just not quite ready or fully comfortable to handle yet: direct participation from the community
I recently heard about the Problogger site dedicated to those who want to become bloggers on a professional level (i.e., full-time job earning money). As part of their current 31 days project
they have a great collection of hints and tips on all facets of blogging including writing entries, building a blog brand name, marketing your blog, indexing in search engines, responding to commentors, interface design, traffic behavior, etc.
I find that we ourselves learned some of these best practices on blogging (by trial & error), and there are still many other things to learn from. We are sharing these practices with our different teams in applications development, design, marketing, and community relations.
If you are a blogger--even if you're not in it for the money--read this site.
From the number of emails and calls I get on community each week, it's very clear to me that people have very different ideas when they talk about community. Some talk about blogs when they really mean a group discussion forum, others ask about forums, when they really mean a live chat system, and so on.
Even within a particular service type, such as a forum, there are many models of how teams make use of the service. For example, many teams think of a forum particularly as a product support area. Others thing of it as a way for community members to discuss ideas and new topics. Still others perceive forums as a social gathering/group blog-like atmosphere.
Take another example of a chat system: many have asked us for chats which are more like a presentation with a group of experts that others can submit questions to. Others ask for a free-form open chat room associated with a topic where anyone can ask any question. Still others, consider chats as a private meeting only for a specific group of people.
It's also not limited to a single service either. For example, some want a community service where it's mostly a free-form discussion forum, but occassionaly they can save some information to put into a FAQ. Others want a group document/wiki along with a chat room or forum to discuss some aspects of the document project they are working on. Still others want a blog where occassionally the blogger can have an open chat with people.
My point is that there are many use-cases of these services. Such community use-cases
are often repeatable or reusable for different populations or teams. For our site, it's very handy to define such use-cases because the next time you use that model, you have a better understanding of what to expect. Also when people ask for features of the community they want to create, you have a list of use-cases that you may be able to pick from (or create a new one).
From a super-community (a community of communities) like our dW Community, it is even more helpful to have this because you can learn by experience what works and what does not. You can also record best practices on how to interact with the community if you are an outsider, or even within the community.
This kind of semi-formalized approach isn't always perfect or successful but like any kind of knowledge, applying some kind of structure can help in the long-term. This is especially good for the "wild wild west" for new innovative ideas like Web 2.0
I'm excited. The SOA Compass book
that I worked with a team of four other authors finally when to four digits and then even below 2000: i.e., 1979. I think that means that it was (for a moment) the 1979th from the top selling book on Amazon.
If you consider that most of the very top books are fiction bestsellers like The DaVinci Code and the Harry Potter books, and most computer books are way below them, that's not too bad for something that has barely been out for less than a month (and did not have the kind of promotion that those books did).
In books on Computers and the Internet on Amazon
it currently shows as #87.
On Barnes & Nobles it did even better: for a day it was in the top 5 best-selling books on Computers and the Internet (right next to Ray Kurzweil's book on the coming of the Singularity
). It has a smaller audience than something like John Batelle's book on how Google transformed our culture
What I find interesting is how I've become a Ranking watcher. :o)
While Amazon or B&N certainly doesn't reflect the entire book industry, it nevertheless gives a significant snapshot and rankings that they have show the relative social interest in the topic (in a captialistic sense).
People use such rankings all the time and often they are self-reinforcing. E.g., go to any bookstore and look for the shelf on the current bestsellers. The best tend to stay higher up because they are visible to more and more people. Of course, it's not all marketing; the item still has to have its own intrinsic value. But, given sufficient top-selling position tends to keep it at the top and if it's there long enough, secondary items tend to pop-up around it.
There's no better example than the Apple iPod. It wasn't the first and certainly not the last MP3 player out there but once it reached the top, it started spurring a big industry all around it for accessories, even designer names.
PS: If you're hoping for an iPod for the holidays or before the years end, for to DevX and look for the developerWorks competition
on the right hand side to try to win the latest 30GB iPod)
Our book will probably never reach that because the general public isn't the audience. However, any top-selling computer author can tell you that all of a sudden, speaking opportunities start popping up, and consulting gigs, etc. (My former life from magazine work).
Thus, having a ranking system can lead to a great deal of stuff which is why it surprises me that people are sometimes stumped at the thought of having a ranking of people in any large social community.
It doesn't surprise me that me that people can get nervous about something like that because of potential for abuse of such a system (Just imagine how many people try to boost their eBay rankings). So you have to think it out properly.
something to ponder...
BusinessWeek magazine has an interesting online article titled The MySpace Generation
that talks about the new generation of people who live, buy, and play online. There's also an subplot about marketing Coke through social networks.
MySpace.com now claims 40 million registered users with 20 million logged on in October alone.
Okay, editors hat on... I disagree that we should be lazy and call it "Service Oriented Architecture" as is what people are labelling it. It's a sign of the continued degradation of the English language.
Not only is it grammatically correct to have it as "Service-Oriented Architecture", but it also has historical precedence in "object-oriented architecture".
The hyphen implies the focus on Services. Grammatically, if you didn't have the hyphen, it is somewhat non-sensical:
"Service Oriented Architecture" would indicate that you have an architecture that has something that is a "Service Architecture" and something that is an "Oriented Architecture" but not that it is oriented around services.
So people, get with the English.
eBay is having their Developer Challenge 2006
until January 31st open to individuals and teams. The idea is to build an interesting application using their Web services API. dW also has a three-part series of articles on eBay's API
that could help.
For the individual ranks, judging is based 40% on innovative use of their API, 30% on demo-ready look, feel and stability, and 30% designed for eBay users.
For teams it is 30% innovation, 20% look and feel, 20% eBay ready, and 30% on the quality of collaboration between team members.
Prizes (individual): $5000, $1000, and three iPod Nano winners
Prizes (team): XBox for up to 4 members, and free trip to demo your application at the O'Reilly Emerging Tech conference in March. Two other teams can win up to 4 iPod Nanos per team.
Carol Jones mentioned the Ariadne project
in her recent blog post
which I find very, very interesting.
It uses graph theory (Computer Science) to help draw a call-graph between the people involved in a project. This is just the kind of tool one could use to build a Friend-of-a-Friend or Degrees-of-separation system. This application focuses on the relationships between developers working on an Eclipse project, but the ideas could be extended for determining the relationships in any network.
I was reading an article by Om Malik in the current Dec 05 issue of Business 2.0, called The Return of Monetized Eyeballs
. In essence it's talking about the fact the buyers are once again valuing the ideas of pageviews and monthly unique visitor counts.
They refer to recent purchases like MySpace.com (sold to News Corp.) for about $580 million for their 40 million registered members.
Apparently, the current value for a single unique monthly visitor hovers around $38. Using that value, they determined (amongst others):
- Slashdot/OSTG to be worth about $155 million (around 4 million UVs/month)
- The FaceBook a University student-targeted site that gives each member their own social space - $127M (3.34 M UVs/mo)
- The Drudge Report - Matt Drudge's political blog - $120M (3.2 M UVs/mo)
If you are curious how dW stacks up, using the 2 million unique visitors each month stat from the an October 2005 news item
, we would be about $76 million, based on those visitors to our online site alone. [FYI: dW does a lot more than just the online sites].
At least they do point out that not all pageviews are alike. I'd add to that not all unique visitors are alike either.
So next comes some ideas of how to measure community activity relative to these industry metrics...
Good business plans delivers on results, and to get results you first have to be able to determine what they should be and be able to measure them. Ie seen many business operations that aren quite sure what results they are supposed to be delivering, or have no easy way to measure those results. They end up not really progressing or succeeding in the long run.
With the new territory that is Web 2.0, this comes sharply into view. Organizations that implementing or running Web 2.0 services like blogs, forums, wikis, and other social interaction systems, all need to know how to measure them and what measurements are meaningful. At least wee lucky that in the online world, collecting data and doing business analytics can be more automated.
Many companies already agree that for Web sites (Web 1.0) you need to be able to determine pageviews (PVs), and unique monthly visitors (UVs) as your two key metrics, to determine the success of the site.
But now consider what Web 2.0 is about and think about if those metrics still give meaningful information. If youe an organization like ours where our Community has a wide range of Web 2.0 services, how do compare those metrics between that of a forum and from a blog? Does it even make sense do that when what youe really interested in are things more like: How vibrant or healthy is our community? Who do people interact with? Is our communtiy self-supporting or do we have to do a lot to keep it alive? How much does it cost us to support our community?
My idea on this is that PVs and UVs are too low-level to answer these questions, and we need another level of metrics beyond that which Il call participation metrics
. These metrics are used to try to answer the questions, or at least get a sense for what those levels are.
Now, the catch: How do determine participation metrics in a Web 2.0 system when even the ways people participate are very different between blogs, forums and other services?
The key, I think, is to go back to social network theory and the core ideas of collaboration; in particular, the idea of relationships between the members of any social network or community. It fairly easy to quantify a relationship, but it very hard to determine the quality of the relationship.
In this case, I focusing on the quantity of relationships, as well as the population mixes. Taking dW as an example, there are many ways of looking at our population but the one that interests me here is the relationships between a consumer and a producer. Simply said, you can look at four main population segments:
- the developerWork staff (dW)
- our internal ustomersacross the many product and technology groups in IBM (IBM)
- the general membership audience of dW (members)
- the authors, content sources, bloggers, and major contributors/interactors (the experts)
Thus, you can create a matrix of sorts here based on the interaction activity going on a specific area:
|Service Type||Service Use-case||Relationship|
|Blog||General technology blog||Expert-2-member (e2m)|
|Blog||Blog by IBMer on tech/product||IBM-2-member (i2m)|
|Forum||alphaWorks tech forum||Member-2-member (m2m), IBM-2-member (i2m)|
|Podcast||dW produced podcast||e2m, dW-2-IBM (d2i)|
|Forum||Expert roundtable forum||e2e, e2m|
You can go on defining more and more based on every (repeatable) use-case you can think of. More significantly, what this does is coaslesce together all the Community uses that generally contribute to specific relationships. While not entirely accurate, you could generalize that each use case mostly contributes to one or two types of relationships.
Thus, you develop a mapping across your entire landscape of interaction types for participation metrics based on relationships. If you have multiple communities (or dozens like dW has), you could limit the scope of the data to all service uses relevant to a specific community (e.g., IBM Rational ClearCase community) or specific set of communities (e.g., all IBM Rational communities), or you could look across all your communities at once (e.g., all dW). You have essentially, a set of participation metrics that applies to a range of data.
How do you use these metrics? It depends upon the questions you ask:
- Is our community self-supporting?
This is a relatively easier question because it generally looks at your ratio of member-2-member relationships versus all others. On the other hand, if you find your staff responding with all the answers all the time, (e.g., i2m) then the answer might be o
- How vibrant is your community?
First you need to define what vibrancy or health means to your organization. For some organizations that might mean how many people are talking about product X (the # of relationships in community around X). Others might look at how many experts have formed around your community. Yet others may be interested if the self-supporting segments of community are growing.
- How much does it cost us to support our community? What are the cost centers?
These are tougher ones. It requires a second set of data defining how much it costs to deliver each service or community use. But you can map, e.g., e2m is costing us $X across the entire community, and $X1, $X2, for the top activities in e2m.
- How do we learn what is effective in our community?
Here it helps if you have several or many communities to compare against. E.g., within expert2member, you could have a dozen different communities spread across different topics. Examine why the top e2m communities are growing faster than the ones on the bottom. It might be subjective elements (population for topic 1 is just growing much faster) or it might be things which you can address such as use-case features, or the approaches of the experts. It will at least help you to recognize how these are doing and provide a basis of comparison.
Again, this idea is more of a method than actual steps to take for your communities. You can see that the information is subjective to the goals and direction of your organization.
The next time you're sitting at an airport or at a cafe somewhere next to someone working on their computer, and you see a piece of sushi stuck to their laptop, really try to resist the temptation to say: "Hey, you have a piece of sushi stuck to your laptop." (Or if you're me, "You gonna eat that?")
Check out the new thumb drives from dynamism.com
. You get your choice of over a dozen different types of nigiri or maki sushi, from standard maguro/tuna to uni/sea urchin. The decorative/fake sushi industry in Japan & S. Korea is finally going high-tech.
These USB flash memory cards aren't particularly large in size, and relatively expensive ($99 for 128MB), but when else is someone going to say "Hey, you've a piece of sushi stuck to your laptop."
I'm finally on vacation this year. It's been a very busy season since I started to get our dW Community program on a strategic course. As a reward to myself, I got a CD of Brazilian music ranging from samba to funk.
We are having a gathering of bloggers (GoB) at our next IBM Software University event in January. SWU is primarily an IBMer event and is held every year to gather the expertise from the many thousands of IBMers (FYI: IBM has about 300,000+ employees worldwide) who attend.
[I'll admit I made up the GoB word as a recursive definition of a group of bloggers. It's my Unix heritage.]
The GoB is at SWU because most of our bloggers on dW are currently IBMers. That's not to say we don't have non-IBMer bloggers. In fact, I really want to encourage many non-IBMer technical experts to consider joining our ranks.
However, we do like to make a distinction with our bloggers. We're not really an anyone-who-wants-to-blog site. There are plenty of blogs on all sorts of topics, but here at dW we'd like to focus primarily on technical and developer-oriented topics.
That means that we want to try to keep things on topic that developers would be interested in. This is a non-trivial exercise most of the time. How can you really tell what a blogger wants to talk about? In fact, there is often a lot of interesting information that seems less relevant to a bloggers main topic on occassion.
Bloggers need freedom to express themselves but at the same time, the blogspace is full of many blogs with random thoughts that wander aimlessly, and those that die because it is not an easy task to stay on topic.
Our idea of blogging is actually to find experts that really know their topic and can write about regularly. In print publishing, this is similar to finding a regular columnist; the difference being that columns tend to be much more limited in length, content type and stringent on topic. You can't really go off-topic for an issue with a column.
There could be a wide variety of topics that our bloggers can cover but the key goal is to have a blog that, on a regular basis, is of interest to our audience of programmers, testors, sysadmins, architects, and other technical folk. You can see from the wide range of topics and technologies that IBM is involved in, from our product base to the projects we are researching, to walk across the topic-horizon, learning as you go, could take more than what any single person could do in one lifetime.