Articles about computer software, hardware, and the internet.

HUGE Opportunity in Content Management: Electronic Medical Records

President elect Obama announced parts of his economic recovery plan in his weekly "radio" address. There are a lot of good pieces to it that should help America's down economy, and some that will be a huge boon for the Enterprise Content Management industry:

In addition to connecting our libraries and schools to the internet, we must also ensure that our hospitals are connected to each other through the internet. That is why the economic recovery plan I’m proposing will help modernize our health care system – and that won’t just save jobs, it will save lives. We will make sure that every doctor’s office and hospital in this country is using cutting edge technology and electronic medical records so that we can cut red tape, prevent medical mistakes, and help save billions of dollars each year.

Gee... Obama says medical records should all be electronic to help save the economy? I agree! And there's nothing like a presidential endorsement to boost your industry, eh?

Many ECM experts have been preaching this for years... in fact, a lot of them have recently reminded folks about how much hard cash you save with a coherent, electronic, information management system. Just recently, over on the AIIM Blog, John Mancini's most popular posts are all about using ECM to cut costs. Oracle recently started their Survive Or Thrive with ECM web conferences, which give hard data from customers about how ECM made them more efficient. There should be one or two per month for a while... The presentation by Emerson Process has some especially useful statistics for Return On Investment.

Aside: I know some free-market fundamentalists hate the idea of government spending, but this kind of initiative is necessary. The economy is in the early stages of a deflationary spiral... which makes banks are scared to loan cash, consumers hesitant to spend cash, and debtors without cash will find themselves deeper in debt. Deflation may be a good thing for gas and house prices... but the spiral soon forces business to sell products for less than the costs of production. In order to stay in business, they are usually forced to lay off workers...The best way to stabilize deflation is for the government to purchase a wide range of commodities.

This month, there is a great article in Forbes about deflation... what are its risks, and how to we stop it? Instead of throwing money at banks and wall street, the best option is for the government to purchase glass, steel, concrete, computers, light bulbs, and stuff like that. This drives up overall demand, which reduces supply, which stabilizes prices, and ensures businesses don't have to lay off workers.

The Forbes article questioned whether Obama could launch an initiative of sufficient size and usefulness in time... but I'm hopeful, because everything Obama proposed -- make government building more energy efficient, launch a large-scale broadband initiative, repair broken school buildings and bridges, and force municipalities to "use or lose" their federal grants -- all sound practical and swift. The government will soon be buying up a bunch of commodities, and using them to make America more efficient. This will create new jobs, stabilize prices, and get the economy going again. More projects are needed, but this is a promising start.

The potential extra business for my industry is just an added bonus ;-)

In Defense of Content Silos...

"A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention" -- Herbert Simon

For the longest time, many people believed that one of the biggest information management problems is simply getting access to data. Previously, data was hidden away in a "silo," making it difficult to obtain, because you had to deal with an "information broker." You know the stereotype: somebody who rations their hoard of information for job security purposes, and refuses to share unless forced to... Not always, but many times this "broker" frequently acted more like a "bottleneck."

20 years ago, this led people to believe that if we could only bypass these brokers, and access the information directly, then all our problems would be solved! If only we could get the raw, unfiltered data, we would be much more efficient!

It turns out, not so much...

If you want a successful ECM/Knowledge Management/ Enterprise 2.0 initiative, one of the biggest mistakes you could make is to focus too much on sharing information.

Don't get me wrong: there are many situations where sharing information is vital... however, those situations are pretty obvious. You won't need to look hard to find them, and solving information access problems is fairly straightforward. Sometimes its technical, in which case basic content management tools can help out. Some times the problem is political, in which case the optimal information management strategy requires you to first understand the cultural reasons why your employees refuse to share information... after which you can either chose a software solution, or just force everybody to go to anger management training.

But... assuming that you break down the cultural bottlenecks to innovation, now you have another problem: "infoglut." In other words, information overload. Emails you don't read, presentations that don't make sense, reports that don't flow, the proliferation of websites, blogs, wikis, and social software across the enterprise... people talking a lot, but communicating very little.

In many ways, the best solution to infoglut is to bring back the information broker. Now that information is completely free, you need some kind of filter to let you know what information is relevant. This does not mean that you should bring back the information bottlenecks... instead, you need tools that makes the information broker more effective. This may include:

  • Smarter search engines: the current ones try to determine relevance just based on keywords, which doesn't work so well. Google's search engine does a great job on the heavily hyperlinked web, but its a terrible tool for the whole Enterprise. Smarter search engines need to use identity management and analytics to know what content is currently popular with people similar to the current user. They also need a human to maintain a controlled thesaurus, in order to get a vague idea about what content is similar.
  • Polite relevance filters for email: how many of you would love to have a customer support queue for your email inbox? "Thank you for your email! I currently have 1000 unread items in my inbox, all flagged 'important.' The average wait time for a response is 97 hours." Of course, you might also need one for your phone...
  • Recommendation sites: these allow your greater audience to "vote" on what content is relevant. Examples include Digg and Reddit, which are both good, but only for highly broad topics. I know what's hot in "Technology," but not what's hot in "Embedded Linux."
  • Better tools for human information brokers: I firmly believe the broker is the solution, not the problem. Instead of replacing them with technology, work with them to design systems that are more effective at brokering information. If they see their influence increase the more they share, they will do everything they can to get the right information to the right people at the right time. There isn't much commercially software along these lines at the moment... but that doesn't stop sites like AllTop from doing it anyway.

In short, don't blindly bash content silos and information brokers. Sure, they kept data hidden from you... but it was data you probably didn't want to see in the first place. Replacing a human broker with a Digg-clone may work for a while... but that's easy. And since its easy, soon everybody will be doing it, and it will cease to be a competitive advantage. As I've said many times, no technology can ever replace a human being who actually gives a damn.

Technology should empower your brokers, not replace them. Otherwise, you'll soon be swimming in useless information... just like everybody else.

UPDATE: There's a bit of confusion about what I mean by "broker." I do not mean to imply that information should go back to being "locked away." That is both illogical and impossible. Rather, I'm stating that the role of the "broker" has changed into being more of a "filter," and is arguably more important than ever. As Clay Shirky says, "It’s Not Information Overload. It’s Filter Failure." Sometimes a broker is one person, sometimes its several people, sometimes its a software algorithm. None is superior to the other: they all have merits. Therefore, its important for the filter to be a combination: better search algorithms based on relevance, Digg clones for the enterprise, and better tools to help individuals who choose to become brokers. This means multiple silos will be built upon the same raw information, based solely on which filter you pick. Like it or not, its already happening... and people will use whichever one makes them more productive.

Oracle Community Call For ECM

The next Oracle customer call for UCM users is coming soon:

Americas / EMEA time zones: Customer Update
December 10, 2008
9:00am US PDT / 12:00pm US EDT / 16:00 GMT

As before, you need to register for the conference. There will be a repeat of the webcast at 7pm PST on December 10th, for those in Asia.

If you miss it, they will have old recordings on Metalink... but you might want to check this one out. Last time they announced that Oracle was supporting the Site Studio Blogs and Wikis... and I have it under good authority that something equally cool will be announced at the next call...

Speculate amongst yourselves...

Wall Street Meltdown: Blame Software?

James had a curious post about the Wall Street meltdown... and how some of the blame lies with bad programs from IT.

Did you know that a significant portion of all trades executed by Wall Street don't have human intervention and are submitted by computers? Did you know that you can write your own trading algorithms and put computers directly in the NYSE data center to avoid the latency of network hops to make your bad programs execute even faster?

Would we have had a subprime crisis if Wall Street banned algorithmic trading? The notion of Quants has the ability to take a bad situation and make it even worse. More importantly, many used quant strategies as a way to hedge their other bets but never considered that the logic behind the programs might be flawed...

Interesting thesis... but I think James is asking the wrong questions.

The problem was not in the software, or in any of the algorithms that IT implemented... The problem was inherent in the financial models themselves. The IT folks simply implemented those models... and the software programs were simply dumb agents that did exactly as they were told.

Now... if we banned computers from trading, would we have avoided this problem? Absolutely not. If we banned computers, then the financial "wizards" who got us into this mess would simply use different "dumb agents" to do their bidding... in other words, stock brokers.

Back in the 1980s, there was a classic book on how Wall Street was completely crooked... called Liar's Poker. It was an autobiography of a stock insider. The author was right out of college, and was paid huge sums of money to give stock advice to millionaires... despite the fact that he had neither the training nor the desire to do so. Recently, the author came out with an excellent article on the sub-prime mortgage crisis, and the few folks who saw it coming... it was utterly chilling to read how reckless, irresponsible, and deeply stupid some wall street financiers were. They weren't just liars; they were idiots.

For example... one huge reason why this crisis came about was because people were turning risky sub-prime mortgages into bonds. Not a bad idea... but somehow they would take a collection of highly risky BBB loans, smash them all together, chop it up, and claim they were now ultra-safe AAA bonds. The entire point of bond credit ratings are to prevent this kind of crap... Since a BBB bond is high risk, it usually pays a large interest rate. In contrast, since AAA bonds are "safe," they pay a low interest rate... so if you could claim a BBB bond was AAA, your fake AAA bond would pay a much higher interest rate than actual AAA bonds, and thus be in huge demand... you would make a killing, and it would create pressure to make more and more of these sub-prime mortgages, just so you could sell them as fake AAA bonds. Just like Alan Greenspan said, the "demand for paper" drove this crisis, because Wall Street demanded that lenders lower their standards, so they could get more crappy loans.

It was a complete and total con, and the guys from Marketplace have a great video describing how it worked. But what was more shocking was how the ratings agencies went along with the scam. Naturally, you can't just claim your crappy bonds are rated AAA, any more than you can claim a R-rated movie is a G-rated movie. No... you have to get the bond ratings agencies (Standard & Poor, Moodys, etc.) to agree that you bond is AAA... essentially, the bond rating agencies didn't do their job:

[Moses Eisman] couldn’t figure out exactly how the rating agencies justified turning BBB loans into AAA-rated bonds. “I didn’t understand how they were turning all this garbage into gold,” he says. He brought some of the bond people from Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, and UBS over for a visit. “We always asked the same question,” says Eisman. “Where are the rating agencies in all of this? And I’d always get the same reaction. It was a smirk.” He called Standard & Poor’s and asked what would happen to [mortgage] default rates if real estate prices fell. The man at S&P couldn’t say; its model for home prices had no ability to accept a negative [growth] number. “They were just assuming home prices would keep going up,” Eisman says.

In other words... The frigging ratings agencies were using financial models that assumed that house prices would never drop in value.

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

Wall Street has been flying blind for the past 2 years. Its a mistake to blame automatons for this... the blame rests squarely on the deeply stupid people designing these models... and the equally stupid people who refused to regulate the markets.

Don't Share Information; Instead Teach Knowledge

When there is a lack of unified purpose, information sharing leads to chaos... and sometimes can cause more problems than it solves. To illustrate this point, I'd like to share the legend of King Ammon.

In a dialog between himself and Phaedrus, Socrates told the tale of king Ammon. He was a wise and just ruler, and all the gods admired him and his virtues.

One day, Ammon was met by the Egyptian god Thoth, who was an inventor, and the "scribe of the gods." Thoth admired Ammon, and wanted to share his inventions with Ammon and all his Egyptian subjects. Ammon was impressed with most of the inventions... except for one: writing.

Ammon was not a fan of writing... and chided Thoth for creating it:

What you have discovered is a receipt for recollection, not memory. And as for wisdom, your pupils will have the reputation for it but not the reality: they will receive a quantity of information without proper instruction, and in consequence be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant. And because they are filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom, they will be a burden to society.

Hmmm... so Ammon feared what would happen if somebody read something, didn't understand it, quoted it anyway to appear wise, but in actuality had no real wisdom... and in doing so became more powerful, perhaps even respected, so that people even followed him... but because he only appeared to be wise, he made bad decisions, and ultimately became a significant burden to his fellow men.

gee... sound like anybody you know?

Naturally, we only have this great story because of the written word... so nobody would go so far as to claim that writing is bad. However this legend does bring up a valuable point for knowledge management systems:

We should NOT focus on sharing information; we should focus on teaching knowledge.

You shouldn't just dump data to a blog and expect people to read it... you shouldn't dump half-baked documentation into a wiki and expect others to maintain it... you shouldn't just deploy an enterprise search or ECM system, then allow it to become a dumping ground for "data."

What we need are systems that teach; not systems that share. Because without that context, without teaching, and without experience, sharing information could very likely lead to problems...

...and it might actually make you a burden to your fellow men.

My Blog's Personality: INTJ

There's a new website out there called Typealyzer that offers free personality tests for your blog. It appears to be based on the popular Myers-Briggs personality test, and it tries to analyze your writing style to determine the "type" of blogger you are.

I've taken Meyers-Briggs numerous times, and I'm almost always an ENFP: Extroverted, iNtuitive, Feeler, Perceiver... It may sound bizarre for a computer geek to be extroverted (not introverted), and a feeler (not a thinker), but it's not uncommon. In fact, software is one of the recommended careers for ENFPs, probably because we excel in the constantly shifting landscape of technology and project requirements ;-)

Strangely, however, my blog's personality is INTJ! Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinker, Judger. I don't know if this reflects poorly on the Typealyzer test, or if it means that "Blogger-Bex" is less fun and more judgmental than "Real-World-Bex"...

Perhaps its because I write on very INTJ topics, like science and technology... As you might have noticed, I tag all my posts with different topics. You can use the drop-down list of topics on the left to filter this blog based on those topics. Curious, I decided to ask Typalizer what's my blog's personality if I filter it to only specific topics?

The results were close to what I'd expect... all 14 topics fell into just four personality types:

Huh... not quite sure how to take that last one...

Again, not a single one of these topics reflected the personality type that I have in real life... that might be because I try to keep this blog professional, so it mainly reflects my logical/analytical side, since I think that's what my audience wants. I have to lock my extroverted, humanity-loving side in the trunk while I write... lest I lose readership.

So, what's your blog's personality?

(Hat tip Garrick Van Buren)

Next Yahoo Main Page: Running ENTIRELY on JavaScript!

About two years back I was strongly encouraging readers to get familiar with JavaScript user interface toolkits. These things will be the future of web programming... forget heavy .NET or Java frameworks that draw HTML... instead, make your data and services easy to reuse (with SOAP, ReST, AJAX, or Remote Scripting), and push the UI layer right into JavaScript. That makes your code much easier to port from one application to another...

And they look pretty dang slick, too ;-)

Of course, there were so many even back then... about sixty to be precise. I placed my long bet with the Yahoo User Interface Library (YUI), for multiple reasons. First, it has a huge sponsor (Yahoo), a large community, tons of documentation, and the most liberal license out there (BSD).

Well, it turns out that the next page will be built ENTIRELY with the Yahoo User Interface library! You can preview it if you'd like... Naturally, if the YUI is fast enough and flexible enough for, then its probably a no-brainer for your site.

YUI is currently at version 2.6... but the next Yahoo home page will use YUI Version 3, which is still only in pre-alpha preview release. That's kind of a risk, but the benefits of YUI 3 compared to YUI 2.x vastly outweighed these risks:

  • Lighter
  • Faster
  • More consistent
  • More portable
  • More powerful

I'm certainly going to be watching this launch closely... if they nailed all the usability and accessibility problems with YUI 3, and its slick and easy to use, it will probably be my main choice for designing rich user interfaces in a browser.

Please note, there are many other decent toolkits out there... JQuery being probably the most popular... and there are certainly other toolkits that are easier to use. However, I'd still recommend YUI for the vast majority of enterprise users.

Microsoft Launches BizSpark for Startups

This should be a pretty disruptive initiative...

Microsoft recently announced a new program for startups called BizSpark. Its intention is to be a "kick start" for startups who might not be able to afford tons of software at first, so Microsoft will just give you software for free! Free dev tools, and unlimited production servers for qualified startups! You also get tech support, and some enhanced visibility to venture capitalists and other Microsoft partners so you can grow your business.

Sounds pretty dang cool... if you're starting a .NET based company, or leaning in that direction, you might want to give this a quick look.

In order to be eligible, your company needs to be the following:

  • A private company building a software-based product or service
  • In business for less than 3 years
  • Less than USD $1M in revenue
  • Need to be nominated by a Microsoft "Network Partner"

(Hat tip Don Dodge)

Book Review: First, Break All The Rules

If you are a tech geek, having your boss read this book is probably the next best thing to reading "The Mythical Man Month."

Geeks have said for a long, long time that there is easily a 10-to-1 ratio of productivity between the best developers and an average developer. There is tons of evidence to this fact... however it is still a difficult reality to swallow for some folks. In many cases, you're better off with a team of 3 good developers, than a team of 20 average developers. This book not only validates this claim, but also provides proof that this productivity ratio exists in every job role!

This was based on data from a 25-year survey by Gallup... they interviewed over 100,000 people, trying to find out who were great managers, and what they knew. Almost uniformly, they knew that the standard rules about managing people were completely bogus. They break down what attributes your employees have into 3 buckets:

  • Knowledge: Basic information; "book learning." People with knowledge interview well, and test well, but that doesn't always translate into productivity. Training people "knowledge" is fast and easy.
  • Skills: This is applied knowledge. A great deal of accounting and data entry is applied high-school math, but that doesn't mean any high schooler can do it. They need the skills to know when to apply what knowledge and when. Training people a "skill" takes time, and not all people are cut out for every skill.
  • Talent: The most important of the bunch... somebody not only with skills and knowledge, but their brain is wired to be exceptional at this task! You can have a talent for sales, accounting, data entry, development, bartending, housekeeping, management, anything! Training people a "talent" is extraordinarily difficult, but you can find it during an interview.

This book validates what I have said for a long time: manager is a role, not a rank! Only people with the "talent" for being managers should be managers. It should not be an expected career path for all.

One talented employee is easily more valuable than 10 of her peers, across the board. This book provides sufficient examples that should make any decent manager rethink their methods of using their employees like cogs in a giant "process machine." A good manager should look for "talent," and not "skills" or "knowledge" during an interview... and then figure out a way to help their employees harness their latent talent. If so, then you will see 10 times more productivity out of a talented employee, compared to an average one.

This has nothing to do with knowledge, skills, or process... the talented ones just "get it." They see the problem, they know inherently how to solve it, and it brings them tremendous joy to solve it. Don't promote these stars to management; that's not their talent. Instead, let the exceptional employees -- like exceptional baseball players -- make more than an average manager. They call this "broad band" pay scales, and in practice they work pretty well to make sure everybody is exceptional at their role.

What about developers? They had a few things to say about them... somewhat oversimplified, but they said a common career path is from developer to systems analyst. In other words, go from designing one system, to designing integrated systems that work together.

This is a HUGE mistake.

Why? Because both roles require different talents! Developers are problem solvers, but in general they need ALL the pieces of the puzzle before they want to try to solve it. There is no feeling more frustrating to them than not being able to solve a problem because you weren't given sufficient data... or a complete specification.

To illustrate... Imagine you work at a software company. If you ask a talented developer a technical question, but you don't give sufficient information, you might have just cost your company a full day's worth of developer productivity. Why? Because the developer will seethe, and stew, and gather his buddies for a hallway bitch-session about you... which will cause others to likewise seethe and stew, and grumble about how "nobody ever gives them enough information." It all adds up to a full day lost.

It happens. I've seen it.

In contrast, a systems analysts (or architect) thrives on incomplete information. They know they are designing a system with a lot of people, a lot of requirements, a lot of needs, and thus a ton of moving parts. People don't know what they want, because nobody really knows what is possible. An architect can't wait around forever to create a specification: he needs to experiment a little. This means iteration, agility, extreme programming, and all that garbage.

It is certainly possible for one person to have both skills... but usually the best developers have a mild weakness at integrated systems, and vice versa.

Getting your manager to read this book might be tricky... "you suck! read this so you suck less!" Nevertheless, its a good book that will help you make the case that there is talent in every role... you're not asking for special treatment when you ask to play to your strengths. You're asking that your manager let you do what all great managers do.

Simple as that...

Tech Link Round Up

No time for a full-blown post today folks... so I thought I'd share some links of interest:

Oracle Blogs And Wikis: Available For Download

As I mentioned previously, Oracle is finally supporting the UCM Blogs and Wikis that Stellent released almost 3 years ago...

This led many people to ask, where can I get them?!?!? I recently got word that these will not be released as a separate download from OTN, but instead will be released as patch on Metalink. The officially released name is Content Server Blogs and Wikis Components (2008_09_18), which you download from Metalink as patch number 7504090.

Please note, in order to make these work, you'll need the latest Site Studio patches as well. Specifically, the Site Studio - October 2008 roll-up patch (Build, which is patch number 7007799 on Metalink.

Naturally, you will need a Metalink account to download these... which means you need to be an Oracle customer... or a partner who shells out extra for access even though you should get it for free just by being an ACE Director :-\

But I digress... Enjoy the Web 2.0 goodness!

Sales Advice For Enterprise 2.0 Startups

A while back, Infovark had an article about new Enterprise 2.0 applications... they mentioned an article by Paul Grahm -- the self-appointed startup king -- about how he's looking to fund Enterprise Software 2.0 startups:

5. Enterprise software 2.0. Enterprise software companies sell bad software for huge amounts of money. They get away with it for a variety of reasons that link together to form a sort of protective wall. But the software world is changing. I suspect that if you study different parts of the enterprise software business (not just what the software does, but more importantly, how it's sold) you'll find parts that could be picked off by startups. One way to start is to make things for smaller companies, because they can't afford the overpriced stuff made for big ones. They're also easier to sell to.

interesting... Although kind of false.

Look... A lot of enterprise software is sold because of the "one throat to choke" rule. In other words, there is value in streamlining your business so that you only purchase from a handful of companies. In some sense, that's vendor lock-in, but in another sense you can avoid finger pointing. If the integration between Software Company ABC and Software Company XYZ doesn't work, they will each blame each other. However, if they both are created by the same company, you'll likely spend less time screaming at them to get their software to work together, or to integrate properly. Since integrations are 40% of IT budget, that's real money... People pay a premium to enterprise software companies, in order to get this assurance of supportability.

A startup simply cannot match that head-on...

This isn't to say that only big companies can sell to big companies... I remember back when Stellent was a 500 person company, we made several deals to HUGE companies... However, the ecosystem for enterprise software that's not made by big companies is kind of small. The good stuff usually falls into one of three categories:

  1. Open source,
  2. Software as a service,
  3. An incredibly useful application that is nearly unique, and not sold by the big boys.

If you're going after the "wow" factor, then you can forget trying to play with the big boys in the sales cycle. Selling enterprise software is a royal pain, and takes forever. It has a lot to do with relationships and trust, quite frankly... its about an assurance that even if you don't have every feature in the checklist, that your company is dedicated to making the product better.

Let me put it this way... which is better, Java or C#? The answer is Python. But that's pretty much irrelevant...

The optimal technology for you is not always the best technology available; its that which allows your team as a whole to be more productive. This means its more of a human problem (ie, training, resources, support) than a technical one. The fact is, enterprise software is usually so complex that you need to have a strong relationship with the software company before you can get the assurance you need that you are making a good decision. This trust goes a long way, its hard to build, and therefore the enterprise software sellers usually try hard to maintain it... It will be tough for a new guy to break through that "wall." It doesn't matter if you have better software, if the customer feels no assurance.

If you're a small company who wants to get into the Enterprise 2.0 market, don't try to mimic the sales process of the big boys... That's probably suicide. Instead, do the following:

  • find something that the big boys just don't "get," and aren't likely to "get" for a long time
  • alternatively, find something they "get", ride the coattails of their marketing, and do it better
  • ensure your software installs quickly, if you need to install it at all
  • focus on usability more than features: startups will never win the features arms race, but they can easily win the usability arms race
  • make it easy to customize your product
  • make sure your customers can go from zero to kick ass in 30 minutes or less
  • think about security, scalability, interoperability, and internationalization from day one... because the enterprise-y competition will hit you hard about that
  • price it to move

After that, find a department head who is frustrated because their enterprise system doesn't meet their needs, and hope they have budget!

My Open World Presentations: Pragmatic ECM, and Top 10 Ways to Integrate ECM

I uploaded my four Open World presentations to Slideshare, so those who missed my talks can still download and view them...

My first talk was on A Pragmatic Strategy For Oracle Enterprise Content Management. This one is mainly based on my next book, Transforming Infoglut! It was pretty well attended, and people seemed to like the approach. You can download the slides, or view it below:

My next presentation was Enterprise 2.0: How You Will Fail! I uploaded those to slideshare last month, so you can view it there, or download it.

Then I did my Communication For Geeks talk. That didn't have any slides, it was just me... communicating. I had hand-outs, but they are still kind of sketchy. I hope to some day upload some videos of it to YouTube, because its hard to get the point across in just the handouts...

Finally, on my last day was the Top 10 Ways To Integrate With Oracle ECM. This was loosely based on my old 50 Ways To Integrate talk, plus some new material. I tweaked up the AJAX example to do a Stellent search, and display the results in a YUI DataTable control. Pure JavaScript search and display! I also used the Oracle Ensemble technology to hijack a Google search result, and inject Stellent results in the sidebar! That was fun... Anyway, download the slides, or view it below:

Transforming Infoglut! A Pragmatic Strategy For Oracle Enterprise Content Management

As I mentioned after last year's Open World conference, Andy MacMillan and I have been working on a book on Oracle Enterprise Content Management (ECM). I'm pleased to say that it is mostly finished, and it should be available for purchase on January 9, 2009. You can pre-order our book on Amazon right now, if you wish. Note: Amazon's graphic is using the book cover, which contained our old working title... that should be fixed in a few months.

I should be clear... this is not a technical book about content management: its about what we call a pragmatic strategy for managing your content. It is intended for CIOs, CEOs, and project managers so they can understand what ECM is, how its useful, and why it is desperately needed. This strategy entails solutions for existing ECM systems, legacy systems, portal, web applications, and enterprise search. It covers archives, especially email archives, and enterprise wide security beyond the repository. It also covers the retention and destruction of your documents, no matter where they exist within your enterprise.

In the strategy, there are seven steps... but the big three are:

  • Consolidate: Bring as much content as possible into one strategic repository.
  • Federate: Extend content management services to existing tactical repositories, when consolidation is not cost effective.
  • Secure: Make sure your content is secure, no matter where it exists.

Naturally, when we suggest what tools to use to implement the strategy, we lean towards Oracle's suite. However, we feel this strategy is equally applicable to any ECM initiative. We worked hard to ensure that 50% of the book is vendor-agnostic.

I recently put together a list of what is in each chapter, to help folks that might want to skip around in he book.

We took this approach because we wanted to make sure that this book helps align business and IT strategies, therefore it needs to contain some implementation specifics, and not just broad strategic goals. We wanted to say what you need to do, why you need to do it, and how to get started. Most books on ECM only give you the "what", a rare few tell you "why"... and very very few tell you "how".

Business needs the "what" and the "why," and IT needs the "how." After reading this book, everybody on your team will hopefully be speaking the same language...


Open World, Days 3-5

Let' just get all of these out of the way at once... ;-)

I didn't get to see many sessions this week... I spent most of my time up in the OTN lounge in Moscone West, floor 3. That's where most of the Oracle ACE's hung out and met up. Chris Bucchere and I spent a great deal of time hacking together a Ensemble / Stellent demo... I presented it at my Top 10 Ways to Integrate with Oracle ECM was pretty well attended, considering it was the last day of the conference. We were able to take a standard Google search result, and inject Stellent search results in the sidebar! So when you do a Google search, you magically also get back content from your intranet!

That went over pretty well... once I clean up the example, I'll share the code.

My un-conference talk on Wednesday -- Communication for Geeks -- wasn't too well attended... In fact, very few of the un-conference sessions had more than 5 people. I'm not sure why the un-conference wasn't a bigger hit. It might be the lack of awareness, or the wrong crowd... Its easy to get lost at Open World. We might need small, dedicated sessions instead.

I like how MinneBar does it: everything on a wiki, including the RSVP.

As usual, the demo grounds were the best place to learn about new product features... and it was nice to finally meet people face-to-face. The conference is pretty much over, and after this most folks are heading back to Oracle HQ to do some kind of ECM advisory council... then a big wrap-up BBQ for the ECM folks. I'll be attending he latter, but not the former.

so tired... late nights, lots of last-minute work, four speaking engagements, and not enough sleep... but it was worth it!

Open World, Day 2

I had two talks on Monday... one about the Pragmatic Strategy for Enterprise Content Management, and a repeat of my session Enterprise 2.0: How You Will Fail! Overall, they went well, but by the end of the day was exhausted...

In my second talk, I met up with two folks who were recording every event at Open World. Some with just audio and slides, but a lot with video as well. The plan is to put it into a huge, full-text searchable system, so you can scan for keywords of interest... They will give away the "top 10 presentation" for free, but access to all 1700 sessions will rn you about $400.

That would be a lot cheaper than going to the full conference, but I think it would be in Oracle's best interests to just give away all 1700 sessions for free. Sure, maybe the attendance will be down by 10% next year, but so what? Its a massive lead generation tool, and a great way to start honing best practices for emerging Oracle technologies.

Besides, people don't just go to conferences for demos and presentations... customers want human interaction with experts that can give advices on highly specific, personal issues. They also like hanging out and having spontaneous hallway conversations to generate new ideas. I see very few negatives to giving away the conference content for free...

Late night out with the UCM team... not enough time to blog or hone my Thursday talk... but that's Tuesday is for ;-)

Oracle Open World: Day 1

long day...

It started out with the Oracle ACE Director briefing... it was nice to meet all the other ACEs again, and to see what Oracle wanted to tout to all of us... Some of what Oracle presented was an extension of what they said last year... although there was a good amount that surprised and amazed me... but I'm not allowed to say what.

Needless to say, I'm very curious about their next generation of SOA tools...

After that, I listened to a podcast about Alexander Hamilton's economic theories, then snuck down into the Demo Grounds before they were officially open. While down at the demo grounds, I was also politely informed that my "blogger" credentials meant that people were less likely to talk candidly about their products with me, out of fear that it might be documented.

Stupid blogger credentials... all the drawbacks of being a part of the press, but none of the advantages...

I skipped the keynote with crazy Carville and his nutty wife, because it sounded far too political. I enjoy politics, but mixing politics and business is risky, because you will always alienate half of your audience. Its best to just state what everybody can agree to: all politicians are crooks. Then you're home free ;-)

Last, I headed over to the Thirsty Bear for the Oracle Blogger meetup. I hung out with Billy, Jake, Dan, Matt, Marius, David, Woody, and others... commiserating on our "blogger" fate. Dan was kind enough to print up some additional ribbons to attach to our badges. You'll have to look closely this week to see what mine says.

Well, I should get some sleep... I have two presentations tomorrow!

Finishing Up Open World Presentations

Open World Starts Sunday! I've been putting my finishing touches on my presentations, so I haven't had much time to blog... I figured I should remind everybody of my presentation schedule:

  1. Monday 1pm-2pm: Enterprise 2.0, What it is and How You'll Fail, at Moscone West, 3rd Floor Overlooks #1
  2. Monday 4pm-5pm: A Pragmatic Approach to Oracle ECM, at Moscone South, Rm 301, session 299246.
  3. Wednesday 11am-12pm: Communication For Geeks -- How to influence your peers, your boss, and your clients, at Moscone West, 3rd Floor Overlooks #2
  4. Thursday 10:30am-11:30am: Top 10 Ways To Integrate With Oracle ECM, at the Marriott, Golden Gate room C1, session 300043.

The first and third talks are a part of the Open World Unconference. The second talk is one I'm giving with Andy MacMillan about our upcoming book... the last one is based mostly on the talk I gave at IOUG Collaborate 2008, but with a few twists...

I'll be Twittering my location throughout the conference, in case you'd like to meet up. I'll likely be attending mostly ECM talks, or hanging out at one of these places:

See you there!

Tell Ikea To Bring Back the Coolest Desk Ever!

About two years ago, Lifehacker did a piece on the coolest workspace ever contest. The winner was "Bryan" who bought the Galant desk set from Ikea... with one cool modification:

The desk legs were motorized, and you could raise or lower it to the optimal height!

The desk legs didn't have to be fixed. If you were short, or sat on a yoga ball instead of a chair, just bring it down a notch. If you were tall, or preferred to stand up while working, bring it up a notch.


At the time, I was using a stand-up desk myself. I had back problems, and standing up while typing was the best thing ever... but on occasion I wanted to sit down, rest my feet, maybe lean back in a chair for a while. I thought, this desk would be perfect! But there was one problem:

Ikea discontinued the desk!


Not the desk model, mind you. Ikea still sells the Galant Desk, and it's pretty slick... I have one myself. They simply stopped selling the optional motorized legs that allowed the desk to move up and down.

I contacted them, to ask if it would be possible to start selling the desk legs again... they gave me a standard line about margins, distributors, producers, etc. I didn't care, I just wanted my motorized desk! Hell, even if they sold the legs at $250 each, it would still be cheaper than most stand-up desks that you can buy.

If you think a motorized desk is a great idea, then please sign my petition! We have almost 200 signatures thus far... Even if we can't get Ikea to start selling it, we might be able to drum up enough interest so somebody else will.

UPDATE: It appears that somebody named GeekDesk on is selling something similar... They have pretty positive feedback on EBay, so they are probably worth a shot. They should be launching an official site for their adjustable height desk soon. Hooray for the internet!

UPDATE 2: In January 2010 I bought one of those Geek Desks, and I like it very much... it's a bit bigger than the Ikea desk here, but it's at about the same price-point. If you want a decent motorized stand up desk, they might be what you need. I'll be posting a more complete review with video when I have time.

Its Official: Oracle UCM Blogs and Wikis are Supported on 10gr3

In case you missed today's Oracle ECM Quarterly Community Call, you also missed this fun fact:

The Blog and Wiki Samples from Stellent 7.5 are now officially supported in Oracle UCM 10gr3! Details are sketchy, but in theory the new versions will be available for download on the standard OTN page for UCM.

UPDATE: The blogs and wikis are now available on Metalink as patch number 7504090. You may also need patch number 7007799 for Site Studio to make things work properly.

Way back in 2006, I formalized some blog and wiki samples that Andy MacMillan initially sketched out, and Stellent released them to the public with much fanfare... This made us the first major ECM player to support blogs, wikis, and RSS feeds. The buzz was quite surprising...

Unfortunately, I left the company soon afterward, and nobody had time to take over that project, so it languished. They were left as unsupported "samples," that only worked on UCM version 7.5. I had always intended on upgrading those samples to 10gr3 myself -- once I finished writing this dang ECM book -- but I'm even happier that Oracle did it themselves, so that they will be officially supported "Extras."

Oracle tweaked them up a bit to support the new 10gr3 Site Studio Contributor in the wiki... but they left my "inline editor" alone for the blog interface. They'll probably replace my blog editor with the standard Site Studio contributor eventually... or they might just wait until Open WCM is released, and use its inline editor instead.

This of course raises the question, should you use WebCenter or Stellent for blogs/wikis/rss? I hear that question a lot, and unfortunately its usually the wrong question to ask. It's not an either/or question, its a what works best for you kind of question. My advice is this:

  • RSS Feeds: Frankly, every application should support RSS Feeds. They aren't tough to make, and despite massive limitations, they usually add value. Use Stellent if you need content-based RSS feeds. Use WebCenter if you need to generate a feed from an enterprise application that doesn't yet support RSS. Of course, as soon as RSS gets off the ground, everybody will demand Atom feeds... but nevermind.
  • Blogs: When it comes to blogs, WebCenter is meant to be the user interaction layer for blog content, and Stellent is the repository. Of course, Stellent already has a built-in user interaction layer for blogs... its called Site Studio. But again, if you want to display blog content along with data from other enterprise applications, you'll find value with the pre-existing plug ins that WebCenter offers.
  • Wikis: Same as with blogs. WebCenter for user interaction, Stellent for storage. If Stellent's presentation layer is fine with you, then just use that. If you want the wiki displayed in a portal, integrated with data from other systems, then you might find value with WebCenter.

As usual, the archived community calls are available to Oracle customers up on Metalink.

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