IBM Lotus Social Networking Craze

It appears that one thing is clear after LotusSphere 2007. IBM is serious about Web 2.0 for the enterprise. It took a while for IBM to get into the game, and now it seems that social networking and user generated content is not just for the general populace. The new tool called Lotus Connections is comprised of Activities, Communities, DogEar, Profiles, and Blogs.

Internally at IBM, I’ve been using DogEar for social bookmarking for the past year now. I have to admit it is a wonderful tool, much in the same vein as, and Digg. The ability to use tags in describing and organizing your bookmarks is definitely different from the folder hierarchy that we’re all used to. If you can imagine the frustrations before of how to categorize a certain bookmark that could potentially belong to several categories/folders, then you know how useful tagging can be. Tagging allows a bookmark to belong to more than one category. Like all the other social bookmarking tools, DogEar generates RSS feeds for each tag that may interest you. Feeds allow you to keep up with the latest content that others may be tagging. Even Google’s Gmail has built their email system entirely on the tagging or labelling system instead of the traditional folders that most email systems and clients employ. I have to admit, after using this tagging method to organize emails, it is very difficult to go back to the traditional way of organizing emails. The only thing I’d like to see now is for Lotus Notes to incorporate tags/labels as an alternative to folders.

I’ve also played around with the other tools (Activities, Profiles, and Blogs) in the Connections suite. I find myself using the Profiles tool extensively to tag different users within IBM. You can instantly see how everyone you tag is related to you. You can make connections with people you may not have even knew had similar interests or background. The integration of the other tools with Profiles is also worth mentioning. When you search for users, you not only get their contact information, but also any blog entries, and DogEar bookmarks that they may have posted, Very cool. I have yet to use the Activities tool in any meaningful manner. You basically setup an activity name and begin to post related content to that activity thread. This content can be pretty much anything — emails, Sametime chats, images, documents, etc. The Activities tool will be highly integrated into the new upcoming Lotus Notes 8 Hannover release, which I’ve been beta testing for several months now. I do not know all of the specifics on Activities, but it is definitely a new way to collaborate than just simply passing around emails, and posting documents on team room forums. Finally, I have not played around with the Communities tool, but it seems like it is similar to the way wikis work. It’ll be quite interesting to see how Microsoft will retaliate, because IBM just raised the bar in enterprise collaboration.