It is easy to miss the point of Identi.ca

I started hanging out on Identi.ca a few weeks ago. When they decided to go a little more public today I blogged about it at startupnorth. It is easy to miss the point here, this isn’t about being a twitter clone, and it isn’t about jumping to the flavor of the week.

Do I think the experience on Identi.ca is better than twitter right now? No. Do I think there are better features on Identi.ca? No. Do I think we need a better twitter? No

What we need is for Microblogging to shift from being a closed world owned by one company to an open, standards based medium that does not risk dying if a single entity dies, either technically or financially. In the same way that Blogging no longer means having a blog on blogger.com, but instead you can have a blog anywhere and still be part of an ecosystem based on standards, conventions and a scalable model.

What should be free and what should you pay for?

Figuring out what’s what in Enterprise software is tough, and it is definitely no easier when it comes to choosing Enterprise 2.0 tools.

So, a question comes up: What should you pay for, what should be cheap, and what should be free?

What should you pay for?

Support
This is a lot more critical than you realize. Having reliable and reasonably priced support is critical to making sure that you don’t disappoint your users.

Vendors used to traditionally “milk” their customers when it comes to support fees. This is changing as more and more minor support issues are handled by user communities. This is an example of Enterprise 2.0 eating its own dogfood. Vendors and consultants are then able to offer much more focused technical support without having to worry as much about the “It’s all in spanish?!?!” calls.

Data Backup and Accessibility
Most people would say that this should be free. I agree: It should be. But it is also something I am more than willing to pay for. Ideally, you can set up an external repository, such as an Amazon S3 account or a private file vault inside your own datacenter. If you are using a SaaS vendor, then they should automatically back up to this external repository in a non-proprietary XML format.

The reason that you should pay for this is so that you can ensure some sort of minimum service level. If something goes wrong, you don’t want to find out that all your backups are a week old.

User Experience
We all like to think that design comes cheap. And sure, you can go on Elance and get a cheap graphic designer who can make something reasonably pretty. The truth is however that because every organization is different, you are going to use software in different ways. You need to be willing to invest in the User Experience if you plan to keep your users happy.

Many pieces of new software look really nice, but when you start using them, the experience degrades quickly. Non-standard interfaces and poor design decisions are the primary culprits.

Future Innovation
This is a hard one to measure, and you can only really base you decision off past performance. Will this vendor or developer keep innovating and updating tools in the future? The reason you need to be willing to pay for this is that they need to put food on the table as well.

What should be cheap?

Hosting
I believe that hosting and provisioning costs should be broken out and separated from software cost. Current SaaS pricing models obscure the hosting cost and bundle application delivery in with the cost of the actual software. This is a mistake for a few reasons, but the primary one is that highly reliable vendors cannot easily differentiate their service level from a cheaper alternative. Everyone makes the claim “99.99999% uptime”, but it actually means very little.

If single vendors allowed multiple choices for delivery, then the customer could choose what their comfort zone is in terms of cost.

Integration
Integration is not a simple matter, but this is where your own IT folks need to play nice. You should expect them to know what the integration points are in your current infrastructure and they should be familiar with how to do that integration. Whether it is a link on a Sharepoint site, or access to an LDAP server, those options should not be difficult to execute on.

What should be free?

Design Patterns
There really is no such thing as Intellectual Property in the Enterprise 2.0 world. The difference between one vendor and another is not that they know more than the other, it is execution and design capability. Some vendors are incompetent when it comes to integrating features, designing workflows and in paying attention to the overall flow and “tightness” of the product. Do not let yourself be sold on “proprietary” anything.

Community Support
Low level support provided by other users and the vendor itself should always be free.

Deployment Speed
There should be no premium to pay to get tools deployed quickly. Vendors should be ready to deploy a base platform immediately which can start adding value to your organization.

What do you think

There is no way I covered everything here. What do you think? What should be free? What should be cheap? What should customers pay big money for?

Annals of Enterprise 2.0: Picking up Drag Queens

My use of the term “Drag Queens” to describe some enterprise software companies was outed today by Vinnie.

What did I mean when I said “old enterprise companies dressing up like a pretty E2.0 babe”

Here is the story of Tim, an Enterprise 2.0 customer who is a little timid, but has decided go for it and party the night away.

Dress up baby, we’re going out tonight

Tim, a friend of Charlie, is out at a club, the lights are low, the music is loud and he has had a few drinks.

The place is packed, and it seems like it is all new faces. Interesting people, great dancers and they are all buying you drinks. There are even a few celebrities hanging around. He dances until 3am, and before the lights go up, Tim ducks out the door.

As he is walking home through the rain, Tim is feeling pretty good. He had a fun night of dancing, good friends and he now has a girl on his arm. She’s pretty and says all the right things.

This story ends with an IT Project Failure, to say the least.

Who is he/she anyway?

The story is much the same for customers in the Enterprise 2.0 world. Those customers who are actually making purchases right now are a little timid and not sure exactly what to expect, and usually it was a friend who took them out to the party.

When the lights go down and the drinks start flowing however, things aren’t as clear as they were before and it isn’t always obvious who you are getting in bed with.

The Drag Queens of Enterprise 2.0 are those old Enterprise software vendors who haven’t done anything to change their products, but instead they went out and have bought a nice dress and have put some eye shadow on their football player physiques.

Enterprise 2.0 Conference Boston, See you there?

I am going to be at the Enterprise 2.0 conference again this year. For the most part I will be just hanging out, chatting in the halls and looking for new and interesting things.

This year I will be moderating a panel on Enterprise 2.0 platforms. The panel is stacked with some fantastic people and we are going to be talking about something that is becoming more and more important: the decision to roll your own platform or go with a vendor (big or small) when deciding to deploy Enterprise 2.0 tools.

Social computing platforms integrate enterprise 2.0 capabilities into a single platform (blogs, wikis, RSS, etc.) Three basic choices are available to the SMB and large enterprise. The first is to choose an established large enterprise application vendor’s solution (IBM, Microsoft, Oracle); the second is to choose a startup’s offering (Jive/Clearspace, Thoughtfarmer) and the third is to “roll your own” or build a customized application that provides all the functionality you’re looking for based on components available from the open source community.

Each of the panelists has a vested interest and a point to make, so it is my job to keep them on topic and to give the audience as much value as possible.

Are there any particular points I should make? Any question would would like me to put to the panel? Leave a comment or drop me an email.

*cide

noose.gifThe following actions comprise a list of Cliché behavior in social networking. While these actions have, until reaching cliché status, made the actor appear to be somewhat introspective, deep and rather emotionally connected, they in fact represent a culmination of the symptoms of a stew of behavioral disorders and general lack of personal management skills.

The compulsion to add too many people as your friend early on in a new social network will be known from now on as Friendive-Compulsive disorder.

The list is as follows:

* Declaring email bankruptcy. First known cases: 2002. There has recently been a resurgence in the financial and startup blogging worlds. “I have 500 unread emails. I am declaring email bankruptcy”

* Maintaining an Orkut, Friendster or Vox account and publicly claiming to actually log-in to these services

* Deleting your Facebook account. This one is growing in popularity and is most certainly already cliché, but we are not near the end of this.

* Having both a Myspace page and a Linkedin account. I am sorry, opposite worlds. You may implode or spontaneously ignite due to the fact that on one of them you are living a lie.

* The latest is Twittercide. The act of publicly announcing the killing of your oversubscribed twitter account.

Wikis are not Social Software

Just a quickie while this blog lives in the templateless limbo that it is now in.

Wikis have a well earned reputation of being a quick-deployment option that is easy enough to explain to your colleagues: “It sits there, and I can edit it, and you can edit it,. and it will always be there when you need it”.

Wikis are not social tools however. They are collaborative tools. This is an important distinction, mainly because the value that social tools create comes from their inherent social components: Sharing, currency, relevance and the filters that can be built from social network data.

(Good) Social Software on the other hand will focus on the personality above all else. Who is creating this? Why did they create it? Who else should know?

The obvious killer app, on first blush at least, is to combine these two things. The truth is: many have tried and they have all more or less failed. I think the killer app is probably a lot more subtle.

Lifestreaming Apps miss the point

friendfeed.png

I have been playing with most of the new lifestreaming applications. SocialThing, FriendFeed and a few others.

This big deal about these applications is that they take activity information from a slew of social sites, such as Facebook, Flickr, upcoming, etc, and they bring that information all in to one place.

The image on the right is an example of my FriendFeed.com stream. You can see that it includes updates from Blogs, Twitter. If you could see the whole page, you would see images, bookmarks, messages and more.

I really liked the idea of a combined lifestream at first. The name “lifestream” describes the fact that these apps are all creating a stream of information about our online lives, and there is power in sharing what we are creating, curating and synthesizing.

The problem that is cropping up however is that these apps are probably better called “noise aggregators” or “NoiseStreamr”s than anything else. By the time I had friended a few dozen people on FriendFeed and started trying to keep up with their blog posts, twitters, del.icio.us bookmarks, Jaiku status and more, I start to feel like I am experiencing more of a info-avalanche than I am floating down a lazy river of socially relevant news.

I don’t think that this problem is inherent to information streams, but it is pretty obvious that these tools are in their infancy and a lot of art and science is going to have to go in to improving the information flow.

The most immediate thing they could do would be to provide a way for the user to offer feedback on what feed items are actually interesting to them and which ones are not. ie: If I give someone’s del.icio.us bookmarks a thumbs down every time I see it, then you should stop showing it to me. If I give a thumbs down on ever single del.icio.us bookmark I see, then make sure you never show me one again.

There is a clear trend toward data streams built out of my social network, but the focus has to be on reducing noise, not adding to it.

Is IT becoming extinct?

Is IT becoming extinct? | IT Project Failures
Since the days of punch cards, IT has believed itself to be guardian of precious computing resources against attacks from non-technical barbarians known as “users.” This arrogant attitude, born of once-practical necessity in the era of early data centers, reflects inability to adapt to present-day realities. Such attitudes, combined with recent technological and social changes, are pushing IT to share the fate of long-extinct dinosaurs.

While ITs demise won’t happen overnight, the trend is clear.