Dander4Dosh – Break(ing) in the foot

Ok, so people who know me might know that I broke my foot last November. I was training for a 15k race (running) and missed a curb…. Stupid, stupid, stupid….

http://photos-f.ak.instagram.com/hphotos-ak-ash/1389568_1385292018377909_1263321968_n.jpgSeven weeks of a cast, a wheelchair and crutches on I was more then ready to restart my live and decided that I had to get back in the swing of exercising. As running still felt a bit daunting so soon after the break and as I had already kind of committed myself to walk the Dander4Dosh I figured it would be the perfect way to force myself into a regular exercise pattern again. And so it did. For the last 5,5 months I have been walking daily. Doing a morning round before work and an evening round after dinner. I even went up to Northern Ireland for a weekend last March to get some elevation training in (The Netherlands is not exactly big on hills you know…).

Dander4 Dosh… So what is it? Well, figure a team of nerds from all over the globe (Ireland, UK, Netherlands, Portugal and USA) who’ve met each other at conferences or through the social media channels. Not particularly well trained (or at least not all), not at all the typical ‘athlete’ type but with a big dose of humor, a spiderman onsie or two (no not me!), enough connected and GPS enabled devices to get us to the nearest pub and a target to get: Walk 5 days to raise as much money for Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) as  we can!

This isn’t the first Dander4Dosh although it is going to be my first. The team consists of 7 walkers and two lovely volunteers who will most likely have to rescue us and transport us to the nearest pub at the end of the day. ‘Rescue us’ as we unfortunately lost our designated map reader: Eileen, who can’t attend due to work related obligations. The route will take us along the coast line of Wales through picturesque places who’s names I will probably never be able to remember or pronounce correctly and it will be long… very long.

In the run up to this walk there has been some confusion about the total distance we will be walking in 5 days. Somehow someone said it was 85 miles, some thought 92 miles and others said 100 miles. I’m the ostrich type of person so I opted to convince myself it would be the already daunting 85 miles…. Yes you guessed it, it turns out to be the 100 miles (160km). How are we going to do that?!? Well probably with a lot of blisters, aching muscles and some cursing.

But…!

steve
Steve has pledged that the more money is donated the bigger the chance of seeing him wear this on route…. Not sure if I like that but it’s all for a good cause!

You can help! As mentioned above we will be raising money for MSF and to do that we set up a donations page. Every cent donated there is another incentive (and stick behind the door!) for us to walk. So help us out and donate on our Just Giving page. The money will be going directly to MSF and will be well used by this fantastic organisation. In return I promise we will be posting lot’s of updates on twitter (follow #Dander4Dosh) and Facebook and Steve will hopefully use his amazing (and slightly deranged!) writing skills to write a day by day review of it all on the blog afterwards. Reading last years blog about D4D2013 was what got me into it this year and is well worth it if you are interested in the antics of a group of otherwise quite normal IT folks in the wilderness of Scotland.

Plus you have my promise that as I will be armed with a smartphone, ipad and a MiFi -which I hope will have coverage in rural Wales-, there will be lots of ‘Spiderman & consorts meet Wales’ updates!

ps. As we speak a second group of nerds is doing a related fund raising tour driving up to the northern most point of Norway on bikes. Check out the journey of the Dash4Dosh boys here!

IBM Connections Folders #4: Some final recommendations

This blog is follow up in a series of blogs on Folders in IBM Connections. For full understanding I would recommend reviewing the previous blogs: #1: Community Folders, #2: Ownership of files and folders and #3 working with folders first.

 

So in the previous three post I explained a bit about the ins and outs of IBM Connections folders, the different flavours you have and how they work and differ from each other. But the question now is how do you use them…?

I’m not going to tell you.

The truth is that each organization is different and each situation is different. IBM Connections is a social business platform that offers you tools that can help you stimulate collaborative work and knowledge sharing and there really is no ‘right way’ or ‘wrong way’ as long as you can achieve that. Having all three different types of folders (Shared Folders, CCM Folders and Community Folders) means you just got more options to find YOUR way. But to do so it is important to understand how each of them function, what their strongholds are as well as possible weaknesses. In the previous 3 blogs I’ve tried to give you an overview of those strengths and weaknesses.

Control?

Having so many options that work so differently at times can be quite confusing. Can you prevent users from using a certain type of folders?

Well in a way yes, by simply deactivating the whole feature. Shared Folders is part of the personal files, as far as I know you can’t easily deactivate those without deactivating personal Files too but I’m no admin so check with your admin before dismissing that. CCM Folders require CCM Licensing and an additional installation. You can definitely choose not to buy it / install it. Then again, that would mean you lose some great features that CCM could offer to your organization so make sure you fully evaluate before deciding! Community folders, which is part of the default offering as of IBM Connections 4.5 CR4, has only recently been released and it requires a specific act from your administrator to activate so again, that is something that you can choose to do, or not.

But….! Don’t just dismiss these options. Make sure you test them and discuss them with your users. They might in fact solve problems you weren’t even aware of. In that sense, having so many different options also means you have a rich variety of possible use cases. Just make sure you are aware of how each works.

Recommendations

So what would I recommend?

Well, again, it’s all up to your situation, organization and needs. But there a few things I would definitely recommend:

  1. Do not implement CCM just so your users have nested folders…. Yes, I know having this option is a great selling point for CCM but it will always fall short in replicating the functioning of their file shares, even with subfolders. If that was the only reason to implement it, users will only get disappointed. Instead, highlight the other benefits of social file sharing and look at the other features CCM offers like approval cycles, document types and the option of having users control the security access levels to it. Use that to show users why CCM could be a great thing to use.
  2. Inform users of the Ownership differences between Community Files/Folders and Personal Files/Folders. Try to come up with a strategy with them, on when to use what. There are clear cases where personal files are preferred but in other situations community files can be a better way to go. If for no other reason than to at least make sure they are, by default, editable to all community members or ensure a better security within a community.
  3. Do not use Shared folders in Restricted communities. See this blog for an explanation why.
  4. Train your key users so they know how IBM Connections Files & Folders work and provide cheat sheets so they can understand and explain to other users why certain things work the way they work.
  5. Try & experiment. As stated before, IBM Connections is a platform offering more than one way to go. That is its strength but sometimes is also seen as its weakness as it can be confusing to users. Find out what works for your organization and base your content strategy on that.
  6. Lastly, but probably most importantly…. If you haven’t done so yet, explain to users what the key thoughts behind IBM Connections is and try to get them to realize that when it comes to Sharing information in a social platform, the premise about who should have access to a file or folder shouldn’t be “I, unless…” but “Everyone, unless…”!

 

So have I covered everything there is to know about IBM Connections folders? No! There are whole areas I haven’t even touched upon. So I will most likely be publishing more blogs on this topic in the future. In the meantime, let me know if you thought this series was helpful or if you have any questions by posting in the comments.

IBM Connections Folders #3: working with folders

This blog is follow up in a series of blogs on Folders in IBM Connections. For full understanding I would recommend reviewing the previous blogs: #1: Community Folders and #2: Ownership of files and folders first.
 

When I was starting this series of blogs on the different options of sharing files & folders within IBM Connections it was mostly influenced by my own interest in how it all worked. As a Business Consultant specializing in both Document Management as well as Social Business anything having to do with structuring file management interests me. So after our test environment was upgraded to IBM Connections 4.5 CR4 I set out to test how the new Community Folders option fitted in with the two existing Folder options in IBM Connections: Shared Folders and CCM Folders.

Truth is that I find certain things kind of confusing...

A big part of this is that IBM Connections is a Social Platform, concentrated on offering users ways of sharing large quantities of information that is mostly unstructured. This, in contrast to ERP and document management systems that deal mostly in structured information. But the lines between structured and unstructured information is not as clear cut as most people would like it to be. Certain documents could fall in both categories depending on the user or situation and because of this you see that more and more solutions are trying to straddle the fence between structured & unstructured information management. With overlaps in functionality and requirements and often confusion as a result. It’s a common problem for most systems trying to manage diverse flows of information.

The place where this is most visible within IBM Connections is the way it handles Files & Folders.

Tagging

‘Social die-hards’ will tell you that in situations where unstructured information is stored and a need for organizing or categorizing arises, folders fall short. They advocate “tagging”, another feature IBM Connections has.

I agree! Tagging, a more fluid and user driven way of categorizing and linking files, can greatly help in making unstructured information more findable. Tagging, by being flat instead of hierarchically structured, allows a file to have numerous tags by numerous people. Often even giving weight to the number of people who tag something and how often it is tagged with the same tag. A file can have dozens of tags but in general can only be in one folder so when a file is not as unilaterally recognizable as belonging to one category folders often fall short as you have to choose, whereas tagging will simply allow you to have multiple completely unrelated tags.

The problem is though that users like folders. It gives them a sense of structure, and frankly…, they are used to it. Plus they sometimes offer additional options like limiting what users can do (CCM folders for instance that allow for approval cycles on documents added to their folders) and offering options to link folders to communities.

So IBM implemented folders. At first only as in Shared folders. And as it figured restricting files to only one folder wasn’t ‘social’ they gave files the option of being shared with more than one shared folder. That was actually quite inventive but users wanted more. They wanted nested folders. So then, with the advent of CCM, users got CCM Folders with security options and the much asked for option to nest folders (subfolders). That was a major change that a lot of users liked as it was something they were used to while using file shares. Unfortunately CCM did require additional licenses which, for a lot of organizations, proofed to be a big deterrent in implementing it. And lastly, with CR4, we now have Community folders.

Great! So enough choice for our users! What is the problem?

Confusion. That is the problem. When offering users features and functionalities you hope to offer them solutions that help them do their work. To do that they need to be aware of how it works and it needs to be logical. How can folders not be logical? You ask. Well, because folders in IBM Connections, as stated before, do not work the same as folders in for instance Windows. Regardless of what we think is logical in a social system, the users will always compare it to what they know, which in the case of ‘folders’ is windows. In a way, the first thing you need to teach your user therefore is that an IBM Connections folder is not a Windows Folder and once you’ve done that, you need to teach them that within IBM Connections a Folder is not a Folder either as CCM folders work differently from Community Folders and completely different from Shared Folders

Take for instance the fact that you can place (share) a file in more than one Shared Folder but only in one CCM or Community folder and there is your first confusion….

Functionality

Even I, after several days of testing all the ins and outs of the Folders functionality in IBM Connections find myself wondering how certain things work so what I did was to create a simple list of some key features and actions and how each of the folder types responded to it. Keep in mind that as Community Folders is still quite new, certain things might still be in the pipeline (like mobile support) and that overall, IBM is constantly updating and improving IBM Connections. Things might change over time. Another factor to keep in mind is that this is list is far from complete. There are so many more features I didn’t even touch on yet but I still wanted to at least share what I have. I might blog more on some other features in the future:

 

Adding files to folders:

An important thing to know when working with folders is how you get your files into the folders. Can you for instance select multiple files at once by having a file picker option or do you need to go into each file independently to add it to a folder?…

Getting files into the folder:

Shared Folder CCM Folder Community Folder
Does the folder have an option to upload files directly from the the pc? Yes, multiple at the same time Yes, multiple at the same time Yes, multiple at the same time
Does the folder have an option to add files to the folder that were uploaded into the community files first? No No Yes, multiple at the same time
Does the folder have an option to add files that were uploaded into your personal files first? Yes No No
Does the folder have an option to add files that were uploaded into a CCM Library (both the one in which the folder is located as well as others located in the same Community) first? No Not easily. You can’t select files within the same library to add to a folder in the “Add Files” interface but you can go into individual files and use the “Move to folder” option to get them there. But only for files in the same library. Yes, as long as that CCM Library is in the same community
Does the folder allow nested folders? (e.g. subfolders) No Yes No

-
Folder_13

Adding files is one thing, moving them around between folders another!

Shared Folder CCM Folder Community Folder
Can files uploaded as personal files be moved between folders? Yes No No
Can community files be moved between folders? No No Yes
Can CCM files be moved between folders? No Yes, but only within the library they are in. If a community has more then one CCM library (this is very well possible) then files cannot be moved between libraries No

 

Where do my Folders show up?

A big thing in working with any feature is that it’s behaviour is recognisable to the users. So I set out to test how folders and files in them are depicted to the users. Would they for instance be shown on the homepage of a community and how do you know in which folder a document is located?

Shared Folder CCM Folder Community Folder
Are the folders visible on the Homepage of the community? Yes, through a special “Folders” tab in the Files section No, you do see the most recently added files that are in it though in an overall list of files without indication in which folder they are stored Yes, through a special “Folders” tab in the Files section
Can you see files recently added to folders on the community Homepage? No, only in the Shared Folder itself. To see the files the user will have to open the Shared Folder On the Community Homepage all recent CCM files will be shown in the Files section including any added to a CCM folder. There are no folders visible on the Homepage so from the homepage it is impossible to see whether that file is in the Library or within a folder within the library. On the Community Homepage all recent files will be shown in the Files section including any added to a community folder.
Can you see on the details page of the file itself in which folder it is placed? Yes, on the Sharing tab you can see with which folders a file is shared No No
Are the folders available in the mobile app? (iOS tested) Yes Yes ? (I couldn’t test this with my setup)
Is the folder (and files within it) visible in the IBM Connections plugin for Windows Explorer? Yes Not yet, but it is accessible through the Quickr Dektop enabler plugin and inclusion into the standard Windows IBM Connections plugin is said to be planned for a later release this year No

 

Additional features:

Apart from the default options IBM Connections has some additional features you would normally not find in for instance a File system folder. These can help the user keep track of things changing and help them download document sets and are therefore great features!

Shared Folder CCM Folder Community Folder
Does the folder allow for subscribing to updates on the folder? (updates show up in the activity stream) No No Yes
Does the folder offer an RSS feed? Yes Yes Yes
Does the folder allow for bulk download of folder contents (e.g. all files in one ZIP file?) Yes No Yes

-

Folder_12

—————————————–

It all works and all does what it needs to do but it doesn’t always work together or work together well. Moving files around, how you can share information in folders, where you see your information and what options you get… Each of these folder structures seems to have its own logic and implementation. That is what I find confusing and I’m sure a lot of users will find confusing too.

Don’t get me wrong, I can understand why certain things work differently and I can also understand that certain things are simply still under development (like the fact I can’t view community folders in my Windows Explorer plug-in) but the problem is most users might not understand if you don’t tell them. So there is a definite need, when implementing these features to explain them to your users. Better yet, come up with a content strategy.

In my next blog, the last of this series, I will talk a bit about the things you have to consider while deciding on how to use folders in IBM Connections.

IBM Connections Folders #2: Ownership of files and folders

This blog is follow up in a series of blogs on Folders in IBM Connections. For full understanding I would recommend reviewing #1: Community Folders first

Ownership is quite important in IBM Connection when it comes to data. Why? Well because ownership isn’t always straight forward and sometimes data shouldn’t be public.

Obvious! Why would you even need to say that?

Well… The premises of any social platform like IBM Connections is to share. That means that in theory the thinking is that every file you put into your social platform should be ‘public’ (e.g. findable and accessible to all). Reality of course is that this is not always the case. Even in a very ‘open’ organization certain files will still require protection and limited access. This is one of the reasons why users in IBM Connections can specify “Sharing” settings on files they upload as well as folders and communities they create, restricting access to only specific groups or users. The basic idea is though, and this is something you feel very clearly when working with IBM Connections, that everything is open, unless.

Storage

How you can limit access is partly determined by where the files are stored. Looking specifically at files you can say that IBM Connections allows for two* main storage points:

  1. By uploading it into a users personal Files section
  2. By uploading it into a community

In the first case, uploading a file into personal files, the file will always remain in the ownership of the user. The standard security level setting for personal files is ‘Private’, meaning no one can access apart from the owner. The owner can however decide to make a file ‘Public’ (accessible to all)  or grant specific Editor or Reader access to specific users, groups or communities. Ownership and full control will always remain with the original user though.

A file stored directly into the community however is different. Ownership of these files lies not with the user that uploaded it into the community but with the community. All users of that community from then on have equal rights to that document. This means that if the user uploads a file into a restricted community and is subsequently removed as a member of that community, the file remains in the community and is no longer accessible to the user that originally uploaded it.

A similar structure applies to folders. Folders created in a users personal files section will always remain in the ownership of that user. Folders created as Community folders and/or CCM folders however will always be property of the community, not the creating user. This also implies the biggest restriction which is that a folder created within a community or CCM Library can never be shared across communities while Folders created as personal folders can be shared with more then one community, group or user.

CCM folders have one added element to keep in mind which is that they allow for imposing additional access restrictions on folders by limiting edit access to specific subgroups of community users. You can for instance use this to restrict that only a few of the community users are allowed to edit the information in a CCM folder. Read access however will always be there to all community members though and the user creating the folder as well as the community owners cannot be revoked as owner of that folder unless they are removed from the community.

Shared folders versus Tags?

Which brings me to another peculiarity of shared folders…. A folder in the traditional sense as people know them from for instance their file drive is a place, a physical location to store a file. Meaning a file can only reside in one folder at the time. Shared folders however are different as a file can be added to more then one Shared folder. So in a way shared folders aren’t really ‘folders’ at all, they are collection sets and almost act the same as tags. After all a tag is nothing else then a categorization and several files having the same tag can be seen as a collection as well. The difference between a shared folder and a tag in IBM Connections is though, that you can control access and Share a shared folder and you can’t do that with a tag.

Folder_11So keep in mind that a Shared folder is significantly different from a community or CCM folder as those are more aligned to the standard concept of folders while Shared Folders in a way hold the middle between a Tag and a folder.

Shared folders & security

So… why would you create folders within communities if personal (Shared) folders give you more options to share across communities & user groups and allow you to have information in them that is also shared in other folders? Well because there are some risks with having shared folders. For one, users don’t always realize the implications of putting a file in a folder shared by someone else.

No problem if the community (and therefore the data in it) is public anyway but what if you have a Restricted community that has a shared folder which is also shared with another Community? A user might think that because he is adding a file to a folder within the Restricted community that therefore the file itself is also only shared within that community. Unknowingly though he might be sharing that file with other users & communities. Only if he actively opens the sharing tab will he see that it is also shared with other communities and therefore visible to not only the users of the (restricted) community he thought he was adding it to, but any other communities/users that folder was shared with as well.

Example of a folder with the ‘Sharing’ tab opened to show this folder was shared with two communities

In theory the user who originally created the folder and shared it with the community could even be removed from that community while his shared folder would remain shared and visible within the community. Which means that any files added to that folder by any other community member after the user was removed from the community would effectively still be accessible to the user (creator of the folder). Using Shared folders in Restricted communities is therefore something I would strongly discourage to prevent confusion. In these situations Community folders and/or CCM folders should definitely be the first line of choice. Shared folders should only be used to share public info where it is no problem that it is visible across several public communities

———————————————-

Next up I will go into how you can work with the different types of folders and what differences and similarities are between them. I hope to publish this tomorrow.

 * Files can also be uploaded in other places like Activities and blogs but from a standpoint of file management I am leaving these out for now

 

IBM Connections Folders #1: Community Folders

Last week CR4 for IBM Connections 4.5 came out. An intermediate update that had a few new options for file management in IBM Connections. One of which was the ability to add Communities folders. Until now the standard option to get a folder in a community Files section was to create one in your personal files and share that with the community. Control and ownership would however remain with the user, not the community. This has now been extended with the option to create a folder specifically in a Community itself. It does however pose some questions as now there are two (or three – depending on if your organization has implemented CCM) types of folders a user can use within a community. And all have their own specific features and quirks so time to do a little comparison!

Ok, first of all… Folders in a social environment like IBM Connections don’t necessarily work the same as folders we are used to in for instance a file system. I’m not comparing them to that and I think neither should you. However…. as they are called folders and look like folders and in many ways act like those folders in an ordinary file system, users will think they are…  So it is important to understand what these folders in IBM Connections do exactly and how they function and to explain that to the user. It could make a big difference in keeping vital information safe and secure.

Folders in Communities

What type of folders do we have in IBM Connections Communities?

1). Shared Folders: In the personal files section of IBM Connections users have always had the option to create (Shared) folders. These can be used to organize files and can also be shared with either everyone (public) or with selective people/communities. If shared with a community the folder will show up in the folders tab of the Files section for that community. Files placed in the folder are visible to all users in the community as well as any other user or community that folder was shared with. Depending on the access given to the community by the original folder owner community members can also edit and even delete files in that folder.

2). CCM is a add-on feature that can be installed with IBM Connections to allow for (limited) document management features within Communities – including folders. The big difference to Shared & Community folders is that folders within CCM allow for nesting (subfolders, e.g. folders within folders) and for selectively limiting access to files for community members within folders and even the sub folder levels. In contrast: Community & Shared folders only have one access level which applies to the whole community they are shared with. Meaning that all community members are either reader, contributor or owner whereas a CCM Folder allows you to specify that for instance only a subset of community members can edit files in that folder and all others can only read. There is one restriction: Community members can never be denied access to a CCM folder. They will always have at least Reader access.

3). Community folders is the new kid on the block. This feature came out with version 4.5 CR4 and allows users to create folders directly in the Community Files. Why is this important? Well because ownership of that folder now solely lies with the community. A community folder can never be shared outside the community and someone who leaves the community (if it is a restricted community) will no longer have access to the folder or community files in it. Community folders also allow you to selectively “Follow” a folder. A great option if you want to be informed of updates to a specific folder but not to other community events.

Example of a folders section in the community files showing both a community as well as shared folder:
 shared and community folders
Example of a CCM folder containing both several files as well as a subfolder:
CCM folder

———————————————-

So… Now we know what we have it is time to look at some important things to keep in mind while using folders. In the next few days I will go into this in a few follow up blogs. First up is how Ownership is arranged in the different types of folders, so keep tuned