E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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Fringe Contacts – People-Tagging for the Enteprise

Last Friday you would remember how I created a weblog post around the Collaborative Web Tagging Workshop taking place this week in Edinburgh. Right then I mentioned that I would be sharing some of my thoughts on some of the different sessions that will be taking place and which I thought would be worth while commenting some more. Emanuele mentioned that there would be some live conblogging going on at the Wiki space they have set up, thus we shall see how it will all get going.

One of the sessions that I was really looking forward to, specially since I have been wanting to weblog about it for some time is the one that two of my IBM colleagues, Tessa Lau and Steve Farrell, will be doing on people-tagging for the Enterprise. It is called Fringe Contacts – People-Tagging for the Enterprise and you will be able to find the presentation over here. Here is the wiki space as well where discussion about the presentation itself will be taking place during and after the event, I suppose.

In the past you would remember how I have been talking about people tagging with such interesting offerings as Tagalag, but with Fringe Contacts things would be slightly different because with it you are able to tag people as opposed to people’s e-mails addresses which is what Tagalag does.

Another substantial difference between Fringe Contacts and whatever other tagging services is that in most cases those tagging offerings would be tagging resources whereas in Fringe Contacts the focus is to tag people, your peers, your knowledge experts, your subject matter experts.

On the presentation itself you would be able to see a screen shot of what it actually looks like: how you can tag anyone in the company; how a number of different tag suggestions are presented to you if you are not sure how you are going to tag a particular individual; how there is a tag-based name completion so that you can speed up the process a bit; how you can use different visualisation techniques through clouds; how you can import your buddy list and tag them on the fly; etc. etc.

Next to Fringe Contacts you would be able to see as well an, internally available only, FireFox extension called Tommy! (By another one of my IBM colleagues, Helder Luz) that helps you surf IBM’s Intranet a whole lot much more enjoyable than from whatever other browser. It has got lots of different integration points with other IBM tools, like the employee directory, or IBM’s weblogging engine (Blog Central), amongst others, and, of course, Fringe Contacts so that you can tag people along the way while navigating through the Intranet. Pretty neat, indeed.

But it gets better, because the next version of Fringe Contacts is actually BluePages+1 (In the presentation itself you can get to see a screen shot of what it would look like, in case you want to check it out), that somehow puts everything together of what I have been explaining so far along with some org. charts and directories, next to syndicated content like weblogs, bookmarks from Dogear, whatever publications, patents, and the like, along with the clouds that I have been mentioning above as well. Yes, I know, Peoplefeeds and Suprglu on steroids!

In the presentation as well you would see how tagging takes a new form in the shape of Instant Messaging with the work done so far on integrating this tagging infrastructure for Sametime related contacts using Gaim. Yes, tagging the folks you chat the most with in real-time. How much collaborative can you get ?

However, the great thing about all this people-tagging is the fact that with the data put together people could move things into the next step which is providing some visualisations of how the data is produced so that you would be able to establish connections not only based on the tags you may have used but also on the people who have been tagged using whatever the criteria. In the presentation itself you would be able to find one example of how this would look like. Pretty cool, indeed.

Then from there onwards on the presentation itself you would be able to find some statistics of how IBMers are actually making use of all these tools in order to be able to connect with others. In short, you would be able to see some first hand data of how IBM is making progress with this people-tagging initiative called Fringe Contacts. Lots of good things taking place, I am sure you would agree with, but one aspect that has not been mentioned quite a lot is how incredibly effective this application would turn out to be as an expertise locator tool. Being able to search for other subject matter experts by just using meaningful tags that the community has been using is something that we may not have seen it elsewhere before. It kind of reminds me of Ziki, but again on steroids given the huge amount of resources syndicated into a single focal point of entry. However, that people-tagging would become really powerful if everyone gets to use it, but even with just a few folks using it it would still prove to be rather useful since everyone, not just the taggers, would benefit from searching and navigating through those tags / people in order to locate those experts.

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