The Original Unconference: Mashup Camp

What is not to love about Mashup Camp? This is my first unconference event, and I am an easy convert. It defines the free-form, emergent foundation of enterprise 2.0 in that it is completely user (developer) driven. No formal speakers, no imposed structure. What’s interesting is that developers mix easily with vendors and sponsors because from what I’ve seen they’re all intellectually curious and are asking a lot of the same questions. I don’t see a lot of marketing and selling going on here.

The day starts by mapping out a series of sessions the camp wants to discuss with peers. Developers get to pick time slots first, then sponsors, then other vendors.

mashup camp1

Next, each session is posted on a large, paper schedule that is transfered by David Berlind onto a wiki that everyone can access and annotate with session notes all day long.

mashup camp2

Then, everyone self-assembles and visits sessions that interests them. There was a lunch a break (day one), and the favorite part of the day for me was “speed-geeking” which consisted of 5-minute demos of about maybe 2 dozen mashups located at tables in the grand hall at the computer museum. Each participant had five minutes to explain his or her mashup, show its main features, and answer questions.

mashup camp3

All the mashups were impressive, but I know I and Jeff Nolan were particularly impressed with the Plaxo mashup demo. Straight from the press release, the 3.0 version:

“has a content sharing feeds system, which several networks are leveraging, especially after the combined success of Facebook apps with its newsfeeds feature. Individual feeds for Plaxo users will initially include those for Flickr photos, blogposts, Amazon wish lists and Plaxo contact info modifications.”

I videotaped the demo here for you to see for yourself. I apologize, but the “night vision” option was accidentally selected on the camera I shot it with. Grrr… Still viewable, though. This is Joseph Smarr, Architect for Plaxo, demoing Plaxo’s new 3.0 version.

<a href="http://youtube.com/watch?v=QlCp4IHMj4Y">http://youtube.com/watch?v=QlCp4IHMj4Y</a>

 

Hello Brits — Sign in to your Free Agent Nation

freeagent

I fear poor, fellow Enterprise Irregular Dennis Howlett has been bitten by the startup bug. After taking the product for a test drive– I completely understand! FreeAgent is an online record-keeping, invoicing, banking, project management, tax liability keeping, time management, AND community-based, knowledge-sharing resource for freelancers, contractors, and independent contractors. (I probably missed a few dozen other features.) I was originally delighted by the pleasing user interface and easy to navigate design of the application and site. But what really impressed me is the depth of the product resources.

freeagent features

Having been an independent consultant many more years than I have been an employee, this product is a consultant’s dream! I’m not sure what the long term plans are for the product, but with some minor modifications, I could easily see this product morphing into a time-tracking powerhouse for large consulting firms or growing ones, such as ours.

For today, however, my only beef with the product– and it’s a good problem to have– is why UK-only? Us small fish –in the colonies out here– might be worthy of the privilege of such a fantastic product. Not only do we have local banks of origin outside of the UK, we typically serve global clients. I know my best client was based in Amsterdam when I was an independent consultant, and I had other international projects and clients. It would really have been handy to have a global platform where I could have been paid in Euros in a European bank. I can think of dozens of others of freelance friends of mine who were ex-pats living in Paris, London, Germany doing freelance writing and consulting gigs. My hope is FreeAgent will spread the love throughout the British Empire. 😉

On a more serious note,

freeagentnation bookI remember snatching up Dan Pink’s, Free Agent Nation, when it first came out. The book resonated with me because I don’t typically fit in well with large companies and much prefer to fly solo, like so many of my writer, analyst, consultant, and researcher friends. But the worst bit, anyone will admit, about being an independent is the @#$%^ bookkeeping and paying the tax man. What’s interesting to me about FreeAgent and Dan Pink’s first book is how web 2.0 technology has created the platform to deliver on the promises of what Pink forecasted for the new frontier of work. But even if you’re a digital Bedouin who happens to work for a corporation, like some of the guys I work with, it’s clear to me that whether we can thank AJAX or Ruby or a larger zeitgeist virally propagating as we collaborate and share across boundaries and nations via the next generation Internet– so much of the baby got thrown out with the bathwater in the 1.0 dotcom bubble.

In Free Agent Nation, Dan Pink says, “The basic unit of this Free Agent Operating System– the 1s and 0s of the underlying code– is trust. Trust , as scholar Francis Fukuyama noted in a magnificent book of the same name, is essential not only to a just society– but also to a healthy economy.” Trust is the currency of web 2.0 and its business partner, enterprise 2.0. As the individual continues to supplant the organization in power and influence, I’m continually reminded of these early visionaries that set the stage for the freedom we’re seeing today on the web.

The CEO Whisperers

ritzcarltonnaples During the 90s, when I was tracking the IT services market, there was a continuous blurring of roles and activity between Management Consulting firms, Strategy firms, and good ole’ IT services firms. IBM had IBM Consulting, CSC had CSC Index, EDS bought A.T. Kearney— throw in a few strong boutiques, and they all competed against McKinsey, Booz Allen and Bain. It got really wild during the dotcom run-up toward the late 90s, as web 1.0 approached because a lot of these guys left the security of these large firms to run start-ups. Looking back, there was one reason these guys made good candidates to run web startups– they spoke the CEO’s language. They could persuade and convince a board room to make a “bet your business” proposition. Now luckily, not a lot of F500 CEOs made decisions they couldn’t undo based on dotcom disasters, and most of the well-healed consultants went back to their high billable rate profession after the bubble had burst.

I’m writing about this today because I’ve participated recently in two events on adoption on Enterprise 2.0. One was a live event in NY which drew mostly a financial services audience and one was a webinar with approximately 50 callers participating. Today, I’m writing from my room at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Naples, Florida (pictured left) where I’m about to attend a few social events with CEOs who are looking for answers about this new wave of Internet disruption or opportunity– as the case may be. I promised not to flack here about BSG, but we did make a terrific acquisition this week which gives us the privilege of bringing this story to the executive suite of some of the most well known brands in the world. You can read about goings on at BSG on a blog I’ve started here. I have to admit, frankly, the chance to evangelize on the next generation web to customers like American Airlines, British Telecom, Deutsche Bank, DaimlerChrysler, DuPont, ING Bank, Johnson & Johnson, Marriott, Merck, Pfizer, Rolls Royce, Royal Bank, and Shell gives me goosebumps– even in the hot Florida sun.

Even though we speak a lot in the blogosphere about the user-generated, collaborative, self-service benefits of social media and enterprise 2.0 technologies– the radical, cultural, enterprise-wide transformation we’re looking for is going to have to come from the top of what are still hierarchical organizations. And for that discussion to begin, the best tool we have today, may be the same tool that has worked for decades– the golf ball.

Enterprise 2.0: what’s in and what’s out?

I found myself surprised that Euan Semple is a Facebook user. I asked him about it, and he says it’s not just for kids, “There are loads of my friends in Facebook and it is good at helping us be social.” he replied. And like a select few of the bloggers I follow, I have not succumbed to the Twitter addiction, but find myself a little jealous that Stowe Boyd is now a friend of John Edwards and Barack Obama if only for a few random minutes at a time.

Social media knocked me over again last week reading the reports from my fellow Enterprise Irregulars who were blogging at Sapphire– SAP’s flagship conference for its friends and fans. This screen shot of SAP’s Harmony, an internal MySpace/Linked-in of sorts, got forwarded immediately to our head of HR. We’ve been using Ning for our internal communications– which we are really having a lot of fun with, but seeing this, I realized how much more fun we could have if we customized Ning for our company– and then for our customers.

SAP's Harmony

Harmony screen courtesy Craig Cmehil

What really caught my eye last week was Stephen Danelutti’s initial attempt at drawing up a framework for enterprise 2.0. I comb the web daily for enterprise 2.0 posts and news, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone take a stab at defining what is including specifically in the definition. For instance, we probably all agree that McAfee’s SLATES is included (Search, Links, Authoring, Tags, Extentions, and Signals). This would include all blog, wiki, and search technology. McAfee talks a lot about predictive markets too, though. I would add mash-ups, most SaaS apps, and anything AJAX-built, no? I don’t have Dion Hinchcliffe’s gift for drawing diagrams, but I’d love to hear some input on this.

What will the new spring crop yield?

I’ve been taking a lot of satisfaction these past few weeks in how our little enterprise 2.0 garden is growing. In the past few weeks I’ve been asked to podcast, to appear on a video segment, and to participate in an enterprise 2.0 “rave.” All good stuff. The analyst and media coverage of enterprise 2.0 has really started to pick up too. I’m particularly encouraged by the management findings and recommendations we’ve seen coming out of MIT’s Sloan Management Report and McKinsey. I guess they legitimize our inner-circle zealot ramblings.

A few items of interest: I attended Ajax World a couple weeks ago. I listened to a few of the speakers, but spent more time trolling the vendors in the exhibit hall for real examples of how Ajax solutions were generating real business advantages for their customers. Nexaweb had some interesting case studies. They quickly rattled off projects at Bank of Toyko, Mitsubishi, Seimans, AFLAC and EMC where companies had built rich Internet applications that were making a difference in their markets. Another interesting observation was a casual chat I had with Chris Warner at JackBe. He basically told me the audience makeup is different this year. That it was not so much developers in jeans and ponytails asking technical questions, but guys in Polo shirts and khakis asking how to solve a business problem. He said, “When suits start walking around, we’ll know the market has matured.”

I ran into Dion Hinchcliffe in the lounge. Dion and Jeremy Geelan had kindly asked me to participate in their ground-breaking Enterprise 2.0 premier web TV segment. Unfortunately, I had to decline, but look forward to future episodes. Don’t miss the first episode, airing Monday, April 9.

Here is Dion’s description of the show:

The Enterprise 2.0 TV Show Airs Web-Wide This April from the Reuters TV Studio in Times Square

We’ve teamed up with former BBC producer Jeremy Geelan — and IT industry maven extraordinaire — to create a new world-class Web-based TV show with broadcast quality production values that obsessively covers the rapidly emerging topic of current industry fascination: Enterprise 2.0. Taped in leading venues throughout the country, the Enterprise 2.0 TV Show is designed as an open, freely-distributable communication stream created to tap the exploding popularity and delivery models of the online video medium. The show is carefully crafted to help non-technical business leaders explore the power and potential of the very latest industry developments on the Internet. Each show delves into the most important new trends that are helping reshape the face of the enterprise today and have the potential to unleash significant productivity gains and competitive advantage. Episode #1, a deep dive into the moving parts of Enterprise 2.0, has already been taped with industry leaders such as SocialText, Kapow, Jubii, and Near-Time and will be ‘airing’ in April on the show site as well as everywhere else on the Web. Also, if you are interested in appearing on the show or want to advertise or sponsor, please contact Jeremy directly.

I first started writing about what we now call “Enterprise 2.0” the end of June, last year. I believe it was about this time last year that McAfee published his seminal, “Enterprise 2.0: the Dawn of Emergent Collaboration.” Now, barely a year later, we’ve got our own T.V. show and we’re hosting Rave parties (more to come on that). I’m looking forward to harvesting the rewards of this year’s crop. It’s fun blogging history in the making.

———

Update: the Enterprise 2.0 Rave has a web site now… Lots of buzz on this already.   They tell me they’re creating a button for blogger discounts, but if you want save $250 now, sign up here.  I think they are capping the number of attendees, so it’s first-come, first-served.

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it… except IBM

Move over Farmer’s Almanac, mashups are coming to the rescue. Today, IBM’s Emerging Technology Group and AccuWeather (the leading weather authority) announced an agreement to use IBM’s QEDWiki platform to create situational mashups for its enterprise customers.

I spoke today with Paul Raymond, AccuWeather’s senior product manager for AccuWeather’s commercial client business and Dan Gisolfi from IBM’s QEDWiki team. Raymond is looking to use the mashup technology to bring just-in-time data needed to his commercial clients when and how its needed. “We get requests daily from businesses to create applications or provide data that has an impact on their business.” He sees the new QEDWiki platform as a surefire way to rapidly develop new prototype applications for his clients.

What kind of applications are we talking about?

Straight from the press release:

The types of AccuWeather information to be delivered via a subscription–based service using QEDWiki technology include:

  • Weather forecasts, current conditions and historical data, including temperature and precipitation, for over 2.7 million locations worldwide, for use by energy analysts, traders as well as retail and other business analysts
  • Real–time Local Storm Reports, providing critical, localized and dynamic data to emergency managers and risk managers
  • Doppler Radar with StormTimerâ„¢ forecasts for anticipating arrival times and conditions of severe weather
  • Severe weather watches and warnings for tornadoes, hail, heavy rain and lightning, enabling businesses to protect their personnel and property.
  • Tropical and marine forecasts, such as sea surface temperature, wind speed and direction, and ocean wave heights, guiding off–shore interests in transporting and servicing mobile and stationery assets.

Raymond described a real-life scenario that recently cropped up. An energy trader and commercial client who already subscribes to AccuWeather for daily temperatures related to its natural gas and heating fuel inputs asked him if he could make him an application where he could simply “grab” this information, rather than doing manual data entry and using spreadsheets. He wanted real-time live access to temperatures for the last month in 12 cities and then a forecast for the next three days’ high temperatures. This application is made-to-order for a mashup.

What I find really interesting about this announcement is not necessarily the fact that the two companies intend to try and get the mashup market going for weather, it’s that the market is user-driven. Raymond says, “The people who are coming to AccuWeather with the business need are the business managers.” Gisolfi notes that it’s possible to go direct to the user in this case because of the skill set of the end-user. AccuWeather’s commercial clients who already pay for subscription data are scientists and engineers. They already have a baseline high tech skill base. Although Gisolfi says IBM is happy to mentor AccuWeather’s IT staff if the situation warrants it.

Because the QEDWiki team is now rolling out the platform to select clients, Gisolfi says he’s creating a “sandbox” where widgets can be incubated and shared. “You need an eco-system of content providers like Dun & Bradstreet, AccuWeather and others as well as people willing to consume and create mashups like the Environmental Protection Agency and American Express.” In the true spirit of web 2.0 collaboration, Gisolfi is optimistic IBM will get the feedback it needs from the community so they can get the business model right.

Like Gisolfi said, “A content provider like AccuWeather who already has a commercial business is trying to embrace the long tail around weather and provide a vibrant, new channel for their existing assets.”

IBM, with its ginormous client base, wins the Enterprise 2.0 evangelizer of the year award for 2006.