Category Archives: developerWorks

IT Tech Trends Survey: what does the future hold for business analytics?

The latest IT Tech Trends Survey is now open.

We’re looking to hear what you feel are the major drivers and motivators in the tech industry right now. This year we’ve devoted a considerable chunk of the survey to investigating business analytics – its role in the workplace and where we currently are on the adoption cycle. Typical questions:

  • Where is it used in the organization?
  • Where does your organization need to be?
  • What are the concerns you face?

Think you have the answers? Want to share your perspective? Complete the Tech Trends survey now!

In 2010, more than 50% of the respondents told us mobile application development will overtake other types of development by 2015. And nearly 70% felt cloud computing will become the primary way organizations will acquire IT in the next five years.

So, what exactly happens to the results of this survey? Last year the survey garnered press coverage across the globe, allowing IBM to highlight its offerings for the top trends identified.

We also use the survey here at developerWorks to help shape the strategy for our content and site. It helps us ensure we’re delivering relevant content that best fits the need of the 4m visitors who visit us each month.

Take the survey now and pass the word along!

What’s the hottest topic covered in developerWorks articles? HTML5

OK, so I dropped the spoiler in the title. Mind you, you could argue that this is hardly surprising given the importance of mobile development at this point in time. Still, no less than 3 of the top 10 articles in the developerWorks newsletter for the month of May (where we showcase our latest content on a weekly basis) covers mobile web app development.

Also, we weren’t seeing this level of interest in HTML5 even a year ago. True, there was a lot of interest in mobile: but at that time the larger focus was around mobile platform development (led by iPhone and Android).

Full list:

>> HTML5 fundamentals, Part 1, Zone: Web development
Functional thinking Thinking functionally, Part 1, Zone: Java
Building CouchApps, Zone: Open source
On-demand demos, Zone: N/A
>> HTML5, CSS3, and related technologies, Zone: Web development
Just what is Node.js?, Zone: Open source
Application virtualization, past and future, Zone:  Linux
>> Improve web application security with jQuery Mobile, Zone:  XML
Use Node.js as a full cloud environment development stack, Zone:  Cloud computing
Taming big data, Zone:  Information Management

If you are a WebSphere application developer looking to go mobile, check out the Web 2.0 and Mobile Feature Pack.

Creating a social business through developerWorks: the GoMidjets story

Even though I wasn’t at Lotusphere this year, I did get a sneak peak at Stacy Pschenica’s presentation on the value of the developerWorks community: to members, partners and thankfully (given the source of my salary) IBM.

One particular slide jumped out:

image

This is the impressive story of GoMidjets, a provider of configuration management plug-ins for IBM Rational software. GoMidgets founder Tamir Gefen was a user of Rational CM and ALM who originally used developerWorks Rational forums to solve problems and pick up tips. Before long he found himself contributing heavily on Rational forums – providing simplified and automated processes to help other users work more efficiently. This led to the creation of GoMidjets: an IBM partner offering plug-ins and professional consulting for IBM Rational ClearCase. Tamir continued to use the developerWorks forums for obtaining product feedback, development and brainstorming around ideas. 

As he pointed out in an earlier interview with Valerie Skinner,

"I use developerWorks as a focused network to communicate with professionals from the Gurus to the users. Through developerWorks, I get to hear what people have to say, learn new ideas, get technical information and more. I like to think I don’t just gain from it but also contribute. More than anything, I use it to answer questions in the Rational ClearCase and ClearQuest forums. I enjoy solving users’ problems."

Tamir now receives 40% of his leads from the developerWorks network. How’s that for a living, breathing example of social business?

Some key points that come out of the GoMidjets story:

  • Social networks represent great assets for business development. Forums contain detailed market intelligence: users openly share their pain points. If you can help address these, you could be looking at a viable business proposition.
  • Don’t underestimate the altruistic motive. Look to add real value to the community. Spend time answering questions rather than just pumping out sales/marketing messages. Develop relationships: who know where these will lead in the future?
  • Take the risky business of product development out from behind the closed doors of your organization. Think of forums as focus groups where you can obtain user feedback and find out if a new feature really does have legs, or is just an attempt to solve a non-existent problem.

Want to replicate the GoMidjets story?

Our forums are one of the most popular areas of our site – check them out. If you would like to setup a specialized group with the opportunity to collaborate over files, activities, bookmarks and more, go right ahead. If you have a message to share or would like to provide regular updates to our community, request a blog via the link on this page.

Stacy took the opportunity to talk a little further about the developerWorks mission to the Lotusphere video press gang:

Have your own social business stories to share? Comment below!

#LS11

Developing IBM’s largest Twitter profile: grassroots marketing the @developerWorks way

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Frank Carlos, a grassroots marketing expert on the IBM developerWorks team. Among his many accomplishments has been the development of the @developerWorks Twitter profile which has amassed a princely 33,000 followers.

@developerWorks on Twitter

In my mind, this makes Frank something close to the Ashton Kutcher of the B2B tech world.

So, how did he do it? A few lessons came out of the conversation with Frank.

Curation is the key

The @developerWorks twitter account works as a syndication channel: posting links to content from across the developerWorks site. However, rather than just automatically spewing out the contents of an RSS feed, Frank takes the role of editor, curating the content and only posting the pieces he thinks make most sense. This resonates with Paul Gillin’s claim in B2B Magazine that curation is the new creation and as the amount of information out there on the web grows exponentially, we find real value from those who can pick through the haystack and just hand us the needles.

Let’s be clear though, the role of curator involves some serious graft. Frank points out that he posts over 20 tweets a day. Every day. Obviously, in order to do this you need a large network of content to pick from.

Focus on the audience

developerWorks is an IBM resource for developers and IT professionals, allowing them to build skills around the gamut of technologies that IBM solutions touch. It covers IBM’s own platforms and tools such as WebSphere, Rational, Tivoli and Information Management. There is also a mass of content on popular programming languages and applications, including PHP, Java, Ruby, Android and HTML5, and it is in these areas where the @developerWorks account is focused. (As an aside, a recent developerWorks study shows just how important these technologies are to the developerWorks audience).

Going after popular topics is a shrewd play that has obviously paid off for the @developerWorks account. Just picking a random selection from today:

@developerWorks tweet sample

Here you can see posts covering Cloud, JavaServer, Ubuntu, RedHat, Scala.

Sure, many of the tweets are related to IBM solutions, but the relationship is made with popular tech topics of the day. The message here is if you know there is a popular theme related to your offerings, exploit that relationship!

Let folks know you’re out there

There are a few attention-grabbing tactics that have been employed to publicize the @developerWorks account: none of which have cost a dime to implement (well, beyond the internal resource).

The first, is the choice of a somewhat unusual URL shortener to post links: StumbleUpon. The advantage of this service over other shorteners such as bit.ly or the newer goo.gl is that the links are automatically added to the StumbleUpon network and Frank points out that his links receive a good chunk of traffic directly from the StumbleUpon channel.

Another technique used by @developerWorks is that of following people in the networks where you want prominence. Using the Android example, you can search on people using the ‘#android’ hashtag and follow those that appear to be tweeting on-topic. Following them also puts you on their radar. If you’re putting out quality content in that area, there’s a good chance they will follow you back.

The use of hashtags in tweets is a great way of associating your content with topics/subjects. How do you find the right hashtag? One way is just a simple search on Twitter, such as this one for ‘#android‘. What you are looking for is a hashtag with a hive of existing conversation around it. And, yep, the mighty Mashable has a primer if you want to know more on making the most of hashtags.

Prove the results of your work

Syndication is the core objective of the @developerWorks account. Frank keeps detailed records on each tweet and how many clicks it receives. As well as knowing that he drives 200,000 clickthroughs a month, he also can break that down by topic and IBM technology. All through the clever use of spreadsheets!

Much is talked about the ROI of social media. For syndication you can go beyond counting clicks and approximate the value of the channel by looking at how much it costs you to attract visitors using other channels. For instance, you can take your hashtags and find out how much it would cost you to get traffic for those terms through paid search on Google. You can take this a step further if you have a good connection between your web analytics and your CRM and calculate how many of these clicks have turned into customers.

Although I bring this up last, tracking the value of your work can be the most important piece. As you’re probably aware, if you can’t find a way to express the value of your efforts, you may find your management pulling the rug from under your campaign.

I should come clean and point out that one of the motivating factors in my decision to move to the developerWorks organization was wanting to be a part of a team that is making excellent use of social media in innovative and effective ways. Frank’s use of Twitter to build the @developerWorks profile is an excellent example of this.

Blog posting made easy: Windows Live Writer

If you’ve ever had a problem losing a blog post to an errant web-based WYSIWYG editor, or have struggled cutting and pasting from an MS Word document into a blog post, then you might want to take Windows Live Writer for a spin.

 

This small Windows desktop client plays nicely with all the major blog platforms out there and offers more formatting options than you may get with your standard blogging interface (eg. tables for starters). 

Go ahead and download Windows Live Writer or read my post over on IBM developerWorks for more information on this nifty little app.

Blog posting made easy: Windows Live Writer

I’d venture to say the hard part in blogging is coming up with good ideas and finding the time to turn them into attractive blog posts. However, that final stage of laying the post out in your blogging platform can add some friction to the process.

Most blogging platforms have some form of web-based WYSIWYG editor, however these do have some limitations:

  • Being web-based there is a danger you can lose your work if you lose your connection or your browser craps out
  • Functionality can be limited, eg. that table you’ve spent an hour constructing may show up as little more than garbled text
  • The editor may not deal well with formatting from a word processing document, such as MS Word
  • If you want to share your content in multiple locations, you will have to login to many different pages

Here’s where Windows Live Writer can come in. This small desktop client from Microsoft functions as a stripped down version of MS Word optimized for creating blog posts.

You can use it directly to file your thoughts and save them locally as drafts for later publishing. You can get funky with your layouts by adding pictures, tables, video,  and even maps! Being a Microsoft product, it plays nicely with Word and does a great job of stripping out all those annoying formatting tags you see when copying Word content into most editors. For the power blogger, it supports multiple accounts and makes it easy to take a post written for one location and instantly publish it elsewhere.

Sold? Want to get started?

Here’s a cheat sheet for those of you blogging on developerWorks. BTW, if you aren’t blogging here, but would like to, sign up now to see if your blog idea is accepted. If you are using another platform (such as WordPress or Blogger), most of this still applies, although you will need to alter the URL for your blog.

Setup

Download Windows Live Writer

Once installed, it will start a wizard to connect to your blog.

Use the following settings:

What blog service do you use? Select ‘’Other blog service’

Web address of your blog: Enter ‘https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/mydeveloperworks/blogs/?lang=en

Username/Password: (same combination you use to login to developerWorks)

At this stage it should automatically find the blog. If it doesn’t and asks you for a blogging service, use the following details:

Type of blog: Select ‘Atom’

Remote posting URL: Enter ‘https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/mydeveloperworks/blogs/?lang=en

You will then be asked whether the client can make a temporary post so it can detect the publishing formatting settings. Select ‘Yes’.

That’s it! You will be dropped into the editor and you are now ready to post.

Posting

You’ll notice that the editor is very close to MS Word and you can do most standard formatting using the top toolbars. You will also there find options to add images, video, tables, etc.

A word of warning about images: if you want to upload local files (rather than link to images already on the web), you may want to upload your post as a draft and add these from within your web editor. Sometimes Windows Live Writer can struggle to upload images directly to your blog.

Remember to specify categories (at the bottom of the post editor) to help you organize your content.

If everything looks good, go ahead and hit ‘Publish’! If you’re squemish by nature or have any doubts, you may want to go ‘Save Draft’ > ‘Post Draft to Blog’ just to make sure all looks fine before going live.

Happy blogging! 

(BTW, in case you are wondering, this post was created in Windows Live Writer!)

What is a community manager?

Fellow IBMer Kevin Czap recently took the position of the community manager for the developerWorks Cloud Computing Central group. DeveloperWorks is IBM’s central external resource for developers and IT professionals and Kevin defined his role as follows:

The Community Managers act as an advocate for the Community. They are the eyes and ears of their respective communities, kind of like a intermediary between developerWorks and the group, listening and acting upon requirements, suggestions, feedback and ultimately making the group one that thrives, flourishes and is valued by the Community. Some examples include lining up Subject Matter Experts to blog,contribute, and connecting group members to the appropriate IBM contact when needed. Basically we’re here to help the community in any way we can.

Why do you need a community manager?

Read more

What is a community manager?

Fellow IBMer Kevin Czap recently took the position of the community manager for the developerWorks Cloud Computing Central group. DeveloperWorks is IBM’s central external resource for developers and IT professionals and Kevin defined his role as follows:

The Community Managers act as an advocate for the Community. They are the eyes and ears of their respective communities, kind of like a intermediary between developerWorks and the group, listening and acting upon requirements, suggestions, feedback and ultimately making the group one that thrives, flourishes and is valued by the Community. Some examples include lining up Subject Matter Experts to blog,contribute, and connecting group members to the appropriate IBM contact when needed. Basically we’re here to help the community in any way we can.

Why do you need a community manager? As Kevin points out, he has a clear objective to make the group one “that thrives, flourishes and is valued by the Community“.

As the 2010 World Cup draws to a close, I can’t help but think of the coach/manager gesticulating wildly to get the most out of his team. I see the community manager role as somewhat similar even though the linkages between members of online communities aren’t necessarily as strong as between players on the same team (especially given that members work for many companies, some of which can even have competitive relationships). Having said this, having someone on the sidelines who can bring energy and verve to the group, marshall team members when needed and deal with any questions or conflict that arises, is a useful function.

I’ve been involved in a number of social media or community initiatives over the last few years, and by far the most successful are those which have a clearly defined community manager. To those of you that work in this space, this may be a no brainer. This role appears to be more commonly overlooked when these communities are set up by marketing departments (given that I work in marketing, I can’t help but point a finger at myself too here).

The problem comes when you sit down to plan the initiative. Quite often this starts with thinking of a platform or application. ‘We need blogs and forums’. ‘We need a Facebook page’. ‘We need RSS capabilities’. Sure, at some point you will need to consider these aspects, but as analysts like Charlene Li have been pointing out for some time, step back and think of the people involved before you get near the technology. And the people for your prospective community need a value prop, guidance and occasionally gentle persuasion if your community is to become a success. Just because you build it, this does not mean they will necessarily come.

So spend the time and think of who will manage the community. I’d suggest this not being a field marketing or demand program manager who may be 1) overworked and 2) have competing interests to overall community development (ie. swamp the community with their company’s promotional content). So, what should this person ideally be doing? Some examples of the role a community manager can play:

  • Establishing an editorial calendar to make sure a blog is constantly fed with relevant content
  • Finding an expert who can answer comm0n questions posed by newbies
  • Tactfully weeding out trolls and threads that could diminish the overall value of the community
  • Devising appropriate rewards for the most valuable members of the community (My Media Labs takes this a step further and talks about setting up a leadership team consisting of super users)
  • Posing questions to help shape discussion
  • Monitoring the community to understand where most activity occurs

This is just for starters. You should make sure you have someone who has the requisite skill set to carry out these tasks. They should be knowledgeable but not overbearing. Tactful but forceful when necessary. A good planner yet flexible. Get the feeling that this person may be as rare as a sunflower in Antartica? You’re probably right. However some parts of the organization may already be inculcating these kind of characteristics in their employees. Check out the support or customer service department. Investigate the technical sales team. Mine the depths of your R &D department. These departments give you a better chance of locating community managers. I’d suggest that the traits are more important than the experience. There is much that can be learnt on the job.

Finding the right person is invaluable for the success of your community. A recent debacle on Nestle’s Facebook fan page illustrates how bad things can get if there’s dissonance between you and your community. Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson discussed this subject at some length on their FIR podcast and Shel has this excellent follow-up on questions you should ask before setting up a Facebook fan page.

So, if you are about to setup a new community, or are wondering how you can breathe new life into an existing forum, make sure you have a community manager in place. Just as the fortunes of many a world cup squad has hinged on the influence of the manager, so can a community manager make or break an online community.