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My Ten Favorite Tweets: Week Ending 080709

From the home office in the former Soviet republic of Georgia…

#1: GigaOm: One RSS subscriber equals 5 to 10 Twitter followers http://bit.ly/MkRHF

#2: Interesting take: “To enable innovation it may be necessary to reduce the number of social ties between coders” http://bit.ly/5apJn

#3: RT @berkun The best approach for wicked problems is to break them apart into smaller problems. Repeat until there’s a piece you can solve.

#4: @GrahamHill Toyota had 20 million ideas in 40 years? Wow. That’s says a lot for how they got to the top of the automotive world.

#5: Checking out @lindegaard‘s list of books and people he finds useful for #innovation work: http://bit.ly/18MUk3

#6: Lloyds CIO: RT @kat_woman have u had a look at spigit? We used it 2 create a world-first idea mgt system internally that runs like a stk mkt

#7: Just spoke with Gary Hamel re: next week’s Spigit Customer Summit. Very nice, very sharp. His keynote will be: “Inventing Management 2.0″

#8: Reading: Go cloud, young man http://bit.ly/h2wx3 by @philww Cloud computing is the future #saas #careers

#9: With family, we’re hitting the shopping holy trinity: Target, Costco, Trader Joe’s

#10: I see these foursquare updates of people out and about, looks great. Mine would be…home….home…playground…home… Kids, you know.

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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 013009

From the home office in Tampa Bay, FL…

#1: PETA ad that uses sex to sell vegetables (yeah, you read that right) is rejected for Superbowl. See for yourself: http://bit.ly/1xVgO5

#2: NYT piece on Twitter & David Pogue’s request for help w/ hiccups: http://bit.ly/1oI72B BTW – SUGAR. Teaspoon of sugar makes ‘em go away.

#3: I’m already part of the Jeff Bezos fan club, nice post here about how he pursues root cause analysis: http://bit.ly/aJtH

#4: Guys at The Content Economy post: Three good presentations on Enterprise 2.0 http://bit.ly/3slVoL Honored to be there w/ @jowyang & AIIM

#5: Enterprise 2.0′s job is to increase the frequency with which those who need find those who know. Among many jobs.

#6: RT @ghornet About to present a business plan – must focus on not using e2.0 buzzwords… afraid someone will yell BINGO!

#7: One thing with emails…you have to re-earn the right to arrive in the in-box every time you send them. Unlike RSS feeds.

#8: Chrysler removed its “Thank You America” post (for the bailout). Became a rallying point for public venting. Background: http://bit.ly/bp0z

#9: Odd to watch Arnold Schwarzenegger in True Lies, realizing he’s our governor. Bad guys were easier to handle than Sacramento lawmakers.

#10: And so it is settled…after 14 games of the card game War with my 4 y.o. son Harrison, I am victorious, 8 to 6.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 011609

From the home office in Washington, D.C. …

#1: “We don’t do a good enough job of teaching our students how to be productively stupid” http://bit.ly/ZTFa4

#2: Noticing many folks securing their single-name twitter handles. Here’s how: http://bit.ly/Wbem Alas, @hutch is too active for me to do this.

#3: Great…if you’re expecting a tax refund in California, you may end up w/ an IOU http://bit.ly/TibY h/t @ZoliErdos

#4: The Social Media Dead Zone: 2 – 6 pm Pacific. Interactions, traffic drop during that time.

#5: Tired of being asked about things they could look-up themselves instead? http://letmegooglethatforyou.c…

#6: Reading: Ten Reasons Why “Enterprise RSS” Has Failed To Become Mainstream http://bit.ly/XLsZ

#7: Whoa – my blog post about @KarlRove just got linked from Huffington Post: http://bit.ly/Y0rS

#8: 24 fans, make sure you follow Jack Bauer @j_bauer and Tony Almeida @tony_almeida

#9: Reading: The Top Ten Worst URL’s in the world http://bit.ly/ux91 Actual URLs, too funny.

#10: I’m not actually an extrovert, I just play one on Twitter

The Top 10 Enterprise 2.0 Stories of 2008

The enterprise 2.0 space saw good action this year. I’ve had a chance to see it up close, starting the year with BEA Systems (now Oracle) and closing out the year with Connectbeam. I think it’s fair to say that in 2007, social software was still something of a missionary sale. In 2008, company inquiries increased a lot. The burden still falls on the vendors to articulate business benefits, adoption strategies and use cases. But enterprise customers are now partners in this work.

So let’s get to it. Here are my top ten stories for the year:

1. Activity Streams

Facebook really got this going with its newsfeed, and FriendFeed took it to an art form with its lifestreaming service. In 2008, many vendors added activity streams to their applications: Connectbeam, BEA Systems, Atlassian, SocialText, Jive Software and others.  Activity streams are great for improving awareness of colleagues’ activities, and adding a new searchable object: actions.

2. Forrester’s $4.6 Billion Forecast

Forrester Research made a splash with its forecast that Enterprise 2.0 will be a $4.6 billion market by 2013. The ReadWriteWeb story about it has been bookmarked to Del.icio.us 386 times and counting. Forrester’s projections provided a solid analytical framework for the different tools, used internally and externally. According to the analysis, social networking will be the most popular tool for companies. Whether you buy the forecast or not, they remain the best-known, most visible numbers to date.

3. Oracle Beehive

Larry Ellison is fond of essentially dismissing SaaS. He does not have Oracle invest much in the trend. But Oracle did seem to embrace Enterprise 2.0 in a big way this year with Beehive, which is an “integrated set of collaboration services.”  The New York Times quotes Oracle EVP  Chuck Rozwat: “It is a product we built from scratch over the last three years.” Now since Oracle is a huge enterprise software company, there’s plenty of skepticism about the capabilities and innovation of Beehive. But there’s no denying that Oracle has the ear of the enterprise, and picks up a lot of market intelligence through its customer base. While Beehive itself may or may not succeed, the idea that Oracle came out with Beehive was a big story.

4. AIIM/McKinsey Surveys

Research and consulting firms AIIM and McKinsey each came out with surveys of corporate interest in enterprise 2.0. The AIIM survey looked at levels of awareness and interest among different Enterprise 2.0 technologies. AIIM also took a fairly expansive view of social software. The top 3 “Enterprise 2.0″ technologies in terms of corporate awareness? Email, instant messaging, search. That’s actually a funny list, yet there are lessons there for vendors and consultants in the social software industry. If those are entrenched, can you play nicely with them? One other quote I like from the report:

This study of 441 end users found that a majority of organizations recognize Enterprise 2.0 as critical to the success of their business goals and objectives, but that most do not have a clear understanding of what Enterprise 2.0 is.

McKinsey’s survey of enterprises looked at the interest in various tools as well. It also asked respondents what the leading barriers were for success of social software initiatives. Top three were: (1) Lack of understanding for their financial return; (2) Company culture; (3) Insufficient incentives to adopt or experiment with the tools.

5. Facebook Co-Founder Leaves to Start an Enterprise 2.0 Company

Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and colleague Justin Rosenstein announced they were leaving the hot consumer social network to start a new company. The new company will “build an extensible enterprise productivity suite,” with the goal of “making companies themselves run better.” Why would these young guys, sitting on top of the leader in consumer social networking, choose to exit? As I wrote at the time:

The Enterprise 2.0 market is still quite nascent and fragmented. Combine that industry profile with projected spending in the category, and suddenly you understand why these guys are striking out on their own.

Assuming they’ll be able to tap the mother ship for help, I think this was a fairly important story this year.

6. Microblogging Enters the Enterprise

Joining wikis, blogs, social bookmarking and other incumbent tools this year was microblogging . Given the way Twitter is used by Enterprise 2.0 aficionados, and is enjoying skyrocketing popularity, it’s no surprise we started seeing microblogging emerge for internal use. At the mostly consumer-focused TechCrunch50, enterprise microblogging start-up Yammer won the top prize. Other start-ups in the category include SocialCast and Present.ly. SocialText added microblogging with its release of Signals.

7. Gartner Narrows its Criteria for Social Software

Gartner came out with its Social Software Magic Quadrant in October. As SageCircle notes:

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant is probably the iconic piece of analyst research. With its visibility and status, it also has enormous influence on vendor sales opportunities, especially when it comes time for IT buyers to draw up the all-important vendor short lists.

So it was with great interest when I read that Gartner had narrowed the criteria for whom it puts in the Magic Quadrant:

Added blogs and wikis to the functionality requirements

The effect of that is to establish those two tools as the de facto standard for enterprise social software inside the enterprise. To the extent corporate buyers are listening to Gartner for signals about the market, this will make it a bit more challenging for start-ups with interesting offerings that address other parts of the social software market. Yammer, for instance, won’t make it into their Magic Quadrant.

8. Enterprise RSS Fails to Take Off

RSS is one of those technologies that you know has huge value, and yet continues to struggle for awareness and adoption. Google tracks the leading “what is” searches. The fifth most popular on its list? “What is RSS?” Take that as both good and bad. Good that people want to know, bad that awareness continues to be a struggle.

Forrester analyst Oliver Young has a sharp write-up that shows enterprise RSS did not expand inside companies as many had thought it would this year. As he notes:

Of the three enterprise RSS vendors selling into this space at the start of 2008: KnowNow went out of business completely; NewsGator shifted focus and now leads with its Social Sites for SharePoint offering, while its Enterprise Server catches much less attention; and Attensa has been very quiet this year.

RSS is a great way to distribute content inside companies, but its ongoing limited adoption was a big non-story for the year.

9. IBM and Intel Issue Employee Social Media Guidelines

IBM and Intel each established guidelines for their employees who participate in social media. As I wrote, this essentially was a deputization of employees as brand managers out on the web. These market leaders were essentially saying, “have at it out there on blogs, social networks, Twitter, etc. But make sure you know the company’s expectations.” These guidelines represent a milestone in large enterprises’ comfort with social media. I expect we’ll see more of this in 2009.

10. The Recession

This affects all industries, globally, of course. And Enterprise 2.0 is no exception. Jive Software made news with its layoffs, but the effect was industry-wide. And of course, corporate buyers aren’t immune either.

Those are my ten. Did I miss a big story for 2008? Add your thoughts in the comments.

If you’re interested in tracking what happens in 2009, I encourage you to join the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed. It is a centralized location for tweets and Del.icio.us bookmarks that specifically relate to Enterprise 2.0.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22The+Top+10+Enterprise+2.0+Stories+of+2008%22&who=everyone

Use FriendFeed Lists and Rooms As Your Platform for Information Flow

Fred Wilson tweeted this recently:

i want to follow less people and more keywords in my twitter timeline. can’t wait for summize to get integrated into twitter

I agree with this sentiment – selected topics from a broad population, and broad topics from a selected population. When it comes to learning about particular subjects, it’s right on. FriendFeed’s beta version now gives you the ability to do exactly what Fred Wilson suggests for any topic. I’ll describe how I’m using them to track developments in the world of Enterprise 2.0.

Streaming Keyword-Based Content into the Enterprise 2.0 Room

About three months ago, I tried a little experiment. I created the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed.

Not having time to be a Room Community Manager, I set it up to stream in content related to Enterprise 2.0. I did this as a search on FriendFeed for “enterprise 2.0“.

Well, the idea was neat. The actual implementation pretty much blew.

Because a search on FriendFeed, piped into FriendFeed as an RSS? It produces a lot of recursive results. Made the room pretty noisy and not particularly attractive to follow.

So I’ve cleaned up my act. Here’s what’s up:

  • No more FriendFeed searches
  • Using Summize Twitter Search to source content
  • Using Del.icio.us tags to source content

I’m piping in RSS feeds from Twitter and Del.icio.us. Twitter is great for those little hits. The links to content. The expression of a single perspective. And Del.icio.us is great for leveraging what people decided was worth saving.

Here are the search terms I’m using for the two services:

  • Twitter: “enterprise 2.0″, “E2.0″, “social computing”
  • Del.icio.us: enterprise2.0, enterprise20

In Case You Don’t Want it in Your Home Feed

Rooms can be set so that their entries don’t hit your Main FriendFeed stream.

You can un-check the box there that says “Show me this room’s items on my FriendFeed home page”. This works fine for Original FriendFeed.

The other option is to use Beta FriendFeed. In Beta FriendFeed, Lists have become the cool new feature. I have to admit, I’m finding it a lot easier to manage content via Lists than Rooms.

You can create a List called Enterprise 2.0. Rooms can be added to Lists. As if the Room was some sort of person on FriendFeed, streaming all sorts of content. Cool idea.

So you can run the entire Enterprise Room through a List if you want:

As you can see in #2 above, I’ve taken the Enterprise 2.0 Room out of my Home Feed. It only pipes into my Enterprise 2.0 List.

The cool thing about using Lists is that you can supplement the Twitter and Del.icio.us feeds of the Enterprise 2.0 room with other people or Rooms you like. For instance, I’ve included the FriendFeed accounts of Dion Hinchcliffe, Charlene Li, Ross Mayfield, Thomas Vander Wal and others into my personal Enterprise 2.0 List. For people not on FriendFeed, I also have created imaginary friends to pipe them into my List, such as the tweets of Harvard professor Andrew McAfee.

The Future: Keywords + People

Repeating Fred Wilson tweet from above:

i want to follow less people and more keywords in my twitter timeline. can’t wait for summize to get integrated into twitter

That pretty much describes my List set-up of the Enterprise 2.0 Room + specific FriendFeeders.

If you’re interested in a single place to track the happenings of Enterprise 2.0, I invite you to join the Enterprise 2.0 Room. Then personalize things with your own List. If you think of any search terms or data sources I should add, please let me know.

And feel free to start your own Rooms and Lists for topics you care about.

*****

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Yes, FriendFeed Will Be Mainstream (by 2018) and Here’s Why

We recently went through a Twitter meme about whether it was mainstream yet. There is no debate as to whether FriendFeed is mainstream today – it’s not. The question really is, will FriendFeed ever see mainstream adoption? Robert Scoble played both sides of the coin (here, here).

FriendFeed will go mainstream. My definition of mainstream: 33% of Internet users are on it. It’s just going to take time, and it’ll look different from the way it does now.

Four points to cover in this mainstreaming question:

  1. What will FriendFeed replace?
  2. What is a reasonable timeline?
  3. What content will drive the activity on FriendFeed?
  4. What topics will drive engagement?

What Will FriendFeed Replace?

Harvard professor John Gourville has a great framework for analyzing whether a new technology will succeed. His “9x problem” says a new technology has to be nine times better than what it replaces. This is because of two reasons:

  • We overvalue what we already have by three times
  • We undervalue the benefits of a new technology by three times

What does this mean in everyday terms? There’s comfort in the status quo, and fear of the unknown.

There’s the argument that FriendFeed is a complement, not a replacement to existing services. There’s some truth there, but the bottom line is that we only have 24 hours in day. Where will end up spending our time?

Here’s what FriendFeed will replace:

  • Time spent on the individual social media that stream into FriendFeed (blogs, Flickr, etc.)
  • Visits to static, top-down media properties (e.g. CNN, ESPN, Drudge Report, etc.)
  • Visits to other user-driven aggregator sites (Digg, StumbleUpon, Yahoo! Buzz)
  • Usage of Google search (search human-filtered content on FriendFeed)

In terms of the “9x problem”, the nice thing is that people do not have to replace what they already do. Visit CNN? You can keep doing that. Like to see what’s on Digg? You can keep doing that.

Searching on FriendFeed will advance. You can do a search on a keyword or a semantically-derived tag, and specify the number of shares, likes or comments.

FriendFeed doesn’t require you to leave your favorite service. It’s the FriendFeed experience that will slowly steal more of your time. That mitigates the issue of people overvaluing what they already have. They won’t lose it, they’ll just spend less time on it. Thomas Hawk continues to be an active participant on Flickr, but more of his time is migrating to FriendFeed. As he says:

One of the best things about FriendFeed is that it gives you much of what you get from your favorite sites on the internet but in better ways.

I think FriendFeed will have the 9x problem beat, but it will take time.

What Is a Reasonable Timeline for FriendFeed to Go Mainstream?

The chart below, courtesy of Visualizing Economics, shows how long several popular technologies took to be adopted in the U.S.

Using my mainstream definition of 33% household penetration, here’s roughly when several technologies went mainstream:

  • Color TV = 11 years
  • Computer = 15 years
  • Internet = 8 years

In addition, here are some rough estimates of current levels of adoption for other technologies. Estimates are based on the number of U.S. Internet users, the recent Universal McCann survey of social media usage (warning, PDF opens with this link) and search engine rankings.

  • Google search = 68% of searches after 10 years
  • RSS = 19% of active Internet users after 4.5 years of RSS readers
  • Facebook = 9% of Internet users after 4.5 years (20mm U.S. members / 211mm U.S. Internet users)
  • Twitter = 0.6% of Internet users after 2.2 years (1.3mm members / 211mm U.S. Internet users)

Yes, the date of FriendFeed mainstream adoption is pure speculation. But looking at the adoption rates of several other technologies, ten years from now is within reason (i.e. 2018). The RSS adoption is a decent benchmark.

What Content Will Drive FriendFeed Activity?

Alexander van Elsas had a recent post where he listed the percentage for different content sources inside FriendFeed. The results were compiled by Benjamin Golub.

Not surprisingly, Twitter dominates the content sources. Original blog posts are a distant #2 content source, and Google Reader shares are #3. That speaks volumes into the world of early technology adopters.

When FriendFeed becomes mainstream, the sources of content will change pretty dramatically as shown in this table:

The biggest change is in the FriendFeed Direct Post. Relative to blogging or Twittering, putting someone else’s content into the FriendFeed stream is the easiest thing for people to do. FriendFeed Direct Posts are similar to Diggs or Stumbles. Since all the content we create, submit, like or comment is part of our personal TV broadcast on FriendFeed, Direct Posts can be just as much fun for users as newly created content by someone you know.

Direct Posts will draw from both traditional media sites as well as from other people’s blogs. Expect media sites and blogs to have a “Post to FriendFeed” link on every article.

Twitter drops as a percentage of content here. Why? FriendFeed’s commenting system replaces a lot of what people like about Twitter. Blogs drop a bit as well. More people will blog in 2018, but many of those will be sporadic bloggers. Still, 10% of the content consisting of original author submissions is pretty good.

Google Reader shares hold as a percentage as more people recognize the value of RSS versus regular-old bookmarks inside their browsers. ‘Other’ goes up, because who knows what cool other stuff will be introduced over the next ten years.

What Topics Will Drive Engagement?

Human nature won’t change. The same stuff that animates people today will continue to do so in the future. Politics, sex, technology and sports will be leaders in terms of what the content will be. There will be plenty of other topics as well. I can see the Iowa Chicks Knitting Club sharing and commenting on new patterns via FriendFeed.

One issue that will arise is that people will have multiple interests. They’ll essentially have various types of programming on their FriendFeed “TV channels”. For a good example of that today, see Dave Winer’s FriendFeed stream. Dave has two passions: technology and politics. I like the technology stuff, but I tend to ignore the political streams.

Well, this will become a bigger issue as FriendFeed expands. I personally like the noise of the people I follow, but my subscriptions seem to generally stick with recurring topics. But as more mainstream users come on board, the divergence of topics for any single person will likely increase.

FriendFeed will employ semantic web technologies to identify the topic of submitted items. These semantically-derived tags will be used to categorize content. Users can then subscribe only to content matching specific categories. How might this work?

A Dave Winer post with “Obama” in it is categorized as Politics. I could choose to hide all Dave Winer updates that are categorized in Politics.

Final Thoughts

The constant flow of new content, the rich comments and easy ‘Likes’, and the social aspect of FriendFeed will drive its mainstream adoption. It’s a terrific platform for self-expression and for engaging others who share your interests. It’s also got real potential to be a dominant platform for research. In the future, look for stories in magazines and newspapers asking, “Are we losing productivity because of FriendFeed?”

So what do you think? Will FriendFeed ever be mainstream? In ten years?

*****

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Web 2.0 Inside the Enterprise? Forrester, AIIM Weigh In

Forrester produced a well-covered report this week announcing that Enterprise 2.0 will be a $4.6 billion business by 2013. In my RSS feed of FriendFeed updates containing the term Enterprise 2.0, there were probably a couple hundred related to this report – Google Reader shares, bookmarks, Twitters, etc. Sarah Perez of ReadWriteWeb has a great post about the Forrester report, with dollar figures.

About a month ago, AIIM came out with its own report on the market for enterprise 2.0. It was a work produced in conjunction with the likes of Stowe Boyd and Andrew McAfee.

After reading both of these reports, it’s clear there is a common perspective out there, but some differences worth noting as well. It’s instructive to look at both.

Forrester: Projections Focus

Forrester is paid for its expertise and forecasting. Their reports are well-regarded in this regard. Based on surveys of over 2,200 companies, this report is a forecast of the dominant technologies of Enterprise 2.0. Grounded in the market, fueled by its analysts’ views.

Forrester’s report strongly cleaves the Enterprise world into internal facing and external facing uses.

AIIM: State of the Market Focus

AIIM’s goal seems to be more of an Enterprise 2.0 temperature check of companies today. Surveying 441 company representative, AIIM didn’t try to forecast the future so much as see where companies’ heads are today.

AIIM’s report addresses both internal and external uses, but generally blurs the discussion between the two.

No Unanimous View of Top Technologies

Forrester’s report considers seven different technologies for the Enterprise 2.0 space. AIIM’s report goes much deeper. AIIM’s respondents came up with a much larger set when asked the question, what technologies make up your definition of Enterprise 2.0? To compare the two analysts, I selected the top seven participant responses from the AIIM report. Here’s how Forrester and AIIM show the leading technologies of Enterprise 2.0:

Five technologies showed up consistently between the analyst reports:

  • Social networking
  • Wikis
  • RSS
  • Blogs
  • Mashups

It’s interesting to note the differences between the two reports. Forrester included podcasting as a leading area of spend for Enterprise 2.0. AIIM’s report includes podcasting as well, but survey participants didn’t include it very often in their current definitions of an Enterprise 2.0 platform.

Forrester’s report did not include social bookmarking and tagging, but AIIM did. The Forrester omission probably says something about their view of the dollars to be spent on it.

Forrester included widgets, which is a nod to their strong focus on external uses of Enterprise 2.0. AIIM’s respondents like collaborative filtering, which is the basis for recommendation engines.

A Few Thoughts

Social networking comes in strong on both analyst reports. Forrester has spending here running away from all others by 2013. Call this the Facebook effect (MySpace didn’t seem to inspire the same trend to the enterprise). Generally, Facebook controls its “borders” and has a handle on everything that’s going on. Relationships, groups and activities all occur within the walled garden. Enterprises share a lot of these characteristics. Social networks will become the next generation intranet.

Also, note the disparity here. Companies are just coming to terms with the idea of social networks for employees, while the blogosphere seems to have left the mainstream social networks behind. Call that difference between the easy freedom of thinking and conversations, and the hard decisions of where to spend money and sweating your stock price.

Wikis come in surprisingly low on the Forrester side of things. I say that because some of the best known uses of Web 2.0 technologies inside companies are wikis. In fact, wikis are the #1 thing that respondents consider to be Enterprise 2.0 in the AIIM survey. Perhaps they have a lower cost, so that the same number of implementations will result in lower dollars spent.

RSS comes in strong for both reports. That is great to see! RSS holds so much potential. Just look at the growth of FriendFeed to see how RSS can create really new and interesting applications. RSS inside the enterprise will increase information awareness, and can be a basis for research and discovery the way FriendFeed is on the consumer web.

Blogs are ranked highly in both reports. Very nice to see. There’s still a mountain to climb before employees get comfortable with them. For companies that do have adoption of employee blogs, I expect there will be a boost in innovation.

Company blogs are interesting animals. The worst way to roll those out is treat blogs as glorified press release vehicles. That would be a waste of time. But what do you put on a blog that would be interesting? A couple of companies serve as examples. Google’s blog has a very conversational style of its products, general technology issues and other geeky stuff. Cafepress’s blog talks a lot about their products, which could be boring as hell. But Cafepress manages to relate products to larger issues, which makes it a bit more interesting.

Mashups are in the lower end of the top 7 currently, although Forrester projects spend on mashup technology to be the second highest after social networks. Here’s where I think Enterprise 2.0 will lead Web 2.0: mashup adoption. There are so many existing “big iron” software systems inside companies, that rip-and-replace is an expensive undertaking when you want to add new functionality. Mashups extend the life of these systems. In the consumer web, we’re experimenting with mashups a la Yahoo Pipes and Microsoft Popfly. I’m not sure the average consumer is going to bother with those. However, the average IT professional very much wants to look at mashups.

Those are some general thoughts. What do you think about Enterprise 2.0?

*****

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Becoming a Web 2.0 Jedi

Thinking about the ever deeper levels of involvement one can have with Web 2.0 apps and the Web 2.0 ethos. Came up with this chart.

Thoughts?

*****

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The Best Blogs You’re Not Reading? Toluu Knows

Toluu has entered the ever-growing recommendation space with something different: blog recommendations. And the service does a good job of finding blogs you’ll like.

I love the RSS experience of reading various blogs, loading up my reader with a lot of them and checking updates several times a day. So I was happy to have the chance to try this out. The service is new, launching in mid or late March. Louis Gray has a good post detailing its initial launch. Here’s a description of how it works from the Toluu site:

  • After joining, you will be prompted to import your feeds. We have many methods of importing your feeds such as OPML import, URL input, and a nifty bookmarklet.
  • Toluu will do some crazy math to find others in the system who have similar tastes as you.

One thing founder Caleb stressed on his blog: “Toluu is not another social network. I repeat Toluu is not another social network.”

So with that intro, let’s look at the user experience and how Toluu rates versus competitors. First, a brief discussion of recommendations.

Quick Note on Recommendations

The recommendations space is a hot area right now. For instance, Loomia, which recommends web content based on what your friends read, just raised $5 million. Amazon.com has been a real pioneer here with its “customers who bought this item also bought…” recommendations.

Ideally, recommendations are exactly matched to your interests. That’s pretty much impossible, but recommendations engines will employ proxies to get a bunch of recommendations that are close to your interests. And hopefully one or more click with you.

There are myriad ways to approximate your interests, and the world of recommendation engines is full of different methodologies. The key thing for most of them is (i) the amount and quality of information about your preferences, and (ii) the amount of population data available to build out recommendations. Toluu uses your OPML file of feeds, which is a very good source of data about your preferences. And Toluu improves as more people participate.

Finally, I’d want a recommendation service to mix highly popular items that I may be missing, as well as less popular items that are relevant to me. That latter category is the real jewel of a recommendation engine, and its the hardest to get right.

Toluu’s Organizing Principle: Match Percentage

Toluu’s primary organizing basis is its Match %. As Caleb mentioned above, this is their “crazy math” secret sauce. After you log in, you click on matches. A list of 5 people are displayed, sorted according to the Match %. The first 5 people you see are your highest matches. Each subsequent page shows the next 5 highest rated people. Each person has 5 feeds listed beside them. These “feeds you might like” are the top 5 recommendations per person.

I had 60 people in my list of matches. My highest match was at 91%. The bottom of the list was guy with whom I matched at 31%.

As I looked through the people that I matched, I noticed a trend. The best Match %’s were with people who had fewer blogs. The lower Match %’s seemed to be with people that had large numbers of blogs. I pulled together some numbers for 30 people to see if this was true. My top 10 matches, 10 people that fell just below the 50% Match %, and my bottom 10 matches. I then graphed it:


Sure enough, the higher the number of feeds for a given user (red line), the lower the Match % (blue line). I’m not quite sure what to make of that. It may be an outcome of the math – the match percentage is lower just because a user has so many feeds there’s no way to match. Or maybe I don’t match up well with the hard-core RSS addicts. I dunno.

One effect is that people who go deeper in their blog interests will fall lower in my matches. Assuming users don’t go too far down in viewing their matches, this could reduce the chance for finding those golden nuggets of less popular, but valuable blogs.

Top Toluu Recommendations Can Be Limited

I cruised through my people matches, and read the 5 “feeds you might like” for each one. There is a high degree of commonality on the recommendations. The 5 recommendations seem to use popularity as an primary input. And that makes sense. You’re providing a service, and popularity means somethings been deemed worthy by the public at large. Start with that!

Again, I looked at the top 5 recommendations for the 30 people I analyzed above. That meant I was looking at my top matches, my mid-tier matches, and my lowest matches.

There wasn’t a lot of variation in the top 5 recommendations for people in the different groups. Micro Persuasion, Engadget, Lifehacker, a couple Google company blogs and Boing Boing consistently showed up, regardless of the Match %.

This narrowness in the recommendations was something that Allen Stern at CenterNetworks wrote about. If you see a recommendation once, you’ll tend to see it repeatedly.

The Rubber Meets the Road: Toluu vs. Google Reader vs. NewsGator

So all that’s well and good. But how does the service perform? I decided to see how Toluu worked relative to two big established market players: Google Reader and NewsGator.

Google Reader has a Discover function. Here’s how it’s described: “Recommendations for new feeds are generated by comparing your interests with the feeds of users similar to you.” Sounds like Toluu, doesn’t it?

NewsGator has a Recommended for Me function: “NewsGator has analyzed your current subscriptions and post ratings, and recommended these new feeds for you.” Doesn’t say how that’s done.

I compared the top dozen recommendations for each of the three services. To assemble my top 12 for Toluu, I calculated the number of times the different blogs appeared in the 30 people I analyzed above. For instance, the blog Micro Persuasion appeared in 19 of the 30 matched users, making it #1. The table below shows those top 12 for each service:

One thing that immediately was apparent. No blog appeared more than once! Three different sets of recommendations and no overlap among Toluu, Google and NewsGator. Incredible!

I then checked out the 36 different sites. After a quick scan of each one, I decided whether it was one I would add to my RSS feeds. Those are highlighted in yellow above. NewsGator’s recommendations fell flat with me. They were too hard-core tech. Several had blog posts with lines of code on them.

Google Reader’s recommendations were the most relevant for me, with 5 that I liked. I subscribe to a number of Enterprise 2.0 blogs, so blogs like Intranet Benchmarking Forum and Portals and KM were good.

But Toluu did well here. The crowd was right – I like Micro Persuasion. Webware.com and Web Worker Daily are also interesting. There are a lot of Google blogs that show up in the recommendations. Maybe a bunch of Google employees are trying out the service?

More people joining Toluu will probably improve this some. At least push the Google blogs off the top recommendations. But there will be some reinforcing behavior as people join. Sites like Engadget and Lifehacker have large followings, and I’d expect a number of new folks joining Toluu to have those already.

Serendipity: Looking at My Top Matches’ Other Blogs

For each person in your match list, you see all the blogs they have that you don’t. It’s here where some of those golden nuggets, and even better known blogs, can be found. It takes work. You need to click each person, and then click each blog. There’s a limit to how much of this I wanted to do.

So I only looked at the feeds of my top 3 matches. And, I did find more blogs I’m going to add to my Google Reader:

  • Marshall Kirkpatrick
  • Adam Ostrow
  • BubbleGeneration
  • SocialTimes.com
  • mathewingram.com/work

Toluu Assessment = These Guys Are Doing It Right

I picked up 8 new blogs to follow courtesy of Toluu. That’s no small accomplishment. And considering they’re just getting underway and don’t have a ton of users yet, they compete quite well against Google.

I haven’t touched on other features of Toluu has. You can favorite a blog in your collection. I assume this helps the matching algorithm? You can track the activities of others to see what blogs and contacts they’re adding. But remember…this is not a social network!!!

Things I’d Like to See

I’d like to have an easier experience seeing the feeds for my top matches. Since there’s such a commonality in the top 5 for each of them, it would help me discover other blogs if I could see several of my matches’ unique blogs at once.

Show the top ten blogs recommended for me based on my top 10 matches. Criteria = frequency of a blog’s recommendations, with overall popularity as a tie breaker.

I’d like to get a little more info about some of these blogs in a summary fashion, without having to click each one. Maybe the headlines for the most recent 3 posts, or top tags of the blog?

But all in all, a very nice start for Toluu. Thumbs up here. Now I’ve got to go scan my RSS feeds.

FriendFeed RSS Is a Fantastic Discovery Tool

FriendFeed will be one of the best research & discovery tools there is. I don’t say that lightly. Here’s why.

Jeremiah Owyang has a post up today, My Essential Twitter Tools. He lists seven things he uses to get the most out of Twitter. Among the items are these:

  • Search: Use Tweetscan to see who’s talking about you, your brand, or a topic you’re interested in. For example, I may not just search on “jowyang” but also on “owyang” as some don’t use the full name.
  • Aggregation: Friendfeed puts all of our RSS content onto one page, making it easy to see from one glance (rather than going to different properties) and you can even reply from friendfeed to different tools. It’s smarter to organize around people, rather than tools.

Tweetscan is a great resource for finding out information on a topic. You see what others are talking about and passing along for a given topic.

Well, FriendFeed is even better. On FriendFeed, people share their Twitter posts, the same content that Tweetscan searches. But they share many other application there as well.

  • Micro posts: Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, Google Talk,
  • Websites, blogs: new blog posts, StumbleUpon, shared items on Google Reader, del.icio.us, ma.gnolia, Digg, Reddit
  • Presentations: Slideshare
  • And lots of other sources

All of these content sources are searchable. And they all have an aspect lacking in many search and discovery mechanisms: human filtering.

When someone takes the trouble to save or distribute content, that content has already passed an initial test. Does it have value to someone? If you save something to del.icio.us, that is your endorsement of its value. Add it to LinkRiver? Means you found the web page interesting. Sharing a blog post on Google Reader means the blog post held value. Recommend a book on Goodread? You get the picture.

The conversations that are captured are also incredibly valuable. They give insight into people’s thinking around a subject. They hold data that is useful. Many times, the micro posts include a reference to content that someone found valuable, even if that person didn’t bother to bookmark it to del.icio.us or share it on their Google Reader.

The implicit endorsements of content – via different services or conversations – are a tremendous benefit to someone doing research.

There’s also plenty of original source content that’s findable. Slideshare presentations. New blog posts. Videos. Photos.

Finally, from the recommendations, conversations and content, you can find people who share your interests. You may want to do the social thing and add them to your FriendFeed network. Or you can check out what other sites, content and conversations they have in their FriendFeed to potentially find other useful information. Heck, even reach out to the person to discuss a subject.

Adding RSS to this whole thing really powers it. You don’t have to go to the FriendFeed site to do a search. You can have new content delivered to your RSS feeder.

RSS? FriendFeed doesn’t have RSS?

Mark Krynsky over at Lifestream Blog has a wonderful hack that turns FriendFeed search results into an RSS feed. Click here to go his post.

I won’t stop using Google to search for a subject. But for leveraging the human filtering, I’ll use FriendFeed search. And for ongoing knowledge discovery, even when I’m not actively searching for a subject, I’ll use FriendFeed search RSS.

What do you think? Will FriendFeed become a primary research & discovery tool?

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

Will Enterprise 2.0 Increase Web 2.0 Adoption?

On ReadWriteWeb, Josh Catone asks Is Facebook for Business Really Coming? The post is a good breakdown on how Facebook is growing in terms being useful for business. It touches on areas such as employees networking on Facebook, concerns about security around private content and groups, and inroad against LinkedIn.

The post is a good reference point for thinking about the effects of Web 2.0 in the enterprise. I’ve been out at the Gartner portals conference the past few days. Plenty of good analyst presentations and vendor updates. Expect to see more tagging, implicit activity integration, blogs, wikis, mashups, social networks, etc. Coming to a company near you!

As I listened to the presentations and talked with companies at our vendor booth, I came away with a strong impression that companies are looking at implementing Web 2.0 inside the enterprise. Yes, there are business cases to be built, but more companies are bringing Web 2.0 inside the firewall.

Assuming increased Web 2.0 usage inside companies, what are the outcomes? Of course, there are business improvements that will occur.

But, I think there’s another outcome from this increase. Web 2.0 tools will become more mainstream as employees are introduced to them in the enterprise.

Now, I want to make two points with regard to that statement. One is that “mainstream” is a relative term. In the U.S., there are 211 million Internet users. So one definition of mainstream could be say…50 million users. In the one quarter range. The other point is that plenty of great web sites can/will go mainstream without enterprise adoption. Nice thing about this Web, eh?

OK…with that out of the way…

This idea that companies lead the way for consumer adoption of technologies is not without precedent. Apple had the better PCs in the 1980s and 90s, but Microsoft’s operating system became the standard for the consumer market (Compaq, Dell, IBM). Why? Microsoft became the corporate standard, and employees bought the same technology when they got computers for the home.

As companies adopt Web 2.0 technologies, employee adoption is key to maximizing their benefit. As employees adopt the Web 2.0 technologies at the office, they become more familiar with them at home.

Let’s look at tagging. Del.icio.us has 3 million users. An impressive number, but only fraction of the 211 million Internet users. Many enterprise software companies are offering companies social tagging and bookmarking solutions. What happens once tagging becomes a regular part of the application stack inside the enterprise? People become comfortable with it. They ‘get’ why tagging has value (easy personal classification system, basis for discovering new content). They tag content inside their own companies. They click on tag clouds. They then come home, and want the same tagging experience.

How about RSS? RSS is a terrific way to easily stay up to date on new website content. But how many of those 211 million Internet users actually have an RSS reader of some type? Google Reader, FeedBurner, Firefox subscriptions, etc. Not that many yet. But RSS is going to be more pervasive in companies. Heck, you can even add it to Microsoft Outlook. What happens when people get used to staying updated via RSS feeds at work? They ‘get’ it. And when they get home, they’re stuck with email and their bookmarked websites. Until they realize they can enjoy the benefits of RSS on their computers.

You’re also going to see social networking introduced in the enterprise. Big as Facebook and MySpace are, the majority of Internet users do not have accounts on these services. Once employees are automatically enrolled into their companies’ social networks, they’ll start playing with them and begin to ‘get’ the value if being connected in this way. Maybe they had held off on social networks before (that’s for the kids). But after their work experience, what happens when they get home and want to keep up in a similar fashion with family and friends?

Companies need to be on top of the technology trends to stay competitive. This happens regardless of whether employees are itching for the change (how many employees were demanding groupware?). As companies roll out Enterprise 2.0, how long will it be before employee adoption makes Web 2.0 applications mainstream?

FriendFeed Will Make Switching Social Networks Easier

There has been quite a lot of coverage for the FriendFeed service. FriendFeed aggregates updates from a variety of other social networks and Web 2.0 apps, such as Twitter, Flickr, Jaiku, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington reports that FriendFeed just added a search capability, making it “suddenly feel like a destination site”. The service is growing and improving.

Aside from aggregating your feeds, you can subscribe to the aggregated feeds of others. You “friend” others the same way to do with Twitter. Just subscribe to their FriendFeed. They don’t approve your subscription, you just do it. FriendFeed is essentially a social network in its own right, allowing users to post comments and share feeds amongst friends.

Which got to me thinking…the emergence of FriendFeed and other “networks of social networks” is going to make switching services a lot easier for individuals. And that’s going to make life harder for the social networks.

Here’s what I mean. I signed up for FriendFeed. I added several other services to which I belong: Twitter, Google Reader, LinkedIn, Pandora and del.icio.us. Suddenly, I see my updates all in one place. That, by itself, is pretty cool.

I then subscribed to the FriendFeeds of others. Robert Scoble is an active FriendFeed guy, by virtue of his involvement in every other social network and Web 2.0 service out there. It’s pretty interesting to see what he’s up to and what he’s commenting on.

Then I notice something. I’m seeing Scoble’s Jaiku updates (Jaiku is a competitor to Twitter).

Jaiku? I don’t belong to Jaiku!

And this is how these social network aggregators are going to change things. On Twitter, I can subscribe to others’ Twitter posts. For example, I subscribe to Scoble’s Twitter updates. But to subscribe to Scoble’s Twitter updates, you need to join Twitter. Through FriendFeed, that’s no longer the case. You can follow anything Scoble puts up on his FriendFeed: Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, and others.

So here’s how this unfolds. You and your friends join FriendFeed. You’re all on Twitter. You love the ease and carefree way you can post updates to Twitter. Your friends on Twitter see your updates, either on Twitter or on FriendFeed. But after a while, you decide the features of Jaiku are even better – you make the switch to Jaiku.

Normally, the switch to Jaiku from Twitter would be disruptive. Your Twitter-using friends no longer see your updates, and you can no longer see theirs. The pain of this disruption is a form of lock-in, as the value of switching does not equal the costs of doing so (see In Praise of Inertia: MyYahoo #1 for more discussion on this topic).

But with FriendFeed, the cost of switching social networks nears zero. Whether I post updates on Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce or Google Talk, my friends will see them on FriendFeed. There is a loss of the the ability to talk back to your friends directly on their different service, but FriendFeed lets you post comments on any update of your friends.

This is great for the individual, expanding the choices for different services. And it puts more pressure on social network and web service apps to continually improve their features and user experience. Otherwise, users will easily switch to a better service.

Lookout social networks and web services – the lifestream aggregators are coming.

UPDATE: Sarah Perez of ReadWriteWeb has a March 20, 2008 post up entitled “The Conversation Has Left the Blogosphere“.  In it, she observes that blog comments may ultimately migrate to lifestream aggregators, such as FriendFeed.  This thought is another variation on the idea that the lifestream cloud becomes the community, replacing the apps-based communities we know today.

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