Recently Gato, the lead engineer for Jive's Real Time team, came across this post from Davanum Srinivas that talks about how to use the Smack XMPP library built into Android. Smack's inclusion in Android was news to us, but we're honored that our work will be included in one of the most anticipated technology releases in the mobile world since the iPhone.
In case you haven't heard of either Android or Smack, Android is Google and the Open Handset Alliance's project to create "the first complete, open, and free mobile platform." Smack is our open source XMPP library for instant messaging and presence implemented in Java.
We're pretty excited that Smack will be used on millions of phones around the world. Thanks, Android, for picking Smack!
The change to the way discussion threads are presented is at the top of my list. Check out the difference between the way threads look in Clearspace 1.1.1 versus 1.10. In this screen shot you see the older style on the left and the newer style on the right. The newer style is threaded, and the treatment of the individual messages makes it easier to quickly understand the structure of the conversation.
A more profound change is the customizable Space Overview tab in Clearspace 1.6. By rebuilding the Overview tab with drag-and-drop widgets it became much easier to provide just the right information to visitors in a space. A long list of widgets is available, including some for pulling content in from other systems. Widgets have also been used in several customizations to add new functionality or integrate with other systems.
The "What's New" feed on the home page evolved as well. It started out as a feed of all the activity in the system, but this can be overwhelming in large, active communities. Now "What's New" can be personalized to create our own view of the activity in Clearspace. This change makes it easier to focus on your areas of interest. By clicking on "Your View" you can select only the Spaces from which you want to see new and updated content. This change can decrease the noise in "What's New" so that you can focus on what is most important to you.
Do you have a favorite change to Clearspace from the past year?
Blogging is an important aspect of Clearspace and we regularly get questions about the value it can provide when used inside an organization. The first exposure many people have to blogging is in a more public context on the Internet that delivers the blogger's thoughts and opinions to the rest of the world. As a first impression this doesn't give many hints as to the value of blogging inside the enterprise. Last week CIO published an article on How to Use Enterprise Blogs to Streamline Project Management which did a great job of covering one use of blogs in the enterprise: project management. CIO also provided some great tips on adoption and how blogs can play nicely with email.
While blogs are typically most useful when many users participate, analysts and practitioners say you're better off to start small. Blogs work well when they catch on virally, and you need to introduce the idea to the right test group, who will then evangelize the idea to the rest of the enterprise.The CIO article reminded me of a Clearspace customer who is using blogs for project management. The 150-person consulting group (inside a larger company) is using Clearspace to manage the documentation and conversations associated with specific projects as well as provide better visibility into the projects for their managers and executives. To drive this visibility they are using a blog for each project that communicates updates and status so that project members have a focused place to post their information. The project blogs then roll up into aggregate views across multiple projects. During the project anyone can see what's been going on by reading the blog, and after the project there is a nice self-contained bundle of information about what happened in the project along with the documentation and other deliverables. Clearspace hasn't replaced the project planning side of projects, but it has consolidated and improved the source for information about the project for the rest of the company.
Dennis McDonald has recently released a spurt of posts on blogging in a project management capacity. He conducted an informal survey for exploratory purposes, which he has made available via a shared slide deck like the one embedded at the end of this post.
He makes a great point about the types of organizations and their projects make an impact on the role a blog could play in project managament stating:
it is clear that, just as organizations differ widely in terms of their willingness and ability to change processes and procedures to more collaborative models, the same can be said about project management. There are certain types of projects where the size, complexity, and time dependency call for heavy-duty task- and resource-management tools that are well integrated with corporate management, HR, and time reporting systems. In such cases the communication and publishing functions of the blog would take precedence by making the availability of reports and data from the more structured tools more accessible.
In other types of projects that are more development or innovation oriented, the collaborative and information sharing features of blogs and wikis might be much more important while the formal chart and task dependency management features of more traditional project management tools might take more of a back seat. In such processes where innovation, collaboration, learning, and mentoring take precedence over a set timelines and task dependencies, the core features of the blog might provide major benefits, especially if use of the blog can be tied to a reduction in inefficient email attachments and meetings.Blogging is a valuable communication tool that improves productivity inside companies and project management is a great example of how this value can be realized. I should add the same caveat that Dennis pointed out, it's really about leveraging blog-like functions; such as file management, discussion, tagging, and RSS feed management; rather than a strict blog. Even better, when "blogging" is well integrated into a suite of other collaboration tools, as is the case with Clearspace, you get a tremendous boost in value by focusing on the topic (in this case a particular project) rather than the tool being used.
Clearspace 1.8 was released yesterday and includes a couple of new widgets for the customizable space overview page along with a slew of minor improvements and fixes. The two new widgets included are an Activity View of what's going on in a space and a widget for showing the tag groups in a space.
The Activity View widget shows a more detailed listing of what has been happening in the space than the Recent Content widget. It displays an update for each time a comment is posted, each time new content is created or existing content is edited, and each time a poll is created or voted on.
Clearspace 1.5 was released today featuring a solid list of improvements. Of note is the ability for blog authors and administrators to edit and delete blog comments from three places: inline in the end-user UI; in the blog management area; and, from the Admin Console. Two new blog-related reports were also added for measuring the number of blog comments and blog trackbacks to the system.
There were many other improvements and bug fixes that you can check out in the changelog.
Once a month the entire company gets together (beer and snacks provided) for a brainstorming session that we call Blue Sky. This month we broke into several groups and brainstormed small but tasty features for Clearspace. Hmm... what else is small and tasty? M&M's of course. Hence, the idea of feature M&M's was born and one of them quickly made it into the product. Check it out in Clearspace 1.4 by visiting someone's profile and you'll see a list of other people who have similar profiles. Why brainstorm this topic? It's often the little features that make a product special. On the other hand, it can be pretty difficult to get enough attention for the individual features to make it into the roadmap. Each of the ideas has been written onto a piece of paper (in the appropriate shape of course) and then put into a special bowl.
Whenever an engineer has a little time they can grab an M&M (no cherry picking), then attach it to the M&M board and implement it. Here is a shot of the M&M board just after installation:
Clearspace 1.4 was released yesterday and includes two great new features. First up is a Popular Content section included in each space that highlights the most viewed and commented content at a glance. This feature helps people find the most useful content quickly when they are new to a space.
The second new feature shows a list of people with similar profiles on each user's profile page.
There were also a huge number of bug fixes. See the full changelog for the details.