Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy New Year. Here's What's Coming in 2006

2006 promises to be a boom year for communications technology. The many inventions of last year are rapidly maturing and evolving. As Bill Gates touted earlier this week, "2006 is going to be a big year for the digital lifestyle."

Some things to keep a close eye on this year include:

RSS - will morph into the most powerful communications change since email and the web browser.

Content management - thanks to blog software it's now possible for just about anyone to quickly and easily create, edit and post content without any technical training or skill.

SharePoint - Microsoft is seeding the market with this application - it looks like a portal but in reality is the most powerful collaboration suite since the invention of Lotus Notes. Did you know most users within a SharePoint 'intranet' can create their own website with just a few clicks of the mouse? Did you know they can upload documents, post content, all without any technical training? Very useful, but potentially chaotic without proper guidelines.

Knowledge Management - a 'dirty' word that meant more concept than reality for the past few years will really come into it's own, thanks to the above 3 items. By making it really simple for people to create content online, and really simple to get notified when content changes via RSS, and the proliferation of "my sites" within companies running SharePoint (which, btw, is a part of Office 12), you will see far more online sharing than ever before.

Organization's need guidelines, or their employee portals will end up being as chaotic and most company's shared drives (e.g., since anyone can create a folder, and there are little guidelines on naming folders, where to put newly created folders, most shared drives have little continuity from department to department, office to office).

The RSS Space is Evolving Before Our Very Eyes

Just when you've figured out which RSS reader you like the most, and set up feeds from the sites and blogs you like to read, comes news from Microsoft, via Outlook program manager Michael Affronti, that they're planning to include RSS reader functionality in the next version of Outlook (Outlook 12).

The practical implications of this for you and me is simple and direct - you'll get your RSS feeds as emails right in your Outlook - and file RSS feeds in folders, just like other emails. Interestingly, Yahoo! has already done this in Yahoo! Mail - that is, you can get RSS feeds right in your Yahoo!Mail inbox - and file them in folders, just like Outlook works.

While this technique is possible today in Outlook by using such third-party products from the NewsGators and Attensas of the world, users won't need them and will go directly with the built-in Microsoft option.

Robert Scoble, blogged about this in late December with a key point - users like to get their RSS feeds in many ways. Some like it in email, some in a web-based news reader, some in their blackberry, etc. And with podcasting on the rise, some like it on their iPods.

What's clear, however, is that being able to synchronize (e.g., only show RSS feeds you haven't read yet - regardless of where you first read it - in outlook, on a website, etc.) is a key feature that might give the current niche players a chance to survive the Microsoft onslaught. Of course, that's what people said about Netscape back when Microsoft first introduced Internet Explorer. Remember Netscape? Not many do.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Holidays - Welcome 2006

We're heading south for some sun, sailing and relaxation (truth be told, my daugher is racing in her first "away game" Opti regatta). As for me, I'm going to be on or in the water, and off-line, for the week. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

RSS - Could it Change the Face of Employee Portals?

RSS - Really Simply Syndication - is taking the web by storm, even more so than blogs, wiki's or podcasting.

And it's quickly changing the fundamentals of how content is delivered by publishers and consumed by end users.

Why? Quite simply, it enables uses to easily subscribe to, and then simultaneously read or track changing content on more sites or blogs than was ever previously possible. Anotherwords, instead of having to check a site or blog to see if there's anything new posted, RSS notifies you when there's new content. If you frequent 1 or 2 sites, this isn't a big deal, but with RSS you can easily subscribe to 10-15 or even 25 sites or blogs and realistically read them all.

Conversely, RSS enables content publishers to distribute their content via infinite channels well beyond the single website or blog in which the content resides. Again, rather than try and get all users to visit your site or blog in order to consume your content, you can get your content infront of many more eyeballs than only those that might visit your site or blog.

So let's take a look at how this is playing out in the real world.

Just about every website or blog in the internet space (e.g., outside the firewall) is publishing their content using RSS these days (RSS feeds are being used far less on intranets, where changes to corporate IT infrastructure is deployed far slower than that on external customer facing sites).

And to subscribe to all these RSS feeds, there are a plethoia of free RSS readers available. My favorites are,, and Google "Free RSS reader" and take your pick.

So let's take a look at how RSS works within the realm of an intranet or employee portal.

Most obvious, departments publish content using RSS. This enables employees to subscribe to content they are interested in, increasing the likelihood that content will be read when it's new or has changed (employee's don't have time, nor tendency to regularly check multiple intranet site any more so than people check external websites to see if there's anything new that interests them).

Conversely, organizations that deploy RSS readers for internal content enable employees to create their own personal news or content update site to keep track of changing information that's relevant or interesting to them. This is the true definition of a "My Site."

Some basic areas where RSS is perfect include employee communications and internal news, HR communications and benefits updates (helpful for annual enrollment information, year end and new year changes), facilities information (very timely in the NY area with the current transit strike affecting business operating hours), management communications, and sales force related content (product updates, customer data, etc.).

Friday, December 16, 2005

Read a podcast - Oxymoron or what?

It's true. No need to just listen to podcasts, you can read them as well.

With all the buzz around podcasting (did you know even the NY Police department podcasts?) comes the next stage in podcasting services - the ability read them.

A number of new start-ups - still in beta - are offering such capability, including:

Podcast Transcriptions - offers a complete solution by using experienced human transcriptionists to do the job. The firm says software or hardware solutions that translate audio to text is nowhere near to perfect, so they do it the 'old fashioned way' - with humans. - They offer podcast transcription searching as well as an affordable, fast, online transcription service.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Here we go...

OK, I've done it. Created a blog. And why not. Everyone's got one. But I kept telling myself, "I don't have time to do this." Then a colleague pointed out that I often send out emails with various tid-bits of information - why not just post this on a blog. And there you have it... Employee Portals 2.0 blog was born.

To kick thing off - here are some items I thought might be of interest.

Can This Man Re-program Microsoft
Last Sunday's NYTimes Business Section:
Very good article about Ray Ozzie,the shift about to hit Bill Gates & Co., how Google is changing the web world

IBM Employees Play with Podcasting
Usage mushrooms after company drafts a liberal podcasting policy similar to the corporate blogging policy

Writely - A free alternative to MS Word
A leading web-based word processor (trying to take on Microsoft Word). Based on AJAX programming language I briefly mentioned at the briefing. Try it - It's rather amazing. And, obviously, free. I expect Google will buy them shortly.
My favorite RSS reader. Free and easy., and
Two very nice 'start pages' - AJAX-based drag and drop of your favorite content sources - from blogs to RSS feeds, weather, sports and news. Netvibes even enables you to display your Google gmail right on the home page. (If you don't have gmail for your home email, it's worth trying. It's free - of course, and better than yahoo or other free email services).

A Little Sleuthing Unmasks Writer of Wikipedia Prank - NYTimes
First serious instance of mis-information being posted intentionally on Wikipedia.

Getting Wiki's Right
SocialText's Ross Mayfield explains the potential of wikis, the collaborative online documents, as new forms of participatory media.

eMail Spills Corporate Secrets
Six percent of workers admitted that they've E-mailed confidential company information to someone they shouldn't have, according to a study released Monday, while 62% said they've used their personal accounts for business purposes to circumvent controls placed on their business accounts.