I <3 Usage Data

There’s nothing better than reviewing usage data for an application you just launched, especially when those data show that people are loving it!

In our first week since the application went live, we’ve had more than 300 account registrations. That alone is a significant accomplishment. But it gets better. Here are some more stats:

  • 350+ messages sent (Rumbles and Private Messages)
  • 200+ podmob (Twitter) messages
  • 100+ shout-outs (pokes)
  • 100+ links and feeds added
  • 200+ groups created
  • 500+ mob adds (contacts)
  • 3000+ breakout session registrations
  • 3500+ notable actions (that have appeared in the Observation Deck feed)

We’ve also had almost 6000 page views since Monday and over 10,000 page views last week, our first week “in business.”

What’s even more encouraging is that I’ve seen a surge in shoutouts, messaging and group activity as the conference approaches. And it hasn’t even started yet! I expect our heaviest usage to come during the conference, although hopefully not the way it did on Twitter during Sarah Lacy’s SXSW08 interview of Mark Zuckerberg.

Announcing the Launch of the Social Applications for BEA Participate ’08

You’ve heard the phrase “social applications” being kicked around by BEA and bdg. But what exactly does that mean?

In a nutshell, it means that your experience at BEA.Participate.08 will be like that of no other conference you’ve ever attended. In fact, it may change the entire way you feel about technology conferences.

After registration, you’ll be directed to a web site where you can help us kick off this grand social experiment. During registration, you’ll be asked to fill out a corporate profile by selecting or adding your company, your department, your title and some biographical information. You’ll be asked what products (from BEA or elsewhere) you’re currently using and what products interest you. You’ll be able to “pimp” your profile with an avatar or photo, links, and RSS feeds. Finally, you’ll be asked to take a stab at registering for different Participate.08 breakout sessions. (Don’t worry, you can always come back later and make changes to your breakout session agenda.)

At this point, you’ll be directed to a highly-customized installation of BEA ALI 6.5 backed by a host of bdg-designed and engineered Ruby on Rails applications which form the core of this groundbreaking social system. Log in and you’ll be presented with a simple, elegant UI for:

  1. browsing and selecting tracks and sessions,
  2. viewing other people’s company and personal profile pages and adding them to your “mob,”
  3. sending “shout outs” other users (a playful way to get people’s attention),
  4. sending private (mail) or public (podmob) messages to other people,
  5. browsing and interacting with product pages,
  6. asking questions at a breakout session (through the session rumble),
  7. joining and leaving interest groups focused on industries, products or “whatever,”
  8. updating your status (to let others know where you are, what your mood is, etc.),
  9. browsing an aggregate feed (the observation deck) which allows you to see what others are doing prior to, at (and even after) the conference.

On top of all this social application goodness, everyone who attends Participate will receive an iPod Touch, with 802.11b/g wireless baked in. (Of course, the conference hotel will have lightening fast free wireless internet access.) In addition to a sleek full-sized browser experience, most of the applications will also be optimized for the iPod Touch (or iPhone) form factor. This means that wherever you are at the conference — sitting in a session, wandering the halls or the partner pavilion, even taking a bathroom break — you’ll be able to network, network, network with your fellow conference attendees.

Let’s face it: are you attending the conference to hear a talking head rattle off lists of features in ALUI or ALBPM? No! You’re going to Participate to learn from your peers. And not just in sessions, but in the halls, during the meals, at the evening events and of course, through these amazing social applications.

So, don’t waste any more time reading about this stuff — come on in and let’s get social!

One Portal to Rule Them All

I won’t rehash what’s already been said by everyone in the press and the blogosphere — Oracle is buying BEA. I wrote almost three years ago that this was inevitable, and now it’s upon us.

I’m hopeful that the BEA/Oracle management crew can take what they learned from the Plumtree, Fuego and Flashline (for BEA) and Siebel, PeopleSoft and Oblix (for Oracle) acquisitions and apply it to the challenges their own merger presents.

Over the past three years, Oracle has acquired dozens of companies. The most notable were probably PeopleSoft (which had just acquired JD Edwards, if I remember correctly), Siebel and Oblix, which gave them a great suite of HR apps, CRM apps and identity management, respectively. These were all enterprise software products that Oracle had, with a modicum of success, built on their own from the ground up, sold and supported as “Oracle Apps.”

Of course, with almost every major company they’ve acquired, Oracle has picked up a portal product. (And with BEA, there’s a special bonus — they get two: WLP and ALI.)

That’s going to create a portal soup consisting of at least the following ingredients:

  • Siebel Portal
  • JD Edwards Portal
  • PeopleSoft Portal
  • Oracle Portal (part of Oracle Fusion Middleware)
  • WLP
  • ALI

Oracle won’t want to endanger existing customer relationships by terminating support for the non-horizontal portals from Siebel, PeopleSoft, etc. Besides, the word “portal” really only loosely applies there, because those “portals” are really just web UIs into Siebel, PeopleSoft, etc.

But what about the horizontal portals: Oracle, WLP and ALI?

They are all playing in the same space. It’s already questionable that we need all three in the market now. And three under the same circle-shaped roof that is Oracle? Absurd.

What will Oracle do with this portal quandary?

Well, I think they’ll do the only thing they can do and support all the products. So that covers legacy customers, but what about future customers? If I’m an Oracle sales rep and my customer wants to buy a portal to front their SOA stack, what on earth do I sell them?

In my opinion, which is just that — my opinion — post-merger, there need to be some decisive acts from Oracle regarding the future direction of their portal strategy.

And, again, IMO, this is where the ALI portal and the ALUI suite of products (formerly Plumtree) can really shine. Why? Because not only can you front Java, .NET, Rails, PHP and any other web application stack with ALI, but ALI already has integration kits for Siebel, PeopleSoft, JSR-168, WSRP and five different flavors of SSO, including Oblix! (Not to mention the obvious fact that since day one, ALI has run beautifully on Windows and *nix systems using Oracle’s bread-and-butter product, their database.) So naturally, if you’re an Oracle shop running a clustered Oracle DB for storage, Siebel for CRM, PeopelSoft for HR, Oracle Financials for the books and Oblix Identity Management, no other product under the sun has more pre-packaged, no-brainer integration and integration options than ALI.

It may be a hard, bloody battle to get Oracle to drop it’s own beloved portal product in favor of AquaLogic Interaction, but I think it’s a battle that needs to be fought.

Same goes for WLP. In fact, I think every product acquired by Oracle has to fight for it’s life and fight to be the #1 product in the space, retiring the others to “maintenance and support” but focusing all futures on the product that is rightfully #1. And I think — and hope — that Oracle has the good sense and the wherewithal to encourage this.

It may cause some near term pain, but taking a longer-term view it’s the right thing to do.

Comments

Comments are listed in date ascending order (oldest first)

  • Interesting post, Chris. Obviously this is something we ALUI consultants have been considering in the past few days. One monkeywrench I have for you: as far as I know, Oracle offers their portal product for free to existing customers, whereas we (obviously) charge for it. I wonder how that kind of business model might change the landscape of how the ALUI portal is distributed/used.

    Posted by: rbrodbec on January 18, 2008 at 7:02 AM

  • Funny you should mention the price issue. About two years ago, we had a customer switch from ALI to Oracle portal for that exact reason. Why pay for licenses and support for ALUI products when Oracle gives you the portal for free? That customer still calls on us for ALUI support, so apparently the migration hasn’t gone exactly as planned.Two old adages come to mind here:
    1. You get what you pay for.
    2. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

    Regarding #1, the products really don’t cover the same feature set — Oracle portal cannot be the gateway to SOA that we all know ALUI is, so it’s really not an apples-to-apples comparison.

    Regarding #2, with any free software, whether it’s from a large company like Oracle or from the Apache Software Foundation, you always need to think about Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). If you need to build services integration points in Oracle Portal to talk to all of Oracle’s other products, that adds to your TCO. Moreover, if somebody is giving something away, what sort of quality expectations do you have about the product? What happens if you need to request support from Oracle or ask them to develop a patch for you? All of a sudden, the fact that you didn’t pay for the software comes back and bites you in the butt. 🙂

    Posted by: bucchere on January 18, 2008 at 7:23 AM

  • I guess I agree with you, since I’m not an Oracle portal consultant (not yet, anyway); but I think the bigger question is how Oracle will assimilate these new portals given its current pricing strategy (aka – the bloody war you speak of). If I were an existing Oracle customer, the first question I’d ask is “how come I can get XYZ portal for free but not ABC portal”. And if I’m Oracle product management, I’m thinking about how my current “free portal” strategy has been working out for me versus the ALUI model of charging for it.

    Posted by: rbrodbec on January 18, 2008 at 8:22 AM

  • You’re right — the big issue is how will Oracle deal with the portals they’re acquiring and will there be a shakedown or more of a graceful assimilation.There’s a similar issue with WLS and Oracle’s application server, although I think in that case the answer is a little less complicated. 😉

    Posted by: bucchere on January 18, 2008 at 8:32 AM

  • Of course you completely forgot to mention Oracle WebCenter. In spite of your assertions, there are only 2 portal products at Oracle. Oracle Portal and WebCenter. WebCenter is the future “face” of Fusion Applications, so any integration of portal products will move in that direction. IMHO….plumtree is as proprietary as Oracle Portal, and its dead. WLP and the folks on the WebCenter team will need to figure out how to integrate the code bases of those two products since they are the most similar in their support of Web 2.0 futures.

    Posted by: Dr. BEA Good on January 20, 2008 at 11:44 AM

  • Thanks for the correction about Oracle WebCenter — I’m not too familiar with Oracle products other than the DB and I should have done more homework before posting this!However, I still disagree that there are only two portals at Oracle. I’m not too sure about JDE, but I remember with 100% certainty that PeopleSoft and Siebel called their UIs “portals.” They’re not truly portals in a horizontal sense like Oracle Portal, WebCenter, WLP and ALUI and I don’t think they’re actually relevant to this discussion, so it’s a moot point.

    Now, given the four remaining portal products, I challenge your assertion that WebCenter and WLP “support Web 2.0 futures” and I’d like to see some examples that support that claim. As far as I know, the only products coming out of BEA that deserve the “Web 2.0” label are AquaLogic Pages, Ensemble and Pathways. (Note I don’t include ALI itself as a Web 2.0 product, despite the fact that ALI 6.5 has some pretty slick social features that might someday earn it that distinction.)

    I also take issue with your calling Plumtree/ALUI proprietary and I’m not sure what makes you make that claim. It’s written in Java and ported to C#.net, so it runs “natively” on IIS (which no other products from BEA or Oracle can do). Its Java version (from the same source base), runs on WebSphere, WLS, Tomcat and probably JBoss and other app servers and it supports both Oracle and SQL Server, so in terms of how and where you can run it, it’s probably the most open and flexible product in the entire 40+ product lineup that BEA boasts.

    That’s just one side of the proprietary vs. open argument. The other is how well one supports standards for plugging in functionality. In those terms, I think ALUI stands out from the pack as well. It supports portlets over two very well supported standards: HTTP and HTML, which again makes it the most flexible portlet development environment on the market. (You can develop ALI portlets using ANY web server that speaks HTTP and I’ve personally done so using Java, .NET, LAMP, Ruby on Rails, Groovy on Grails and even Domino if you can believe that.) It also supports JSR-168 and WSRP. (In reading about WebCenter, all portlet development documentation was Java-centric, so I’m not sure if they support any other kind of portlet development, e.g. .NET. It’s crucial that any product which claims to be the “face of SOA” supports at least Java and .NET development and plugins; however, many would argue that you need to support much more — e.g. Ruby on Rails, PHP, etc.)

    Leaving portlets out of the picture for a moment, consider the other ALUI integration points: AWS, PWS, CWS and SWS. All of them use SOAP, which is a documented open standard. In fact, in my next blog post (which went up last night), I talk about how I integrated a custom MySQL/Ruby on Rails user store with ALI using a Rails-based SOAP-driven web service to interface with ALI’s user management system. It just doesn’t get any more open than that. At last year’s Participate conference, I demonstrated how you could use the ALI “face” to front WLS applications written to run on the WL message bus and communicating with data stores using DSP, proving that you integrate ALUI products with pretty much anything. I would like to see how a WebCenter consultant or a WLS guy would approach integrating Siebel or PeopleSoft, two products now in the Oracle family.

    I may make many “assertions” (as you call them), but they’re backed up by solid facts. I’m open to continuing this dialog because I want to hear more facts about 1) how you perceive ALUI as a proprietary technology and 2) how WLP and WebCenter claim to support “Web 2.0.”

    Posted by: bucchere on January 20, 2008 at 6:10 PM

  • Out of respect of SEC rules, I won’t touch the Oracle topic. But as for WebLogic Portal (WLP)…2) how WLP … claim to support “Web 2.0.”There are a bunch of features that contribute to the overall Web 2.0 story for WLP. Look at the WLP Groupspace application, for example. Web 2.0 is about publishing social applications that get better the more people use them. Groupspace is such an app. It is first a packaged social app ready to go out of the box, but secondly shows off many of the WLP features in the area of “Web 2.0”.

    Groupspace doc link (community framework, RSS, Groupnotes (think wiki), discussion forums, shared document repository, calendar, contacts, etc, etc).

    Also, read up on Josh Lannin’s blog to see what will be out shortly in terms of WLP and REST, more Ajax, more Portlet Publishing (Google Gadgets, RoR, PHP, etc). Lannin’s WLP futures

    Cheers – PJL

    Posted by: plaird on January 21, 2008 at 8:30 PM

More on BEA Participate 2008

BEA executive Jay Simons just posted more details about Participate 2008 on the en.terpri.se blog and, needless to say, all of us here at bdg are very excited about the event.

Last year’s event in Atlanta was a raging success. Over 1000 attendees came to hear BEA employees, customers and partners describe their experiences with AquaLogic User Interaction and AquaLogic BPM. For our part, we had the usual partner/sponsor booth, we gave away a Video iPod and hundreds of fun USB-powered laptop lights. We also presented a very well-received demo showing how to integrate ALI, ALSB and ALDSP.

In 2008 we’re upping the ante. BEA has contracted the development team here at bdg to build a suite of social applications for AquaLogic Interaction (formerly known as the Plumtree Portal) that will allow conference attendees to network with one another on iPod Touches that BEA will be providing at the conference.

(BTW, our applications will run in a normal web browser just like every other ALI-powered application, but they’ll also be optimized for the iPod Touch form factor.)

They’ll be much more info to come on these great ALI-powered applications that we’re building for Participate, so watch this space and my dev2dev blog as well. To give you a little taste, think Facebook tuned for the enterprise with the specific goal of conference social networking in mind. Rich user profiles; mini- and aggregate feeds; user, session and group walls; private messaging/poking; tagging and other popular Facebook-like functionality will all be included.

Imagine this: instead of raising your hand to ask a question, use your WiFi-enabled iPod Touch to post the question on the session’s wall while the session is in progress. Then, at the end of the session, the presenter can pull up the session’s wall on the projector and field the questions. Like the presenter? Ask him or her to be your contact or join one of your groups! Meet an influential C-level executive who’s an expert in SOA governance and want to get to know him better? You can poke him or leave a message on his wall.

Leave your business cards at home — instead use these great bdg built/ALI-powered applications!

This is revolutionary, game-changing stuff. And this is why we’re excited about Participate 2008. We hope you are too.

Why I. . . .

whyiA couple weeks ago I teamed up with college buddy, recent Kellogg grad and former PayPal/eBay product manager Chris Gregory to design and write a fun little Facebook application called WhyI.

He did the design and product management, my wife Allison did the logo design and I wrote the code. After a few weeks of hacking in Ruby on Rails (using RFacebook) and many hours of Skyping between Chris and Chris, I’m very pleased to announce that we’re done and the application is live on Facebook!

You can use the app to share five-word WhyI “taglines” about your passions on your profile. You can also ask other people to create taglines by asking them “Why do you?” questions.

If you have any questions or feedback on the application, please comment here or send a note to [email protected].

meebo launches games!

meebo_games.PNGmeebo, the multi-band, web-based instant messaging site, just rolled out a host of games that you can play with your IM buddies on any network: AOL, Yahoo!, MSN, GTalk or ICQ.

Their platform is open too, so, following in the footsteps of companies like Facebook, I expect to see developers flocking to the site to build applications targeting their million+ unique user per day audience.

meebo launched a handful of communication apps (including voice and video chat) a few weeks back when they first opened their API.

Of course feedhaus is also jumping on the embedded widget bandwagon, having released our widget for Facebook over a month ago. We’re planning a meebo widget launch one week from today and and an Open Social launch in Q1 of 2008.

Update: Michael Arrington just added his take on the meebo games launch over on Tech Crunch.

Introducing the feedhaus Facebook widget

We’re very happy to announce that Facebook has approved the feedhaus widget for inclusion in their application directory. Right now the widget is pretty limited — it just lets you add one of your tag clouds to your profile. In the future, we plan to support adding multiple tag clouds and sharing stories and tags with your Facebook friends. But for now, the widget is fun way to show your online compadres what your interests are in current events, celebrity gossip, tech/gadget news, etc.

Enjoy, but enjoy responsibly. Facebook can be addictive — so remember to do some live, in-person networking with your real friends and family members and try not to sink all your free time into online social networking. As a fellow Facebook addict, I implore you to do as I say, not as I do! 🙂

Why we need “Enterprise Facebook”

Andrew McAfee, an associate professor at Harvard Business School and an outspoken advocate of Enterprise 2.0, wrote this great blog post about why there’s real value in “Enterprise Facebook.” Now the question is, simply put, who’s going to build Facebook-like software with all the auditing, security, performance and stability demanded by the enterprise?