Tuesday, July 20, 2004

my Blended Formula

Just posted some comments following up a response where I've published my work-boosting-collaboration-toolkit.
[the Blended formula]...that does it for me is the following: Groove is great for getting day2day work done (i.e. synchronising my project colleagues PC's together and boosting up productivity on distributed document and project management), Skype is brilliant for audio/ VoIP, GotoMeeting for occasional real-time meetings when I need people to look at my screen, and the last one in the list is Blinkx, excellent desktop search tool that automatically suggests related and relevant emails, docs, etc within my PC and also blogs, websites, etc out in the Internet...Goggle take a note!

Of course, I still use Outlook and the telephone...but less and less......

Friday, July 16, 2004

Please welcome new boy on the block: "spim"

Here's "spim", the little brother of spam, who I'm sure you've already met before. Spim is spam sent over IM, i.e. instant messaging.  As the wider adoption of IM systems by most corporations is a rapidly increasing and hence the number of directories, "the Spam-loaded IMs will jump from 400 million in 2003 to 1.2 billion in 2004, according to a recent report from Palo Alto, Calif.-based research firm Radicati Group Inc. ".   
A Microsoft Corp. spokesman said that "while the vast majority of complaints Microsoft receives [about spam] from its customers regards traditional spam, Microsoft has received complaints about spim as well and is working on a number of initiatives to address the problem."
I must say though that, I'm not truly worried about this phenomenon, at least in the short term. In order to send someone an IM, I need first of all, to have that persons contact. The IM contact is a small file containing information (i.e. signature and encryption public keys) about your unique identity. Furthermore, contacts are shared at your discretion, that is, I choose who I want to share my contact with.  So, if I choose not to list my contact in any public directory, I doubt someone will be able to spim me. ^_^
Also, there may other ways to prevent spim. For instance, I could choose to receive messages only from people who are part of my contacts list.  Also, "when a user adds a new contact, the person being added is notified and offered to decline or accept the invitation."  
Well, I think we can rest in peace so far. Nevertheless, unwanted, not requested, annoying and distracting IMs will soon arrive into your dearest IM client!

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

IE browser: living its last days?

I've recently read many articles on the security, lack of thereof, of Internet Explorer. This one though, eWeek's "IE May Share Shell Hole Found in Mozilla", openned my eyes. A company in Denmark, VeriSign's Managed Security Services, (formerly Guardent), announced four extremely critical security flaws.

The holes could allow a malicious Web site to circumvent the browser's security settings and execute script in the browser that could download and execute malicious software....
The first of the four discovered holes allows a remote Web site to "spoof" a function within a script with a function of the same name from a malicious Web site....
Another vulnerability tricks users into using "drag and drop" functions of the browser without their knowledge to add malicious script to browser resources such as the "Favorites" menu..
Secunia advised users that the only current solutions to these potential threats are to "disable Active scripting" or "use another product"—a browser other than IE.
The increasing number of vulnerabilities in general-purpose Web browsers may spur a trend toward simpler, trusted browsers..

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Ed Brill on enterprise comms

Interesting comments on email,IM and workspaces from Ed Brill, IBM/Notes, in response to Ross Mayfield's, CEO of SocialText, article "The State of Email".

Notes on IM:
in some organizations, IM can be treated like a "post-it note" and you just jump right into your question, while in others you need to do the chat equivalent of knocking on the door/cubicle before starting the real conversation.

Notes on workspaces
"Occupational Spam, email sent out of context characterized by CCs, is 30% of corporate email. You know this problem and are a part of it. You want to keep people informed and you want to be informed" Now, cc:-the-world isn't really the right way to solve the problem -- teamrooms and the like are.

Ross argues
"The problem is email wasn't designed and its best use is for one-to-one communication. Enter Workspaces, which in our latest case study dropped group email from 100 messages per day to practically zero."

and Ed disagrees
We've had "Workspaces" in Lotus Notes for, oh, 15 years or so, and I still get 100 messages a day. Now, some of those are pushed links to teamrooms and the like (because heaven-forbid I have the time to proactively surf all my Workspaces and find out what's new...I don't)... I consider this a perfectly appropriate use of individual e-mail.

I see some of the shifts to "contextual collaboration" may change that.

Collaboration First, Then Knowledge Management: Practical Advice

Matthew Clapp, independent consultant, writes some rather interesting comments on evaluating collaboration tools. I believe, as much as the author does, that remote teams can actually be as or even much more productive than groups that meet daily face-to-face. The author also enumerates the key players within the area of collaborations tools ( Lotus Workplace, Documentum eRoom, Interwoven Worksite (formerly iManage), Vignette Business Workspaces (formerly Intraspect), OpenText LiveLink, Oracle's Collaboration Suite or desktop-based peer-to-peer applications, like Groove. What I appreciate more about this article is the proposed simple yet effective best practices on how corporations should confront the deployment of a collaboration tool.

- Pilot a collaboration tool with a few groups that are motivated and eager to try something new — ideally in a way that may help solve some larger problems for the corporation.
- In exchange for supporting their teams, pilot participants will offer to provide you with both positive and negative feedback about the process and the technology.
- Take this feedback and incorporate into your business case and subsequent requirements documentation if you go for an enterprise solution.
- Measure your success both in terms of the effectiveness by which people complete projects, as well as their ability to share and leverage knowledge.

there's no "one size fits all"!

The launch of Groove 3.0 has left no one indifferent! Out they go the detractors (and converted supporters) of the product. Ain't that great? A product that polarizes opinion, that provokes sincere fascination or dislike, but leaves no one indifferent, it's a great product.

The fact that Groove only works on Windows and not on OS X is a major put-off to Volker, who works most of the time on Macs. Three major things have killed his groovy enthusiasm:
1. It only runs on Windows.
2. It's a proprietary closed system.
3. You need to install a fat client.

Very valid points.

I agree with him that Groove is a big, fat resource hog, but to some of us it pays off in functionality and security. Ideally, Groove could be broken up into a list components from which you could choose what features you want to install or not. The idea of compartmentalizing Groove into functional blocks, allowing a "more granular" adoption, is something that should be taken into consideration in the future.

The need to install a client may surely be an obstacle, but I cannot think of alternatives ways to provide offline support. Regardless of the tool you use, if you want to access your documents without an Internet connection, you'll need to install a client to do so. Correct me if I'm wrong.

What I've learned during the last few years working in the area of collaboration software is that there are no silver bullets, there's no tool that fits all of customer collaboration needs. You may need a screwdriver to do your job, but hey, all I need is a hammer and two nails!

Monday, July 12, 2004

Groove's new fresh website goes hand-in-hand with launch of Groove Virtual Office 3.0

When the Workplace Is Many Places, Source: Harris Interactive

IBM Workplace 2.0: Better Rich than thin!

I read with interest how IBM's new collaboration product Workplace 2.0 (press release May 10th 2004) reconsiders and develops a Rich Client to overcome the barriers of poor browser-based functionality and imperfect connections typical of a server-client architectures and more importantly, to lower costs. I would also add the list, to facilitate offline support.

"The client-side technology used in Release 2.0 of IBM Lotus Workplace is a dramatic new model of delivery that will lower the cost of ownership while increasing the richness of the client."

I'm a strong supporter of rich clients for rich productive collaboration. There's a lot of talk these days about middleware, and this is only emphasizing the need to leverage enterprise client/server architectures with powerful edge rich-client technologies.

The benefits of rich-clients are evident:

-Client technology can provide powerful functionality, similar to that of standard PC applications, in contrast to, limited browser-based limited functional capabilities (even topped up with plug-ins).

- Offline Support. This means that you can work even when disconnected from the server. And believe me, this happens more often than you may think. Today, about a quarter of the U.S. work force works from home at least some of the time, while another quarter is mobile or works from customer locations (Source: When the Workplace Is Many Places, Harris Interactive). So if you're a remote worker (i.e. a road warrior, a home bunny and/or a wanderer), you'll be pleased to hear about this sort of connection capabilities.

- Reduce Cost. Today, rich-clients such as Workplace 2.0 and Groove can be delivered, managed, and updated directly from a central server, thus significantly reducing IT costs.

The ability to control and manage clients from the server side will definitely attract a lot of corporate IT departments; nevertheless, whilst having richer functionality, rich clients also have disadvantages. What appeals about thin clients is the ease and low cost of administration; it's easier to control, and as Gordon Haff, senior analyst of Illuminata points out in this MIT Tech Review article, "there's no doubt that the thin client is in general better for security. Simplicity and security go hand in hand". This is a very good point indeed. Corporations are desperate to build secure information infrastructures "in an ever-more-insecure online world". Rich clients thus, must be built from scratch within a very tight security model. This particular area is where Groove excels, since it ensures with a military strong 192-bit encryption both on storage and transportation that no-one will be able to sniff out data traveling through the Internet. For more on Groove security go to here.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Groove 3.0 is out next week

The time has come chaps. The dramatically improved next generation of Groove Workspace 2.5 is out next week. It will be renamed to Groove Virtual Office 3.0 and most of the work has been put into a much more intuitive and easier-to-use UI, and improved performance (3 to 5 times faster) and security.

"This is the deepest security you're going to find in a commercially available product--period," analyst Peter O'Kelly says. Reference

Of course the list of new features goes on and on, Groove File Sharing, new Forms,alerts etc... As described in the article, it's a distinct product that lives apart from competitors (i.e. MS Sharepoint, IBM Workplace, Documentum eRoom, Macromdeia Breezer, etc). Groove's uniqueness relies on offline capabilities, user-immune "always-on" super strong security, cross-enterprise collaboration with real-time capabilities built into it. Recipe for success!

Virtual Office is available immediately, according to Groove Networks. The File Sharing Edition for costs $69, the Professional Edition is $179 and Project Edition is priced at $229.

Computer World: [Link]

InstantMessagingPlanet.com [link]

ZDNet: [link]

Information Week: [Link]

Find more links to press releases here

Groove Web Services put to work!!

Very impressive indeed; best of all is, the scope of potential ways in which you could supercharge an existing or a new application with Groove's intra-organizational, secure, bandwidth optimization and real-time communication capabilities. Take a look at the work Hugh Pyle has done.

Earlier this week I talked about GFS (Groove File Sharing), and how nicely Groove goes to the heart of our Windows file explorer. All of the sudden, everyday folders become shared spaces where we can securely synchronize files across firewalls, be alerted about new changes to files, even chat/instant message with the people we share the folder with. This single feature could ship as a product on its own!!

Well, then Hugh moves on to describe how easily you could build or integrate the unique groovy collaborative features into any application by using the new 3.0 GDK (Groove Development Kit). This is something that will definitely attract a lot of customers. If your users work 80% of their time within one single application (Outlook, SAP, etc), why would you try to change the way they work and migrate them into Groove? Wouldn't it be easier if you extend their current app with Groove's unique cross-enterprise, secure, offline capabilities?

You might use Groove's workspace services simply to store local data securely.

Or, more interestingly, you might put work-in-progress documents into a Groove workspace ("underneath" your app) so that multiple users can work with them as part of your larger process. Because the workspace is Groove, those users wouldn't even need to be online to have access to the shared data. They wouldn't necessarily even need to be in the same company.

Check out the example application Hugh built called Minimal App launcher.

First I talked about GFS, the very useful folder-synchronization feature in Groove V3. This puts Groove's collaborative-workspace features right into the Windows shell. Folders are workspaces.

AppLauncher (part one) describes how to build the same type of integration into Any Windows App, so that YourApp has a Groove workspace underneath. The application is launched from Groove with a commandline saying how to access the workspace's services.

AppLauncher (part two) shows the glue which binds "your application" into the Groove user experience.

Worth a visit folks.

future of communications (voice + data)

Application Independence

The Future of Enterprise Communications

This month's Gartner Webcast explores the future of enterprise communications. Elaborates on the differences between unified messaging (oriented towards integrating mobile users) and unified communications (oriented towards business process integration). Among the three webcast contributors we have representatives from Gartner Research and Verizon Communications. Naturally, considering the sponsor of the webcast is a company within the Applied Voice and Speech Technology arena, there's a high emphasis on how mobile workers can be localized and connected through voice over IP technologies. Very soon, messaging applications (i.e. VoIP, IM, eMail, webconferencing, etc..)will be quickly integrated to enterprise systems through agile middleware in order to enable all employees to retrieve messages in any format, anywhere anytime.


Thursday, July 08, 2004

Organisations involved in peacebuilding in Sri Lanka

Untying The Gordian Knot: ICT For Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding

Fascinating paper from Sanjana Hattotuwa titled "Untying the Gordian Knot: ICT for Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding" June 2004, courtesy of Robin Good, on how Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have been used in the peacebuilding and conflict resolution process in Sri Lanka.

Infoshare, organization to which Sanjana belongs, deployed a series of collaboration technologies to empower and connect individuals within different regions and organizations (e.g. NGOs, INGOs, Donors, Humanitarian agencies) to help them directly participate in the peacemaking process in Sri Lanka by enabling knowledge sharing, instant and secure access to key information, ad-hoc network forming,"swarming", etc..

Sanjana has done a brilliant job putting in words what the key challenges and barriers in deploying ICTs in the full-field peacebuilding process are. If you're interested about full-field technology access, adoption and appropriation,

..ICT does not promise a goal, it fertilises the process of peacebuilding itself.

... effective communication and collaboration is a cornerstone in any peace process, and has a pivotal factor in the progress of the process itself. For stakeholders engaged in a peace process, the overwhelming abundance of raw data must be weighed against always accessible, secure, trusted information that helps them to work together, and collaborate on programmes, projects and interventions that buttress peace building.

This study argues that the defining characteristic of ICT in peacebuilding is that it enables information flows that not only radically subvert existing patterns of knowledge flows and power centres, but in empowering organisations, groups and individuals to produce and share information between other (and within sectors), helps bring a greater degree of cohesion, transparency and accountability to processes of conflict transformation that were hitherto unthinkable.

...ICT interventions, however well intentioned, may actually serve to exacerbate existing fault-lines within and between ethnic groups and communities.

....there are a plethora of technologies that are already used for communication and collaboration, but the greatest potential for the use of ICT for peacebuilding comes from technologies which are broadly termed Peer-to-Peer (P2P). see diagram below

You can access the full report (Word 2.81MB) from here [link]

access, adoption, appropriation

Communication and collaboration technologies used in Sri Lanka

The Top 10 New Technologies For State And Local Government

This Forrester report (requires subscription)identifies 10 technologies to help State and local government agencies' IT organizations achieve their common goals (e.g. cutting IT costs, improving IT security, ensuring regulatory compliance, and improving inter-agency communication...) The first on the list is "composite applications, portals, and collaboration technology".


Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Barry Bennett, communications director for the G-8 summit

The G8 Summit "sherpas"

Fascinating comments from Michael Helfrich's weblog on how World Leaders and their accompanying "sherpas" used Groove Networks for secure encrypted communication and ink chat support.

Earlier this week, a couple of us traveled to Savannah Georgia to the site of the Press Center for the G8 Summit. The security was mindblowing, and rightly so, given that the world's most powerful leaders would be assembling on an island 80 miles to the south to discuss world issues. Barry Bennett, communications director for the G-8 summit is shown above with a tablet.

Groove was selected as one of the IT innovations that would be used by the delegations and their research staffs. Each leader (i.e., President Bush) has a policy advisor, who is referred to as a "sherpa". The sherpa is given a Motion Computing tablet loaded with Microsoft OneNote and Groove. During the negotiation sessions, the sherpa can use the ink chat to securely connect with their research support staff who are in a room some 3000 feet away. Groove was selected because of the secure, encrypted communications between peers, as well as because of the ink chat support. Clicky keyboards have made too much noise at the table in years past, and runners with handwritten notes is low tech.

The Wall Street Journal picked up on the story this morning in their "Digits" section (B4):

"But at the G-8 summit in Sea Island, Ga., this week, in many sessions each leader worked with just one principal policy analyst -- known as a sherpa -- in the room. Each sherpa was issued a Motion Computing tablet PC, equipped with Microsoft OneNote for organizing handwritten information as well as encrypted collaboration software from Groove Networks Inc."

Ray Ozzie: next candidate for a Nobel Peace Prize

Interesting comments in this CRN article:

Words we never ever imagined writing: France's president, Jacques Chirac, has gotten his "Groove" on"along with the other members of the G-8.

During last week's summit in Georgia of the leaders of the world's eight top economic powers, officials used Groove Networks' software and other technology to help with communications. If Ray Ozzie can help some of these guys communicate better, we'll nominate him for a Nobel Peace Prize.


here's a new one: welcome to blikis

If you haven't heard about Blikis yet, let me introduce you to the concept. A bliki is a Blog with wiki capabilites; that is, a Blog with publishing capabilities for blog readers. This tool offers yet another way to facilitate individuals to easily publish their own content online and collaborate asynchronously.


Networked Innovation diagram from Forrester

Gmail re-opens debate on Thin vs Rich clients

Gmail, most talked-about free Email service from Google, blazingly fast service proves that Web-based applications can be just as good as ones running on your desktop computer. Is it better for applications to run on my computer or on a remote server? Read on comments from Simson Garfinkel's article, "Google conquers Email" at MIT Technology Review (subscription required).

Gmail validates a claim that Sun has been making for nearly a decade—that it’s possible to replace a network of PCs running Windows with world-class computers offering computing services to low-cost and easily-managed desktop machines—perhaps machines so inexpensive that they don’t even have a hard disk. Sun called such computers “thin clients.”

But Gmail does work just as well as a copy of Outlook Express running on the desktop. In some way, in fact, it works better....

Until Gmail, practically every Web-based application was a pale imitation of that same application running on a PC. Web-based applications had the advantage that they were accessible from any computer on the Internet on professionally managed servers, that the data was backed up, and that the applications themselves were constantly updated. But compared to applications running on your local machine the web versions had fewer features and performed more slowly.

Gmail is different. For starters, it’s blindingly fast—so fast that it feels like it is running on your local computer and not in some data center....

Gmail shows that Web applications with thin clients can have advantages over software running on your desktop. The most obvious is reliability: Gmail runs on Google’s servers, not your hard drive, and Google almost certainly does a better job than you do with routine maintenance, backups, and the like.

Now, what happens if I'm not connected to the Internet? I'd never be able to read my Email unless I've had previously downloaded it...Uhmm, not very handy indeed.


Thomas Malone at Supernova 2004

Great notes from Heath Row on the speech from Thomas Malone, author of the book "The future of Work", at Supernova.

We are now in the early stages in an increase of human freedom in business that may in the long run be as important a change for business as the introduction of democracy was for governments. New technologies allow us to have the economic benefits of large organizations as well as the human benefits of small organizations. The reason that's possible is that technology is reducing the cost of communication to such a level that everyone in even huge organizations can have all the information they need about the big picture to make decisions without waiting for someone above them to tell them what to do. What will change things, though, is not the technology. It's what people want. We need to think more deeply about what we humans really want.

read on here

Ray Ozzie at Supernova 2004

Ray Ozzie, founder and CEO of Groove Networks, delivered last week a compelling speechnote at Supernova, a unique event that brings together experts from the software, communications and media industries to discuss decentralization and pervasive connectivity.

Heath Row, from Fast Company, puts together highlights from Ray's speech.

This is real. This is not theoretical. Work is changing now. So what have we learned at the edge? One, design is the key to achieving value. A tool's value rises dramatically as does its fitness for purpose. Awareness-based swarming and ad hoc groups are real and valuable. Hybrid architectures are key in organizational contexts. Two, successful joint work feels simple and local. Real and compelling local need to work together is required. Individuals participate largely for selfish reasons. Trust, accountability, and privacy are required for participation.

And three, active resistance is a fact of life. Deal with it. Even though we're working at the edge, servers are centers of territorial power. Regulatory, compliance issues are real but are used as weapons. Embrace the regulatory stuff and have a plan to work through it. And increased transparency and accountability can be threatening to people who have built their careers on brokering information and keeping people from talking to each other.


Groove folder-synchronization

Groove 3.0 folder-synchronization workspaces

GFS: Secure Folder synchronization

One of the features I like most about Groove v3.0 is the ability to seamlessly synchronize folders and files across distributed individuals. The great thing is that you don't even need to create a shared space, you can do it directly from the Windows file Explorer (see picture above). All you need to do is select a folder, click on the Groove button and select who you want to synchronize the folder with. You can even synchronize it across your computers (office and home without the need for both to be online simultaneously). This feature takes advantage of all of Groove capabilities (e.g. cross-organization, always-on security, binary differencing algorithms to optimize bandwidth, alerts for new content, etc... Hugh Pyle, Groove Networks developer, writes in detail about Groove File synchronization (GFS).

MOre interesting comments on GFS from Paresh Suthar here

[Link to Hugh's entry.]