Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My Web2.0 Virtual Office

After reading this great post by Eric Dupin on "My life without software and with barely a computer" (sorry, the original text is in French), it came to me that it may be of interest to describe my personal productivity environment.

I've been using Windows, in various versions this past 18 years from 3.1 to XP in my work environment. Coming from the Apple IIe and Mac world in the pioneering years (1983 to 1989), the move was wrenching at the time, much like driving a Ford model T, after years of enjoying a classy Porsche 911. But, by work necessity, I tried to make the best of the IBM PC/Windows environment.

With the advent of the web, I recently took the decision to explore tools that would free me from the ever increasing race towards more cycle-hungry operating systems and thick desktop applications and would enable me to potentially work from any computer, wherever I am connected.

Although, my journey of discovery is far from being complete, here is were I am at this point. First, I decided to have a go at Linux as an alternative to Windows. So I erased the latter on a Thinkpad T22 that I bought about 5 years ago and installed PCLinuxOS, a distro that compares well with the likes of Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSuse etc. It's been fairly painless to install, although I had a bit of a struggle with the Broadcom wireless network card.

So, on this laptop, that I upgraded to 512Mb of RAM from the initial 256Mb, I am happy surfing the net with Firefox. I use Google Reader to check my suscribed feeds and I tag websites and resources of interest using del.icio.us. Google Notebook is a nice complement that helps me clip information of interest, categorize it and add notes on the fly.

Open Office seems to be a valid replacement for MS Office, although I have not completed the conversion yet. I think the next step is going to be about finding online replacements of these desktop productivity tools. The big advantages that I see in moving in that direction are:

  • Storing files on a remote location enables the ability to share them with my friends and co-workers
  • I can reference them in blogs or websites with their URL
  • I don't need to think about backing them up, although having a copy somewhere is always a good idea
I am also a big user of mind mapping software. I like MindManager in Windows and I've tried FreeMind, an open source software which is OK for basic mind mapping in Linux. Recently, a friend indicated comapping, a mind mapping application that is completely hosted on the web and allows for co-editing of mind maps in real time and remotely. It's an impressive tool, with all needed conversion capabilities from and to freemind and MindManager. We intend to use it to record minutes of our teleconferences live.

Another area of growing interest for me is social networking, mainly through Linkedin and Viadeo. I find that in addition, I have a need for a contact manager to make sure that I follow up with my network contacts in a timely way. I've chosen Highrise, by 37signals, the providers of Basecamp, the project management tool of fame. It provides me with the necessary functionality to log my contact history, details and tasks. It's a great resource, even with the basic free license.

Lastly, I am addicted to Getting Things Done and use Todoist, a neat online facility with good flexibility and Gmail integration (which I haven't gotten around to testing so far).

What productivity applications have you found on the web that you particularly like?

Interesting link:
Linux and Open Source Blog (from which the picture above comes - thanks)

Post update at 18:03:
Check this article on CIO Magazine: Windows vs. Linux vs. OS X

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Convergence of Social Networking in the Entreprise

These are interesting times for fostering collective intelligence in the enterprise. More and more people have taken steps to connect with other people they trust, using one or several social networking platforms of their choice (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Viadeo, Xing, etc.).

A lot of big corporations are now making forays into building social networking capabilities within the entreprise. For instance, Pfizer was one of the two companies to strike a collaboration deal with Microsoft to explore the potential of Knowledge Network, an entreprise solution for mining emails for keywords, and providing people search capabilities, i.e. the ability to search for people with specific knowledge, skills or talents. I'll expand later on the lessons from that particular initiative, the point here is that the traditional approach to getting social networking capabilities within the firewall has been to either bring in a major provider of software solutions or build a solution from scratch.

The big aha for me has been to realize that the content of social networking does not belong to the companies people work for. It belongs to the people. Therefore, companies would be well advised to get the content where it currently sits; i.e. directly from the social networking platforms of the planet.

That is in this perspective that I am very excited about the recent publication of the OpenSocial API standards, which has the potential to offer social networking content for consumption in the entreprise environment. Just imagine the possibilities: company X gets a view of how its people communicate internally and externally, simply by putting together an aggregated view of all connections made by its employees. In addition, it can develop services that help mine internal data along with people data, or using the wealth of information to initiate fruitful collaborative efforts outside the entreprise.

What's in it for the people? Well, they would not have to maintain yet another profile page and connection data in the company they work for, or have to fill all that over again when they change companies. And more importantly, they would keep ownership of their profile page and connections data and bring that to the company they work for as part of their intrinsic worth.

What do you think?

Links of interest:
Explaining OpenSocial to your Executives by Jeremiah Owyang
Google OpenSocial will (hopefully) make social apps more relevant by Charlene Li
OpenSocial: it's the data, stupid by Tim O'Reilly
(I do not share Tim's misgiving about OpenSocial's ability to share data. Some comments are quite interesting to read)
OpenSocial: a new universe of open applications all over the web by Marc Andreessen

Post update at 1:48 pm:
I just came across this article that goes in the direction I was hinting:
Enterprise Social Computing by Jon Williams
I will check the Alfresco WCM platform closely. As a matter of fact, in a completely separate stream of work, I've made contact with folks at Knowings, a French firm who have a partnership agreement with Alfresco. Connections come around...

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Transcendental Nature of the Web

In her blog, Acronym, Lisa Junker blogged about an impressive video that visually explains the evolution towards Web 2.0.

"Michael Wesch, a professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University, lays out a lot of the major issues surrounding Web 2.0 in a short video called “The Machine Is Us/ing Us.” "

Content has become the enabler to linking to other content and people. It points to the thought that the web is the most evolved construct for tacit or informal knowledge internalization, i.e. providing all connected people the ability to act effectively. We thus become the free and willing instruments of a superb meta-machine.

I just wonder whether we've reached a singularity point were the meta-machine has attained self-awareness yet. Maybe it has, but we, mere body cells, just will never know...