Category: Opinions & Reflections

Bringing your IBM Connections files to the user – desktop integration

As someone whit a special interest in both document management and social business anything that touches the both of them and improves the user experience of file management is of special interest to me.
Today was a great day for me in that respect as I got to see/try out some really good new features that help user work with their files in IBM Connections.

IBM Desktop & MS Office Connectors

IBM Connections as a platform is often host to many files. Files can be stored in communities, personal files, folders and / or CCM libraries. An important factor with these files is that users need to be able to work with them quickly and directly and therefore IBM offers not just the browser interface but also a desktop connector and MS Office add-in ribbons so users can access and edit their files directly from within their productivity tools.

MSWordRibbon_IBMDesktopConnectorThese connectors and the mobile apps are a great asset to any IBM Connections installation and help intertwine the IBM Connections environment with every level of the users day-to-day work. Unfortunately there were still a few points in which this was lacking though… With the release of version 15.7 of the Connectors that came out last week most of these have now been resolved:

1). It is now possible to store files from MS Office directly to the IBM Connections environment. Either by clicking on the “Files” or “Communities” icons in the IBM Connections ribbons while in the document or by using the “Save as” option under the [File] menu:

MSWordSaveAs_IBMDesktopConnectorUntil now you had to store the file locally first before you could upload it to IBM Connections as the system would not allow you to store a ‘new’ document directly to it. People who work with files a lot will probably recognize this and I for one am really happy with the fact that this is now resolved!

2). The second big improvement is the fact that it is now possible to store files not just to the community files section but to specific libraries & library folders within those communities as well:MSWordSaveAsDialog_IBMDesktopConnector

A seemingly simple thing but something that wasn’t possible in the previous release and  that will make live a lot easier for those of us working with libraries a lot.

3). Which brings us to the last big change with this latest version of the desktop connector: the fact that the system will now – on close of a document stored in the IBM Connections environment – prompt you to publish it to the environment. Before this update the document was stored in a local folder and the user would have to open the tray icon to upload/publish it, with the new version that is all handled directly and intuitively right at the moment of closing the file. Which means users are less likely to forget and which is a lot simpler.

MSWordSavePrompt_IBMDesktopConnector

File Jockey 2.0

Apart from the IBM Connections connectors there is however also another great product that can help you deliver a seamless integration between your IBM Connections environment and the users other applications: File Jockey. As a WebDav tool File Jockey already allows the bulk syncing of IBM Connections data to mobile devices but with version 2.0 that is about to be released it is now also possible to map a network drive to IBM Connections. Why is this relevant? Well, because it allows you to access your IBM Connections files & communities as if it was an ordinary network drive on both Mac as well as Windows and in doing so making it available for not just the MS Office suite applications but any application that needs to access and store files in the IBM Connections environment. Simply by using the [open] and [save as] options.

FJnotepad_IBMDesktopConnector

This might seem obvious but is something that is currently not possible outside of the MS Office suite. File Jockey therefore really opens up the file management experience to other applications like MS Visio, Project management tools, Acrobat reader, AutoCAD and even simple applications like Wordpad and Notepad. All in all a neat little addition to the IBM Connections experience!

 But…. which one should I use?

A good question…. There are a few things to keep in mind:

Cost/maintenance: The IBM Connectors are included with the product and therefore free whereas File Jockey is a third party product and might require you to purchase licenses and perform an install (although I understand that hosting is possible).

Application integration: File Jockey allows you to access your IBM Connections environment through the [Open]  and [Save as]  dialogs in any application that allows access to mapped network drives whereas the IBM Connectors only allow this type of access for the MS Office suite. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t other ways to store files to IBM Connections from other applications but they usually require extra steps for the user.

Additional features: The IBM Connectors offer far more options then the File Jockey integrations. Where File Jockey really only offers access to the files, the IBM connectors offer additional options like Check-in/Check-out, viewing of the versions and storing content to wiki’s, activities and blogs as well. There level of integration is deeper but therefore also limited to the MS Office suite applications.

On prem/Cloud?: Both connectors work with on prem as well as cloud.

The beauty is that you do not need to make a choice but can use both. So instead of seeing the two as competitors I would strongly advise organizations who want to stimulate their users to utilize their IBM Connections environment for file management to look at implementing both.

Conclusion

All in all these new connectors really offer great new options for users to work with their IBM Connections files and are worth checking out. With these and the rumors around upcoming changes in file/folder management in the new release of IBM Connections I can’t wait to see where IBM will be taking IBM Connections file management from here!

  •  The IBM Connectors are available and can be tried out here
  • A description of File Jockey and an instruction on how to try it out against the Smartcloud environment can be found here. No account on Smartcloud? Try it on Greenhouse instead

 

Folders versus Tags – Infographic

For a while now I’ve been working on various posts on the topic of “Folders versus Tags” and why there is no such comparison really… This is a topic that is often hotly debated among people involved with social business and definitely close to my heart. The problem is, none of those posts ever saw the daylight as they became too long, too complicated and simply said: boring. There is a lot to say about this topic but most of all a lot of explaining. therefore I tried something different. I hope this infographic will help explain some of the specifics of each of the options and why comparing them isn’t always possible. Have fun!

Click on the image to see a full version preview

Folders versus tagging

Why? – Why not

Sometimes something inspires you, hits you or just speaks to you. Today I saw this fragment on a Dutch tv show and it hit a nerve.

I’m not in science but I am in IT and I still get asked sometimes “why?”. I’ve never really paused at that question, I knew when I started that I was an exception in a sea of men (my then company employed 160 male and only 4 female IT consultants) but I never felt inhibited or held back in any way to become or do what I wanted. The ‘why?’ that I’ve been asked hundreds of times never really bothered me.

Until last week. And weirdly enough it wasn’t even about my work in IT when it did.

Apart from working in IT I also like LEGO. As a kid we had LEGO but I was always told it was my brothers’, so I could only play with it if we played with it together. problem was, we didn’t really play well together so I never got to play much with it and as opportunity dwindled I eventually forgot about it. After all, It was a boy thing.

30 years on and hearing from more then a few people (mostly men) in my circle who still loved building with LEGO I finally got over my own inhibitions and bought my own LEGO set. I loved it!

Showing a picture of my latest set (model of the Mini Cooper) to a coworker who also likes building with LEGO (yes, it’s an IT thing, nerds seem to love LEGO) he quizzically looked at me and stated “you really do love it don’t you?”, and then it hit me.

Even though we are the same age, spend roughly the same amount of money on LEGO and have been talking about LEGO for a while now, the fact that I’m a girl somehow still makes it an oddity for me to enjoy it. And although I’m certain he didn’t consciously mean anything with it I suddenly felt 10 again and being told: “Why do you want to play with LEGO? Isn’t that more something for boys?”. It made me aware of how much some cultural concepts creep into perception and into our culture and how even a simple question can make you question yourself when it is asked often enough.

This speech is not about LEGO, it’s not even about IT but it is about the power of cultural concepts and how those influence us in who we become.

The next time you ask someone “why?”, perhaps ask yourself “Why not?” first.

 

 note: The reference that started the response in the video above is in relation to a controversial statement made by former Harvard president L. Summers in which he suggests genetics play a role in why women are under represented in science.

Podcasting… an impulse, a plunge and a lot of sleepless nights!

So those that weren’t all caught up in IBM Connect last week (yes I know, not many of you) might have noticed I did something new. Well not new in itself, but new for me. I decided to try and see if I could do a podcast.

Now a normal person would probably think about that for a while, look into options, investigate Software/Hardware requirements etc and do a few trial runs….

Not me.

On Monday night, 6 days before IBM Connect was to start, I was thinking of having to live through the event without being there (I wasn’t going while all my friends and a good number of coworkers were) and decided that I needed some way of feeling connected as I would go stir crazy otherwise. So what could make me feel more connected? Well talking to people there! But what would entice people to make time for me out of their busy conference schedule….? Hey I know, I’ll interview them!

connect2014

And with that, presto the idea of doing a series of short podcasts about the conference  and all things going on around it was born. I called it “Connecting to Connect” and decided I could do one a day if I kept them to short 15min sessions.

Ignorant naive little me…

The next day I Googled around a bit, asked advice from a few friends, downloaded Audacity to edit my recordings, purchased Call Recorder as it promised to record Skype calls and set up my first call with Stuart McIntyre. Who, kindly enough, had agreed to be my first victim and guinea pig… The idea being: If I don’t crumble into a big pile of “Ehh’s” and “Ohh’s” then I’ll take the plunge and go ahead with it!

And so I did. To be honest, the first one I hardly had to say anything at all. Stuart was a great first guest as he didn’t need much prompting to talk at all and although I still had to edit out a good number of “Ehh’s” on my part it wasn’t too bad and thus I figured: “Yeah, let’s do this!“. I didn’t waste any time and promptly reached out to friends and acquaintances within the community to make arrangements to do one podcast a day for each day leading up to and during the conference: 10 in all.

So one day after coming up with the idea I had committed myself to doing 10 podcasts in just as many days…

oh boy, did I not realize what I had just gotten myself into…

————–

So, ten days on, what lessons did I learn from all this:

  1. Don’t forget to press “Record”!
  2. Don’t start every question with “So!”, respond to every answer with “Ok, ehh…” and end every question with “Uhem,…” (Let’s say, it made me very good at editing)
  3. Make clear appointments and set times…. no seriously, SET TIMES. Saying “Yeah, we’ll do it sometime tomorrow afternoon…” with a guest that is 6hrs behind you in time zones will cause you sleepless nights… literally.
  4. Insight jokes are no fun to outsiders. Doing podcasts with people you consider to be friends is great as it makes you less stressed but you have to be careful not to be too familiar with them (and definitely don’t forget to introduce them!).
  5. Getting people to talk isn’t the problem, getting them to STOP can be a whole different story! (Still learning that one)
  6. Don’t fear sudden silences, they are an editors Godsend (and I know this by experience, believe me)
  7. Don’t try to record a podcast with someone standing in the CGS room while they are rehearsing it and blasting the CGS music in the background. It really isn’t that good of an idea… No really, it isn’t… (that one got trashed unfortunately)
  8. Bet on the conference WIFI to do the interviews over Skype? Yes! It was surprisingly reliable! Apart from one dropped call it held up perfectly all week.
  9. Prepare a basic set of notes & questions ahead of time so you have something to refer to when you get nervous and forget everything, including your guests name… (he didn’t notice)
  10. Don’t get nervous! It will make you start blabbering in incomprehensible Dutch…
  11. Don’t panic if you forget a question. Just ask it again later on and cut it in afterwards. That’s why there is editing software (had to do a good few of those!)
  12. Don’t scratch your nose while you are recording… yeah, don’t really think that one needs explaining…
  13. Don’t set yourself to doing more then you can handle…. Oh boy did I learn that one… Being a total beginner at this I spend, on average 3-4,5 hours per 15min podcast (reading up on the guest, recording, editing & posting). Doing that all week while still also doing a normal (and busy!) work week as well as trying to do my daily exercise routines and cook/clean/other housework definitely broke me up after 10 consecutive days! I will be happily catching up on sleep this weekend.
  14. headsetExpensive software and or equipment really isn’t necessary when you are starting out. Call Recorder cost me 29$, Audacity was Freeware as was Skype of course, and for recording I simply used my MacBook and a little iPhone headset. I did order a real microphone but as I kind of did all this last minute that didn’t arrive until today (day after the conference and finishing the last one, go figure).
  15. Enjoy what you are doing. It comes out soooo much better if you do!
  16. Oh and did I mention: DON’T FORGET TO PRESS “RECORD”!

So will this be a one off? I don’t know. I did like doing it – stress and all – and although I’m certainly not planning on doing so many of them in such a short time frame ever again and absolutely need more training on this, I definitely see myself trying this again in some way or form.

Most importantly though I want to give a big THANK YOU to the people who made time out of their busy work and/or conference schedules to be a guest on the podcast and to all the others that gave suggestions & advise as well as supported me. Without them none of this would ever have happened!

p.s. Personal hat tip to the great podcasters this community has had over the years. I don’t know how people like Darren Duke & Stuart McIntyre, Chris Miller, David Leedy, Bruce Elgort & Julian Robichaux and many others that have done or still do podcasting on a regular basis managed to keep going for as long as they do/did. It takes a lot of effort and dedication and these 10 days have given me a newfound respect for them! Kudos guys!

Times are changing so are the names…!

The anticipation for Connect 2014 is growing. The yearly conference in Orlando that brings together the best of our technical IBM community and an opportunity to meet with experts, build or renew friendships and learn about upcoming changes and improvements in the IBM Collaboration Software stack. I’m not planning on being there this year due to other circumstances (breaking my foot being one of them) but I look forward to reading all the updates and post that are sure to come!

What I most definitely plan on attending is Engage, formerly known as BLUG, the BeNeLux user group that will be hosted in Breda, The Netherlands on March 17th & 18th this year. Knowing the people behind it and seeing the list of sponsors already committed I’m sure that it is going to be another great success and with a location so close to my hometown (30min) and Silverside committed as Platinum sponsor I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

Engage is not the only user group renaming itself at the moment, with INFORM (formerly AUSLUG) the gulf of renames that started with Connect (formerly Lotusphere) and ICONUK (formerly UKLUG) is definitely setting through. On the one hand I feel sad seeing the Lotus brand name slowely disappear, on the other hand, it’s just a name and I’m happy to see that the names these conferences take on now are more general, allowing them to cover the broader spectrum of products and information that is already being handled by them.

Another thing that changed is the names on the list of IBM Champions. After much anticipation the list for 2014 was announced last Friday. I’m feeling fortunate and honored to be named among them and look forward to meeting some of the new names on it as there seem to be quite a few this year!

A healthy community thrives on it’s ability to renew and rejuvenate itself. Seeing all these “new names” is promising, I’m looking forward to see what else 2014 is going to bring us!