Tagged: Connections

Indexing support for Activity and Forum attachments in IBM Connections 5.5

Sometimes with large updates you miss the little things that make the difference… One I missed with the release of Connections 5.5 was that apparently the indexing on attachments has been added for Activities & Forums now:

in 5.5: “IBM Connections supports the indexing of file attachment content from the Files, Wikis, Library (Enterprise Content Manager files), Activities, and Forums applications. Content from file attachments in Blogs is not searched.source

Was: “IBM Connections supports the indexing of file attachment content from the Files and Wikis applications. Content from file attachments in Activities, Blogs, and Forums is not searched.source

For most people probably not a big thing but it means that now at least one will be able to search for content in the documents that were added as attachments to forums and activities. Something that was often causing headaches to users who couldn’t find back information they were sure they had added to IBM Connections.

It’s still wise to train your users to upload files to a community or personal files first and share them from there (as it allows things like locking, version management and commenting) but all in all still a very nice little feature of 5.5 that had slipped under my radar!

 

busy weeks! Zurich & Stuttgart

It has been a busy month all over but the last two weeks have been extremely busy. Both with a major project at a customer going live this weekend as well as with two conferences last week and this week. I had a great day on October 28th at the IBM Client center for SNoUG the Swiss Notes User Group and congratulate the SNoUG team on their effort of setting up a fantastic event. I really enjoyed it and found the sessions, connections I made and information I got from the sponsor booths extremely helpful.

I also want to give a big thanks to the team, speakers, sponsors and attendees of Social Connections in Stuttgart who helped make that a great event. After having left the SOCCNX team at the end of SOCCNX 5 due to work pressures and missing the last three events it felt like a warm bath to join the team back for SOCCNX 9. Organizing an event like that with 270 attendees, 65+ speakers and 22 sponsors in a remote location (ok for me) like Stuttgart always is a big challenge but I think we can say it was a big success and completely in line with all the other Social Connections events!

Below I’ve attached the slide decks I used for my presentations both at SNoUG in Zurich on October 28th 2015 and the one in Stuttgart for Social Connections. As the last one was only a short (15min) one the slide deck for that one is significantly shorter than the first one. Enjoy!

SNoUG:

Social Connections 9:

IBM Connections: Default follow on public files is it logical?

At one of my customers a user complained about the fact that every time he opened a publicly shared file it would automatically ‘follow’ that file. This meant that every subsequent ‘like’, change or comment to that file would show up in his timeline. Of course he could ‘unfollow’ the file but found it irritating that it would follow it at all without him making that conscious decision.

After testing and a little digging by our admins it turns out that indeed this is the default behavior for IBM Connections and can be managed by changing a setting in the files-config.xml:

<emailNotification>
    <addOnMediaDownload enabled="true"/>
</emailNotification>

So no big deal but we did have a bit of a discussion as to why this setting is there in the first place and if it is logical. Yes, there is a case to make for auto-follow as that will ensure you keep track of subsequent changes to that file. After all, a publicly shared file that you don’t follow or isn’t in a community that you follow is sometimes hard to track but at the same time it can be quite annoying. In an environment with thousands of users and where public files are shared and mentioned in other sources like the intranet, auto-following a file simply because you opened it once, can cause lots of updates in your activity stream by other people ‘liking’, commenting or editing the file. Information you might not be interested in at all as you only just wanted to read it that once.

To be honest, I think this is one of those settings that can be interpreted either way. The bigger discussion now is do we disable it? This user clearly finds it annoying but what about all those other users? Do they want to auto-follow or not? The setting is org-wide so any change will influence all. You can’t just change the default behavior of a system used by thousands of users without annoying at least some.  I guess this is something that will have to be decided by the the business.

So what do you think: Is auto-follow indeed the logical behavior or not in a Enterprise Social Network and how does your organization handle it?

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.