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  There's a new firestorm brewing in web services architectures. Cloud services are being talked up as a fundamental shift in web architecture that promises to move us from interconnected silos to a collaborative network of services whose sum is greater than its parts. The problem is that the protocols powering current cloud services; SOAP and a few other assorted HTTP-based protocols are all one way information exchanges. Therefore cloud services aren't real-time, won't scale, and often can't clear the firewall. So, it's time we blow up those barriers and come to Jesus about the protocol that will fuel the SaaS models of tomorrow--that solution is XMPP (also called Jabber) . Never heard of it? In just a couple of years Google, Apple, AOL, IBM, Livejournal and Jive have all jumped on board. Sounds good, right? So, what's the hold up? Why aren't we building out cloud services with XMPP now? And, if people are already providing cloud services without XMPP, what's the motivation to switch? The rest of this post will shed some light on the current landscape and provide some answers to those questions.


Polling isn't working anymore

Since the beginning of the Internet, if you wanted to sync services between two servers the most common solution was to have the client ping the host at regular intervals, which his known as polling. Polling is how most of us check our email. We ping our email server every few minutes to see if we got new mail. It's also how nearly all web services APIs work.


Take, for example, Twitter. High Scalability recently covered the load stats on Twitter reporting that they average 200-300 connections per second with spikes that climb to 800 connections per second. Their MySQL server handles 2,400 requests per second! Recently, the Macworld keynote became the most recent culprit for causing Twitter to cut off its API, which has 10x the load of their website. While Twitter is not a cloud service, nor the largest demand service on the internet (with a paltry 350,000ish users, which pales in comparison to a MySpace or Yahoo!), they do illustrate the kind of frustration a user experiences with polling based services. And, that's just Twitter! Imagine the impact on overall Internet traffic congestion polling creates worldwide.


Interestingly, the recent Twitter outage lead some influencers, like Dave Winer,  to suggest that Twitter move to XMPP which we've already begun experimenting with   


Some companies are trying to address the polling problem with existing protocols. I think that move is largely motivated by a significant investment in legacy systems that makes moving to another protocol difficult. Salesforce is a perfect example of a company attempting to address the polling problem with creative applications of the old one way protocols.


The latest version of Salesforce will send notifications back to your own webservice to avoid polling. But, that's a pain to setup for developers. Worse, its very difficult to wire up reverse webservices calls through a corporate firewall.



The hold up

XMPP's largest hurdle is that its not HTTP, and common wisdom states everything new that's built must be web-based. That means we won't see a widespread application of XMPP in cloud services until a few more brave pioneers clear the path for the rest of us.


I've been heavily involved in the XMPP world as a developer of Smack (client library) and Openfire (server) and have also helped craft the standard as a member of the XMPP Standards Foundation. XMPP was invented for instant messaging and presence, and is the dominant open protocol in that space. Instant messaging? Yep, it turns out that all of the problems that had to be solved for instant messaging make the protocol perfect for cloud computing:


  • It allows for easy two-way communication, so bye bye polling. It even has rich pub-sub functionality built-in.

  • It's XML-based and easily extensible, perfect for both new instant messaging features and custom cloud services.

  • It's efficient and proven to scale to millions of concurrent users on a single service (such as Google's GTalk). It also has a built-in worldwide federation model.


I'm not the only one to notice that XMPP is a great fit for cloud computing. Tivo is switching to XMPP as a more efficient alternative to their old architecture:


<div class="jive-quote">Today each TiVo polls TiVo’s severs roughly every 15 minutes to check for new scheduled recordings, TiVoCast downloads, Unbox downloads, etc. That’s highly inefficient - nearly all of those polling calls are for nothing. There is nothing waiting to be done. And it introduces a lag when you want to start a download - up to 15 minutes. And it doesn’t scale well as TiVo’s user base keeps growing.


So what’s changed? The polling system is gone. TiVo is using XMPP now instead. (...) Yep, TiVo is basically using instant messaging for real- time communication. Now when the TiVo server has a new recording to schedule, it will IM the TiVo to tell it. Or if there is a download to pull, it will IM the TiVo to tell it to do so. This is a much more efficient system and it eliminates latency. It is really a clever idea.


Fixing the polling and scaling problems with XMPP as Tivo has done is compelling, but the built-in presence functionality also offers tantalizing possibilities. Presence includes basic availability information, but is extensible and can also include things like geo-location. Imagine cloud services taking different actions based on where the client is connecting from. 


More people, us included, will make the shift to XMPP, which will provide the missing evidence to create momentum toward a tipping point. In fact, I'm happy to announce that Clearspace 2.0 will include a feature that's powered by an XMPP-based cloud service. We'll be publishing a series of blog entries in the near future to discuss how we built it.


Resources for XMPP cloud service developers

There are a few places you can turn for help building cloud services around XMPP. Here is a list of a few:


I love when reporters ask me whether social software can be productive in the enterprise. Their questions always begin with something like, "why would an employee use something like Facebook at work?" (First off, if it actually was Facebook they wouldn't use it for work, but that's a different post.) The implicit assumption is that employees would sit around adding friends and poking each other. I understand the perception, since social tools like blogs, social networking, and Twitter started in the consumer space.


But it's like saying email is totally ridiculous at work.

Email started as a goofy tool. You sent it to your friends instead of letters. "Grandma! It's me, I'm writing you a letter from my computer!" But as soon as we took it into the workplace, it had purpose by definition. We were at work. We did work things. I guess there may have been a moment of, "Hey Bob, I'm sending you an email. Testing. Testing. Is this thing on?" But then Bob said "yes, now what the hell

do you want. We have work to do."


The same questions I get today about social productivity software were asked of email at that time. How is email productive? What's the ROI? The bigger challenge I see with social productivity software is that it's hard to explain and far less analogous. Email was easy. "It's like a letter, but on your computer." Try that with blogging, wikis, rss or the hundreds of vowel-less companies associated with social software. It doesn't help that we've chosen the word "social" as the prefix.


The funny thing is that we're trapping ourselves with this language. If the button said, "status report" instead of "blog," people would go,"oh!" click on it and get started.

For my first Jive Talks post, I'd like to talk about some of the changes we're making to the release train in 2008: Internally, we are committed to continuing with an agile development process based on 3 week iterations. At the end of each of these cycles, we will make the current code available as an alpha or beta beta release for developers. Information about how to sign up for the 2.0 Beta Program should be available soon! Externally, we are aiming to launch major/minor releases once a quarter. Clearspace 2.0 has been (and continues to be) an ambitious undertaking, but we're still shooting for a release in early April. Subsequent releases (2.1, 2.2, 2.3) should land in July, October, January, etc. We're looking at adding some very exciting features this year, but I'll let others tell that story...


On the support side, we will continue to provide patch releases for up to 12 months after any major or minor release. These point releases (2.0.1, 2.0.2, etc.) will be reserved strictly for bug fixes, and contain no new functionality.  As in the past, these will be released on a 3-week cycle to give the Software Quality Assurance team sufficient time for testing. We've planned for 3-4 scheduled patch releases after every major/minor release.  After that, we will do patches on an ad hoc basis to address any severity 1 or 2 issues that may arise.


The 1.x series went into maintenance mode starting with 1.10. There is a 1.10.1 patch release scheduled for next week, and again, we will continue to do patches on an as-needed basis to address critical issues for up to 12 months, after which we will ask customers to upgrade to 2.x, in order to stay on a supported release.


On a personal note, I've been having a great time since joining the Jive development team in November. As you may know, we're doing a lot of hiring this year, and I would love to hear from you if you're interested in joining us!

Blogging outside of the firewall has some measurable numbers for determining ROI. However, it also offers noticeable value that doesn't always translate to numbers. The following is a list of the kinds of value blogging offers a business and how that value can be determined.

Lead Generation

Perhaps the clearest value to measure and the shortest path to the bottom line that blogging offers is lead generation. Blog visitors can be funneled to the business's main site by cross linking in the posts, sidebar links, and navigation items. If your business has a proper lead funnel in place, you'll be able to track the conversion rate and sales volume of the traffic that enters the site through the blog (sorry, setting up a lead funnel is another day's post).

Search Engine Optimization

Likely, search engines will be the largest traffic source supplying your blog. Search engines, especially Google, love blogs as they are a natural fit for exploiting their algorithm. You can measure the position you have in the SERPs and the volume of incoming search traffic through standard analytics solutions, such as Google Analytics. You'll also be able to track the conversion rate and sales volume for that traffic, assuming you're capturing that data through your lead funnel. A business can build perception as a market leader by having a high ranking in the SERPs for prominent keywords in their market. If your blog is hosted on the same domain as the rest of your site, then not only will your blog be a significant source for attracting search engine traffic, but also the Google juice flowing to the blog will spill out to the rest of the site improving its performance in the SERPs for its own pages.

Link Building

Quality posts will inspire people to link to them and/or socially bookmark them. Inbound links provide value in the forms of search engine optimization, referring traffic, and a reputation boost. The number of inbound links and referring traffic can be measured. You can even track the conversion rate and sales volume for that traffic. The value gained from market exposure as a link source doesn't translate to numbers, but it is directly responsible for whether or not the measurable numbers go up or down.

Building Subscribers

Blog subscribers come in several forms: email subscribers, RSS subscribers, Twitter friends, and potentially more. They are extremely valuable contacts because they have opted-in to your future communications. You can tap subscribers for consuming new content, taking action (like voting for a post on Digg), special offers (like participating in a contest), and completing surveys. You can measure the number of subscribers and the actions they take with services such as Feedburner.

Market Leadership Perception

Blogs are a great tool for positioning yourself as an expert in your market. Consistent output of quality content, combined with positive interaction are the keys to successful positioning as an expert, which has myriad immeasurable value trails. You should notice value in the form of how many inbound links you earn, the context of the words around the link, the volume of unsolicited media inquiries you earn, and an increased close ratio for your sales team due to your reputation.

Reputation Management

Speaking of reputation, you'll need to properly manage yours online to get the most out of our thought leadership program. Essentially reputation management is about listening and responding. In an interview from CIO InSight, Robert Scoble put it like this:

We used blog-search engines to find anyone who wrote the word "Microsoft" on their blog. Even if they had no readers and were just ranting, "I hate Microsoft," I could see that and link to it, or I could participate in their comments, or send them an e-mail saying, "What's going on?" And that told those people that someone was listening to their rants, that this is a different world than the one in which no one listens. It was an invaluable focus group that Microsoft didn't have to pay for


The article went on to say that this kind of direct communication provided millions of dollars in PR value and is directly responsible for a shift in market perception about Microsoft as evil. So, not only can thought leadership position you as an expert, but it also allows you to address negative PR early on.


Competitive Advantage

Thought Leadership from blogging can provide several competitive advantages. Dominating the conversations will increase the mind share your brand has in your market. Leading the pack also means you're receiving more from the benefits of thought leadership than your competitors, which has as many advantages as their are benefits. Staying ahead of the group will strongly aide your acquisition of market share and provide strong defense for the amount you control. In an interview for Influence 2.0, Claudio Marcus and Kimberly Collins of Gartner quantified the advantage in the B2C market as such: 2007, marketers that devote at least 50% of their time to advanced customer-centric marketing processes and capabilities will achieve marketing return on investment that is at least 30 percent greater than that of their peers, who lack such emphasis


The consumer-centric marketing processes they are discussing is driven by intelligence gathering that guides messaging. While you may not see the exact same numbers in the B2B market, it is safe to assume that the world is at the beginning of an adoption curve for leveraging intelligence for publishing direction. As a result, you should see significantly more return than those not aggressively applying the same cutting edge techniques in your market.


Media and Public Relations

Publishing content for and interacting with other media providers will increase your sway with them. The measurable results of this will come in the form of inbound links, trackbacks, syndication, comments, and blogrolls. What the numbers won't show is the increased willingness to listen to the PR pitches you put in front of the media. In fact, you should find yourself in the position to make more casual and opportunistic pitches from a more open and frequent information exchange.


Product Development

Related to reputation management, product development can benefit from listening to what customers are saying about them. Robert Scoble talked about it like this:

I would often e-mail a Microsoft product team leader, like Dean Hachamovitch over at the Internet Explorer team, and say, "Hey, man, here's someone out here complaining about your product, what are you going to do about it?" That would prompt him to blog about a lot of things, to tell people what they were going to do about CSS (Cascading Style Sheets, a design tool for HTML and XML pages) support and security, or crashing, or whatever. I think that helped improve the products. The One Note team (One Note is an application in the Microsoft Office suite that syncs text and audio) told me they got a lot of feature requests through their blog, features that they actually implemented in the next version of the product. They thought it was an important way to listen to customers and give them what they wanted.


As he said earlier, "it was an invaluable focus group" for Microsoft. You too can cash in on this valuable benefit.



It's not only potential customers and market influencers that are going to be participating with you, but potential employees as well. When competing against pundits like Microsoft, Intel and IBM, you'll need all of the help you can get to attract top talent. A quality information stream and positive market perception from quality participation in the industry conversations will go a long way in selling your company to talent you don't even know exists.

Low Cost

Perhaps one of the least obvious benefits is that all of these benefits come from an operating expense that is significantly lower than would be possible with PR or from printed publications.

Eye poppin' ROI stat

Posted by djhersh Jan 17, 2008

I was talking to Dan Short (our Director of Product Marketing, and analytics guru) the other day about the oppressive weight of trying to do a comprehensive ROI analysis for an organization that ties together all the pieces of social productivity. While it is achievable and useful as an overview piece on the nature of productivity in an organization, sometimes it's best to start small and measure the specific teams trying to get work done. And then sometimes you just get a great stat that falls in your lap, like this one: one of our customers, a consumer products company, implemented an enthusiast community and tracked whether the members of the community were using their product. Within less than a year, 40% of the members who weren't using their product had switched and become customers.


I was astounded. 40% of people who joined their community switched to their product in less than a year.


Now most customers of ours who create customer communities are just going out to existing customers and measuring customer sat, loyalty, feedback, support costs, etc. But expanding the funnel and focusing on brand awareness and capturing new customers is a newer and more innovative approach that's starting to gain traction. We're seeing a number of clients putting out communities of interest in the hopes of attracting customers away from the competition. And so far, it seems to be working.

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!

Mac Usage at Jive

Posted by bill Jan 15, 2008

Today's the Macworld Expo in San Francisco. Mac fans all over the world, and about half of the Jive office, are eagerly anticipating Steve Jobs' keynote. The number of Mac users here is significant, given that almost no one used Macs 16 months ago.


We've seen a pretty amazing shift in the types of computers we buy our new hires over the past months. It all started 2 years ago when Intel-based Mac computers were announced. Shortly after that virtualization software like Parallels came out and since then it's been easier than ever to make the transition. Around the same time we announced two new benefits at Jive: first, a credit for employees wanting to buy their own personal computer and second, the choice of platform for their main work computer. The credit was meant to address the fact that some people wanted to work at home but had old computers. Since a home computer is also for personal use we offer to pay for some of it but not all. The policy has worked really well and our employees are able to work at home on good machines. The second part of the policy was mostly for new hires, though people who have old computers at work (because they've been here at while) are eligble too. The choice of platform acknowledged the fact that some people are more productive on a Mac and didn't want to learn something else. I'd guess that most people choose laptops but many choose the new iMacs.


At first, there were a handful of us willing to figure out the best OS X environment and application stack for Jive. The good thing is that most of the applications we use are still usable on the Mac -- web applications, Java IDEs and creative apps (Photoshop). For email, some were happy with the built-in Mail application, others wanted to use Outlook (like me ). Once we started using Parallels it became possible to run apps like Outlook or even use a few of the Windows apps we are familar with. iWork '08 has made office files easy to deal with -- it'll open any Word, Excel or Powerpoint app out there. Overall, it took a good 6 months to iron out the kinks and give IT a handle on supporting us (in fact, most of them use Macs!). Running a non-homogenous IT environment is definitely challenging but so far they've been able to make it work. One thing I'd recommend is a policy of needing to prove your platform. That is, we didn't want to have our employees request a Mac because they thought it looked cool. You had to actually be a Mac user and be familiar with the OS.


Overall, we definitely spend a little more for Macs but I think it's worth it. People like the choice of platform (we offer Windows or Linux as well) and I personally think the productivity gains are worth it. We're all looking forward to what Apple announces today.

I know I talk about Frankensuites all the time but rarely do I get to peer into the belly of one and see the mania.


Check out this diagram on the history of Sharepoint (large version). Does this scare anyone else? Where are they going to bolt on their social software?




I recently heard that Xerox just rebranded their whole company and launched an online community so I went to take a look. What I found made me feel sorry for whoever tried to champion the project. Most companies think that you just turn the community software on and it will somehow, magically create a community. Many of those companies marginalize the effort as some sort of "feel good" check-box they know they need but aren't sure why.  Worst case, they really just want another place to Market their stuff. In these situations, the initiative is never connected to their business strategy or seen as core. These community managers (and their bossess bosses boss) can learn a little from our beefy friends at Orange County Chopper. That in mind, consider these five suggestions:





1. Geek out on your products in public

I don't own a motorcycle. I'm not even close to being mechanically-oriented. But getting close to the product process and having the opportunity to see behind the scenes totally grabs my interest. Especially since it feels like reality even though I know it's produced. Ironically, I talked to someone today who just left Xerox. She told me that Xerox's culture is super product-centric and there are fanatical product people there. Oh really? Well let's see that! Give those people an ok place to geek out and make me care. It will be great for the public and help the product group engage more directly with customers. Then the community becomes less "feel good" and more important.


2. Be real

Reality television humanizes the story. It shows us-- in this case-- a garage filled with people making mistakes, decisions and connections. Sometimes the interactions are ugly. It's ok. Show us that. Involve us in it. Yes, I realize you have to control certain things. But so does reality tv.


3. If it doesn't work, build something else

Those guys have to ditch their plans all the time. They tinker on a bike, back up and talk about it, then throw out what doesn't work. Changing directions publicly is ok. Especially if you involve the rest of us along the way.


4. Show us what's cool

There's no doubt that everyone on American Chopper loves what they do. It makes me love it, too. Find the passionate people in your company and bring them to the forefront. If  you're not into it, how can we be? Show us, don't tell us.


5. Trust people who don't work at your company

Those Chopper guys always have crazy deadlines. They collaborate closely with the paint, chrome, and parts vendors they work with. It's one team even though they don't all work at Orange County Chopper. There's no reason you can't involve interested stakeholders in your ideas and make them part of your process, too. If you're worried about doing it publicly, set up a private place to invite them. Give other people a wrench, too.


I'm sure there's more ideas but I wanted to throw these out. Chime in if you have some.

Did you know that you can get a free license of Clearspace X if you are a non-commercial open source project or developer group? This is one of the cool parts of my of my job … I get to give people free software licenses!


Our Clearspace X product just won the Best Community Platform award from InfoWorld, so we're giving you some great community software! You can read the full review on the InfoWorld site. This award is no surprise to me. We power the 2 communities that I manage, Jivespace and Ignite Realtime, on Clearspace X.



One group taking advantage of this free license program is the Open Management Consortium.  Last week, they just released a beta version of their new site based entirely on Clearspace X. They managed to get the entire site up and running with the old data moved into the new site mostly over a weekend. The OMC was formed with the goal being to "advance the promotion, adoption, development and integration of open source systems /network management software." They are using Clearspace X to power the community where the members of this group collaborate, discuss ideas, and get organized about how to accomplish this goal.


If you have an open source project or a developer group (users group, etc.) and want to take advantage of the free licenses, you can find more details and a short request form on the free license page on Jivespace.

Now that Google and Facebook have validated the importance of DataPortability, it's important to think about the ramifications on how these standards translate to the enterprise.


We've been focused on standards for years, so this is very exciting news for us. Google and Facebook's support of DataPortability will put tremendous pressure on both consumer and enterprise social software. If you're a vendor in this space, you'll need to support these standards. I imagine there may even be some companies that will need to, unfortunately, re-examine and/or rebuild their product architectures.


In the meantime, data standards in the enterprise are less clear.  Google Docs currently uses SAML. Will they now move to OpenID and OAuth? As people like Google push to the enterprise, it will be critical to put real standards in place. The problem with OpenID, OAuth, Microformats, RSS, Atom, etc is that there's not the same standards body in place like we see in our participation with the XMPP Foundation. As much as tbe blogosphere loves to talk about things like OpenID, etc, they need a true standards body, process, and protocol around them for there to be any enterprise traction.


We've committed to clear standards, like XMPP. We've even seen Google, IBM and Yahoo engage with our code. We will commit to new standards as they clarify and given the gravity of Google and Facebook, DataPortability should be one of them. Bottomline: we'll charge ahead on the standards that have the biggest impact to delivering social productivity in the enterprise.

Yesterday two pretty cool things happened. Clearspace X won InfoWorld's Technology of the Year award for "Best Community Platform." We also had our biggest new hire orientation day in the company's history. I think it was close to 15 new people, which is more people than were at Jive when I started.



"Enterprise 2.0" doesn't work as the name of a market. I get that it persists as a modification of Web 2.0 but it doesn't work long term for the name of a market. When everyone begins distancing themselves from anything associated with trendy nomenclature, no one will want to be the darling of something as perishable as "Enterprise 2.0." 


So, if not Enterprise 2.0, then what? The only other concept that seems to connect is "Social," though I'm conflicted about that prefix. It's obviously just as prevalent as "2.0" and more accurately descriptive, but the word "social" is often met with a raised eyebrow in the enterprise. "Social" sounds like it's about wasting time though I imagine with enough momentum, the term could be redefined (people take the word "Google" seriously). The whole nomenclature debate reminds me of the hype cycle that the prefix "e" traversed in the mid to late 1990s and some of the "e"-words survived. Regardless, it would appear that "Social" is the moniker of our time. Check it out:



Maybe the Wikipedians were far enough outside of the echo chamber to be able to see the forest through the trees. Perhaps merging Enterprise 2.0 with social computing is a better move, but we think that social software inside the enterprise has to be focused on productivity. That's why we use the term "Social Productivity" instead of "Enterprise 2.0." Maybe you could ask these guys about it this Friday.



Too bad I can't add a RSS feed from Amazon that could ping me every time a new Sharepoint "how-to" book was added. I bet we top 1,000 books by February. Though I guess I could give Dapper a try and create a feed anyway. Nah.

I'm sorry, but does anyone else think this graph is nuts? I'm hypnotized by it. It would be interesting to overlay another graph for the same period that showed how many companies were betting on Microsoft for planned enterprise IT investments. Wonder what that would look like. Up? Down? That said, if John Battelle's 2008 predictions come true, perhaps this chart is very different for both companies next year.



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