Before we look at the capabilities required for a social website, let's review the key concepts and technologies, Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0, that shaped the websites of today.
Web 2.0 is a term that describes the move in the way that the internet is utilized for business and social computing. Before Web 2.0, the internet was primarily a platform for information publishing and e-Commerce. Users interacted with websites in one direction only: They were consumers of information and services. Web 2.0 is a fundamental shift away from this one-sided use of the web by allowing users the means to contribute content to the web.
The web has evolved into a myriad of interconnected devices that utilize a network to allow access and participation by users. As more individuals make use of the information and services provided, and in addition contribute content, the richer the web becomes (O'Reilly, 2005).
Soon after Web 2.0 applications began to appear on internet, two things began to happen to the organizations. First, employees sought the same types of web applications in terms of functionality and usability to be available for their day-to-day work. Secondly, the management of organizations themselves began to wonder if the advantages and successes of Web 2.0 could be emulated in their own environment. These events led to the emergence of Enterprise 2.0, which is the use of social software to increase collaboration between the organization, its employees, business partners and customers.
McAfee (2006) proposes the following conceptual capabilities that are necessary for an Enterprise 2.0 software system:
- Search – Content indexing and searching mechanisms should be available to locate content based on keyword searches.
- Links – Content should be accessible via hyperlinks and this content itself should link to related materials. This aids in organizing and finding information.
- Authoring – Components such as blogs, wikis and forums should be made available to facilitate content publishing. This content increases in value as other individuals contribute additional content to the original posts. What-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) editors should be provided to allow for easy content authoring without the need to learn a platform specific language.
- Tags – Simple descriptions linked to content allowing for better categorization, searchability, and navigation of the collaboration system. These tags result in a folksonomy (categorization and structure of content by users over time) as opposed to a taxonomy (content is added to a predefined structure).
- Extensibility – Content and new functionality should be able to be easily added to the site without the need to program or learn a new syntax.
- Signals – Mechanisms should be available to inform users of changes or additions to content they are interested in.
Enterprise 2.0 has a profound effect on the way individuals and groups in the organization perform their daily tasks and interact with each other, business partners, and customers. This is because Enterprise 2.0 websites help users to easily locate relevant information and expertise to solve many business problems from product development to customer service.
IBM Connections and capabilities required for a social website
A social website should provide the capabilities required by an Enterprise 2.0 site as mentioned earlier. IBM Connections (enhanced when integrated with WebSphere Portal) provides these capabilities. The table below maps the required social website capabilities to the features of IBM Connections.
IBM Connections features
- Content in IBM Connections is fully searchable.
- Search can be federated between IBM Connections and IBM WebSphere Portal providing a single place to search across both systems.
- User profiles are searchable. This provides for easy location of subject matter experts.
- All summary components such as the Activity Stream contain hyperlinks to more detailed information about the social object.
- Wiki, Blog, Forum and Ideation features for content authoring.
- WYSIWYG interfaces are provided for users to author content.
- Users can upload and share files such as documents and media files.
- Most social objects can be tagged (Blog and wiki content, communities, profiles, etc).
- Tag clouds functionality is available (and can be surfaced inside WebSphere Portal).
- IBM Connections provides REST services for social objects that support the development of new functionality for IBM Connections.
- OpenSocial gadgets and iWidgets can be added into IBM Connections for custom functionality.
- IBM Connections provides capabilities to extend existing websites (such as those built using WebSphere Portal) with social capabilities by using out-the-box portlets or writing custom applications interfacing with the IBM Connections REST services.
- Many social objects (Files, People, etc) can be followed. Users will be notified of any changes to objects they are following.
- The Activity Stream components and the IBM Connections Homepage provides a view of everything of importance to the user. These components can be surfaced inside IBM WebSphere portal.
- Users can be automatically emailed of updates to social objects they are following. The content in the email contains hyperlinks to the social objects in IBM Connections.
Analytics, that is, information about how users are making use of your social website has become increasingly important. The insights gained through analytics can identify areas of the website that should be enhanced and also highlight other social metrics such as the popularity rating of social communities. WebSphere Portal server offers built in Active Site Analytics while IBM Connections exposes social interaction data via the Events SPI. IBM Connections also ships with IBM Cognos to facilitate the creation of custom reports on the social metrics of interest.
McAfee, A. (2006). Enterprise 2.0: The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration. MIT Sloan Management Review , 47
O'Reilly, T. (2005). What is Web 2.0?
Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software. Retrieved 01 05, 2014, from O'Reilly