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I had a really interesting conversation today with Dennis McDonald about Social Networking. His observation was that most of what he's seen so far with social networking is that it's been focused on people connecting to people that they already know. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I love to find the people I know online but for me it's usually a quick, "I found you, cool now we're connected." I'm sure that there are stories out there -- particularly with job searches -- where social networking has been instrumental. Outside that, it seems that more often it's card collecting. I can see that Jill knows Steve but I'm no closer to knowing Steve, I just know that Jill knows him. I do like knowing there's a bag of potential contacts, even if I never use them.


Social Bookmarks have a great purpose, too. I can see what other people mark as interesting content. I have no connection to them personally, but social bookmarking allows me to snoop "good readers" and track their information consumption. I follow the tags and feeds of a number of people but I have never said one word to them. Love reading over their shoulder, though. It saves me a lot of time.


Social Productivity is different than social networking or social bookmarking: it's about getting work done outside the team of like-minded people you work with everyday. With social productivity, an idea is introduced and all sorts of people get to chime in on it. These could be people you work with a lot, people you've never worked with or even people outside your company. Now all of a sudden your idea has been developed openly by all sorts of people who bring their own, valuable perspective. You can evolve those ideas into all sorts of collaborative or locked content but thanks to the social whetstone, your original idea is much stronger now. This isn't just true "behind the firewall" within companies. Look at Wikipedia, the content has been built, written and organized more relevantly than any single or traditional team of authors could have done.


Between my trip to OSBC and recent questions from a reporter, I have been spending some time thinking about how commercial interests impact open source software. Over the past few years, commercial interests have had an increasing amount of influence on open source projects. Ten years ago, it seemed like most open source projects were created by people working in their spare time without any compensation and limited resources for the project. Now, many open source developers are sponsored by companies or other organizations who provide them with a regular paycheck giving them more time to contribute to open source projects. Commercial companies also provide support in the form of servers, hosting, software, and other resources to help open source projects succeed. For example, Jive Software is the sponsor for the Ignite Realtime project where Openfire (GPL), Spark (LGPL), and other related open source projects are hosted and managed. We hire developers from the community, and we have people like Gaston Dombiak aka Gato (Openfire project lead) and Derek DeMoro (Spark project lead) on staff at Jive Software. In Gato's case, he was a contributor to Ignite Realtime projects long before he became an employee of Jive Software. We also do what we can to support collaboration within open source and other software developer teams (i.e. software user groups) by providing them with <span class="jive-link-external">[complimentary licenses|] of Clearspace X or Jive Forums.


There is sometimes a fine line between providing help to open source projects and exerting unwanted influence. For a commercial open source vendor to be successful, a careful balance between commercial open source interests and community interests must be preserved. This can only be accomplished when both sides provide input and listen to the other when making decisions about the direction of the project. Jive Software uses the Ignite Realtime forums, weekly chat sessions, community voting on the top issues, and other collaborative methods to make sure that our relationship with the Ignite Realtime community continues to be beneficial for both.


I expect to see more companies with mixed business models offering some products that are open source while also offering products under more traditional licenses, similar to the Jive Software model. Even on products licensed under traditional licenses, Jive Software strives to maintain openness and transparency by providing the source code along with the product giving customers the ability to make additional modifications, customization, and inspection of the source code. For pure open source companies, it can be difficult to maintain a revenue stream large enough to sustain the business through support and services revenues. Companies with mixed business models can benefit from having licensing revenue on some products in addition to support and services revenue making the road to profitability a bit easier.


For those of you in Portland or the surrounding area, you may want to check out the Putting Collaboration to Work conference. We'll be there along with some product and program management gurus. The event is on June 8th and looks to have some interesting sessions and speakers.



Having Fun in Clearspace

Posted by matt May 24, 2007

It's been pretty amazing to see how our own Clearspace deployment inside Jive Software has improved communication and helped us get work done faster. We're all Clearspace addicts, and as such, some of our fun has moved there. A few examples:



  • Somehow, a mustache growing contest took off inside the company. Several blog entries with pictures made it into the "Water Cooler" space, including an embarrassing attempt by me. The clear winner was Todd (who will not be pleased about me posting his winning entry).

  • There are lots of avid runners at Jive and group runs and races are all getting discussed through Clearspace.

  • Erskine's personal blog entry about his nerd score (59) attracted a huge number of comments from all over the company.  Others' scores ranged from 6 to a perfect 100.

  • Everyone controls their own avatars. The ability to inject a bit of personality into Clearspace has proven to be a major incentive to participate.

We even added a Youtube macro to Clearspace recently, which makes it easier to share the occasional fun video.

A while back we mentioned that Red Hat was Clearspace's first customer. We've been excited about this for a number of reasons and a big one is that Red Hat planned to use Clearspace as the collaboration engine powering their Red Hat Exchange. We worked closely with their developers as they ultimately implemented a front-end that looks very different then Clearspace and shows exactly how customizable the application really is.  They did a fantastic job and brought a a lot of great ideas to their environment. Another reason we are excited is that Openfire, our open source Real Time Collaboration server, is one of the first applications listed in the exchange. We look forward to participating further on both fronts.


Our accountants were recently asking us about the market size for our applications as part of the financial review process, which translates into a) how much total money is being made today (existing market) and b) how much could be made (addressable market).


It's one thing to do it as part of your business planning process, where you can spend the time looking at actual numbers and try to come up with a formula based on reasonable assumptions (like % of time people spend at their computers, % of employees actively involved in collaboration, etc.), but it's quite another to get generic market stats for a space with very few solid delineations between each market. For instance, is content management truly a different category than collaboration now? It was in the 90's, but shouldn't really be today.


Some of the interesting stats I came up with during the search:


Gartner: Estimates that $6 billion was invested in new portal, collaboration and content management software licenses in 2005. This is predicted to increase to more than $9 billion by 2009.


Basex: A smaller analyst firm focused on the space (they made a name for themselves by estimating the $588B cost of interruptions in the workplace), estimates that the market is $72B in 2007. Now this includes all manner of collaboration and KM (portals, search, mobility, knowledge-enabled CRM, etc.), but no consulting.


Collaborative Strategies: Another smaller group. I actually gave a talk with Ann Marcus, one of their consultants recently.  They estimated $13.1B for the real-time collaboration and communication market in their 2006 RTC Report.


But my favorite response was from Michael Dortch at the Robert Frances Group, who commented on the addressable market. Of course, this view does not reflect the views of Robert Frances Group, but I love the approach.


Look, the long and the short of it is that everybody in every business collaborates, internally with colleagues and externally with customers, partners, and prospects, yes? So how big is the "collaboration market,"
+      however THAT's defined? I'd be brash enough to say that assuming that half of every business dollar is wasted or consumed by unspecified overhead, a conservative estimate of the extended collaboration market would be, say, half the worldwide gross domestic product (GDP) equivalent. Is THAT big enough??+
+If it's TOO big, let's come at it from the other, even more conservative end of the spectrum. Let's say that no more than five to 10 percent of the worldwide GDP equivalent reprensents a defensible stand-in for the collaboration market. That's still a LOT more than many IT-centric markets today, isn't it?+


Needless to say, I have effectively confused the accountants on this one.

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