What I’m Reading on 06/26/2014

  • “Back in the day, I used to look at a recipe that called for boiling something destined for the grill and think “What? Why cook it twice? Will there be any flavor left?” The answer for many foods turned out to be a resounding “Yes.” Parboiling can actually add flavor, plus speed your grilling time, reduce flare-ups and increase moisture and tenderness. Best of all, it can take a lot of guesswork out of that eternal question “Is it done yet?””

    tags: bs foods

  • “PixelCut today released PaintCode 2.1, adding support for the new Swift programming language to its popular developer tool. PaintCode is a unique vector drawing app that generates Objective-C or Swift code in real time, acting as a bridge between developers and graphic designers. With PaintCode, developers can create an app that is truly resolution-independent, using code (instead of a large number of image assets) to draw a user interface. PaintCode has been successfully adopted by numerous developers, including industry giants such as Apple, Disney Pixar, Twitter, Dell, Hewlett Packard and Evernote.”

    tags: bs swift

  • Google wants to be everywhere: In your home, your car and even on your wrist. That vision became increasingly clear at the search giant’s annual conference for software developers here on Wednesday. The company unveiled plans to expand Android, its mobile operating system, for new categories like wearable computers and automobiles.”

    tags: bs google android

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

For the Love of Big Data: What is Big Data?

Several weeks ago I was on the panel “Privacy and Innovation in the Age of Big Data” at the International Association of Privacy Professionals in Washington, DC USA. My role was to present the attraction and value of data but not to constantly interrupt myself with “but, but, but” for policy and privacy issues. That is, I was the set up for IBM‘s Chief Privacy Officer Christina Peters and Marty Abrams, Executive Director and Chief Strategist, Information Accountability Foundation, to talk policy. The audience was mainly privacy experts and attorneys.

I presented four slides and I previously posted those via SlideShare. Here and in three other posts I go through the bullets, providing more detail and points for discussion.

What is Big Data?

For the Love of Big Data: What is Big Data?

Big data is being generated by everything around us

I think many people are aware of the data that is available every time you do a transaction on the web or buy something in a store. In the latter case, even if you do not use a credit card, the purchase data can be used for restocking inventory, determining how well something is selling, and finding what items are often bought together. This could then be used in marketing and coupon campaigns.

Online, even more information is kept about what you did. Not only does a given vendor know what you bought, they know everything you ever bought from them. They may then guess what you will buy next. They possibly know how you rate an item and can offer you future deals based on your habits. They may also have some sense of your buying network, or “friends,” and can use this data to drive sales by giving extra incentives to those in the network who are the most influential.

Social data such as that in Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest is also used, though this is often highly unstructured. That is, it may be free text that must be interpreted. This is not always the case, however, because if you choose to specify the schools you went to from a given list, this data now has exact structure which can be mined.

Perhaps more interesting is the sensor data that is being created by the devices all around you. These include your phones, car, home, and appliances, plus wind turbines, factory machines, and many previously mechanical things that have become more electronic and increasingly connected into the Internet of Things.

Every digital process and social media exchange produces it

If a process is digital, that means data is involved. How much of that is saved and can be used for later analysis?

When you take part in a social network someone knows what you are saying, when you said it in context of your other updates, if it was part of a conversation, possibly what you you were discussing (“rotfl mebbe not”), and the influence structure of your extended network. That is, what you say is just the very beginning of a very long chain of direct and inferred collection of data.

Much of this data is actually metadata. When I do a status update on Twitter, my text is the data, but the time I tweeted and where I was when I did it are both examples of metadata.

When you use a mobile app, a lot of metadata is available too. It’s not just what you did, it’s the sequence in which you did things and with whom. This information can be used to improve the app for you, or allow the app provider to make its services, possibly paid, more attractive to you.

Systems, sensors and mobile devices transmit it

If something is connected to the Internet, it is possible for data to be transmitted and received. This might be via wifi or a cellular connection, although technologies like BlueTooth may be used for local data collection that is then later transmitted at higher bandwidth.

Not everything has to be connected all the time. Some remote machines like tractors allow farmers to employ USB sticks to periodically collect performance and diagnostic data. This may then be used for predictive asset maintenance: let me fix something as late as is reasonable but before it breaks down and causes expensive delays. In this case, the data from the USB stick might be analyzed too late, and a direct network connection would be better.

Big data is arriving from multiple sources at amazing velocities, volumes and varieties

So data is coming from everywhere, and I’ve seen estimates that the amount of metadata is at least ten times greater in size than the original information. So the data is coming in fast (velocity), there is a lot of it (volume), and it is very heterogeneous or even unstructured (variety).

As you you start making connections among all the data, such as linking “Bob Sutor” coming from one place with “R. S. Sutor” coming from another, the size can increase by another order of magnitude.

To extract meaningful value from big data, you need optimal processing power, storage, analytics capabilities, and skills

So with all this bigness, you have a lot of information and you need to process it quickly, possibly in real time. This may require high performance computing, divide-and-conquer techniques using Hadoop or commercial Map Reduce products, or streams. If you are saving data, you need a lot of storage. People are increasingly using the cloud for this data storage and scalable processing.

Now that you have the information, what are you going to do with it? Will you just try to understand what is happening, as in descriptive analytics? How about predictive analytics to figure out what will happen if trends continue or if you modify conditions? Can you optimize the situation to get the result you want? (You might want to see my short “Simple introduction to analytics” blog entry for more detail.)

Technologists are trying to get us closer to the “plug in random data and get exactly the insights you want with amazing visualizations” dream, though it may just be enough to get you started in your explorations. You need solid analytics to do valuable things with the data, and people with the skills to build new and accurate models that can then drive insights you can use.

IBM Watson Analytics is doing some interesting work in this space.

Next: Why do data scientists want more data, rather than less?

Also see:

For the Love of Big Data: Why do data scientists want more data, rather than less?

Several weeks ago I was on the panel “Privacy and Innovation in the Age of Big Data” at the International Association of Privacy Professionals in Washington, DC USA. My role was to present the attraction and value of data but not to constantly interrupt myself with “but, but, but” for policy and privacy issues. That is, I was the set up for IBM‘s Chief Privacy Officer Christina Peters and Marty Abrams, Executive Director and Chief Strategist, Information Accountability Foundation, to talk policy. The audience was mainly privacy experts and attorneys.

I presented four slides and I previously posted those via SlideShare. Here and in three other posts I go through the bullets, providing more detail and points for discussion.

Why do data scientists want more data, rather than less?

For the Love of Big Data: Why do data scientists want more data, rather than less?

It is there

This may seem simplistic, but if you are a statistician or someone looking for patterns via machine learning or data mining, you love data. A lot of data. More is better.

Data is the basis of the models we create to explain, predict, and affect behavior

Just like physics uses mathematical tools like partial differential equations to model the universe both large and small, data analytics uses other parts of mathematics like statistics, probability, and linear algebra to model what is happening by looking for patterns and behavior from the data we can discern.

Both kinds of models can vary from the very accurate to the really imprecise, depending on our skills, understanding, and information available. New techniques merge physical and data approaches to increase accuracy and decrease the computational load.

With more data, our models become more sophisticated and, we hope, more accurate

The more you know, the more you can fit together the pieces into a coherent whole. Modeling a city, for example, needs a lot of different kinds of data, and this information is often interdependent and redundant. It is non-trivial, however, to put models and simulations based on different techniques together and this often requires advanced, Ph.D.-level knowledge.

Do you know what the relationships are? That is data unto itself and improves the model. Separating the signal from the noise will help you pull out the important parts for analysis, but knowing why the noise is there will teach you about the accuracy of what you are measuring as well as how it is being measured.

How much data is too much data?

When Twitter was first available, people scoffed at the silliness of people talking about what they had for lunch, where, and with whom. Now this is called “social marketing data.”

We just don’t know what techniques we will develop tomorrow that can make better sense of the data we collect today. New work on statistical summarization can help reduce what we save, but it is best to err on the side of saving more data if you can. We might really need that detailed sales information and social media discussions going back five years to see patterns that can help your business grow tomorrow.

Previous: What is Big Data?
Next: What issues can analytics present?

Also see:

Top general tech sites I follow

Today there are many places to get information about tech and IT topics, but I have several go-to sites that I visit most frequently. I’ve given up on RSS and ATOM feeds, and I read many articles that friends and colleagues mention on FaceBook and Twitter. I also use Google Alerts to catch some articles and news using key phrases, though it can be hard to avoid being swamped by press releases (do an alert for “analytics” to see this).

Here are the primary general sites I read. They are not in strict priority order, though I look at the ones toward the top more than those at the bottom. Suggestions for other good sites are welcome.

  1. CNET
  2. Open Ended – Ars Technica
  3. AllThingsDigital
  4. New York Times: Technology
  5. TechCrunch
  6. wired.com
  7. eWeek
  8. ComputerWorld
  9. InfoWorld
  10. InformationWeek
  11. Slashdot
  12. Engadget

What I’m Reading on 08/11/2013

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

What We Do When We Do Analytics Research

In May of 2013 I was asked to contribute an article to ProVISION, an IBM magazine published in Japan for current and potential customers and clients. That piece was translated into Japanese and published at the end of July. Below is the original article I wrote in English describing some of the work we do in my group by the scientists, software engineers, postdocs and other staff in IBM’s Research labs around the world. It was not meant to inclusive of all analytics work done in Research but was instead intended to give an idea of what a modern commercial research organization that focuses on analytics and optimization innovations does for the company and its customers.

When you look in the business media, the word analytics appears repeatedly. It is used in a vaguely mathematical, vaguely statistical, vaguely data intensive sense, but often is not precisely defined. This causes difficulties when you are trying to identify the problems to which analytics can be applied and even more when you are trying to decide if you have the appropriate people to work on a problem.

I’m going to look at analytics and the related areas to help you understand where the state of the art research is and what kind of person you need to work with you. I’ll start by separating out big data from analytics, look at some of the areas of research within my own area in IBM Research, and then focus on some new applications to human resources, an area we call Smarter Workforce.

Big Data

This is the most inclusive term in use today but, because of that generality, it can be the most confusing. Let’s start by saying that there is a large amount of data out there, there are many different kinds of data, it is being created quickly, and it can be hard to separate the important and correct information from that which you can ignore. That is, there are big data considerations for Volume, Variety, Velocity, and Veracity, the so-called “Four Vs.”

I think these four dimensions of big data give you a good idea of what you need to consider when you process the information. The data may come from databases that you currently own or may be able to access, perhaps for a price. In large organizations, information is often distributed across different departments and while, in theory, it all belongs to you, you may not have permission to use it or know how to do so. It may not be possible to easily integrate these different sources of information to use them optimally.

For example, is the “Robert Sutor who has an insurance policy for his automobile” the same person as the “Robert Sutor who has a mortgage for his home” in your financial services company? If not, you are probably not getting the maximum advantage from the data you have and, in this case, not delivering the best customer service.

Data is also being created by social networks and increasingly from devices. You would expect that your smart phone or tablet is generating information about where you are and what you are doing, but so too are larger devices like cars and trucks. Cameras are creating data for safety and security but also for medical and retail applications.

What do you do with all this information? Do you look at it in real time or do you save it for processing later? How much of it do you save? If you delete some of it now, how do you know those parts won’t be valuable when we have better technologies in a year or two?

When you have so much data, how do you process it quickly enough to make sense of it? Technologists have created various schemes to solve this. Hadoop and related software divides up the processing into smaller pieces, distributes them across multiple machines, and then recombines the individual results into a whole.

Streams processing looks at data as it is created or received, decides what is important or not, and then takes action on the significant information. It may do this by combining it with existing static data such as a customer’s purchase history or dynamic data like Twitter comments.

So far I’ve said that there is a large amount of data currently stored and being newly created, and there are some sophisticated techniques for processing it. I’ve said almost nothing about what you are doing with that data.

In the popular media, big data is everything: the information and all potential uses. Among technologists we often restrict “big data” to just what I’ve said above: the information and the basic processing techniques. Analytics is a layer on top of that to make sense of what the information is telling you.

Analytics

The Wikipedia entry for analytics currently says:

Analytics is the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data. Especially valuable in areas rich with recorded information, analytics relies on the simultaneous application of statistics, computer programming and operations research to quantify performance. Analytics often favors data visualization to communicate insight.

Let’s look at what this is saying.

The first sentence has the key words and phrases “discovery,” “communication,” and “meaningful patterns.” If I were to give you several gigabytes, terabytes, or petabytes of data, what would you do with it to understand what it could tell you?

Suppose this data is all the surveys about how happy your customers are with your new help desk service. Could you automatically find the topics about which your customers are the most and least happy? Could you connect those to specific retailers from which your products were bought?

At what times of the day are customers most or least satisfied with your help desk and what are the characteristics of your best help desk workers? How could this information be expressed in written or visual forms so that you could understand what it is saying, how strongly the data suggests those results, and what actions you should take, if any?

Once you have the data you want to use, you filter out the unnecessary parts and clean up what remains. For example, you may not care whether I am male or female and so can delete that information, but you probably want to have a single spelling for my surname across all your records. This kind of work can be very time consuming and can be largely automated, but usually does not require an advanced degree in mathematics, statistics, or computer science.

Once you have good data, you need to produce a mathematical model of it. With this you can understand what you have, predict what might happen in the future if current trends continue or some changes are made, and optimize your results for what you hope to achieve. For our help desk example, a straightforward optimization might suggest you need to add 20% more workers at particular skill levels to deliver a 95% customer satisfaction rate. You might also insist that helpful responses be given to customers in 10 minutes or less at least 90% of the time.

A more sophisticated optimization might look at how you can improve the channels through which your products are purchased, eliminating those that cause the most customer problems and deliver the least profit to you.

For the basic modeling, prediction, and optimization work, one or more people with undergraduate or masters graduate degrees in statistics, operations research, data mining/machine learning, or applied mathematics may be able to do the work for you if it is fairly standard and based on common models.

For more sophisticated work involving new algorithms, models, techniques, or probabilistic or statistical methods, someone with a Ph.D. is most likely needed. This is especially true if multiple data sources are combined and analyzed using multiple models and techniques. Analytics teams usually have several people with different areas of expertise. It is not uncommon to see one third of a team with doctorates and the rest with undergraduate or masters degrees.

Our work at IBM Research

I lead the largest worldwide commercial mathematics department in the industry, with researchers and software engineers spread out over twelve labs in Japan, the United States, China, India, Australia, Brazil, Israel, Ireland, and Switzerland.

While the department is called “Business Analytics and Mathematical Sciences,” we are not the only ones in IBM Research who do either analytics or mathematics. We are the largest concentration of scientists working on the core mathematical disciplines, which we then apply to problems in many industries, often in partnership with our Research colleagues and those in IBM’s services business divisions.

We divide our work in what we call strategic initiatives, several of which I’ll describe here. In each of these areas we write papers, deliver talks at academic and industry conferences, get patents, help IBM’s internal operations, augment our products, and deliver value to clients directly through services engagements.

Visual Analytics

One of the topics in IBM’s 2013 edition of the Global Technology Outlook is Visual Analytics. This differs from visualization in that it provides an interactive way to see, understand, and manipulate the underlying model and data sources in an analytics application. Visual analytics often compresses several dimensions of geographic, operational, financial, and statistical data into an easy to use form on a laptop or a tablet.

Visual Analytics combines a rich interactive visual experience with sophisticated analytics on the data, and I describe many of the analytics areas in which we work in the sections below. Our research involves visual representations and integration with the underlying data and model, client-server architectures for storing and processing information efficiently on the backend or a mobile device, and enhancing user experiences for spatio-temporal analytics, described next.

Spatio-temporal Analytics

This is a particularly sophisticated name for looking at data that changes over time and is associated with particular areas or locations. This is especially important now because of mobile devices. Information about what someone is doing, when they are doing it, and where they are doing it may be available for analysis. Other example applications include the spread of diseases; impact of pollution; weather; geographic aspects of social network effects on purchases; and sales pipeline, closings, and forecasting.

The space considered may be either two- or three-dimensional, with the latter becoming more important in, for example, analysis of sales over time in a department store with multiple floors. Research includes how to better model the data, make accurate predictions using it, and using new visual analytics techniques to understand, explore, and communicate insights gained from it.

Event Monitoring, Detection, and Control

In this area, many events are happening quickly and you need to make sense of what is normal and what is anomalous behavior. For example, given a sequence of many financial transactions, can you detect when fraud is occurring?

Similarly, video cameras in train stations produce data from many different locations. This data can be interpreted to understand what are the normal passenger and staff actions at different times of the day and on different days, and what actions may indicate theft, violent behavior, or more even more serious activities.

Analysis of Interacting Complex Systems

The world is a complicated place, as is a city or even the transportation network within that city. While you may be able to create partial models for a city’s power grid, the various kinds of transportation, water usage, emergency healthcare and personnel, it is extremely difficult to mathematically model all these together. They are each complicated and changes in one can result in changes in another that are very hard to predict. There are many other examples of complex systems with parts that interact.

Simulation is a common technique to optimize such systems. The methods of machine learning can help determine how to realistically simulate the components of the system. Mathematical techniques to work backwards from the observed data to the models can help increase the prediction accuracy of the analytics.

This focus area provides the mathematical underpinnings for what we in IBM do in our Smarter Cities and Smarter Planet work.

Decision Making under Uncertainty

Very little in real life is done in conditions of absolute certainty. If you run a power plant, do you know exactly how much energy should be produced to meet an uncertain demand? How will weather in a growing season affect the yield from agriculture? How will your product fare in the marketplace if your competitor introduces something similar? How will that vary by when the competitive product is introduced?

If you factor in uncertainty from the beginning, you can better hedge your options to maximize metrics such as profit and efficiency. There are many ways to quantify uncertainty and incorporate it into analytical models for optimization. The exact techniques used will depend on the number and complexity of the events that represent the uncertainty.

Revenue and Price Optimization

The decisions you make around the price you charge for your products or services, and therefore the hoped-for revenue, are increasingly being affected by what happens on the demand side of your business. For example, comments spread through social media can significantly increase or decrease the demand for your products. Aggressive low pricing given to social media influencers can increase the “buzz” around your product in the community, thereby increasing the number of units sold. If you can give personalized pricing to consumers that is influenced by their past purchase behavior, you can affect how likely they are to buy from you again.

Demand shaping can help match what you have in inventory to what you can convince people to buy. This focus area therefore affects inventory and manufacturing, and so the entire supply chain.

Condition Based Predictive Asset Management

When will a machine in your factory fail, a part in your truck break, or a water pipe in your city spring a leak? If we can predict these events, we can better schedule maintenance before the breakages occur, keeping your business up and running.

We can get the parts we need and the people who will do the work lined up and doing the work in a timely way. Since there are multiple assets that may fail, we can help prioritize which work should be done earlier to keep the whole system operating, even given the process dependencies.

Integrated Enterprise Operations

You can think of this focus area as a specific application of the Analysis of Interacting Complex Systems work described above to the process areas within an organization or company. For example, a steel company receives orders from many customers requesting different products made from several quality grades. These must be manufactured and delivered in a way that optimizes use of the stock material available, configures and schedules tooling machines, minimizes energy usage, and maintains the necessary quality levels.

While each component process can be optimized, the research element of this concerns how to do the best possible job for all the related tasks together.

Smarter Finance

I think of this as the analytical tools necessary for the Chief Financial Officer of the future. It integrates both operational and financial data to optimize the overall financial posture of an organization, including risk and compliance activities.

Another element of Smarter Finance includes applications to banking. These include optimization of branch locations and optimal use of third party agencies for credit default collections.

Smarter Workforce

A particularly large strategic focus area in which we are working is the application of analytics to human resources, which we call Smarter Workforce. We’ve been involved with this internally with IBM’s own employees for almost ten years, and we recently announced that we would make two aspects of our work, Retention Analytics and Survey Analytics, available to customers.

Retention analytics provides answers to the following questions: Which of my employees are most likely to leave? What characterizes those employees in terms of role, geography, and recent evaluations and promotions? What will it cost to replace an employee who leaves? How should I best distribute salary increases to the employees I most want to stay in order to minimize overall attrition?

Beyond this, we are doing related research to link the workforce analytics to the operational and financial analytics for the rest of an organization. For example, what will be the affect on this quarter’s revenue if 10% of my sales force in Tokyo leaves in the next two weeks?

Survey analytics measures the positive and negative sentiment within an organization. While analytics will not replace a manager knowing and understanding his or her employees, survey analytics takes employee input and uncovers information that might otherwise be hard to see. Earlier I discussed a customer help desk. What if that help desk was for your employees? How could you best understand what features your employees most liked or disliked, and their suggestions for improvement?

This is one example of using social data to augment traditional analytics on your organization’s information. Many of our focus areas now incorporate social media data analytics, and that itself is a rich area of research to understand how to do it correctly to get useful results and insight.

In Conclusion

Analytics has very broad applications and is based on decades of work in statistics, applied mathematics, operations research, and computer science. It complements the information management aspects of big data. As the availability of more and different kinds of data increases, we in IBM Research continue to work at the leading edge to create new algorithms, models and techniques to make sense of that data. This will lead, we believe, to more efficient operations and financial performance for our customers and ourselves.

Some questions to ask yourself if you want to be a data scientist

Last October, the Harvard Business Review published an article called “Data Scientist: The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century.” I could virtually hear the rejoicing in the work hallways of analysts, mathematicians, statisticians, and computer scientists everywhere. At last, recognition!

While it is debatable in this case if the job really is sexy or even hip and will make you either, there’s really no question that the rise of analytics and big data are making these skills increasingly in demand. Is this the right job for you?

A good place to start to understand what is needed to be a data scientist is at the INFORMS Analytics Certification website. It costs money to get this, but the program information gives you an idea of the kinds of questions on the test, the sorts of case studies with which you should be comfortable, and the books and websites you can use for further learning.

In a more informal way, let me here ask some questions you should answer about yourself and your knowledge to see if this is a career or job you might consider. I’ve included a few technical questions to encourage you to learn more about some of the disciplines involved.

  • Do you suffer from math anxiety? Does solving equations, working with matrices, or making sense of table or graphs scare you? If so, this probably is not the field for you.
  • Are you comfortable with statistics? Could you in your spare time over the next month do what would equate to a first, solid, mathematically sound statistics course? Would you get an A for your efforts? You’ll need statistics to understand the data and to give yourself sanity checks about the conclusions you are drawing.
  • Is Microsoft Excel or OpenOffice Calc your favorite tool in your office productivity suite? Doing real analytics and big data often goes well beyond what you can do in a spreadsheet, but if this kind of software terrifies you, data science might not be a good match.
  • Do you know how services like Netflix choose what movies you would like to watch? Make an educated guess and then go learn some of the techniques. I won’t give you a reference, go explore what you find on the net.
  • Do you understand the differences between descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive analytics? Where does optimization fall among these?
  • Do you like saying the word “stochastic”? Do you know what it means?
  • Who was Andrey Markov and what was his obsession with chains?
  • What criteria and analysis would you use to predict who will win the next World Series, Super Bowl, or World Cup?
  • Under what situations would you use Hadoop, Hive, HBase, Pig, SPSS, R, or CPLEX?
  • How would you go about constructing your personal profile from all the public data about you on the web? This could be from yourself (e.g., your Twitter feed) or produced by others. Include your gender, your approximate age and income, the town in which you live, the high school to which you went, your hobbies, the name of your significant other, the number of children you have, your favorite color, your favorite sport, your best friend’s name, and the color of your hair. Does this scare you?
  • When can Twitter add to your insight about marketing campaigns and when does it just add unnecessary noise?

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but if these topics intrigue you, you have or are willing to get the technical background, and you know who Nate Silver is, you just might have a career in data science.

 

 

Social Media and the Professional: Enterprise Social Media

In this series I’m looking at my experiences using social media as a business professional. In this entry I examine the rules and policies I personally use regarding enterprise social media.

In the introduction to this series of blog entries, I asked several questions regarding my use of particular social media services, and how I manage the intersection of my personal and professional lives in them.

Here I’m going to look specifically at enterprise social media. That is, services that allow you to blog, post status updates, comment on the status of others, all inside your company’s or organization’s firewall. I’ll assume that what is posted is seen only by people in your organization, not by the general public.

I think use of multiple social networks only has value if you do different things on each of them. If one service targets a specific audience, use it with those people in mind. If you are more or less throwing the same material at all of them, I think you are spamming people, hoping it will lead to some sort of positive outcome for yourself. Therefore, if you post blog entries externally, there is no need to repost internally, but perhaps a link will do.

Enterprise social media is tricky because what you post could be seen by your bosses, your colleagues, and your employees, not to mention HR. You want to keep it relevant to your work life but you do need to be aware of the politics and sensitivities involved.

Do not use internal enterprise social media to state how brilliant you think management and their status updates are and how much their postings have changed your outlook on life, the way you’ll raise your children, or the very essence of your being. It’s fine to just click “Like.”

Be constructive, don’t use use enterprise social media to build a mutual admiration society. Ask questions, get a better understanding of the details of how the business is run and why decisions were made, and improve upon the suggestions of others. Don’t ever say in a response posting “What is more important …” but rather say “What is also important …”.

Share what you have learned about making products or service engagements better. Pass along dos and don’ts about working with clients. Don’t ever criticize a client as individuals or a company in your postings. Think about how new technologies like mobile and analytics can help you serve customers better and share your thoughts with your colleagues.

Be interesting. Be a person.

The social media service I use inside IBM is Connections.

Here are answers to the standard questions I’ve used in all these postings.

Who will I follow?

I follow (or connect with) people I know and have worked with directly. IBM has over 400,000 employees. If I connected with everyone, I could never find anything of value in the stream of status updates.

Who will I try to get to follow me? Who will I block?

I’ve suggested to my current employees that I would be honored if they connected with me, but it is completely optional. If anyone expresses uneasiness that “the boss” is watching what they post, I won’t follow them. No one is blocked (I’m not even sure I could if I wanted to).

How much will I say in my profile about myself?

Much of my work contact information is pulled up automatically. I’ve added a few other items, plus links to my external social networking activities. I certainly don’t list my personal hobbies in my inside-IBM profile, though I don’t think that is out of bounds in general. Since I cover my personal social networking elsewhere, I don’t redundantly add things in my internal profile.

What kinds of status updates will I post? How often will I post?

Though many people blog internally, I don’t. When I first started blogging in 2004 I had a WebSphere blog, then a developerWorks blog, an internal blog, and then one WordPress personal blog and one WordPress business blog. It didn’t take me long to decide I needed just one, and that is what you are reading here.

If I had something to say about open source, standards, Linux, WebSphere, or mobile, I would not have a special inside-IBM version and a different outside-IBM one. For one thing, this helped me keep the messages straight! Since I spoke publicly quite a bit, I needed to make sure that I did not say things internally in print that might inadvertently get repeated externally.

I do use Connections Communities now to share very specific internal information with named groups of people, such as the worldwide Business Analytics and Mathematical Sciences community. This is quite useful.

In terms of status, I post questions, some simple statements about IBM activities in which I’m engaged, and occasionally some critiques of features of processes or software.

While it’s fine to inject the occasional comment about non-work matters, I do not recommend that you use a lot of bandwidth in your company’s social networking service discussing American Idol or the World Cup. Take it elsewhere, perhaps to Facebook.

When will I share content posted by others?

Sometimes if I think it is really important or answers a question someone posts.

How political, if at all, will I be in my postings?

Zero, nada, zip.

How much will I disclose about my personal details and activities in my postings?

See above.

On what sorts of posts by others will I comment?

Anything I see where I might add something useful to the conversation.

What’s my policy about linking to family, friends, or co-workers?

I’ll link to co-workers to share what they’ve said or to note them as experts on a particular subject.


Blog entries in this series:

Social Media and the Professional: LinkedIn

In this series I’m looking at my experiences using social media as a business professional. In this entry I examine the rules and policies I personally use regarding LinkedIn.

In the introduction to this series of blog entries, I asked several questions regarding my use of particular social media services, and how I manage the intersection of my personal and professional lives in them. Here I’m going to look specifically at LinkedIn. This is the way I use the service and may or may not be how you do or should use it yourself.

Initial true confession: I don’t actively use LinkedIn as I much as I think I should. I only use the free service, not a paid premium one. I’m including this entry for completeness and as a way to motivate myself to do more with it.

I think use of multiple social networks only has value if you do different things on each of them. If one service targets a specific audience, use it with those people in mind. If you are more or less throwing the same material at all of them, I think you are spamming people, hoping it will lead to some sort of positive outcome for yourself.

So discretion and care is needed, and I need to use LinkedIn more and better.

Who will I follow?

Of all the social networking services, I’m least restrictive in who I “friend” on LinkedIn.

That is, if someone offers to connect with me and it doesn’t look like spam or some other random approach, I will usually accept the connection.  I do try to connect with people who are current or former colleagues at IBM, and colleagues or clients with whom I’ve worked closely or hope to do so.

There is a non-trivial overlap in whom I friend in Facebook and whom I connect with on LinkedIn, but only if I wish to follow or engage with them in both the personal and business sides of their lives.

Who will I try to get to follow me? Who will I block?

Answered above regarding following, since it is a two way street. I don’t believe there is a way to block people, but I do ignore spam or questionable invitations.

How much will I say in my profile about myself?

My entire business resume.

What kinds of status updates will I post? How often will I post?

I don’t really post directly on LinkedIn yet, but rather have tweets and links to my blog entries posted there. This is too passive, I know.

When will I share content posted by others?

Very rarely, so far.

How political, if at all, will I be in my postings?

Not at all, unless something sneaks in via a tweet being reposted on LinkedIn.

How much will I disclose about my personal details and activities in my postings?

Only what is on my public resume, which is also online.

On what sorts of posts by others will I comment?

Rarely, but I plan to do more. I do actively recommend people if I have personal knowledge of their abilities. I use the simple form rather than writing out comments. If someone needs a longer recommendation from me or wishes to use me as a reference for a job, they should contact me directly. However, I’m happy to say that someone is proficient in C++ or SOA, for example.

What’s my policy about linking to family, friends, or co-workers?

I don’t.


Blog entries in this series:

Social Media and the Professional: Facebook

In this series I’m looking at my experiences using social media as a business professional. In this entry I examine the rules and policies I personally use regarding Facebook.

In the introduction to this series of blog entries, I asked several questions regarding my use of particular social media services, and how I manage the intersection of my personal and professional lives in them. Here I’m going to look specifically at Facebook. This is the way I use the service and may or may not be how you do or should use it yourself.

Google+ is similar to Facebook in many ways, and I do have an account. I don’t use it actively, however, so I’ve excluded it from this multi-part discussion.

Who will I follow?

Of all the social networking services, I’m most restrictive in who I “friend” on Facebook. With almost no exceptions, the people I friend are my relatives, friends, people with whom I’ve worked, and others that I’ve met and care about following the twists and turns of their lives.

I don’t offer to friend people who work for me, but will consider it if they friend me. I don’t friend people for whom I work.

Since I’m more willing to have political discussions on Facebook, I may not friend someone who I know only peripherally yet will argue vociferously with me.

I very much enjoy having a Facebook friend who I may not know very well in real life, but who puts up funny or thought-provoking material.

This is obvious, but Facebook is a great way of staying touch with friends, acquaintances, and colleagues when we are separated by miles, years, and live events. That said, I’m not friends with everyone from high school who is also on Facebook, for example.

Who will I try to get to follow me? Who will I block?

New people show up on Facebook all the time. As I see them, I may friend them.  I may look for new people to add by looking at the lists of friends of friends.

I do not try to friend people I meet in business customer meetings. I use LinkedIn for that.

I used to have some people for whom I worked on my friends list, but I blocked my content from them. Eventually I decided that is was easier to just unfriend them. I don’t think my bosses need to see my Facebook content and when I add it.

In some cases I do block people from seeing my content, but this is usually in times of high social stress such as elections, school shootings, and civil liberties events.

How much will I say in my profile about myself?

I have basic contact information on Facebook but not my home address. Otherwise, I use the living room analogy: if you and I are speaking in my living room, you’ll see photos of my wife and kids, pet my cats, and we may decide to do an activity together.

I’m happy to give you my phone numbers or my email addresses. We can also chat about college and where we’ve worked. I don’t expect you to wander around the house, look in the closets and dressers, and go through my personal papers.

In a similar way, I share that sort of profile information with the people I trust to be my friends on Facebook.

What kinds of status updates will I post? How often will I post?

Yes, I post cat photos, but not all the time.

Gideon and BeatnikI would estimate that perhaps only 20% of what I post on Facebook relates to what I would call business or professional content. Generally, my content is related to who I am, not what I do for a living. I lead the math department at IBM Research, but I am a mathematician, so I’ll post some math-related items because I find them interesting and hope my friends might as well.

Since IBM is a large company and has hundreds of thousands of customers, I have to be careful about what I say about a business, even if I am a consumer of their products or services. It’s not uncommon for me to think something like “after I retire, I’m going to say what I really think of so-and-so’s labor practices.” This does not completely eliminate my posting or sharing content that expresses negative sentiments about a company, but it moderates my thinking about it.

Conversely, if I had a great consumer experience, I happy to tell my friends about it.

I probably average 1 to 3 Facebook updates a day. When I started using Twitter I did 5 to 10 updates daily there, but that number has fallen off.

When will I share content posted by others?

Most of the content I share comes from Facebook pages I “like,” such as that from the New York Times. If a friend puts up a link or a great image, I may share that. I don’t use Facebook as the collection point for work-related links to articles, but rather use the Daily Links category on my blog for that (example).

How political, if at all, will I be in my postings?

I’m most political on Facebook, but less so than my wife. I do a lot more “likes” of political postings by others with which I agree than direct posting.

How much will I disclose about my personal details and activities in my postings?

This is related to the profile question and response above, along with the living room analogy.

As I said about Twitter, I don’t tell my friends every place I go. I may tell friends where I was last week, however. I try to avoid the “I’m not home, so come rob my house” posting syndrome.

Another element of posting about travel is that it may tip people off to why I am on the road and who I’m going to meet. Here’s a little quiz. If I tell you I am visiting the following cities, which companies or government organizations am I likely to be visiting: Brussels; Redmond, Washington; Redwood Shores, California; Walldorf, Germany. (The IBM equivalent would be Armonk, New York.)

On what sorts of posts by others will I comment?

I have rules about this, I just wish I followed them more often. My children would prefer I did not add comments to their Facebook postings or activities. Adding a “Congratulations!” comment is almost always ok, as is a “Hope you feel better!” one.

With some friends, we seem to have developed a particular style of brief chatting that mimic what we would say if we lived or worked closer together.

The dumbest thing I ever do and I simply must stop is to respond to a comment on a friend’s posting, where the comment comes from someone I do not know. If it’s a simple agreement, that’s fine. If it’s to argue a political point, that’s going to cause me angst.

There are a lot of trolls out there, and I have to avoid feeding them.

I really wish Facebook would allow me to not see comments from specific people that I wish to block. I don’t follow these people and I don’t want to see anything they write.

What’s my policy about linking to family, friends, or co-workers?

If someone asks me not to link to them, I won’t. It’s mostly my children who have said this. I typically do not link to someone unless they have commented on a posting of mine. If I want to draw their attention to something, I’ll send them a personal message.


Blog entries in this series:

Social Media and the Professional: Twitter

In this series I’m looking at my experiences using social media as a business professional. In this entry I examine the rules and policies I personally use regarding Twitter.

In the introduction to this series of blog entries, I asked several questions regarding my use of particular social media services, and how I manage the intersection of my personal and professional lives in them. Here I’m going to look specifically at Twitter. This is the way I use the service and may or may not be how you do or should use it yourself.

I do not have separate Twitter accounts for work and my personal life. If you go to my Twitter account, you’re likely to see several aspects of my personality. I think that’s important: if I had a work-only blog it might sound like a marketing channel.

Who will I follow?

If I follow more than about 400 people or Twitter accounts, I find it hard to separate out what is important from what is not. That is, the noise dominates the signal. (But see update below.)

Every month or two I go through the accounts I follow and drop those that seem to hibernating or otherwise unused. I’m happy to follow someone to see if I find they are posting interesting or informative stuff, but if they are not, I’ll drop them to make room for somebody new. I’m happy to revisit that decision, and do add people back sometimes.

If someone posts too often, I may drop them because they are dominating my feed.

If someone is using Twitter mainly for self-promotion, I usually drop them for several weeks. I’ll check back in to see what they are then talking about and decide to follow them or continue to stay away.

Who will I try to get to follow me? Who will I block?

This is hit or miss. I may follow someone in the hope they will follow me, but my feelings won’t be hurt if they don’t. I could probably be more deliberate in what I say and how I say it to gain more followers, but that seems odd. Controversy always increases  the number of followers, but I need to be careful about not misrepresenting my opinions as those of my employer’s.

I block obvious spam accounts or ones that are obscene or hateful. I wouldn’t want these people talking to me in my living room, and so I don’t want them to be involved in any way in my Twitter conversations.

How much will I say in my profile about myself?

Just enough. There’s a fair amount of information about me that is pretty public at this point. My résumé is online, I’m male, you can probably guess my age with a bit of research, and it would be hard to miss that I now work for IBM. So I include enough for people to decide if they have found the right Bob Sutor, but not much more.

What kinds of status updates will I post? How often will I post?

All my blog entries have their titles and links automatically posted on Twitter. (I’ve used various WordPress plugins for this, and I recently switched to JetPack.)

I’ll post or retweet IBM announcements if they are about areas in which I now or formerly worked, if I see them. I don’t go out of my way to do this, but several of my work colleagues are very good at bringing these to my attention. If I think the topic is cool or innovative, I’ll say something.

I’ll post or retweet news items or articles if they are interesting, in the hope that if you bother to follow me, you might think them valuable as well. (If not, I know you’ll ignore them.)

I’ll say something when an idea pops into my head that I decide is funny, clever, intelligent, or profound. For such an item, however, I try to wait several minutes so that I don’t also decide that it is silly, obvious, dumb, or inane. I’ve deleted tweets that fall into the later categories if I later regret putting them up. I know they won’t really be gone, but they’ll be a bit harder to find.

When I first started using Twitter I had all my tweets posted also to Facebook. My wife (and through her, her friends) thought this was just too much. So I don’t do that anymore.

I don’t seem to hesitate tweeting about television shows I don’t like. I’ve occasionally gotten some customer service problems resolved via tweets.

When will I share content posted by others?

In Twitter-speak, this is mostly retweeting. I usually do these in batches. I might have 5 or 10 minutes here or there to scan my Twitter stream and I’ll retweet the good stuff I see.

How political, if at all, will I be in my postings?

Slightly. I try not to overdo it, though opinions probably vary about that. I’ll do more before elections that will make my US political party affiliation pretty clear. Other than that, I tend to retweet some items I’ve seen that pertain to social issues.

It’s really easy to go too far in this area. Know your company’s or organization’s policies about this.

How much will I disclose about my personal details and activities in my postings?

This is related to the profile question and response above. You don’t need to know where I am most of the time, but if it is public knowledge that I am speaking at a conference, I’ll say where I am, for example.

I don’t tell you every place I go. I’m not the mayor of anything. I may tell you where I was last week, however.

In my blog I talk about hobbies such as sailing, carpentry, and fishing. I may tweet or retweet items about that sort of thing.

On what sorts of posts by others will I comment?

I may comment on something tweeted or retweeted by someone I know. My biggest regrets about using Twitter have been stepping into conversations I really was not and should not been a part of. So I try to bite my tongue, but I fail sometimes.

I’ll tweet or retweet/comment to congratulate someone on a baby, a job, or a project. If I think I have something intelligent to add, I’ll do it. If not, I’ll just let it pass.

I try to run, not walk, from flame wars. Per the above, I may stop following people engaged in them.

What’s my policy about linking to family, friends, or co-workers?

If someone asks me not to link to them, I won’t. Nor will I disclose personal information about them. I try to ask permission before linking to anyone, especially if that person works for me. (Might not be a bad idea if I work for them either …)

Update on March 31, 2014: Not being a celebrity, infamous, or notorious, I found that the number of my Twitter followers plateaued. Clearly content and said notoriety would increase my followers, but I decided that I needed to increase the number of people and aggregators I myself followed. That did give me a bump, but I’m in the midst of a general review of who and what I follow, why, and what I’m getting out of the information I see. The goal is not to increase followers, really, but to make sure that Twitter is useful for me and to make sure that my side of the conversation is heard.


Blog entries in this series:

Social Media and the Professional: Introduction

Many people use social media services such as Twitter and Facebook extensively in their personal lives. It can be hard, however, to figure out where to draw the line between what you say there about your friends and your activities, and what you discuss concerning your work, or professional life.

In this and several follow-up blog entries, I’m going to discuss my personal rules for how I use these tools, as well as those that are more business oriented such as LinkedIn. I’m also going to talk about social media inside the enterprise and how you might approach that. An example of a product that provides social media for inside the firewall is IBM Connections.

I work for IBM, but I want to provide an important disclaimer right up front: The content on this site is my own and does not necessarily represent my employer’s positions, strategies or opinions. So what I say here is not IBM’s official position on anything.

In the same vein, how I use social media might be very different from the way you do it, and obviously that’s just fine. My purpose is to provide insight based on several years worth of experience. My rules are based on how I work and how I separate out various concerns. I say some things in some environments that I would never say in others.

I’ve learned several years ago that I handle having multiple accounts of the same kind very well. I tend to ignore all but one of them. Thus I mix everything I want to say into a single Twitter account, for example. That means you get all of me, or at least what I decide to share. It also tempers how much I might say on certain topics. I believe social media needs to show enough of who you are so that people can stay interested, or at least curious.

If your organization has guidelines for your use of social media, you must know and abide by them, and they may extend to your use of the services on your personal time. For IBM employees, the Business Conduct Guidelines spells out a lot of this.

When you use any of these services, you have some similar decisions to make:

  • Who will I follow?
  • Who will I try to get to follow me? Who will I block?
  • How much will I say in my profile about myself?
  • What kinds of status updates will I post? How often will I post?
  • When will I share content posted by others?
  • How political, if at all, will I be in my postings?
  • How much will I disclose about my personal details and activities in my postings?
  • On what sorts of posts by others will I comment?
  • What’s my policy about linking to family, friends, or co-workers?

In the next few entries I’ll consider how I use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and an enterprise social media service. I’ll look at each of the questions above, and also discuss anything specific to the type of the service. In all cases, I’ll focus on how I use the services as a business professional, and where I let my personal and work lives intersect.


Blog entries in this series: (links will become active as the entries are published)

Daily links for 12/06/2012

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 11/09/2012

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Testing WordPress 3.4’s new Twitter integration

So evidently if I just put a Twitter URL on a line in a blog post, WordPress 3.4 will handle it as an embed and give you options to retweet it, etc. So let’s try one:

Cool.

Daily links for 02/01/2012

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

IBM: Going Mobile with two big announcements

Today IBM announced some important enhancements to its Mobile strategy for supporting customers looking to grow and transform their businesses, whether they are B2C, B2B, or B2E.

IBM Advances Mobile Capabilities with Acquisition of Worklight

From the press release:

In a move that will help expand the enterprise mobile capabilities it offers to clients, IBM today announced a definitive agreement to acquire Worklight, a privately held Israeli-based provider of mobile software for smartphones and tablets. Financial terms were not disclosed.

With this acquisition, IBM’s mobile offerings will span mobile application development, integration, security and management. Worklight will become an important piece of IBM’s mobility strategy, offering clients an open platform that helps speed the delivery of existing and new mobile applications to multiple devices. It also helps enable secure connections between smartphone and tablet applications with enterprise IT systems.

IBM Announces New Software to Manage and Secure the Influx of Mobile Devices to the Workplace

From the press release:

IBM today introduced new software to help organizations better manage and secure the explosion of smartphones and tablets in the workplace, while also managing laptops, desktops and servers.

IBM Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices helps organizations support and protect the growing mobile workforce. Through this software, firms can use a single solution to secure and manage smartphones and tablets, as well as laptops, desktop PCs, and servers. It manages Apple iOS, Google Android, Nokia Symbian, and Microsoft Windows Mobile and Windows Phone devices.

The software extends security intelligence to deal with the growing threats from mainstream adoption of the BYOD trend. Organizations can install the IBM software in hours, remotely set policies, identify potential data compromises and wipe data off the devices if they are lost or stolen. The software helps configure and enforce passcode policies, encryption and virtual private network settings.

Why I think this is important

After spending the last several months speaking with customers, I’ve concluded that 2012 will be a very significant year for Mobile in the enterprise. I think this is the year when customers will decide on the mobile platforms and tools that will carry them into the middle of the decade, and begin to discard earlier experiments.

The old category of MAP or MEAP (Mobile Application Platform or Mobile Enterprise Application Platform) is not sufficient anymore. Customers need everything to build, run, connect, manage, and secure mobile applications. Remember that we’re not just talking about the apps on the devices (and there are many devices), but also the backend server infrastructure necessary, and this needs to be enterprise-ready. By this I mean that it needs to scale and you must be able to integrate it with the services, applications, processes and data that are essential to your organization.

Therefore the modern Mobile platform needs device-side and server-side application development and lifecycle tools; support for multiple devices and mobile operating systems; mobile application an device management; security capabilities from the devices all the way to the back-end; and scalable, transaction-capable connections to the IT systems on which your organization depends for its business. This is what IBM is demonstrating today in these strategic announcements in addition to its existing products and solutions.

Join me today in Tweetchats

I’ll be using Twiiter today for 2 one hour sessions to discuss these announcements with Scott Hebner, VP of Marketing and Channel Management for IBM Tivoli.
The first session is planned for 10:30 to 11:30 AM ET and the second for 1:00 to 2:00 PM ET.

Both sessions will use the hashtag #ibmmobile. My Twitter name is @bob_sutor and Scott’s is @SLHebner.

You can follow us via your usual Twitter client or else use the Tweetchat tool at http://tweetchat.com/room/ibmmobile.

Also see these blog entries

IBM mobile infographic

What I did (and didn’t do) on my summer vacation

Now that it’s early September, I suppose I can look back over the last several months and take stock of what happened over the summer season. Technically, summer is not quite over, but in northwest New York where I live you can really feel the first flourishes of fall in last August. Admittedly, it’s 85 degrees F today, so it would be hard to convince many people that summer is on the way out.

I did start a new job within IBM in early June, owning project management for what we call the WebSphere Foundation line of software. More recently I picked up some additional executive leadership in the mobile area, which just might account for the links showing up in my (almost) daily news postings. Altogether, though, it means I’ve been swamped in a very good way with work.

Therefore what I didn’t do is blog very much. Part of it was time constraints, but a good deal of what I’ve been working on is internal business, product and technology strategy. Those are not exactly areas I can freely write about, but, heh, it’s a living. Given the stability of the WordPress platform on which my website is implemented, I’ve also not had to tinker much with the infrastructure behind this blog.

I did start using Google+ in addition to Facebook and Twitter. While I do wish everyone would just switch from Twitter to Google+, that’s not going to happen. Apple‘s support of Twitter in the upcoming iOS 5 will ensure it has a social networking role for quite some time. I feel my energy flagging with respect to Google+ and I suspect that is true of some others as well.

I didn’t sail much at all. This was a combination of the time I had available, the weather, and the conditions on Lake Ontario. I’ve decided that I’ll move the boat to another lake starting next year, but which lake is TBD.

I did spend quite a bit of time in the New York Adirondack region. Our son spends two weeks at camp up there, and this summer my wife Judith and I spent a week at The Hedges in Blue Mountain Lake. We managed to get up to the mountains a couple of other times as well. We’ve been to the Adirondacks quite a bit in our lives and plan to spend even more time there in the future. That’s one reason why I’ve been posting links on Facebook about the damage caused by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene.

Judith and I had a great time visiting friends in Maine over a long weekend in July. It set lobster as the season’s culinary theme, and that was just fine with both of us.

I didn’t have a major outdoor project this summer. Before the snow flies I need to do some repairs and paint the porch I built 5 years ago. It is holding up well except for some of the small pieces of trim that developed some wood rot because of the moisture from snow and rain.

I did enjoy watching the two guys who did the landscaping work on our side lawn. After battling an overgrown area that was once a grape arbor and then a garden for over a decade, we decided to convert it to lawn.  It took the two guys two days with a skid steer to pull up the weeds and hundreds of bricks that were used in the walkway and as edging. They then filled the area with 20+ cubic yards of dirt and seeded it. The grass is growing nicely now and the eyesore is gone. To visualize 20 cubic yards, think of a volume that is 3 feet wide by 3 feet deep by 60 feet high. That’s a lot of dirt and it validates my conclusion that it was work that I was just not going to get done myself.

With autumn coming on fast, I do hope to get a little more sailing in, do that porch work, and perhaps start and finish a few more outside evening projects. I get frustrated when I’m not building something, so it’s best if I have a few tasks like these in the pipeline.

Work on Google+, party on Facebook

Several weeks ago I posted an entry on my evolving social media operating policy. I think things are even clearer now:

  • I use Google+ to follow people and topics relevant to my work and other professional interests. My posts there reflect that as well.
  • I use Facebook to follow people and topics relevant to my personal interests, as well as the non-work activities of friends and acquaintances.
  • I use Twitter because I still think I need to, but if it went away tomorrow I would not be at a loss.

I like the idea of separating work and personal interests into different sites. I’m happy to follow the same people on both Google+ and Facebook, but on the first I would rather hear about your professional activities and on the latter I would prefer to see your vacation photos. For some people I mostly care about one of these, for others both.

I know the circles idea on Google+ would allow me to tease apart these types of posts if people were consistent in how they posted and I was consistent in what I followed. It’s the early times, though, and this is how I’ve settled into using the sites. Obviously, my usage preference are just that, my own.

That said, in three months things may have shifted. For now, I don’t see Google+ or Facebook winning over the other, and I love that they are competing. I think the damage to use of Twitter by both will continue.

Daily links for 08/11/2011

Caching

  • “This IBM® Redbooks® publication contains a summary of the leading practices for implementing and managing a WebSphere® eXtreme Scale installation. The information in this book is a result of years of experience that IBM has had in with production WebSphere eXtreme Scale implementations. The input was received from specialists, architects, and other practitioners who have participated in engagements around the world. The book provides a brief introduction to WebSphere eXtreme Scale and an overview of the architecture. It then provides advice about topology design, capacity planning and tuning, grid configuration, ObjectGrid and backing map plug-ins, application performance tips, and operations and monitoring.”

    tags: websphere extremescale caching

Mobile

  • “It’s amazing to me to think that August 12 marks the 30th anniversary of the IBM Personal Computer. The announcement helped launch a phenomenon that changed the way we work, play and communicate.  Little did we expect to create an industry that ultimately peaked at more than 300 million unit sales per year. I’m proud that I was one of a dozen IBM engineers who designed the first machine and was fortunate to have lead subsequent IBM PC designs through the 1980s.  It may be odd for me to say this, but I’m also proud IBM decided to leave the personal computer business in 2005, selling our PC division to Lenovo. While many in the tech industry questioned IBM’s decision to exit the business at the time, it’s now clear that our company was in the vanguard of the post-PC era.”

    tags: IBM Post-PC

  • “Much has been made about Apple’s recent changes to the iOS terms. At first, everyone was sure that many big players would be forced to pull their apps, such as Amazon’s popular Kindle app. But then Apple relaxed the rules a bit, and simply said that Amazon and others couldn’t link to their own stores from their iOS apps. Amazon complied. But at the same time, they were also working on an alternative.”

    tags: amazon kindle html5 mobile

  • “However the company is licking its chops from the juicy licensing fees it gains from Android handsets. According to Horace Dediu, Microsoft sold around 1.4 million Windows Phone 7 in Q2, which brought in around $21 million from the $15 per Windows Phone 7 that it earns. On the other hand, HTC sold 12 million Android smartphones in Q2, and as it earns around $5 per Android phone from HTC patent licensing fees, Microsoft made around $60 million. This is 3x the amount earned from its own OS from the licensing deal with HTC alone.”

    tags: microsoft android windows phone

  • “Microsoft plans to officially launch the next version of an operating system called Windows 8 next year. [3] Windows 8 is a touch-screen version of the OS and will work on tablets as well. However, similar to Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich, Windows 8 allows the iPad to make further inroads into the tablet market. By the time Google and Microsoft roll out their new tablet OS’s, Apple may well have launched iPad 3 to further drive sales.”

    tags: apple tablets

Open Source

  • “After years of slow, steady growth, OIN has been growing significantly in the last quarter. During the second quarter of 2011 alone, OIN had 35 new companies join its community of licensees. The consortium now has 260 corporate supporters. OIN licensees, which include founding members and associate members, benefit from leverage against patent aggression and access to enabling technologies through OIN’s shared intellectual property resources.”

    tags: cisco Twitter linux patent oin

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 08/07/2011

Innovation

  • IBM is the most innovative company in IT, period. The Aug. 8 issue of Forbes contains a list of what the well-heeled magazine sees as the “World’s Most Innovative Companies.” The print edition ranks 50 companies, and online there are an additional 50 companies ranked. What’s difficult to understand is how IBM was not included on that list. In an opinion piece on www.eweek.com, eWEEK Senior Editor Darryl K. Taft lays out his argument as to why IBM should be on any list of technology innovators. Big Blue has a legacy of invention, of blazing trails and setting direction. Its latest supercomputer, Watson, is a testament to that. But IBM is not alone in its ability to innovate. In this slide show, Taft selects his own list of the top 10 innovative companies in the IT space. IBM sits on top of this list because of its research arm, its many patents and its proven discoveries. And though 100-year-old IBM has earned a position as a mainstay in the annals of IT innovation, newcomers such as Facebook, Twitter and Salesforce.com—Forbes’ top innovator—also have earned a place at the table.”

    tags: ibm apple companies

Open Source

  • “Urban street trees have myriad proven benefits for communities including providing shade, improving air quality, assisting with stormwater runoff, raising property values, decreasing utility bills, and enhancing the look and feel of communities. While tree inventories provide municipalities with vital data to consult when managing the urban forest, creating a complete inventory is a time consuming and resource intensive process.  OpenTreeMap provides an easy-to-use public inventorying platform that enables individuals, organizations, and governments to collaboratively contribute to an interactive and dynamic map of a community’s tree population. OpenTreeMap can be used in a single municipality or cover a broader geographic region with many communities.”

    tags: open source tree

  • “If you’re working on or launching an open source project, one of the most basic decisions you must make is which license the project will be released under, and choosing the perfect license is more complex than ever. Over the years, we’ve provided many free guidelines on this topic, but it’s a moving target. In this post, you’ll find our updeated collection of all the things you need to know to make an informed open source license decision.”

    tags: open source licensing

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

My social media operating policy

With the introduction of Google+, I now have yet another social media service by which I can communicate with family, friends, co-workers, industry colleagues, and complete strangers. In addition to this blog, which I’ve had for close to 7 years, I’m fairly active on FaceBook and Twitter.

I don’t schedule dedicated FaceBook or Twitter time. Rather, I usually read or add something during those little interstices during the day. If a call ends 2 minutes early, I’ll take a look. Sometimes I’ll add a thought or a link when it occurs to me. The notion of the stream is very important to me with those services. Most of what I see I see as it is posted. I may scroll down a bit, but I rarely go to someone’s page and read through all their recent entries.

In that way, social media to me through FaceBook and Twitter has very much been like a ticker tape of information that I consume or to which I contribute. It stays in my peripheral vision, sucking up minutes here or there as they become available.

Having these services have definitely decreased the frequency of my blogging. It’s easier to come up with a quick thought and publish it than write a longer piece. I’m trying to work through that, though, because most of my blog entries take 20 minutes or less to write. I try to get to my point and then move on.

I’ve now added Google+ to that mix. A downside is that it is one more service to use up those scarce and widely spaced minutes I have available. It is time consuming to check three services. I know from experience that I don’t do well with more than two.

I had a Plaxo account but now either don’t use it or I cancelled it (that I don’t remember is significant). LinkedIn is fine, but I do not spend more than a few minutes on it in one or two visits a week. I certainly don’t pay for their service. There are social media sites inside IBM and I don’t use them. I let my more public outlets cover anyone inside or outside of the company who might care to read my thoughts.

So I’m not sure how well Google+ will succeed for me but I really want to try to make it work. Over time I think it will replace Twitter but not FaceBook. I think it is great that Google+ and FaceBook will compete with each other. That will drive innovation, and by that I mean sexy, cool features. I’ve set up some circles and spend time in Google+ every day, but I’m not nearly as comfortable in it as I am in FaceBook. I hope to spend some time during an upcoming vacation to kick its tires more and and see how it can improve my life.

Daily links for 03/17/2011

  • IBM manages its official accounts in a decentralized fashion, with management responsibilities delegated to the brands. While any employee can have a personal Twitter account, branded accounts can only be operated by people who have permission to speak for the brand, Christensen says. IBM aggregates metrics for all its official accounts, but individual brands are responsible for managing conversations and tracking their own metrics. IBM shares best practices throughout the company.”

    tags: ibm cmo twitter

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

More on “Land mines for open source in mobile”

Last week I put up a blog post called “Land mines for open source in mobile” ahead of my POSSCON talk next week. I listed 5 issues that might slow down the adoption of open source in the mobile device space. They were:

  1. No GPL code allowed in apps for the Apple App Store.
  2. Sloppy open source license compliance.
  3. The right code is available under the wrong license.
  4. There’s not enough money in it.
  5. Getting heard among the noise of thousands of other app developers.

I didn’t get too many comments here or on Twitter, but let me share what I did get and add some other remarks.

One reader noted that numbers 1 – 3 were spot on, but 4 and 5 had little to do with open source in particular.

I think that criticism on number 4 is right on, though the discussion still applies to open source developers. Moreover, had I been smarter at the time, I would have also added that if you are giving your open source app away for free, there may be very little opportunity to earn revenue via service and support. A mobile app can be relatively simple, and unless it is just a front end for some sort of for-fee service or content, we’re talking about zero money. Again, true for open and closed source, but if you can’t charge at all for your app, you very likely won’t be making any money whatsoever. That might be fine, but note it.

For number 5, I was trying to make the point that in an open source mobile app, you might not be making enough money to feed yourself, much less employees. Again true for closed source, but my positive suggestion is that if you are providing an open source app then work to find a team of people who will also provide “in an open source way” the other content that you need, as well as marketing assistance. That is, don’t stop with the coding when considering what other bits of the business can be done in an open, sharing manner.

Finally, a Twitter responder noted that source sharing is more difficult for mobile apps. I’m not quite sure why this would be the case.

  • Certainly you could post part or all (if required) of your source code on Google Code or SourceForge or another site.
  • If people can’t use GPL, are they not doing the sharing because they don’t have to?
  • Generally, are people more inclined to keep the code to themselves for mobile apps that are for open source in general?

Daily links for 12/28/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 12/22/2010

  • Microsoft Corp., feeling pressure from hit products like Apple Inc.’s iPad, is crafting a new operating system that deviates from the software giant’s heavy reliance on chip technology pioneered by Intel Corp., according to people briefed on Microsoft’s plans. The company next month plans to demonstrate a new version of its widely used Windows operating system that targets low-power devices and adds support for chips based on designs from ARM Holdings PLC as well as the x86 chip technology offered by Intel and Advanced Micro Devices Inc., these people said. Microsoft will discuss the software at the Consumer Electronics Show in early January, though it isn’t expected to be available for two years, they added.”

    tags: microsoft

  • “Welcome to the harsh new reality of technology and its talent crunch. In the real world, we have double-digit unemployment, but on this side of the country, everything seems like it’s 1999. You can thank four companies for that: Facebook, Twitter, Zynga and Google. These four companies are sucking up all kinds of talent: designers, engineers, marketing people and infrastructure folks. They’re able to do so by offering them above-market salaries, insane perks, food and a cachet that’s nice to have during dinner conversations.”

    tags: Silicon Valley employment

  • “As 2011 approaches, eWEEK takes a look at the top 18 programming languages for developers going into the new year. This list is filled with the tried and true. In some instances, some observers might view a few of the picks as the “tired and through.” However, despite their age, the workhorse languages such as C and C++ continue to remain at the top end of the software development landscape in terms of language use and job potential (despite growing more slowly and even decreasing, according to some sources). Moreover, this list is not intended to highlight the hot, hip new languages on the horizon, but to focus on where programmers can go to look for work.”

    tags: programming languages

  • “If you move large files around, archiving them online and sharing them online with others, you probably already know that Dropbox is one of the favored tools for doing so. It’s quick and easy, and many people understand how it works. You can use it to share files of all types, including very large ones, with remote users, store files in the cloud, and more. Now, Dropbox 1.0 for Windows, the Mac and Linux has arrived, and Linux users who don’t already have it will want to get it.”

    tags: dropbox

  • “Business software maker Red Hat Inc issued an outlook for profit and revenue above Wall Street projections on Tuesday, echoing optimism about the technology spending climate shown by bigger industry companies last week.”

    tags: Red Hat linux

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Review of the blog for 2010 – January through March

With a little more than a week left in 2010, I thought I would go back and review some of the themes and entries from this blog since January. In many ways it was a strange year and my writing cadence was much more irregular than the last few years. I’m definitely feeling the effect of Twitter, as it is so much easier to throw out the germ of an idea as a tweet rather than let it sit and develop into something longer and more thought out.

January started out with a lot of new technology under the covers as I had decided to archive the old blog I had been running since 2004 and start again with the latest version of WordPress. I also began using a new blog theme, Atahualpa, that had hundreds of options, a feature I came to really dislike as the year went on.

Gardening was on my mind, or at least buying seeds, as was my first trip to Lotusphere in Orlando. In 2010 I started putting a lot more photos in the blog, which reminds me that I haven’t done that in a while.

The blog entries that attracted the most attention had to do with Linux as a gaming platform, and they continue to get a lot of hits:

February was a mixed bag of topics, as are most months. I write according to my interests at the time. Most of my ideas for entries come to me when I am doing some else, like painting a wall or driving in the car.

The Open Document Format, ODF, has a recurring part here and I’ve been writing about it for at least 4 years. In the piece called “What would ODF support for WordPress look like?” I wondered what it would be like if my favorite blogging platform added support for import and export of the only true office productivity open format standard that’s out there.

I was still tinkering with virtual worlds in February, with entries about Twinity, opensim, and SecondLife. I’ve now ceased almost all personal activity in that space outside of World of Warcraft. The requirements for success I outlined in 2007 have still not been implemented, though technologies like Kinect may improve the situation. The most successful entry on this theme during the month was “Virtual Life with Linux: Standalone OpenSim on Ubuntu 9.10″. That’s technology worth checking in on from time to time to see how much progress has been made.

There is still no word “heighth.”

Though I did not blog about it, my son and I went to Florida in February to escape winter in upstate New York. It must have been the coldest February of the decade in Florida. Next time, farther south.

Many of the blog entries I write originate in misunderstandings or misstatements I hear in my travels. So it was with “Thinking about open source: There are three types of software …”.

Though spring officially begins in March in the northern hemisphere, it can take longer to get here in upstate New York. The availability of bunnies and chicks at the local farm supply store helped me feel that winter was coming to an end, though a walk on the Erie Canal reminded me that it was not over yet.

I spoke at OSBC in San Francisco during March and discussed “the hard questions about open source software,” a topic I was to return to over and over (and over and over) during the remainder of the year. It was a great source for many discussion ideas and I’m toying with the idea of doing a much bigger work on the theme.

Finally, to end the first quarter of 2010 I bemoaned the still oddly primitive state of affairs for presentations and the software that creates them:

Next up: spring arrives, and I have the photos to prove it, and I get an iPad and start wondering about how to properly do math software on tablets.

Open source news slowing down?

I just did a tweet saying that I thought the number of news stories about open source seems to have slowed down quite a bit in the last month or so, outside of the major projects and companies. Indeed, the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 was big news.

Perhaps I’m thinking that because I myself haven’t blogged much lately. The main reason for that is that I’ve been exceptionally swamped with work and, in particular, have been doing a lot of writing. (If you haven’t tried it, the no-charge Lotus Symphony word processor is quite nice, by the way.)

So let’s consider why the news might be slowing down:

  • The Apache Software Foundation vs. Oracle events are dominating the news cycles (as Tony Baer tweeted back to me, and I agree with him).
  • Students are busy with final exams (per Brian Proffitt on Twitter).
  • End of the year exhaustion (I’m certainly feeling some of that), coupled with that strange period between Thanksgiving and Christmas in the US.
  • There are so many open source projects that it is harder for them to get much traction in the media.
  • Many of the big projects have done minor releases lately (I installed WordPress 3.0.3, but it is not big news).
  • Open source is become a common part of mainstream software discussions, and so doesn’t stand out as much as it used to do.
  • WikiLeaks.
  • People associated with commercial open source ventures have their heads down trying to close end-of-year deals.

Note I’m not basing my slowdown theory on any sort of formal measurements, just a feeling based on what I’ve been seeing on Twitter and in the news.

So it is December and things always pick up again in January. I love January announcements around products and industry efforts, especially if they surprise people. They are especially fun if people spend a lot at the end of one year doing detailed planning for the next, only to have an unexpected industry announcement cause them to rethink everything.

This is not to say I like having that happen to me, but it adds excitement to the IT industry, and that includes open source.

Daily links for 09/26/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

My changing supply chain for getting information

It’s important to stay flexible and experiment as new technologies come along that can get you the information you need and want in a timely manner.

When the web was new in the 1990s, I had many browser bookmarks and I could cover most of the important websites. This quickly got out of hand as the number of sites increased exponentially, and so I reduced my bookmarks to a couple dozen important ones and depended on search to find what I wanted.

Alta Vista was my favorite for some time, but it eventually got replaced by Google. I dabbled with a few others and will still sometimes look at the secondary search engines to see what they list and in what priority. Using Google, I could pull the information I wanted down to me if I knew the right keywords. For what it’s worth as a confession, I hardly ever look at the ads and in fact I use AdBlocker Plus in Firefox to skip most of them.

When feeds, via RSS and then later Atom, became available, I started using feedreaders. I wasn’t interested in ones that were desktop applications because I used many different machines. Thus I gravitated toward web-based readers and, in particular, used Bloglines. I could subscribe to many sites and Bloglines would aggregate the feeds for me, saving me the trouble of bouncing from site to site.

I read this morning that Bloglines in shutting down on October 1. This doesn’t affect me because I switched to Google Reader long ago. I still use Google Reader but the problem is that with 50+ feed sources, the number of entries to read can easily exceed 1000 if I let it go a few days. Indeed, I probably only glance at Google Reader once a week and I’m actively thinking that I am dedicating time to the task while I am doing. That is, using Google Reader is well defined task that consumes my personal intellectual resources in block of time.

Another issue is that I tend to read the news from sites that come earlier alphabetically. So ars technica gets read in Google Reader often, ZDNet not so much. Still, I keep Google Reader alive and reasonably up-to-date subscription-wise. However, if it went away, I would not be bereft.

Most of my knowledge about what gets published on the web now gets pushed to me. I have half a dozen or so Google Alerts that I get daily and I can scan the results in a few seconds. If I find I’m ignoring an alert, I refine or delete it. No mercy!

Other key sources are Twitter and Facebook. I think of Twitter as something that sits in my peripheral vision, almost like a stock ticker. I might miss some information when it first appears, but if it is important it will be retweeted and I have a greater chance of seeing it later. Thus I follow not just the primary web and news sites but also people who are likely to retweet information that I care about. Thus I don’t think of the people I follow as a list but more of a structured graph related to things I care to know about.

Facebook is similar but the news if usually much more at a personal level. Indeed, I would prefer not to see Facebook entries that are fed from Twitter as I consider it redundant. When I first started using Twitter and Facebook, there was an impedance mismatch since the volume of my tweets was much higher than what should appear in Facebook.

My wife got annoyed and some of her friends remarked at the large number of Facebook updates from me, most of which were also on Twitter. I broke that connection and now actively think about what I want to say on Twitter and what I want to say on Facebook. Sometimes I put the same information in both, but that’s rare.

I use reddit from time to time to see interesting content, but I usually look at areas by category such as “sailing” and “gardening.” It is currently one of the best sources for driving readers to my blog.

By the way, I learned about the shutdown of Bloglines on Twitter and I followed a link to a blog entry. I probably have that blog entry somewhere in Google Reader, but I’ll probably do a mass “mark as read” to clear the queue before I ever see it there.

Daily links for 04/27/2010

  • “But what might be more impressive than that is the continued growth of the company’s now 10-year-old title Bejeweled, an iteration of which is available as an application within Facebook. According to the company, the 11 million or so monthly active users average a staggering 43 minutes per session. All this for a game that only lasts a minute.
    PopCap CEO David Roberts and co-founder John Vechey stopped by the CNET offices last week to talk about these two titles, as well as a few other topics, like digital-rights management, 3D gaming, and competing social games like Zynga’s Farmville. Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.”

    tags: popcap, ipad

  • “So whether you want to cut the dead wood, give your Twitter account a spruce up for the spring, filter out unwanted noise, or just get a little bit more organized, read on for a quick guide, complete with free online resources to help.”

    tags: twitter, tools

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 04/22/2010

  • “As part of our ongoing effort to develop an open platform for WhiteHouse.gov, we’re releasing some of the custom code we’ve developed. This code is available for anyone to review, use, or modify. We’re excited to see how developers across the world put our work to good use in their own applications.”

    tags: whitehouse, open-source

  • “This tutorial will show you how to consume and process data from Twitter‘s new streaming API. The code examples, which are written in the Python programming language, demonstrate how to establish a long-lived HTTP connection with PyCurl, buffer the incoming data, and process it to perform the basic message display functions of a Twitter client application. We will also take a close look at how the new streaming API differs from the existing polling-based REST API.”

    tags: twitter, python, API, streaming

  • “Oracle has imposed a fee of US$90 per user on a plug-in for Microsoft Office that was available at no cost under Sun Microsystems’ ownership.
    The tool allows Word, Excel and PowerPoint users to read, edit and save documents in the ODF (Open Document Format), which is used by the competing OpenOffice productivity suite.”

    tags: oracle, odf

  • “We should want companies to invest in ODF tools.  We should want the demand for ODF to be such that ODF-based goods and services have value, can be sold based on that value, and that there is competition again in the market, something we have not seen in this area in many years.”

    tags: odf, oracle

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 04/16/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

On highly customizing that open source code

Several weeks ago at OSBC I posed a serious of “hard questions” about open source software. They weren’t meant to demean it, of course, but were really to say that software for the enterprise needs to be held to very high standards, whether it open source or traditional.

One of the sections was this:

Who will maintain your installation of the software?

  • If you are planning for your IT staff to install and maintain your software, make sure it doesn’t get orphaned when you have personnel turnover.
  • When software updates come along, you will need a plan to decide which ones to install and when, especially if major releases come along every six months or so.
  • If you customize open source code for your organization, are you prepared to propagate those changes into newer versions of the code?

Today I saw the story “You may want to avoid hacking your open-source CMS” which discussed The Onion’s experience hacking an old version of Drupal. To give you an idea, version 7 of Drupal is about to come out and the latest official version is 6.16. The Onion highly customized version 4.7. That alone should make you nervous since clearly the software has moved far beyond the point where it was forked.

The original article referenced discussed how The Onion moved from Drupal, a PHP application platform, to Django, a Python framework.

The problems with highly hacking code is that it is very hard to maintain it for functional and security fixes, you don’t easily get improvements to the code base, and you may be doing similar work to what is happening in the community, and maybe not as well.

This reminds me of a blog entry I did in December called “Open source software: modify, extend, or leave it alone?”. There I concluded:

There can be innovation in the core application, but that same application can become a platform for innovation if it has a good extension mechanism. Choose good applications that can be improved or configured outside the core software, and you’ll save a lot of trouble and gain some real advantages. This is true for open or closed source software.

Postscript: As Jonathan Bennett pointed out to me on Twitter, I failed to mention a very important aspect when you do make changes to open source code: offer your modifications back to the community and your code may make it into the main trunk of the project. That is, since you are doing some coding, become a contributor as well. This may not always be possible, but consider it.

Hard questions about open source software

Several days ago I posted the slides I used at the Open Source Business Conference in PDF form and also provided the SlideShare version. For those who want to see the contents of the slides directly, I’ve included most of it below.

What I do not have here is one slide that I used to say that I was going to focus on the technical, community, and business aspects of open source and that I would try to stay away from ideological or philosophical issues. I knew some people would not be happy about that and, to read some of the Twitter tweets during my talk, that was indeed the case. So be it.

The second preliminary slide not included here was a partial history of some of IBM‘s involvement in open source projects within Linux, Eclipse, Apache, and other projects.


Is software good software, just because it is open source?

  • It depends of your definition of “good,” but by most definitions, the answer is “no.”
  • As of three days ago, a popular code repository listed 164,297 open source projects.
  • Statistically, you might imagine that some are better than others.
  • Your definition of “good” is critical.

Is the code well architected and implemented?

  • Great code may start with the germ of a fantastic idea, but it eventually gets rewritten one or more times to be faster, more reliable, more secure, and more extendable.
  • If you are not an expert yourself, seek independent assessments of the quality of the code.
  • The quality of the documentation and user interface are important considerations in their own rights, but may also give you an idea of how well designed the core of the software is.

Who are the founders, contributors, and users?

  • People write code and drive software projects and products.
  • Unreliable people may place the future of the software in jeopardy, and thus also your investment.
  • Work out “what if” scenarios for what you will do if the code gets abandoned, forked, or acquired.
  • Learn what other users have done with the code and about the quality of their experiences with the software and those who created it.

What is the form and governance of the community?

  • Find out if the open source code you are considering is being developed by a healthy, democratic, and meritocratic community or if it is really just a controlling company “coding in public.”
  • Learn if the community also includes documenters, graphic designers, and evangelists in addition to coders.
  • Look at the project forums, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking tools to get a sense of the health of the community.
  • Don’t ignore warning signs of trouble in the community and things that may make you uneasy about it.

Are there intellectual property issues involving copyrights or code provenance?

  • Ignoring legal issues with software can be one of your most expensive mistakes and can literally put you out of business.
  • Learn about open source licenses and consider hiring an intellectual property attorney as a consultant when you are considering use of software or negotiating a contract.
  • Don’t mix open source licenses unless it is legal.
  • Make sure the developers of the software you want to adopt played by the legal rules.
  • Don’t pretend to be an attorney if you are not.

Does the license suit all your future plans for the code?

  • Some open source licenses can be combined and others cannot.
  • Some open source licenses allow for free use in commercial, “closed source” applications and others do not.
  • Some open source licenses specify some restrictions when you host software-as-a-service.
  • Be especially careful if you want to use open source code libraries.
  • Understand if the software you plan to use can be hosted on either a private or public cloud.

Do you have proper legal controls and business processes in place to deal with open source software?

  • That is, what is your open source governance strategy?
  • Five years ago, it was not uncommon for that strategy to be defined as “you shall use no open source software.”
  • You need to understand the legal risks and responsibilities for any software you use, and weigh those against the business value.
  • Work out a plan that specifies what business and legal controls are in place to approve use of open source in your organization or in your products, and make sure you have a well defined escalation path.

Is the software enterprise-ready?

  • There’s been a lot of discussion about whether open source software is more secure than proprietary software.
  • Which open source software and which proprietary software?
  • In addition to security, you need to look at reliability, availability, scalability, interoperability, and performance.
  • Make sure the software is available on the right hardware platform so you can optimize the environment for your workload.

Who will maintain your installation of the software?

  • If you are planning for your IT staff to install and maintain your software, make sure it doesn’t get orphaned when you have personnel turnover.
  • When software updates come along, you will need a plan to decide which ones to install and when, especially if major releases come along every six months or so.
  • If you customize open source code for your organization, are you prepared to propagate those changes into newer versions of the code?

How easy is it to integrate the software with your data or other software you already use?

  • Does your software use recognized industry standards or does it have its own way of formatting data?
  • Are the developers of the software involved in creating the standards that will allow interoperability?
  • If you adopt the software, who will do the integration tasks?
  • Is the software certified for use on the operating system and hardware platform you plan to use?

Are benchmarks available to allow performance evaluations of the software with comparable products/projects?

  • While benchmarks can be abused, they can be important in learning if particular software is really usable in your business.
  • You might worry less about published benchmarks and more about proofs of technology and head-to-head comparisons among the software choices you are considering.
  • Consider your software provider’s response to such requests for “bake offs” when making your adoption decision.

Conclusion

  • First and foremost, open source software is software.
  • When it comes to business and especially enterprise use, open source software should get no immediate free pass because it happens to be open source.
  • Conversely, proprietary software should also be measured on a level playing field with open source, and get no special initial treatment.
  • All those things that you worried about when choosing proprietary software—security, performance, reliability, availability, interoperability, support, maintenance—are also areas to investigate when considering open source software.

The Whole Series

Daily links for 03/02/2010

trout

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 02/18/2010

  • “In general, we know that Sun’s software product catalog will be cut back and that many Sun staffers will soon be laid off. Historically, when Oracle acquires a company, deep cuts are the rule. For example, Oracle fired about 5,000 workers after acquiring PeopleSoft. This time around, Oracle is saying that there will be only about a thousand layoffs. In particular, although no one is going on record, it’s feared that Sun’s open-source groups will take the brunt of these cuts.”

    tags: open-source, sun, oracle

  • “At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Research In Motion announced an overhaul of its Blackberry phone web browser. Like the iPhone and Android systems, the new browser is WebKit based and is expected to be available on Blackberry devices later this year. in interviews Mike Lazardis, co-CEO of RIM said “You’ll see how quickly it downloads, how quickly it renders and how smooth it scrolls and zooms in”.”

    tags: open-source, rim, blackberry

  • “In recent months, there seems to be a mad rush of companies trying to one-up each other with how open-source they are. Twitter is the latest, as they have launched a directory of all the open source projects they’re currently working on and/or contributing to.The list is fairly impressive. It includes open source projects in Ruby, Scala, Java, C/C++, and other various tools.”

    tags: twitter, open-source

  • “Over time, we’re certainly likely to see some consolidation in the smartphone OS market, because there probably isn’t room for 8 or 10 different systems. But for now, the competition is forcing the vendors into a game of leap-frog, adding new features and trying to figure out what will really make users happy. Not all the phone makers or software makers can win in that scenario, but as consumers, we all will benefit from the frenzied activity.”

    tags: mobile

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.