my.SXSW Goes Mobile

South by Southwest (SXSW) Music, Film and Interactive Conferences and Festivals has launched the official mobile social networking and scheduling tool for their 23rd annual event, which begins Friday, March 13th. Powered by the industry-leading whitelabel conference software application, The Social Collective, the mobile site integrates seamlessly with my.SXSW’s networking, messaging and calendaring features. Open to registrants of the film, music or interactive events, the site can be accessed by loading http://my.SXSW.com in most mobile phone web browsers, including Blackberry, iPhone, Andriod, Treo and other handsets with modern web-browsing capabilities.

SXSW teamed up with The Social Collective to provide anywhere/anytime access to all the official films, music showcases, parties, interactive panels and other events via my.SXSW.

People who have phones with web-browsing capabilities can use my.SXSW’s lightweight and highly optomized mobile web experience. People who do not can still build their personal schedules using my.SXSW via a full-blown web browser and then use the provided iCal synchronization to push events to Apple’s iCal, the Google Calendar, or any other iCal-compliant software, which can then be synchronized with virtually any mobile device. my.SXSW also supports personal schedule export into Microsoft Outlook, which can be synchronized with many other types of phones including Blackberry and Treo devices. Finally, in leiu of (or in addition to) using a mobile phone calendar, registrants can use my.SXSW to sign up for SXSW Alerts, which provide realtime schedule updates via SMS.

“We didn’t want people to feel that they needed to lug their laptops around at SXSW,” said founder and CEO of The Social Collective, Chris Bucchere.

“Nearly everyone is already going to be carrying some sort of mobile device and we didn’t want to leave anyone in the dark.”

“So if you have an overacheiving ‘smartphone,’ you can use my.SXSW through your phone’s web browser. If your phone is more of a C-student, you can probably still synchronize your calendar using iCal, Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook. If your phone is more of the ‘beauty school dropout’ variety, at least you can still use SMS.”

The launch of my.SXSW’s mobile experience will make finding contacts, finding great events, and finding the locations of the different venues dead-simple, quick and portable. With The Social Collective’s modular design, enabling the mobile version of the hosted software was easy and painless. The resulting mobile web application carries the SXSW trademark and brand, just like the rest of the integrated social networking, messaging and scheduling features of my.SXSW.

“Our goals were simple: provide SXSW-branded social networking and scheduling capabilities to the greatest number and variety of mobile devices possible,” said Scott Wilcox, CTO of SXSW.

“Between The Social Collective and SXSW Alerts, we can easily reach nearly all of our registrants and provide a great user experience.”

SXSW opens Friday, March 13th with the concurrent film and interactive festivals. The music festival starts Wednesday, March 18th. Find out more about SXSW at http://my.sxsw.com

The Social Collective provides whitelabeled social networking, messaging and calendaring for events of all shapes and sizes. Visit http://thesocialcollective.com to find out how they can help you grow and serve the community around your next event.

Feedback Loop

We’ve been keeping a close watch on what people are saying about my.SXSW and trying to respond to as much of the feedback as possible, either directly from us or via the folks at SXSW.

It’s no surprise — in this “2.0” world of hypersharing and total transparency — that we’ve seen literally hundreds of blog posts and tweets about my.SXSW, but we’ve only received a handful of e-mails.

We don’t really like e-mail anyway, so this is cool.

The SXSW help desk has received a lot of support requests via e-mail, with issue #1 being that the welcome e-mails and password reset e-mails aren’t showing up, most likely due to downstream spam filters. Ah, the irony! Again, this is why e-mail sucks, but it’s sort of something that’s hard to live with and also hard to live without.

So, how are we tracking and responding to feedback?

We’re using a jury-rigged system of free tools: search.twitter.com (remember Summize?), Google Alerts and Google Reader.

This “system” only takes a few minutes to set up and it can be used to track virtually anything being said about anything in a public space on the interwebs.

Basically, you can set up “comprehensive” Google Alerts and have them “delivered” via feed (or e-mail, but you already know how we feel about that). You can do the same with search.twitter.com.

Simply plug the feeds into Google Reader, organize them into folders/tags and voila, your feedback tracking system is ready to roll.

We’re searching for terms like “SXSW,” so obviously we get a lot of false positives. However, it’s easy to manually “star” or “share” items in Google reader and then publish the resulting list of shared or starred items back out as a feed to share with your team via a web page or, if you like, put it back in Google Reader. (Yikes! We know that sounds like it might be infinitely or mutually recursive, but actually, it works — trust us, we’ve tried it.)

So, here it is: a pretty comprehensive list of all the good, the bad and the ugly things people are saying about my.SXSW. Hey, it’s all public information on the interwebs anyway, so why not republish it all in one place?

BIL Conference 2009 Selects The Social Collective to Provide Conference Social Network

(I-Newswire) – Long Beach, CA

The second annual BIL Conference, scheduled to take place on February 7th and 8th, 2009, announced today that they have selected Herndon, VA-based BDG‘s white-label conference social networking platform, The Social Collective, as their provider for conference registration and social networking services.

BIL is an ad-hoc conference for people changing the world in big ways. It’s a place for passionate people to come together to energize, brainstorm, and take action. Last year’s BIL had over 300 attendees. This year, almost twice that have already signed up on the social network. Confirmed speakers include TED Prize winners Cameron Sinclair of Architecture for Humanity and Eric Rasmussen of InSTEDD.

Other proposed talks include Silona Bonewald’s (founder of The League of Technical Voters) “Transparent Government Starting With The Federal Budget” and Ben Huh’s (of I Can Has Cheezburger) “What’s Funny About The Interwebs.”

BIL’s “unconference” format permits anyone to speak, so interested parties may sign up to give a talk.

The talks are then “favorited” to the main stage by peers, or remain in a breakout room if they don’t receive enough favorites.

“We chose The Social Collective because it’s a great way to herd smart people,” said BIL Conference co-chair Todd Huffman. “In addition to posting new talks and adding talks to their favorites, people can create and join groups, engage in discussions, make a new network of friends and keep their new relationships alive post-conference. The format was a great fit for BIL, but I can see it working well at more structured events, too.”

“We’re really enjoying the experience of watching and participating in the growth of the online BIL community, powered by The Social Collective,” said BDG chief and one of the The Social Collective developers, Chris Bucchere. “The BIL team has been a pleasure to work with and the community has been very supportive of our efforts. The outstanding content and people involved should make BIL one of the must-attend events of 2009.”

For additional information or to register for free, visit the BIL Conference web site.

Middleware for the REST of us

bea_think_oracleI’m sitting in my third Oracle Fusion Middleware briefing, this one at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC. Thomas Kurian has been going through all the products in the Oracle stack in excruciating detail.

First let me say this: Thomas Kurian is a really smart guy. He holds an BS in EE from Princeton summa cum laude (that’s Latin for really fucking good). He holds an MBA from the Stanford GSB. He’s been working for Oracle forever and he even knows how to pronounce Fuego (FWAY-go). I’m dutifully impressed.

Unfortunately, all those academic credentials and 10+ years in the industry is barely the minimum requirement for getting your head around the middleware space. Either I don’t have enough (0) letters after my name, or I just don’t get it.

For starters, there are way too many products — the middleware space is filled with “ceremonious complexity” (to quote Neal Ford). App servers, data services layers, service buses, web service producers and consumers — even portals, content management and collaboration has been sucked into this space. Don’t get me wrong: the goals of the stack are admirable — middleware tries to glue together all the heterogeneous, fragmented systems in the enterprise. Everyone knows that most enterprises are a mess of disparate systems and they need this glue to provide unified user experiences that hide the complexity of these systems from the people who have to use them. That makes the world a better place for everybody.

That was also, not coincidentally, one of Plumtree’s founding principles and the concept — integrating enterprise systems to improve the user experience — has guided my career since I got my lowly undergraduate degree in Computer Science from Stanford in 1998.

So, it’s a good concept, however, if you’re considering middleware because you’re trying to clean up the mess that your enterprise has become, you need to ask yourself the following fundamental question:

Does middleware add to or subtract from the overall complexity of your enterprise?

Your enterprise is already insanely complicated. You’ve got Java, .NET, perhaps Sharepoint, maybe an enterprise ERP system like SAP and say, an enterprise open source CRM system like SugarCRM or a hosted service like SalesForce.com. The bleeding edge IT folks and even (god forbid) people outside of IT are installing wikis written in PHP (e.g. MediaWiki) along with collaborative software like Basecamp written in Ruby on Rails. I’m not even going to mention all the green-screen mainframe apps still lurking in the enterprise — wait, I just did. This veritable cornucopia of systems just scratches the surface of what exists at many large — and even some mid-to-small-sized companies — today.

So clearly there’s a widespread problem. But what’s the solution?

At the end of his impressive presentation, I asked Thomas the following question:

“How can middleware from Oracle/BEA help you make sense of the fragmented, heterogeneous enterprise when you have existing collaborative (web 2.0) technologies written in PHP, Ruby on Rails, etc. running rampant throughout IT and beyond?”

(Okay, so I wasn’t exactly that pithy, but it was something close to that.)

His Aladdin-esque answer came in the form of three choices:

    1. “Take control of” and “centralize” your IT systems by replacing everything with Oracle Web Center spaces
    2. Ditto by migrating everything to UCM (Stellant)
    3. Build a services framework and aggregate everything in one of four ways:
        1. Use a Java transaction layer (JSR 227)
        2. Use a portlet spec like JSR 168 or WSRP
        3. Build RESTful web services
        4. Use the WebPart adapter for Sharepoint

      I like to call answers one and two “The SAP Approach.” In other words, we’re SAP, we’re German, wir geben nicht einen Scheiße about your existing enterprise software, you’re now going to do it the SAP way (or the highway).

Will companies buy into that? Some companies may. Many will not. ERP is a well understood space, so this approach has worked for SAP. Enterprise 2.0 is not terribly well understood, so that means even more diversity in the enterprise software milieu.

So the only approach that I believe in is #3: integrate. Choose the right tool for the right problem, e.g. the WebPart adapter if you’re using Sharepoint. Use REST when appropriate, e.g. when you need a lightweight way to send some JSON or XML across the wire between nonstandard or homegrown apps. Use JSR 168/286 for your Java applications. Even use SOAP if the backend application already supports it.

Keep things loosely coupled so that you can plug different components in and out as needed.

This requires a lot of development — the glue — but, I don’t think there’s any way around that. (You should take that with a grain of salt, because my company has been supplying the government and the commercial world with exactly that kind of development expertise since 2002.)

As for the overarching, user facing “experience” or “interaction” product — that’s where I’ve always used Plumtree (or AquaLogic Interaction).

Will I start using Web Center Spaces? At this point, I’m still not sure.

If it can be used as the topmost bit of the architectural stack to absorb and surface all the enterprise 2.0 software that my customers are running, then perhaps. If it’s going to replace all the enterprise software that my customers are running, then no way José.

This conundrum really opens up a new market for enterprise software: I call it “Middleware for the REST of us” or MMM (not M&M, 3M or M3, because they’re already taken): “Mid-Market Middleware” — similar to the way 37signals approaches (with a great deal of hubris and a solid dose of arrogance) the “Fortune Five Million” by marketing their products toward the whole long-tail of small and medium-sized companies. Maybe the world needs a RESTful piece of hardware that just aggregates web services and spits out a nice UI, kind of like the “Plumtree in a Box” idea that Michael Young (former Plumtree Chief Architect, now Chief Architect at RedFin) had back in the last millennium.

Oracle Web Center Spaces might be the right choice for some very large enterprises, but what about the REST of us?

BEA Participate is Only Two Weeks Away

There’s still time to register for this great conference and take part in a one-of-a-kind social computing experiment.

Register now!

Comments

Comments are listed in date ascending order (oldest first)

  • I heard some rumors that this event is going to demo some seriously killer app love that will blow people away. OK – they’re not rumors. It’s just common sense when you put this much brain power and off the wall creativity in one spot. I’m all for long fireside chats about protocols and geek plumbing (/swoon), but what really excites me about Participate is the ability to kick back with developers, product managers, and engineers and talk about business challenges and solutions – then arm you with the tools and tricks to get your business humming. Got a problem? Chances are these pros have a suggestion that will make your life easier and your business users that much more productive. Food, folks, fun, and forward thinking. You just can’t beat that.

    Posted by: ewwhitley on April 29, 2008 at 5:16 PM

  • Tada! The triumphant return of Eric Whitley to dev2dev!

    Posted by: bucchere on April 30, 2008 at 12:33 PM

Enterprise Relevance of Web 2.0 (in six parts)

Back in November of 2007 I gave a one-hour talk in Tyson’s Corner, VA entitled “The Enterprise Relevance of Web 2.0.” There were probably about thirty people in attendance. Since then, I’ve had several people tell me that they were sorry they missed the talk, etc. If you were one of those people, these next six posts are for you.

Why I am delivering this content in a six-part series?

I don’t have a video streaming server set up nor do I care to put one up and pay for the bandwidth. So, YouTube is an obvious solution to the hosting and bandwidth problem. Unfortunately, YouTube has a ten-minute limit on the length of uploaded videos. So, I needed to edit my talk into six, ten-minute clips.

Therein lies the problem.

What I’m learning in the process is that HD video editing is hard, even on a Mac. The first problem is space: I’ve got about five gigs of raw footage. My conversion program, Voltaic, was choking near the end of each 2 Gb conversion, so I switched to a PC (for shame!) and used the software that came with the camera (a Sony HDR-SR5) to convert from MTS (raw AVCHD format) to MPEG-2. Then I needed to buy a program from Apple for $19.99 (thanks for nickel-n-dime’n me, Steve) to convert from MPEG-2 to MOV (QuickTime format). Now I’m importing into iMovieHD. Each one of these conversions takes about two hours and has an output between 2x and 12x the size of the original MTS file! That means, just to be safe, you need like 15Gb of scratch space to edit a 1Gb movie! On top of the space issue, I’ve hit Google already dozens of times to figure out how to deal with things like frame rates, aspect ratios, sound compression, format conversion, and so on, ad infinitum.

And this is supposed to be easy! I’m on a Mac for goodness’s sake!

So, why am I ranting about my video editing woes in a post that’s purportedly about the enterprise relevance of Web 2.0? Because I think there’s a lesson to be learned from all this.

If personal computing is this challenging, that does not bode well for the enterprise, where everything is 10-100 times more expensive and 10-100 times more complicated.

Is this a good thing? For me and my company, maybe, because we’re making a living trying to make sense of the complexities of the enterprise and building user interfaces that help abstract people away from all the complexity so that they can do their jobs effectively.

But to truly bring Web 2.0 to the enterprise, we need to take these concepts — abstracting, simplifying, beautifying and “social-ifying” — enterprise applications down to the point at which they’re simple, beautiful and fun to use, all the while maintaining their power and utility. The experience people have using corporate software should mirror the experience they have using well designed, functional sites like Netflix, Facebook, Wishlistr, Dopplr and Kayak.

Most people writing corporate/enterprise software these days — with a few notable exceptions like 37 Signals (the makers of Campfire, Basecamp and Highrise) — are stuck in a function-over-form rut that’s really hindering the process of bringing Web 2.0 to the enterprise. Those of you who have had the pleasure of using AquaLogic Pages know that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Software can be both fun and functional at the same time.

So that’s an awfully long-winded and angst-ridden introduction to my six-part series on bringing Web 2.0 to the enterprise. If any of the above struck a chord with you and resonated even a little bit, then I highly recommend that you check out the forthcoming videos.

That is, assuming that I actually succeed in producing them!

While you’re waiting for the videos, you can check out the slide deck.

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Comments

Comments are listed in date ascending order (oldest first)

  • Chris, enjoyed your post. I’ve got a little one on the way so I imagine I’ll have to understand all of the video nuances of encodings/converstions soon for youtubing for the grandparents. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be as easy as I thought! James

    Posted by: jbayer on January 23, 2008 at 7:44 AM