Google Wave and the Enterprise

Google Wave

With a fair bit of fanfare on May 28th Google pre-released a brand new tool/suite/ concept/framework for collaboration called Google Wave. I am not going to cover all the technical details, you can see them over at http://wave.google.com. But you do need to understand that Google Wave is actually three things all in one package.

  • The Google Wave product (available as a developer preview) is the web application people will use to access and edit waves. It’s an HTML 5 app, built on Google Web Toolkit. It includes a rich text editor and other functions like desktop drag-and-drop (which, for example, lets you drag a set of photos right into a wave).
  • Google Wave can also be considered a platform with a rich set of open APIs that allow developers to embed waves in other web services, and to build new extensions that work inside waves.
  • The Google Wave protocol is the underlying format for storing and the means of sharing waves, and includes the “live” concurrency control, which allows edits to be reflected instantly across users and services. The protocol is designed for open federation, such that anyone’s Wave services can interoperate with each other and with the Google Wave service. To encourage adoption of the protocol, we intend to open source the code behind Google Wave.

Think of a wave as the combination of an email and instant messaging but on steroids! Google describes wave as being equal parts document and conversation, which sounds very strange, essentially it is a fully integrated collaborative communications framework. Technically the tool is amazing; for example real time edits of a wave appear on all participants’ screens immediately and the ability to “replay” edits of a wave to see how the wave developed. The only part missing from the wave product is a VOIP client, but given that Google has open sourced the core of wave and the extremely flexible API framework a smart engineer should be able to hook one up very quickly.

Within an enterprise Google Wave, or at least the concepts behind it, have the ability to revolutionise the way people work! The flexible streamlined approach to communication and collaboration is both amazing complex and simple at the same time.  For example:

  • Real-time foreign language translation allows everyone to easily collaborate naturally in their own language.
  • Real-time updates on waves allow teams to create documents wiki style at a rapid pace.
  • Changes that happen while you sleep can be replayed using the play back feature so you can see the context that trigger comments, suggests and ideas to be added to the Wave.
  • Drag and drop images, and in the future other media types, allows fast real time collaboration of prototypes and ideas.
  • The open API allows full integration of other products such as production schedules, or CRM tools.
  • The protocol allows you to federate with other organisations for collaborative purposes.

Now this revolution will not happen overnight given the massive investment organisations have made on Microsoft Exchange and Sharepoint over the last few years. So initially I would predict Google Wave being picked up by smaller organisations and freelancers who need to collaborate with different people on projects across multiple locations.

A word of caution given Google’s track record of letting services die off time will tell if Google Wave becomes the next Gmail or Google Base.

Social Recruiting and an experiment

Last week I was meeting with Riges Younan and Jeremy Samuel from 2Vouch to discuss Riges’s presentation for Australiasian Talent Conference in Auckland, topic being “The Evolution of Social Recruiting”. To develop the presentation Riges wanted feedback from the recruiting community on their thoughts, ideas and case studies. To quote Riges:

I need your help to shape, contribute and assist in the creation of this presentation.  I’ll be posting ways in which we can work together to create something that will assist many HR, Recruiters and Jobseekers around the world.

To facilitate the process Riges wanted a blog and a wiki to collect the content and discuss the ideas. So http://socialrecruiting.com has been set up. If you have anything to say on social recruiting or recruiting in general go register and contribute, the rest of this post will be be about how I built the site.

When thinking about what tool to use to build the wiki I was very concerned that many wiki tools still use a Wiki-markup style, while basic can put a lot of people off contributing. We wanted the barrier for use to be low.

The blog was to be in WordPress 2.7, I did a bit of searching and found a wiki plugin from Instinct. While only recently released it had all of the features I needed to get the site going  quickly. I needed to modify the code a bit to fix some of the bugs, I also updated the security components along with the theme to adjust how pages were edited. Once users register they can edit any pages through the WordPress administration dashboard. This way we leveraged the power features of WordPress as a blogging platform and also its very easy to use user interface for the wiki component. Security has been adjusted so all users can create and edit and page, upload images and video, create but not publish blog posts.

Some additional plugs have been used to add collaborative features including Add to Any, Collapsing Pages, GD Start Rating, and SlideShare.

Yes there are other tools I could have used but not for only 10 hours work across two days.

I would be very interested to hear any thoughts.

Do you have a Knol?

A Knol is a unit of knowledge, well according to Google that is. Their new information source has been moved into public Beta. Basically Knol is sort of like Wikipedia but each entry is authored by a single individual who has complete editorial control. Google provides the following outline in the help:

So what subjects can I write on?

(Almost) anything you like. You pick the subject and write it the way you see fit. We don’t edit knols nor do we try to enforce any particular viewpoint – your knol should be written as you want it to be written. Of course, Knols are subject to Terms of Service and Content Policy to ensure a good experience for all users and compliance with applicable laws.

What if someone else has already written an article on that subject?

No problem, you can still write your own article. In fact, the Knol project is a forum for encouraging individual voices and perspectives on topics. As mentioned, no one else can edit your knol (unless you permit it) or mandate how you write about a topic. If you do a search on a topic, you may very well see more than one knol in the search results. Of course, people are free to disagree with you, to write their own knols, to post comments and ratings.

Can I collaborate with other authors?

Of course. For each knol you can choose to write on your own or collaborate with other authors.

An interesting experiment, as mentioned by Mashable is might just end up like Squidoo but it could also turn into something completely different. I could also see the format working internally to organisations for building content. Some organisationa have not yet got their minds around wiki’s allows anyone to edit, where a tool like Knol might be used as a stepping stone towards wikis.

Slide show available online

I have put the slides from last night’s presentation online at SlideShare, they can be viewed via http://www.slideshare.net/mspecht/intro-for-hr-on-blogs-web-20/, only issue is you miss out on my fantastic commentary.

A couple of points

  • The cartoons are all Hugh Macleod’s of gapingvoid fame
  • To review the buzz words you need to view the CommonCraft Show videos
  • To learn about Web 2.0 you should read ClueTrain
  • Finally look through the links at the end as 90% of the content is found there, and you don’t need my commentary

Gen Y in the Workforce

I was surprised to see Shannon Seery Gude mentioned in the local IT press, CIO Magazine’s May issue, not surprised that she has been quoted in a magazine, but more that our IT press found her, kudos to the CIO Mag guys!

The May issue covered a very topical area on Gen Y in the workforce, the article was written by a Gen Y, interviewing other Gen Y’s and Baby Boomer CIOs, all in all a good read.

Company loyalty was a big discussion point, the bottom line don’t expect loyalty from your Gen Y’s unless the company provides them with loyalty first. Should we be surprised by this, many a Gen Y has seen their parents lose their jobs made redundant after years of loyalty to their employer. Further management rhetoric over the years has been that we need to manage our own career’s “don’t expect the company or management to it for you”, to me this is not a message that breeds loyalty. However this does not mean you can’t build loyalty with Gen Y’s and have them hang around for a few years, or more. You just need to make the job satisfying. Sound like employee engagement?

Job satisfaction is the biggest motivator of Gen Y’s. They always need new challenges and want to see their efforts come to fruition. Putting a Gen Y in a dead end job, or working on a make busy project, so they “learn”, is a sure way to loose them.

Another important factor for Gen Y is work life balance, they don’t live to work, many are happy to do the work to get the job done, just not necessarily between 9 and 5. Gen Y’s have heard of work life balance for many years, so why should we be surprised they demand it? Work life balance not only means giving employees the ability to work when they want, eg 9am or 12am, where they choose, eg the office or the lounge room, but also allow them to disconnect from work, without penalty. Remember work is no longer somewhere you go, it is something you do. The “disconnect without penalty” is the difficult part as a management culture needs to be developed, it doesn’t just happen in organisations. Enticing Gen Y with lots of money to get the job done will not work in the same way it has for many of the current crop of middle managers.

Social interactions are also important, putting work in the way of a Gen Y’s social interactions is another sure way for them to leave. This is where Shannon’s quote came in “social networking features and collaboration tools such as blogs and wikis to allow employees to connect and collaborate with one another” (Must find Shannon’s post that the article referred to, why didn’t the article include it?). An interesting side note, a post on Cisco’s Mobile Visions blog last week highlighted mobile technology as one of the key attributes for social networking, if you want to attract Gen Y’s maybe you could look at some mobility benefits, free text messaging, sponsored data broadband wireless cards? Let’s not forget the cool video they also pointed to 2 weeks ago on attracting the Millennial Generation, you know the one after Gen Y.

Once again in summary Gen Y’s are:-

  • Young
  • Restless
  • In a hurry
  • Will not automatically provide their employers with loyalty
  • Not necessarily motivated by money
  • Demand job satisfactions
  • At the end of the day want work life balance and be able to pay the bills

Enterprise wiki providers fighting for customers

via Techdirt. While we now have two (at least) commercial Wiki software providers it seems they are fighting with each other over new customers. Personally I don’t see it as a bad sign, more an interesting one.

Wiki’s are a new concept and the selling of them within an organisation is going to take a fairly long period of time. In the meantime the only customers for these two players are existing organisations who have an understanding of the tools. The customers will probably have an existing open source tool, like TWiki, and want to leverage the benefits of a commercial offering. I completely understand where this is coming from being an early adopter of web based employee self service during the 90’s. Many of the vendors spent most of the late 90’s educating the Australian HR market on the benefits, not 7-8 years on every vendor has a solution and every client wants it. The same will happen eventually with wiki’s.

I have looked at what JotSpot has to offer and the marketing hype sells a very good message, however time will tell if the reality matches once several organisations take it for a drive and we get some public feedback. What I think is missing in the marketplace is a combined tool the corporates can install, a solution that provides both blogs and wiki’s in one package. This way both tools can be deployed and used where appropriate for the problems being faced int he enterprise. Take this a step further, the tool should also have traditional threaded discussions and email mailing lists as these are still needed for certain types of applications.

What is a Wiki?

I have been asked by several people recently “What is a Wiki?”. While there are some great examples and references out there, a recent article from Forbes provides a good background and good support for the use of Wiki’s.

If you want to find a Wiki, check out Wiki Engines where there is a wiki for just about every platform.

Blogs & Social networks for internal communications

Via Enterprise RSS.

Charlene Li talks about Razorfish using blogs and other social tools for internal collaboration and knowledge management. Interesting post. Charlene wonders if such an arrangement displaces traditional KM systems? I would say yes it will!

Blogs are about opening up conversations with people, as we have seen recently with Scoble. By opening up conversation you are sharing, and this create a shared knowledge. Which I believe is the bottom line when it comes to KM (others will disagree). If we look back over the last 10,000 years societies before us had very good methods of knowledge management, sharing.

Blogs, Wikis, RSS and other similar tools provide a direct, open, transparent, timely and personal means of communication. When we overlay the current search technologies we have a fantastic method of managing our knowledge, whether internal or external it can be managed. Entries in there tools can be categorised, searched, indexed, commented on and developed further.

I am interested in Forrester’s vision of the future when an employee joins an organisation. I would love to see further bits added to this, but right now most organisation struggle to have a desk, computer and phone when a new employee arrives. I will just wait until we have all learnt how to crawl with respect to day one triggers before I get too ahead of myself.

Insightful Wiki’s

Further to my last post Jeremy Wright also runs ResumeWiki, a very interesting concept. As Jeremy describes it on the Home Page

ResumeWiki is a community edited resume centre. You post your profile (goals, etc) and assume the community of peers will give you comments and possible edits. Feel free to view the ExistingResumes or the RecentlyUpdatedResumes for examples of other peoples’ profiles, resumes and cover letters. You are free to omit personal information (since this is primarily about improving your resume, not getting you exposure).

I like the sound of it! I can see this type of idea working well within departmental environments for goal alignment and team planning.

This brings me to an item I found in ComputerWorld. Where Chad Dickerson gives a short intro into what and where a Wiki could be used for within the IT department. I feel Chad limits his thoughts a little but baby steps are the way with many new’ish concepts. One really good point that Chad makes is trying to draw a line between Wiki’s and Weblogs, he uses a very good example of where one technology would suit over the other. Lee from CommonCraft provides a good description of the differences between a basic message board and a Weblog.

In looking at both of these posts I feel I might try and develop a general guideline as to which technology is best for each circumstance. Maybe something for tonight.

Wikis and HR

Ok, more from recruiting.com (I can’t believe I just found this!).

Jason has a short intro into a new company called JotSpot. There are a few differences between Jotspot and other Wikis like SocialText the main one is the guys at Jotspot have created some prebuilt applications for users. This is a fantastic idea and I believe the potential for this application, and wikis in general is huge.

I have a couple of concerns firstly it might be too far ahead of it’s time, but that just could be my view from the Australian market. I say this based on several things.

Last week at the People in HR conference I attended a session on using MS Office technology (specifically Outlook) for productivity improvements, infact the session was entitled “Collaborative HR applications: maximising HR productivity with existing MS software”. While the presentation was good and showed how existing technology could be reused to provide additional benefits to organisations I was let down on the collaborative side of things. Phil Lovell provided several screen shots on how they have used Public Folders, Outlook forms and basic programming to create a Travel Management application, he stated the next item they are tackling will be recruitment.

Why was I disappointed? Firstly the tools and technologies Phil was using were getting onto being 10 years old and have been available since the first version of Exchange. Now I admit to being an early adopter and so I could be biased here just on the technology. Other issues were no web interface, no other collaborative tools such as instant messaging which would have helped their process dramatically. What disappointed me the most was at during the questions. One HR manager asked if it would work with Outlook 97, answer was yes, the organisation he works for must be embarrassed if that is still there standard platform. The second item during question time was a comment from the two HR managers behind me who said words to the effect of “it is amazing how much you learn from these sessions, I never know such things were possible.” At which point I almost fainted.

Coming back to JotSpot. If our organisations are still using 7 year old tools and the HR managers have not even seen basic office automation tools, well JotSpot may as well not exist.

My other concern on the “application side” is it might get clients 50% of the way to their solution and then they hit a brick wall. I say this from the position of not having used to product and just gone through the tour. When I get a chance I might fire up a beta test.

Relooking at what I have written this sounds like I am down on things. I am not I am concerned.

Everyone who is involved in the HRIS industry in Australia should be out there communicating to their clients (HR managers) and helping them develop visions that include even the most basic office productivity tools. We should be helping HR managers understand the potential of technology, this does not mean the news terms and buzz words. Instead maybe we should all sit down with one HR manager and show them JotSpot to really one their eyes!