Social Business Forum and a Touch with Reality

Gran Canaria - Degollada De Las Yeguas in the WinterAs you may well remember from a couple of recent blog posts I put together over here, this week, on June 8th, the yearly Social Business Forum will be taking place in Milan and it will be a great honour for me to be able to attend it as well as go and present on the topic of “Communities or Organisations? – The New Collaboration Ecology”, where I will be sharing some further insights on IBM’s various experiences with regards to the wider adoption, enablement and empowerment of online communities through social software tools and how traditional hierarchies and teams are transforming themselves, as a result of it, into a new, richer, more complex, more dynamic and agile Collaboration Ecology. I’ll be sharing some initial reflections as well on an absolutely wonderful piece of research done by the IBM Almaden Research folks with Tara Matthews leading the efforts in this very same area of figuring out the next generation of the collaboration landscape.

There will be, as usual, plenty of live tweeting from my side over at @elsua under the hash tag #sbf11 and a couple of follow-up blog posts with plenty of highlights from the overall event as well, but that would be the subject for another blog post or two. For now, I would want to reflect on something that I have noticed it’s starting to happen to me more often than not and so far it’s proved to be a challenge to put it down for good in order to reflect further on it to see where it would finally go. So I thought that today could be the perfect opportunity to air it out and, at long last, get it out of my chest. Yes, indeed, folks, it looks like my Hippie 2.0 side is coming out again, and this time around in full force and with a sweet, long lasting vengeance after putting it in a dormant status for far too long!

They keep saying that a good personal business blog is that one that has struck that perfect 80% / 20% balance; 80% business and 20% personal. Funny enough, I have always felt that most of the content I have shared over here, in this blog, has been, for the most part, business related, with the odd personal entry here and there. However, and over the last few weeks, I have been putting together a whole bunch of various different blog entries that I wanted to share across, but that never made it, because they were exceeding that 20% big time. I know they would need to get out at some point, but somehow I am kind of not very keen on re-converting this blog on something far too personal. It wouldn’t be the purpose of what I envisioned for the blog right from the start. And, certainly, creating another one, separate from this one, is not an idea I would want to contemplate just yet. Thus how do you get to compromise? Do you actually need to compromise in the first place? Should you? Will people walk away and never come back if you start becoming a bit too personal? A bit too close? Hummm, questions, questions. Choices, choices. Not an easy answer for any of them, don’t you think?Gran Canaria - Risco Blanco & Santa Lucia in the Winter

I am sure though, at this point in time, you may be wondering what has triggered that sudden change and that re-emergence of my Hippie 2.0 side, right? Well, you are probably not going to believe it, but it’s mostly been a rather hard and sudden touch with reality that has provoked an awakening, like no other, for yours truly in a couple of areas that I never thought I would see coming along after all of this time being on the Web: mainly that one of being a critical thinker while being a good citizen / netizen. And I am sure you know where I am heading with this … It’s been an awakening that I am finding it harder and harder to tame and control over the course of time, to the point, where, in some cases I have hinted already that certain change is already in the making and happening altogether.

Back in 2001, when I was first exposed to social software tools, there were a number of different guidelines I decided to put in place and abide for myself; mainly, stating there would be three different subjects that I wouldn’t touch much *ever* in any online Web form. Mainly, politics, religion and sports. So far I think I have been doing pretty well, since I hardly ever get to share any content in either of those three subjects. However, things are changing and somehow I feel there is no way back. Involvement is a very powerful word, indeed. And that touch with reality that I have experienced over the last couple of weeks surely has marked the time when that involvement may be much tighter and much more direct than whatever was happening in the past. At least, for me.

Yes, that’s right! For a long while I have stayed away, on purpose, from the whole world of politics, more than anything else, because I know, along with religion and sports, it’s one of those visceral subjects that often keeps getting misinterpreted time and time again provoking even more trouble than helping out in the first place. Yet, when certain things like this one happen far too close to home (I was there just the same morning that set of events took place!) one starts to question whether you can let it go, just like that, hoping that it will be forgotten, when you know exactly that’s not going to happen. They call us internauts, bloggers, twitterers, facebookers, social networkers, freaks, you name it. When in reality we are just like them; citizens taking advantage of the tools available to us to try to make a difference.

Gran Canaria - Ayacata in the WinterIt bugs me. It bugs me big time that my social computing evangelist bubble has burst just like that, so easy. It bugs me the huge amount of fear and apprehension there seems to be out there, from all over the place, towards the Internet, specially, that thing called social networks, where no-one seems to have the control over them, as if they are the last resource of freedom, or revelry, the world has got left out there. It gets me how, now more than ever, I keep ending up having rather engaging discussions where I end up trying to justify a social behaviour that’s been with us for thousands and thousands of years and that’s finally finding its natural path: that one of showing how interconnected we all are with one another. Regardless.

You see? I told you. My Hippie 2.0 side is back! Ha! I knew it would eventually be happening, but I never expected that it would be coming back in such full force… To the point, where, even if my 2.0 evangelist bubble has been burst and smashed in hundreds of pieces in the last couple of weeks I’m now more motivated than ever to do a better job at evangelising around the subject of social networks than ever before, wanting to reach out beyond the original focus within the corporate, business environment and directly into our societies as a whole, because, after all, that’s all it matters, isn’t it? Who we are and how we are connected with one another. And if I can help open up a few more eyes and ears, why not? Wouldn’t it be worth it for all of us altogether? I mean, what are we, social computing evangelists, doing to help those around us understand where our passion and motivation for these social tools come from? Why don’t we try to make a little bit of an extra effort and pledge to make a difference with those evangelism efforts?

Well, I do realise that this is not the typical blog entry you would be expecting to read over here. And that’s fine. I wasn’t expecting it myself either. I meant it as an article reflecting on some personal changes I am seeing, AND experiencing myself, that I cannot longer control (Not even sure anymore I would want to control them in the first place!) around the potential impact social has way beyond just a business context. I do hope you understand though where I am coming from. Where that touch with reality has made me realise there is now more work ahead of us than ever before! Specially, seeing recent global events in multiple countries, I doubt we would ever have a choice anymore to ignore it. In fact, I am starting to think I don’t want to ignore it any longer. I have done so for over a decade and I am starting to have enough of it; enough of having to justify how I live the Social Web, just because people don’t understand it, as a result of the fear they have been accumulating over time from all over the place. Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo in the Winter

You see? As my good friend and, fellow Hippie 2.0, Mark Masterson once wisely said, not long ago, If you focus on fear, you’ll get fear. If you focus on humour, you’ll get laughs“, I thought I would close this thinking-out-loud open reflection letting folks know that, somehow, this blog (As well as my overall online interactions in social networks) have just started a new phase where my new mission is that one helping focus on the humour and the laughs versus the fear. I know now why I put together Three Wishes at the beginning of the year. Started to hint it subconsciously right there! Basically, to keep evangelising on social computing, not just in a business context, but also as an integral part of our societies, as citizens, because, at the end of the day, we are not internauts, we are not bloggers, nor twitterers nor facebookers, we are just people with a strong willingness to connect, and stay connected, with those who we share a common affinity with and learn further insights from that knowledge sharing experience to help us all become better at what we already do.

That’s why I am embedding this video clip over here, as part of the weekly inspiring series of videos, by Aleix Saló under the title “ESPAÑISTAN La Burbuja Inmobiliaria a la Crisis by Aleix Salo“, which clearly marks, to me, what innovation, creativity and a touch of humour can do to help explain complex problems we are facing ourselves with simple solutions, whether work related or not. In this case, the latter. Something that affects us all…

(Video clip in Spanish)

I guess I am now, finally, ready to unleash the fury, the passion and the motivation behind my Hippie 2.0 side and let it spread around once again. Somehow I am hoping I won’t be the only one…

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“elsua’s ragbag” – The State of Social Collaboration

Gran Canaria - Meloneras in the WinterI need an online ragbag. I need, and pretty badly, a Web based ragbag, easy to use, fast enough to interact with on the go, pervasive, available at all times through multiple venues (Including mobile), where I can dump things quickly and share them across with others, or make them available for future reference for upcoming blog posts, clippings or whatever else. I am seriously starting to get tired of having multiple local text files with hundreds of links, golden nuggets, precious little gems that only me is benefiting from, therefore with a rather restrictive value altogether. I need to do better. I need to start curating all of that content a bit more socially. I need to stop using those text files and start looking for something a bit more innovative and lasting (Yes, Twitter is no longer an option in this regard, I am afraid), where not just me would be benefiting from sharing those knowledge snippets. Thus, finally, jumping the shark, once again!, allow me to introduce you, over here, the re-launch of elsua’s ragbag“.

Yes, that’s right! For the third, or fourth time (Can’t remember anymore), that I have tried in the last few months I am going to make use of my Posterous site, once again. Although this time around with a slightly different twist. Instead of having the flavour of sharing entries that were more or less elaborate to a certain extent, I think I’m going to take a little bit more of a chaotic approach to it all and start using it again with that flavour of a ragbag: “a miscellaneous collection“.

Indeed, a collection of everything that catches my attention; of everything that I find somewhat interesting and that I would think may well be worth while sharing across with the mission to abandon my locally stored text file(s) for good, whether it’s a snippet or a clipping to an interesting blog post, or from a Web site, or a video, a learning resource, an interesting and relevant presentation or those little precious gems that one bumps into every so often, I am hoping that “elsua’s ragbag” will be the new home to all of those serendipitous knowledge discoveries, as my good friend Ana Silva beautifully explained in a brilliant blog post, just recently, over at “Embrace Change, Embrace Serendipity“.

It would also help me serve as an excuse to check out Posterous, once again, and see what other improvements and enhancements it’s had over the course of months, since the last time I checked it out, specially, as I am starting to have that feeling of being left out from other social networking sites given a good number of recent negative happenings around them. Yes, in a way, trying to figure out whether Posterous can help serve the purpose of a refuge from some awkward behaviours that other major social networking sites have been going through over the last few months, couple of years already. Who knows… it may stick altogether this time around … for good! We shall see…

For now, I feel that strong urge to give it a try, once again, and see how this new experiment goes. Here is the RSS feed, if you would be interested in subscribing to it. If you are a Posterous user already, you can connect with it, too! by subscribing to it directly from the site, and I thought that perhaps I could get things going now with elsua’s ragbag by sharing one of the snippets I have bumped into earlier on, worth while mentioning it over here as well, specially since it talks about the subject of “Social Collaboration“:

(Click on the infographic to enlarge it…)

Rather interesting, don’t you think? Well, these are the kind of tidbits I am hoping to be sharing across from here onwards… Let’s see whether this time around I can make it stick. Bring it on then!

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OpenNTF – Bookmark Viewer for IBM Lotus Connections Dogear

I am sure you would agree with me that Social Computing, and, in particular, social software tools, still have got plenty of different challenges within the enterprise in order to provoke that massive cultural shift most of us have been looking forward to for a long while. One of those challenges has always been trying to accommodate the mobile workforce and provide something so relatively simple as offline capabilities from most of those social tools.

Yet, it is not happening as much as one would have hoped for, don’t you think? I mean, there are some Enterprise 2.0 Social Software applications out there that are starting to tap into the offline world. Alas, not as pervasively as what you would have hoped for. And that’s one of the main issues that most mobile knowledge workers have got right now as we speak with regards to their own adoption of social software in a corporate environment.

At IBM, where 50% of the workforce is mobile already, we are seeing this very same issue as well and the interesting thing is that more and more we are seeing how some of our various social software tools we are exposed to on a daily basis are making serious attempts to accommodate offline interactions. And the latest example is coming from one of my favourite social software tools: IBM’s Lotus Connections.

Actually, from one of the components I have started to rely very heavily on over the last couple of years: Dogear (Now graciously renamed Bookmarks after Lotus Connections v2.5 went GA). Check out "Bookmark Viewer for IBM Lotus Connections Dogear" by Hanspeter Jochmann, where you will be able to see how all of the bookmarks folks may have been storing in Dogear / Bookmarks can now be taken off into a Lotus Notes database that allows you to have a rich set of interactions, while working offline, and then synchronise them back to the server once you are connected again. Amazingly powerful! And something I was really looking forward to after having gone through some very bad experiences myself.

Remember Ma.gnolia? I was a big fan of it; I had several thousand bookmarks stored in it and was a rather heavy user all along… Till one day, I came to work, was on my way to bookmark a few sites and found out Ma.gnolia went through a server crash and LOST all of my bookmarks! Without a chance to provide a backup or anything. Just GONE! All of them! Ouch!! I thought I would have to re-create most of the work I put together in it, but lucky enough Dogear came to my rescue and allowed me to recover most of it.

Ever since that painful experience happened, I haven’t gotten outside and use any other social bookmarking site available out there. Not only because I haven’t been convinced that any of them would do what I would want them to do (Specially with the protection and backup of my own bookmarks!), but also because I don’t think I would feel comfortable going through that very same experience of losing my bookmarks once more, should they suffer from an irrecoverable server crash.

So I have decided to go internal and rely, almost exclusively, on Lotus Connections Bookmarks inside the firewall. And every now and then I synchronise them with my Dogear / Bookmarks over at ibm.com so that folks out there would have an opportunity to check the kinds of links that are of interest to me and that can be shared externally. For the internal ones, you know where they would go… hehe

Thus when Hanspeter shared this brilliant offline Bookmark Viewer for Dogear I just couldn’t help but giving it a try and all along to state I have been rather happy is probably an understament. It just works! My fellow colleague, and good friend, Luis Benitez, blogged about it and pointed out to a YouTube video that explains how that Notes database works:

And if you notice, it pretty much puts together that key concept of replication and "working offline" from traditional groupware tools into the space of social software, which, I am not sure what you would think, but I think it’s just pretty awesome! Best of both worlds in just a single application coming together nicely and allowing me to always be control of how I use it, whether I am connected or not. Just brilliant!

I just hope that plenty of other social software tools follow this very same trend, because otherwise we are going to continue missing out on a large chunk of the corporate workforce who are constantly on the road, disconnected, while at customers, and the last thing they would want to worry is try to figure out whether they can get connected to just bookmark a site. This Bookmark Viewer clearly shows the way it’s possible to accommodate those needs, because, after all, we all know what’s like being on the road without a live Internet connection, don’t you think? :-D


(Oh, before I forget another special thanks to Hanspeter for helping make our lives much much easier with our own adoption of social software tools in combination with those other tools we have been using for a long while now! Talking about a nice, tight and smooth integration of the 1.0 and 2.0 worlds! Well done, Hanspeter! Thanks ever so much!)

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