Blog from July, 2010

Have you seen the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for Social Software report?

It's a goodie for anyone in the market, purchasing or delivering - just to understand these perspectives and analysis.

I'll cut to the chase - here's the quadrant power image which says 1000 words without the rest of the 19 pages, but indeed the rest is still worth a read.

Here's the full doc to download if you wish!

Icon

July 14: traveling today - so will get back to this blog to add a bit more meat - but anyways, you got the important pieces... Enjoy!

Last weekend was busy since we decided to move off of Amazon Web Services EC2 cloud that was hosting our core systems infrastructure and move to Contegix Managed Hosting Services. We've had our Website hosted by Contegix for the past few months, but our larger infrastructure (x7 systems) was on AWS.

AWS was okay - until our needs grew

As a service, AWS was fine in terms of bandwidth and access - no complaints. However, as our efforts, projects and engagement has grown, so too was our fees on AWS - which is part of the snag.

The more time (literally, by minute) you are on AWS systems, the more your business grows in size, the more you pay.

Very quickly, with our team being from US, UK, and AU - and accessing systems almost around the clock, it became UN-cost-advantageous, let alone service UN-advantageous (since there is no service support - you are on your own).

Why we like Contegix


Contegix has become a better solution for us.

Why - well people put a whole lot of argument and discussion on cloud providers but it's really quite simple in our opinion.

With Contegix:

  • you buy the server and/or VM and plenty of diskspace, RAM, and CPU power to serve you needs
  • if you also go with managed hosting, you get 24x7 technical support and monitoring of your systems.
  • you can also get regular "backups" support (daily or weekly).

But if we really need to sum it up:

Working with Contegix is like having a bunch of new guys on your team with great expertise -- overnight, for the same price (or maybe less) than it is on AWS -- where you have to do it all yourself!

Upgrades to latest releases - W00t!

Currently, we have the complete Atlassian Suite installed as our base framework for our cloud-hosted SDLC work environment.

These systems are the backbone to our company, let alone efficiency. AppFusions is a HUGE believer of the full suite for software development lifecycle best practices. Admittedly, we don't use them perfectly yet, but every week we push on them and get better and better, and so for that, we're good with it.

Since we had to migrate our data anyways to Contegix, and our systems will only get bigger, we decided to take advantage and upgrade to latest versions to get latest features. Internally, we now have:

  • Confluence 3.3 (rels'd June 2010) - Latest feature news and video here.
  • JIRA 4.1.2 (rels'd June 2010) - Latest feature news and video here.
  • GreenHopper 5 (rels'd June 2010) - Lastest feature news and video here.
  • FishEye/Crucible 2.3.3 (rels'd May 2010) - Latest feature news and video here.
  • Bamboo 2.6 (rels'd June 2010) - Latest feature news and video here.
  • Crowd 2.0.5 (rels'd July 2010) - Latest feature news and video here.

THIS is a W00t!!!

Collaborate online - no email (in general)

We have a general "no email" rule. I'd say we are about 90% working that way, and very little email communications is needed that is not better served in the Wiki and/or JIRA task.

We started this approach from the get go, so this was our initial habits.Sometimes we break out into 1-1 emails, but really they are rare now.

And if someone breaks out and shouldn't - you get accused of being so "Web 1.0"... Ouch. Slaps you back into the systems fast.

I'm super psyched that our "communicate in the systems" mode has not only taken off, but everyone seems to appreciate it.

SVN now, but evaluating Distributed Version Control System (DVCS)

We use SVN, now, yet we are evaluating Mercurial - seems it might us one step more efficient. Good quote on the topic:

"Mercurial is your smart friend who likes to explain things to you. Git is your genius coworker who sighs and rolls his eyes everytime you ask him a question." -- from thebuild.com

We have team members in the US, UK, and AU, so we need both reliable systems and flexibility.

Mercurial's Distributed architecture

Traditional version control systems such as Subversion are typical client-server architectures with a central server to store the revisions of a project. In contrast, Mercurial is truly distributed, giving each developer a local copy of the entire development history. This way it works independent of network access or a central server. Committing, branching and merging are fast and cheap.

Mercurial seems like it will give us what we need - and we can also take advantage of Atlassian's latest tricks too.

Here's a REALLY AWESOME video/talk on the subject, including great discussion on Git vs. Mercurial.

I'm stirred today to write a comment on this MyCustomer.com post, "Ross Dawson: Six tools to kickstart your crowdsourcing strategy" that surfaced on Twitter the last few days.

See this tweetdoc for activity.


In general, it's a great post, and I am continually intrigued and inspired by the very notion of crowdsourcing for innovation, which has many elements -- Ross provides a nice overview of the following concepts in particular:

  • Distributed innovation platforms
  • Idea platforms
  • Innovation prizes
  • Content markets
  • Prediction markets
  • Competition platforms

My questions though arise in the definition of crowdsourcingand where does it start and stop, in terms of the process?

For me, on face, the word denotes pure collaboration, with a purpose based on the crowdsourced event or goals -- yet not merely at the front end of the process.

Products like Spigit or Brightidea, among others, provide great provocation, good vetting and a tangible platform pull for crowdsourcing innovation ideas. 

What is not discussed is phase II

Great ideas, great contests for up-front vetting, great community rally getting people to help push the ideas forward, competition, prediction, etc. - all excellent, and all this data is now in a system.

But beyond, where does the data go?

  • To me, the data needs a seamless phase II. It needs to go into a tacit development project system, ideally automatically, to push the ideas into life.

  • To me, the vetted ideas now become product roadmap feature lists and design discussions, systematically, thus requiring direct integrations into in-house task and project management systems driving agile software development teams that may be geographically dispersed.

  • To me, ideas that don't end up in a development or planning "system" for execution, quickly and painlessly preferably, can easily fall into the "just ideas" category - as fleeting as the next guys'.
Icon

The notion of floating meeting ideas come to mind. I used to call them "airball meetings".

How many times have you been at a meeting with brilliant minds, and brilliant ideas -- all floating around, in the air -- and no one writes them down, or puts them into a system. Then the next week comes, and um, let's rehash and refloat those ideas again, and again... (and I've also been guilty -- don't get me wrong!)

What is simply AWESOME about innovation platforms is not merely the community collaboration elicited. I think it's about the enormous collected data over anything else -- in a system -- so much data that needs a life beyond.

Collected data, utilized, is extremely powerful.

Phase II - making the data useful in the software development lifecycle


With phase II, new product and innovation ideas that began, can now begin to come to life with the right hosted, shared, and collaborative environment. Phase II is the software development process (SDLC) -- with direct data integrations of innovation platforms' data into systems.

It would look like this:

  • Valuable data from the innovation platforms flow directly -- systematically -- into a task or issue workflow management system, like Atlassian JIRA, to further kick off the agile SDLC.

    • Corresponding idea details, categories, priorities, voting, use cases, or other data are also mapped, and continually pushed directly into JIRA.

    • Feasibility of the ideas are further vetted through online discussion threads.

  • Confluence wiki is used to enable collaboration, requirements vetting, and community development among the team.

    In fact, the dev team may even have been elicited by the initial crowdsourcing community. Conceptually, the dev team needs fluid communications channels, rich tools platforms, and they need it remotely accessible, cloud hosted -- not constrained by timezones, office hours, or card key access.

  • GreenHopper agile planning tool is used to plan and progress the project forward, with weekly scrum and/or kanban agile SDLC management.

  • Shared codebase (e.g., SVN), FishEye, Crucible, Crowd, continuous integration and good team agile processes are of course also core -- accessible from any corner of the Internet. Afterall, engagement flows will speed up globalization.

Am I stretching the term too much?

There is this one point in Wikipedia's definition:

Individuals who participate in crowdsourcing projects are often anonymous,

Am I stretching the definition too much?

I'm not sure.


While the origination of the term may have come from open anonymous approaches, keep in mind that the innovation platforms called out above are not merely anonymous. These are being sold into large closed organizations... So thinking that anonymous part is just a nit.

Maybe initially an open and anonymous crowd may work, but to translate into really making something - hmm....


Well that's my thoughts -- and in my crowdsource group of one here, (smile) vote was thumbs up, unanimous! (thumbs up)