» Archive for the 'Content Management' Category

In the briefing room: Bluenog ICE

Thursday, June 25th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira and Cody Burke

Ten years ago, Basex laid the groundwork for the Collaborative Business Environment (CBE), a conceptual framework for a workspace for the knowledge worker that is now starting to supersede the traditional desktop metaphor of separate and distinct tools.  A properly designed CBE facilitates knowledge sharing and collaboration and, especially in today’s economic environment, managers are looking to technology to give their organizations a competitive advantage.

Bluenog, an enterprise software company, this week released Bluenog ICE 4.5 (ICE stands for integrated collaborative environment), the latest version of the company’s enterprise software suite.  Bluenog integrates multiple open source software projects to form the basis of its platform.  The company, through its professional services division, will further integrate ICE into an organization’s existing systems.

Bluenog ICE originally included content management, portal, and business intelligence functionality.  ICE CMS is a content management system built on Apache Cocoon, Apache Lucene, OS Workflow, TinyMCE, and HippoCMS open source projects.  ICE Portal is a portal solution that leverages Apache Portals, Apache Jetspeed-2, Apache Wicket, Adobe Flex, and Spring Source.  ICE BI provides business intelligence and reporting and is based on Eclipse BIRT and Apache Jackrabbit.

These core components have all received enhancements for the new release.  The HTML editor in ICE CMS has been replaced by the TinyMCE HTML editor and ICE BI has improved report viewing and search integration.  Also new for this release is ICE Central, a simplified central management console for all ICE components, and a propagation tool to move content, portal artifacts and configurations across environments.

These improvements are all worthy of note but what may really help organizations realize significant enterprise productivity and efficiency gains is that Bluenog added significant collaborative technology to ICE, namely ICE Wiki and ICE Calendar.  The wiki component is based on the JSPWiki, Apache Jackrabbit, Apache Lucene, and Apache FileUpload open source projects.  The wiki is accessed through an ICE portlet and features rich HTML editing page level permissions, version control, reporting on page and link usage through ICE BI, the ability to manage attachments, support for wiki markup language, and support for multiple wikis running on a single server.

Wikis are an increasingly popular tool for content management within organizations of all sizes and ICE Wiki allows non-technical knowledge workers to create, edit, and maintain content using a fairly easy-to-understand interface.

ICE Calendar is a group calendaring application based on the open source Bedework project.  Just as in ICE Wiki, the calendar is available as an ICE portlet, and enables publishing of events, workflowing of events for approval, and importing and exporting events to other iCalendar-based calendars.

Bluenog ICE falls into the category of commercial open source software.  It’s built using open source projects but sold as a commercial package.  Virtually unknown several years ago, commercial open source is becoming a popular alternative for organizations of all sizes that want the openness of open source but don’t necessarily have the skills to do the heavy lifting to deploy and integrate multiple open source projects.

We’ll be taking a look at the changes that are taking place in the content management space, including where commercial open source fits in, in a report slated for next month.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.
Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

In the briefing room: Nordic River TextFlow

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009 by Cody Burke

Collaboration on documents is a given in knowledge work.  Seldom will one author be the sole contributor to a document; rather, two or more knowledge workers typically come together to create the content, make edits, fact check, and finalize.

Nordic River's TextFlow visual version management software

Nordic River's TextFlow visual version management software

There are myriad pitfalls in this process ranging from lost efficiency as a document is e-mailed around for review, requiring those involved to wait their turn to edit, and to version and save conflicts when different versions of the document are inadvertently created.  Manually combining the work of multiple authors and editors into one document is a time consuming process – and definitely not a pleasant one.

To date, the greatest advancements in document collaboration have been the simple track changes and commenting functions found in most word processors.  Being able to insert comments, make edits with the original text preserved, and, through the sometimes dizzying color coding, keep track of who did what and when, makes it possible to pass documents through a workflow process and arrive at a consensus without manually comparing multiple documents and manually merging them.

However, the track changes method is far from perfect.  Its use is premised upon there being a single master copy of a document that is circulated to colleagues and editors, either as a file or via a document repository.  In either case, there is one master copy and knowledge workers take turns writing and editing in a serial fashion.

Nordic River is a Swedish company trying to change that dynamic through TextFlow, an online document collaboration tool that takes a decentralized approach to collaborative document creation.  TextFlow is browser-based, but also can be run as an Adobe AIR desktop application.

The Flash-based system lets the user drag-and-drop documents into the browser window where they are automatically merged with changes shown for approval or rejection.  The suggested changes show up inline in the document (similar to the way a traditional word processor would display tracked changes) unless they are of a larger size, in which case the changes are presented in a color coded box with options to accept, move to scrapbook, hide, and reject.

All changes are also indicated by tabs on the left side of the page that are clickable to hide or show the changes.  A box in the window shows whose documents are being merged, and this can be changed at anytime to adjust which documents are being merged.  For example, it is possible for two colleagues who are subject matter experts to have their documents merged first, and then incorporate the changes of other authors.

TextFlow also serves as a repository by hosting documents on its server that also maintains an archive and history of each document.  Documents that are created in or added to TextFlow can be put into a workflow via e-mail to colleagues and split and merged as many times as necessary.  It is not necessary to be a user of TextFlow to participate in the workflow process.  Because there is no master copy, every collaborator has a copy and can work concurrently without fear of creating version conflicts.

For companies that find themselves struggling to manage the document lifecycle, TextFlow may provide a very simple yet elegant solution that simplifies the authoring process.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

In the Briefing Room: Vasont 12

Thursday, May 21st, 2009 by Cody Burke

The enterprise equivalent of reinventing the wheel, that is, the recreation of already existing content, is a major and costly problem.  It is also a symptom of information overload.  When an organization and its knowledge workers are not able to find what they are looking for, due to too much information, they often end up recreating the work of others, wasting valuable time and energy.

To counter this trend and better leverage existing content, companies need to deploy systems that promote the reuse of content when and where it is needed.  Content is traditionally thought of at the document level; when a knowledge worker creates a document it is named, saved, tagged, and categorized in folders, databases, and document libraries.  Unfortunately, this method does not treat content as modular on a more granular level.  A knowledge worker, viewing a document in its entirety, with its corresponding file name, tags, and other metadata, may miss the fact that a single chapter in the document is relevant to another project.  Extracting that single chapter for reuse could save hours of work recreating it.

One company that does look at content management precisely in this manner is Vasont Systems, a content management software and data services company.  Its content management system, now in version 12, focuses on what Vasont calls component content management (CCM), that is, content that is organized on a granular sub-component level, not a document level.  The advantage of CCM is the ability to store content once, and reuse it in a much more precise way.  CCM is particularly useful for multilingual content delivery to multiple channels.  Content components can be translated as needed, and assembled to form the document that is required.  The benefits of CCM include increased accuracy because content is the same in all instances it is used and reductions in recreation time due to individual components being easier to locate and reuse.

As a CMS, Vasont 12 allows users to create, store, and reuse multilingual content, with all content stored in a singe repository.  The  interface is clean and relatively intuitive; on the home page the user is presented with modules including those for notifications, tasks, workspaces, collections, and queries.  If changes are made to content, the change can be reflected dynamically in all other instances of that content, or other users of that content can be alerted via a notification so they can approve the change if they wish to do so.  Changes in content are indicated by a status icon, making component status clear.

In Vasont 12, project management capabilities have been strengthened to show overall status of projects and workflows in graphical form, a collaborative review process has been added, and a new translation interface shows the number of words and the percentage of a document left to be translated.  Also new is a preview panel that shows content in XML, with comments and annotations.  Vasont 12 is available both as licensed software and via the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

The Googlification of Search

Thursday, March 19th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

Google’s clean home page, combined with the simple search box, has made it easy to look up something online.  Indeed, using Google may just be too easy.

Google uses keyword search.  The concept sounds simple.  Type a few words into a search box and out come the answers.  Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple and it doesn’t really work that way.

Search is a 50-50 proposition.  Perhaps 50% of the time, you will get what appear to be meaningful results from such a search.  The other 50% of the time, you will get rubbish. If you’re lucky that is.

Why does this only work sometimes?  This is because there are two types of searchers, or more accurately, two types of searches.  One is keyword search, the second is category, or taxonomy, search.

It is possible to get incredibly precise search results with keyword search.  Indeed, there is no question that keyword search is a powerful search function.  Being able to enter any word, term, or phrase allows for great precision in some situations – and can result in an inability to find useful information in many others.

However, the use of a taxonomy, or categories, in search, allows the knowledge worker to follow a path that will both provide guidance and limit the number of extraneous search results returned.  Using a taxonomy can improve search recall and precision due to the following factors:

1.)    In keyword search, users simply do not construct their search terms to garner the best results.
2.)    Users also do not use enough keywords to narrow down the search.
3.)    Google’s search results reflect Google’s view of the importance of a Web page as determined by the company’s PageRank technology, which looks at the number of high-quality Web sites that link to a particular page.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that the first pages in the search results have the best content but only that they are the most popular.
4.)    Web site owners can manipulate Google and other search engine results through search engine optimization (SEO).  There is an entire industry built around this service and the use of SEO can dramatically impact the positioning of a Web site on the results page.

Unfortunately, in part thanks to Google’s ubiquity as well as its perceived ease of use, the concept of search to most people seems to equal keyword search.  As more and more Web sites and publications (the New York Times being one prominent example) move to a Google search platform, the ability to find relevant information may be compromised.

In the case of the New York Times, much of the functionality previously available disappeared when the Times deployed Google Custom Search.  Only those visitors who know to click on “advanced search” can specify a date range and whether they want to search by relevancy, newest first, or oldest first, although even the “advanced” search experience is still lacking compared to the Times’ earlier system.  Thanks to the Googlification of search, however, most visitors only access the search box, and their ability to find the answers they are seeking is hobbled by the system’s limitations.

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Cloud Content Management with Salesforce Content

Thursday, March 5th, 2009 by Cody Burke

Cloud computing, for better or worse, is a hot topic right now.  We recently took a look at Salesforce Content, an integrated content management system (CMS) for sales teams using salesforce.com.

In an effort to make knowledge workers more efficient, Salesforce has created a unified workspace where the user can access content from multiple sources, including a cloud-based repository that is part of the Salesforce.com platform.  This keeps the knowledge worker from having to open  other applications when he needs to locate a piece of content.   Integration with Google Docs, for example, allows documents to be created and opened from within the Salesforce user interface without having to leave the environment.  In addition to the content residing in the cloud, the system can also access content from other repositories via  pointers.

When searching, users have the ability to view results based on factors such as high ratings by their peers or numbers of downloads.  The results can be further refined though custom fields that sort content based on relevance and user defined parameters.  Additionally, the knowledge worker can subscribe to content based on a variety of factors, including authors, topics, and tags.  When new content that fits the parameters is added, the knowledge worker receives an e-mail notification linking him to the content in the repository.

Salesforce.com has added other new content management functionality to the platform that increases knowledge worker efficiency.  To facilitate the assembly of slide presentations the knowledge worker can search through existing slides from across the organization to find relevant material.  Once the slides are found, they can be assembled into slide decks through a drag-and-drop interface, without having to download or copy and paste.  Salesforce Content also features a preview option for PowerPoint, Word, and Excel documents that allows the user to see the content without downloading it.  Additionally, the content can be sent via e-mail as a hyperlink, without the actual file being attached.  Once the material is sent out, the sender can track it to see when the link was opened, when and if the file was downloaded, how long it was viewed for, and, if need be, even discontinue access to the material.

The addition of CMS functionality to the Salesforce platform is a big step in the right direction towards building a true Collaborative Business Environment, a workspace for the knowledge worker that supports access to all applications and resources under one virtual roof.  Enabling knowledge workers to stay in one environment, create linkages between disparate repositories and Web services, and assemble and distribute content with no downloading or bulky file attachments is laudable, and organizations looking to gain efficiencies for knowledge workers who need to track interaction with multiple parties should give this due consideration.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

Review: Amazon Kindle for iPhone and iPod touch

Thursday, March 5th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira
The Amazon Kindle for iPhone Reader

The Amazon Kindle for iPhone Reader

On Wednesday, Amazon.com released Kindle for iPhone and iPod touch, a program for reading electronic books on those devices.  The software is available free from Apple’s App Store and allows users to read books purchased on the Web or via a Kindle eBook reader.  I downloaded it to an iPod touch shortly after it became available.

Based on what Amazon has mentioned publicly, the company doesn’t believe that the free application will cannibalize sales of the dedicated Kindle device but sees it as complementary.  After using the app to read several books, I am not sure they are right.

As regular readers know, I was not a fan of the original Kindle and I haven’t yet tested Kindle 2 , although its design does appear to address a few of the shortcomings I noted in the original.

If you already own a compatible Apple device, however, the new Kindle app may be the best eBook reader for you.  Indeed, if you don’t already own one, you still may wish to consider an iPod touch for your eBooks.  Text is clear and navigating from page to page is simply a matter of touching the screen.

The app makes excellent use of the iPod touch’s small screen and I found the books I purchased very easy to read.  You can change the font size to get more text on screen or to make the text easier to read.  To flip pages, swipe the screen with your thumb or other finger.

I found the iPod’s backlit screen to be a vast improvement over the original Kindle’s; the Kindle 2 uses the same E Ink screen technology and is reportedly sharper than the original model.

The app lacks direct access to the Kindle store and does not support newspapers, magazines, and blogs (despite reports in the media to the contrary), however the devices themselves support Web access and thereby provide free access to almost all of the very publications Amazon.com sells, plus many more not available at the Kindle store.

Two major flaws, which one hopes will be remedied in future versions: there is no search from within the book and graphics can’t be resized.  In addition, there is no landscape reading mode and the software does not support annotations.

If you do own a Kindle, Amazon’s Whispersync service will keep track of where you are on either device and synchronize the two.  Books purchased on the Kindle are automatically available on the Apple device as well.

There are other eBook options for the iPhone and iPod touch. Shortcovers allows users to purchase and read books on the iPhone and iPod touch and Google supports eBook reading on a Web site optimized for the iPhone, although the books available from Google are out-of-print.

If you are looking for a good eBook solution, the Kindle for iPhone and iPod touch merits strong consideration.  The reading experience, while not book-like, is pleasant, the software is free, and the books themselves are far less expensive than the original paper versions.

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Rekindling the Flame – Amazon Introduces Kindle 2

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

When the original Amazon Kindle was introduced, I tried very hard to like it.  While there were many things that it did well (see my original review), the reader experience was ultimately unsatisfying.  At the time of its introduction, however, the Kindle was certainly the latest and probably greatest eBook reader, a concept that goes back to Sony’s introduction of the Bookman in 1991 and the Sony Data Discman in 1990.

The original Bookman weighed two pounds and could play full-length audio CDs.  It was, essentially, an 80286-based, MS DOS-compatible computer with a 4.5″ monochrome display.  Even before the Bookman, Sony had introduced the Data Discman Electronic Book Player.  The Discman weighed only 1.5 pounds and books had to be created using the Sony Electronic Book Authoring System.  Its three-hour battery life, relatively low resolution, and limited content greatly limited its utility and, ultimately, its lack of success.

All of these designs, including the newest Kindle, overlook the rather profound question of what makes for a satisfying book-reading experience.

It all boils down to the fact that reading a book is just that, something one does with paper.  No amount of searchable text, clickable links, and video wizardry will replace that experience, and putting a table of contents, page numbers, and an index around words that come to the reader electronically is a different reading experience.

Books also have other advantages, including a drop-proof, shock-proof chassis, extremely low power consumption, and a bulletproof operating system.

What we read from did migrate once before. By the end of antiquity, the codex had replaced the scroll.  The codex user interface was improved over time with the separation of words, use of capital letters, and the introduction of punctuation, as well as tables of contents and indices.  This worked so well, in fact, that 1500 years later, the format remains largely unchanged.

With the original Kindle, the reader experience, while light-years ahead of reading a book on a laptop, was still greatly lacking compared to the pleasure readers continue to derive from paper books (it appears we are at the cusp of having to create a retronym, “paper books,” to describe the non-eBook variety).  My 1996 “invention” of the Lazerbook , an in-home device that printed books on demand on reusable paper, has still not yet been built but I suspect that, were it to arrive on the scene today,  readers would still prefer paper.

This week Amazon introduced Kindle 2.  Although units are not yet available for purchase (although Amazon is accepting pre-orders now) or for testing, I suspect that I will like this Kindle a whole lot more.  In addition to the new Kindle, Amazon said it would start to sell e-books that can be read on non-Kindle devices including mobile phones.  It also announced an exclusive short story by Stephen King.

Kindle 2, sporting a new design with round keys and a short, joystick-like controller, has seven times the memory of the original version, a sharper display, and it turns pages faster.  Despite these improvements, the price remains the same: $359.  At the launch, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told the audience that “our vision is every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.”  Amazon also announced Whispersync, a feature that allows the reader to start a book on one Kindle and continue where he left off on another Kindle or supported mobile device.

Apple and Google, not traditional book publishers, represent the greatest challenge to the Kindle beyond, of course, the codex.  Google has, to date, scanned millions of books, many out of print and hence not easily available in traditional form.  Readers can find several e-book programs online for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

What will the future hold? Check with me in, say, 1500 years.

You can order the new Kindle from Amazon.

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Lotusphere: Blue is the New Yellow

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

This week was the 16th annual Lotusphere conference in Orlando, Florida.  It was my 16th as well, although my count includes three Lotuspheres in Berlin.

As has been the custom all these years, IBM once again unleashed a flood of information, both in the general session and throughout the event.  For those allergic to information overload, Orlando was a dangerous place.

The news, from a somewhat modder, hipper, Lotus, which trotted out the Blue Man Group (one had to wonder why it took Big Blue over a decade to book them) and Dan Aykroyd to further underscore the message of collaboration and this year’s theme of resonance.  Last year, incidentally, we said that “yellow is the new black.”   Regardless of color, the tools coming from Lotus allowing knowledge workers to share knowledge and collaborate are stronger and more powerful than ever.

Indeed, resonance can be “very very powerful,” Lotus GM Bob Picciano (attending his first Lotusphere following his appointment to the top position eight months ago) pointed it out in the opening session.  When it’s working at its full potential, he added, it will “absolutely shatter windows.”

With Research in Motion CEO Jim Balsillie present, IBM celebrated the tenth anniversary of the BlackBerry mobile device by unveiling a new BlackBerry client for IBM Lotus Sametime, IBM’s unified communications and collaboration platform, that supports Web conferencing, file transfer, public groups, and enhanced presence.  BlackBerry addicts, excuse me, users, can also open Lotus Symphony word processing documents attached to e-mail or Sametime, with eventual access to presentations and spreadsheets.   They can also download, edit, and post to Lotus Quickr team software.

The new BlackBerry client for IBM Lotus Connections social software platform integrates with e-mail, camera, media player, and the browser, and supports blogs, activities, and communities.  It also supports enhanced profile information including name pronunciations and pictures.  Previously, users on BlackBerry devices could only access Connections’ profiles and tag tools.

But there was more, lots more.

Lotus Sametime
IBM also announced Lotus Sametime 8.5.  Not surprisingly, the new version sports a brand new user interface.  It also includes a tool kit that allows customers to use Sametime to add collaborative capabilities such as presence, instant messaging, and click-to-call, to their business processes.  Sametime features enhanced meeting support, including an Ajax-based zero-download Web client and the ability to add participants by dragging and dropping names.  Other enhancements include improved audio and video, persistent meeting rooms, better support for the Mac and Linux platforms, and the ability to record meetings in industry standard formats.  The Sametime Connect client includes connectivity to profiles within Lotus Connections and pictures from contacts in Lotus Notes.  Sametime Unified Telephony ties Sametime to corporate telephone systems and allows knowledge workers to give out one phone number and set up rules that allow them to be reached based on various conditions (if one is in a meeting, the call could go directly to voicemail unless it’s one’s manager, in which case it would ring on the mobile).

LotusLive
After a year of public beta using the code-name “Project Bluehouse,” IBM announced LotusLive.  The new cloud-based portfolio of collaboration tools and social software supports e-mail, collaboration, and Web conferencing. LotusLive is built using open Web-based standards and an open business model allowing companies to easily integrate third party applications into their environment.  Two LotusLive services are available from the site, Meetings and Events.  Meetings integrate audio and video conferencing; events supports online conferences including registration.

The IBM Web site also lists LotusLive Notes, or IBM Lotus Notes Hosted Messaging in more formal IBM parlance, but unlike Events and Meetings, you can’t sign up and start the service online.  The only button to click is the one that says “Contact Sales.”

Partners for LotusLive: Skype, LinkedIn, Salesforce.com
IBM also announced that LotusLive will support Skype, LinkedIn, and salesforce.com.  LinkedIn members will be able to search LinkedIn’s public professional network from within LotusLive and then collaborate with them using LotusLive services.  Salesforce users will be able to use LotusLive’s collaborative tools in conjunction with the customer and opportunity management tools available in the Salesforce CRM application.  LotusLive users will also be able to call Skype contacts from within LotusLive

LotusLive Engage
IBM also announced the beta of LotusLive Engage, a “smarter” meeting service according to IBM.  Engage is a suite of tools that conflates Web conferencing and collaboration with file storage and sharing, instant messaging, and chart creation.  It allows knowledge workers to continuously engage – not just for one meeting – in a community-like environment.

IBM and SAP present Alloy
IBM and SAP announced their first joint product, Alloy.  Previewed at last year’s Lotusphere under the code name “Atlantic,” Alloy presents information and data from SAP applications within the Lotus Notes client and Lotus Notes applications.

If you want to look back at news from past Lotuspheres, feel free to click back to 2008, 20072006, 2005, or 2004.

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Open Text Wants Social Tools To Bloom

Friday, November 28th, 2008 by Cody Burke

Last week at Open Text Content World in Orlando, I had the chance to hear about some new products and strategies.  Here are some highlights.

Overall, the main take away from Content World is that Open Text is encouraging customers to embrace social tools, and wants to show customers that they can use these tools effectively and in a safe enterprise-friendly environment.

The strategy that Open Text presented is called Bloom.  Bloom is not a product or product family, but a means for bringing social software tools into the enterprise in a safe and auditable manner.  Bloom is intended to enable Enterprise 2.0, which is a blanket term that refers to tacking social and collaboration tools onto enterprise applications and environments.  The message at the event was simple: social tools such as blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, micro-blogging of status updates, social bookmarking, and presence awareness are here to stay, and by bringing them into the enterprise, an organization can improve collaboration, speed up development cycles, and increase knowledge sharing.

Although many of the capabilities that Bloom emphasizes already exist in Open Text products, looking forward the Bloom strategy focuses on the following key areas: Web 2.0 tools, social networking, social analytics, and social compliance.  The foundation for Bloom is the Open Text ECM Suite, which includes integrated tools for document management, digital asset management, Web content management, collaboration, e-mail, and archiving.  All the functionality of the tools is intended to be tied together on a macro level by social software features.

The Bloom and Enterprise 2.0 strategy aims to address the following points: experience and workgroup optimization, content management with 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, communities, and forums, enterprise-level safety of those same tools, and improving search with “find before search,” Open Text’s ideal search situation where relevant content is presented to the user without them having to search for it.  This is in theory accomplished by information being found and delivered preemptively based on the users’ context and role.

Social tools that support Bloom and Enterprise 2.0 are already available in Livelink through Communities of Practice, but the new push includes extending the functionality of social tools beyond the desktop and laptop computers to the mobile device.  To this end, Open Text has developed a project codenamed “Bluefield,” which is a browser-based enterprise-ready workspace and social community builder that consists of profiles with standard contact info and personal blogs, communities that can be formed around projects or teams and feed updates of colleagues and changes that are made to documents or projects.  For iPhone and BlackBerry users, the experience is identical on the mobile device to what one would experience on a laptop or desktop.  Bluefield includes the ability to edit Word or Excel documents through a browser, with changes reflected live on the server.  This eliminates the need to download the document to the device, keeping the experience extremely lightweight.

A weak point for Bluefield (and all browser-based tools) is the lack of offline access.  The ability to access documents and work offline is still important despite proclamations from Open Text that Net access is ubiquitous.  For instance, if I were using Bluefield through a browser on my laptop to edit a Word document, then I would have to remember to save a copy to my hard drive before getting on the plane so I could work on it while aloft and offline.  I would then have to replace the document into Bluefield when back online.

Also shown at Content World was a social analytics tool and search technology that is currently referred to as the “Relationship Engine”, although the name and future product form are still in flux.  What is intriguing is the ability to enter a set of data and create visualizations that show the relationship between nodes, and to switch the point of view to drill down into the visualization.  In the demonstration presented, data from the event was used to create visual maps of the connections among attendees, breakout sessions, conference tracks, and presenters.  The premise is simple, yet fitting; everything is an object, be it a person, document, seminar, or project, and the relationships between those objects can tell us much about how information flows and how best to route it.

Although still in development, the potential to apply the technology to search and social analytics is exciting.  This kind of technology is hopefully the future of search, which is currently a fundamentally flawed tool.  The ability to search for content and see who is connected to that content right from the results page could be a large step in improving the essential but somewhat ham-handed tools we all use everyday to find information.

Although social software functionality and search are clearly not new areas for Open Text products, what came across at Content World was a refocusing on communicating the safety and enterprise capabilities of social tools.  This mirrors what we are seeing across the market, an increased interest in pulling these tools into the enterprise and taming them without losing what drives their value – the ability to facilitate communication, collaboration, and knowledge sharing.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

Open Source Reignites the Build v. Buy Debate

Friday, September 19th, 2008 by Cody Burke

Ten years ago, when a company made the decision to deploy a content management system, it was faced with the choice of either building or buying a platform.  It was just as common in those days for an organization to build a custom system from scratch as it was to buy a commercial content management system; indeed, the cost difference was negligible.  Since then the scales have tipped, commercial CMSs have become more affordable and the practice of building custom systems has been in decline.  Recently, however, the proliferation of open source CMSs has reopened the build v. buy question.

Companies have traditionally built their own content management tools because of concerns about the suitability of a pre-built, all-purpose CMS to meet specific needs, as well as the risk of being tied to one vendor.  In reality, these concerns are largely unfounded.  Vendors design such systems to deal with common enterprise situations, it is highly likely that a vendor exists offering a suitable solution.  Also, the risk of a vendor going out of business is less likely than that of a company’s lead programmer leaving, rendering the homegrown system near useless.

Furthermore, creating, upgrading, and maintaining a content management system is the core competency of a CMS vendor; they are able to better and more cost-efficiently improve their software, as need be, than the end-users themselves can.  Vendors also add features requested by other users, which may have widespread applicability.  Not surprisingly, sales of content management systems have spiraled in recent years.  This may, however, change.

Enter open source.  There are multiple open source content management solutions available today that come with the benefit of zero cost and full access to source codes.  Instead of building completely from scratch, setting up an open source CMS means downloading, integrating, and customizing the system initially, and ongoing work to support and maintain the system.  The core issues of the build v. buy debate still remain essentially unchanged.  The organization still must have the expertise to develop the system and maintain it, and pay for the weeks or months of developer time.  In the end, you either pay for the finished product or for the man hours it takes to build it.

A relatively new option, and one that merits serious consideration is the rise of open source specialists, who will pre-integrate open source, commercial, and existing systems using open source tools, and provide commercial level support.  One such option is the recently announced Bluenog ICE platform.  Bluenog offers Bluenog CMS, Bluenog RichPortal, and Bluenog BI.  All are available separately, or bundled as the Bluenog ICE platform.  Bluenog does the heavy lifting by building their products on open source projects, and pre-integrating with other open source and commercial products based on the specific needs of the customer.  The value added from this model is this: by using open source tools, the cost is significantly lower than a commercial product, the customer possesses the source code, and the system can be fitted to exactly the needs of the user, getting rid of excessive bloatware and unused features.  The negatives of open source, and building a CMS in general, are mitigated by the commercial level of support and pre-integration that negates the need to shift or hire staff to set up and maintain the system.

More and more companies are giving serious consideration to open source, and vendors such as Bluenog can present a pre-integrated, customized, and professionally supported open source-based CMS to decision makers.  For companies that do not have the resources to devote to implementing an open source CMS themselves, but are intrigued by the benefits of open source, solutions such as Bluenog ICE can bring the benefits of open source minus the negatives, and offer an alternative to expensive commercial CMSs.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.


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