2nd IKS Workshop: The Web 3.0 and Open Source Semantic Search

Rome is a great city and it will host a bunch of great people (including me 🙂 ) at November 12-13. This is when the second IKS Project workshop will take place. The goal of this workshop is to start working on an Open Source software stack that allows other Open Source projects and software vendors to leverage semantic search technologies.

IKS is an EU-funded project with an overall budget of 8.5 million Euros. The first workshop back in May saw two dozen of bright Open Source CMS minds discussing a semantic stack in general. This time, it will also make sense for non-CMS-related Open Source projects and vendors to join.

There will be interesting presentations from some key figures at the second workshop in Rome, such as Peter Mika of Yahoo! Research talking about “The Role of Semantics in Search”.

If you’re up to joining the Open Source Web 3.0 train, then hurry up, because the October 22nd deadline for registering for the 2nd IKS workshop on semantic search is approaching quickly. See you there!

Get a Dose of Semantics: Open Source Contributors Wanted for EU Project

The EU-funded IKS Project invites FOSS companies and projects to take part in building a software stack for knowledge management that is Open Source.

IKS is funded with 6.5 million Euros by the European Union and 2 million Euros are being invested by the consortium partners which makes up for an overall budget of 8.5 millions. The project will run for 4 years.

Financial support is available for 50 yet to be selected companies/organizations who agree to evaluate the IKS software stack as early adopters as well as 100 individuals who are members of a related FOSS project and who would like to actively engage in IKS project development. The budget for contributors to IKS is meant to alleviate the entry hurdles, e.g. for travel and accommodation for attending the IKS workshop end of May.

The premier focus of IKS is on FOSS content management systems and how they can make use of the to-be-developed IKS technology to let content objects behave the way they are supposed to across varying applications. Additionally, IKS also aims at cooperating with FOSS projects helping to implement semantics-aware software.

Wernher Behrendt, one of the initiators of IKS, exemplifies the project’s vision as follows:

Think of a task that has been defined in a project management software. Ideally, the project management software allows you to edit the task as you would expect it, for example, you can extend the ending date in case the work will take longer. Now, what happens if you want to transfer your work plan to the Web content management system that powers your Web site to display it to the public?

You will most likely create a screenshot of the work plan in the project management software, upload the screenshot in your WCMS and include it on a Web page. In between, you have lost all information about what a task is and how another application should treat it in case you want to edit it within the imported work plan.

This is where IKS comes to the rescue, because its software stack will not only provide a layer that takes care of metadata information (e.g. Ontologies, RDF, …), but will also be able to deal with information on how to process a content object across different applications.

If you’d like to join, IKS provides further information on its Web site and how to get in contact with them. Contribute to IKS as a…

Why I Love Twitter: Microbranding With Microblogging

About a year ago. I thought to myself: Twitter is irrelevant, why should I care about SMSing on the Web? On the other hand, why do power users of social network apps such as Robert Scoble praise Twitter? I was curious, I started to try it out.

Beginning of this year, I realized a tremendous growth of momentum. Suddenly everyone in my business network started using Twitter and I realized that I had actually learned to love Twitter within the past year.

Why do I love Twitter? Let me tell you a story:

I was at a doctor appointment where the doctor told me that a certain medicine does not do any harm. Just the week before, I had an appointment with another doctor where I was told about one adverse effect that could occur with that medicine. Wondering which doctor is right, suddenly a thought came to my mind: If the later doctor twitters, let’s follow him and after one week of reading his tweets, I’ll have a good idea whether I can trust him.

That story sums up what is great about Twitter: If you’d like to assess the expertise of someone, read her/his Tweets. With each single tweet, you show what you read, think and do. You are what you tweet.

Twitter allows to build trust, tweet by tweet. Trust is the basis for a good customer relationship and referals, that’s what makes Twitter so valuable for online marketing.

Twitter is not only Microblogging, it’s also Microbranding. Twitter is perfect for individuals to build a brand on the Web. A company that supports its employees in twittering, will ultimately benefit from a more vivid and trustworthy brand.

I use Twitter mainly to brand myself as a knowledgeable person in the field of marketing Free and Open Source Software. My target audience is very Web-savy and quick to adopt new Internet-based communication tools such as Twitter.

… and doctors should twitter, too 🙂

Infusing Blogging Stimulants

On behalf of InitMarketing, I am currently helping a customer to provide more information about their Open Source product to their community via Weblogs.

My role is that of an external coach, who reviews blog post drafts, provides concrete and strategic advice – all of which only if the bloggers ask me for my services.

Given that bloggers are their own chief editor, it is important that they control their Weblog and that they can fully commit on what they do. Dictatorship won’t get you anywhere if you want to get your employees and partners to start blogging or to blog more or to blog more regularly. Bloggers also need to understand some of the strategic marketing communications background of blogging, because that will allow them to better attract readers.

Let me share with you some answers I provided to questions which have been asked by the customer’s bloggers during the process.

Won’t information be too scattered if we don’t blog at one place but in individual blogs on different domains?

That’s a valid concern. Here’s a marketing strategy backgrounder:

On the social software level (blogs, Wiki, etc.), the credos are:

  1. Let it happen! No matter how well crafted or condensed the information provided is, any information is better than none.2) Be personal! Credit where credits are due, e.g. a blog should be personal, a Wiki should indicate contributors, etc.
  2. Be personal! Credit where credits are due, e.g. a blog should be personal, a Wiki should indicate contributors, etc.

The social media marketing approach follows very closely the Open Source development mode, just like “release early, release often” it follows the idea of “communicate early, communicate often”. There are tools which help to provide an overview of various information resources, e.g. RSS aggregators help to show all latest posts from different blogs.

On the traditional marketing communications level, content can be re-use from blogs, Wikis, etc. to publish well crafted and designed collaterals which are in line with the main marketing message(s). Such collaterals would be the corporate website, newsletters, white papers, brochures, and so on. Traditional marketing communications is more centralized in that it is the sole responsibility of the marketing team.

How should a blog author react on a comment: By replying in a comment or by adding a new post answering the comment?

First: The fact that there are comments is great and indicates that your post is of high value.

Concerning the question:

It’s hard to say where to draw a line between a comment and a new blog post. I’d say it’s worth a new blog post

  1. if you feel like you want to write one (in the end, you are the chief editor of your blog)
  2. if the new blog post is actually about a new topic and does not merely address the topic of the comment from another perspective
  3. if you do have the time to write a new blog post

Should you write a new blog post, make sure you link to the comment. Additionally, you can reply to the comment of the other blog post and there point to the new blog post, so that it becomes clear that you answered the comment in a new blog post.

How often should we blog?

There should be at least one post per week each by two persons in your team to keep and grow readership. There will be days where it will be hard to meet that requirement. Hence, if you have an idea for a new blog post, make sure you leave some time in between posts. You could already write that post (because the ideas are already spinning in your head) but not publish it yet, instead keep it as a draft. Then publish the new blog post some days later.

Freedom of Collaboration

Mark Shuttleworth says:

Iâ??ve long believed thereâ??s a general phenomenon that underlies the free software movement. Itâ??s â??volunteer-driven, internet-powered collaborationâ?.

I’d call it “freedom of collaboration”.

This freedom will eventually spill over from public collaborative environments such as public SVN and CVS repositories or Wikipedia to corporate collaborative workspaces, simply because it results in more efficiency and better results. Freedom of collaboration within and between businesses is at the core of what constitutes the Enterprise 2.0.

The aim of Mindquarry’s Open Source collaborative software is, to allow all sorts of knowledge workers in various types of organizations to work just like Open Source developers or Wikipedia editors in modern teams. We bring them the freedom of collaboration. Yep! 🙂

Defining Commodity Features of Open Source Software

Open Source software is often being referred to as commodity products. This is particularly true for OSS databases like MySQL or PostgreSQL. Developers of such systems can heavily make use of defined standards. In this case, it’s the various SQL standards. These standards define the general functionality set your product should have. They help you define the commodity features of your software.

The question is: where do you get your software requirements from if the OSS product you are developing cannot rely on any or only a few standards?

Let’s take a look at two other types of OSS products: Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and collaborative software. I used to work for an Open Source ECM vendor until recently and just started to work for a company offering Open Source collaborative software. Hence, I might be able to provide some useful information.

For ECM vendors, there exist a few standards in different areas of ECM. This is because ECM comprises a very broad set of functionality, e.g. content editing, workflow management, document management, accessibility, etc. Yet, these standards cover only a small fraction of what makes up a full-fledged ECM system. In fact, ECM is very much about customer-specific implementations and integration of legacy systems. It is a lot about experience, best practices.

Hence, a successful Open Source ECM project can define the set of commodity features by listening to its:

  • customers
  • partner companies
  • developers and users community

These groups have different impact in different OSS ECM projects.

For example, eZ Publish is equally influenced by all three of them. At Alfresco, there is massive know-how of customer needs, simply because they have John Newton on board, co-founder of the very successful proprietary Documentum ECM. It will be interesting to see how eZ Publish and Alfresco will compete in the future. This will largely depend on how well the eZ Publish developers react upon market needs and on how fast Alfresco can grow its Open Source community. It’s actually not black and white, because customers can be a part of your developers community.

Before I talk about the interesting aspects of commodity features in collaborative software, one more note about highly standardized products: Of course, the MySQL developers need to also think of market needs. They first implemented the very basic features which made their RDBMS useful for simple, yet common scenarios in Web development. Standards do not free you from deciding which ones to implement first, but they help you to save time collecting all the potential features.

Now about collaborative software: Most development here is based on best practices. The interesting point is: these best practices are mostly already available in the Web. To be more precise: in the Web 2.0. At Mindquarry, we implement collaborative software which includes a Wiki, task and document manager (conversation tools for email and instant messaging coming soon).

Where do we get our basic ideas from? Well, from Wikipedia, Jabber, Bugzilla, etc. Mindquarry’s commodity features are out there in the Web and have been tested by a lot of users for several years. With Mindquarry, the trick is not about simply imitating an already existing and proven software infrastructure. It is about connecting the various bits and pieces of social software into one coherent infrastructure which you can use e.g. in your Intranet.

The point is: You can see the difference between the Web 1.0 and the Web 2.0 also in how OSS vendors define the commodity features of their products. An RDBMS is largely a Web 1.0 tool. It has at least one foot in the old days, when companies fought about software standards. Social or collaborative software is Web 2.0, you can find and influence its standards in the Web by providing efficient and rich user experience.

Of course, Web 2.0 standards rely on Web 1.0 standards, but the Web 2.0 is more about best practices and de facto standards on the user level compared to logical definitions of standards on the developers level. Again, the reality is not black and white. Take a look at MySQL’s and PostgreSQL’s ANSI92 SQL-defying LIMIT clause. It’s a best practice approach and shows that OSS developers always listened to their developers community just like Web 2.0 developers today listen to their users.

del.icio.us Browser for Web Applications

While at Badajoz, my tOSSad colleague Al Harris pointed me to a fantastic del.icio.us browser they developed at KnowNet.

You can try out the del.icio.us browser online. It’s fantastic! The top window allows you to browse for bundles and tags. It provides a slide to minimize or maximize the number of displayed tags:

KnowNet del.icio.us tags browser

Beneath the tag browser, the list of items and related tags is being displayed:

KnowNet del.icio.us items browser

The browser is JSON-powered. Feel free to contact Mike Malloch of KnowNet if you’d like to see the code. Al did not know the license, he basically told me that they are happy to share and don’t really care about licensing – sounds like true Open Source 🙂