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Archive for the ‘Atlassian’ Category

The enterprise wiki that I deployed and continue to support and develop at NYK has just won an Intranet Innovation Award.  The NYK wiki uses the Confluence platform, a product supplied by the Atlassian company.

We won a gold award in the Communication and Collaboration category for a particular function of our wiki called the NYK News Room.

The annual international awards are run by Step Two Designs, an Australian outfit, and NYK ranks alongside other big name winners like IBM, AEP and SunGuard.

Although I’m responsible for the technical aspects of this deployment and for promoting adoption (working with our corp. comms. guys), credit must also go to my colleague Rupert  Shanks for conceiving the News Room idea and then implementing it. Well done Rupert!

The News Room utilises the basic labelling (tagging), macros and RSS functions found in the out-of-the-box Confluence product, together with additional JavaScript and an external web-based RSS feed burning service.

Details of the award are here: http://www.steptwo.com.au/columntwo/winners-announced-for-this-years-intranet-innovation-awards/ and here: http://www.steptwo.com.au/products/iia2009

As predicted in my post of January 19th, Team and Concepts Limited, have discontinued sales of EditGrid (though they state that they will continue to support existing customers).

I learnt today that Atlassian will be disabling the EditGrid server used by the Confluence Enterprise Hosted product on March 30th thereby cutting-off customer’s usage of this feature.

My advice to hosted Confluence customers is to start the switch away from the EditGrid macro now (switch to the Office Connector {Viewfile} macro). If you are not already on Confluence V2.10 you should start the upgrade process now!

Good luck.

I have it on good authority that Team and Concepts Limited, the owners of EditGrid, are considering the discontinuation of this excellent on-line spreadsheet tool.

Atlassian Confluence-hosted product users such as NYK Line, The Wall Street Journal, Nintendo of America, Accenture and Illinois Wesleyan University, face losing this highly important functionality altogether, should they attempt to move their wiki from the Atlassian hosting (where EditGrid is included for free) to in-house servers. Team and Concepts are refusing to sell new licenses of the EditGrid plugin for Confluence. They are even refusing to grant their usual 30 day evaluation license until they reach a decision regarding whether to continue with EditGrid or not.

I wonder if those who already license the Confluence plugin will be left in the lurch regarding support and upgrades, or even worse, could we see a situation where those who rely on the vendor’s EditGrid server in Hong Kong see this service interrupted, rendering the tool and their investment useless?

The situation is made worse by the uncertainty. A contact of mine recently tracked down P K Chan of Team & Concepts Ltd via his cell phone. All that he would say is that they were not certain whether they would continue with EditGrid or not. In the mean time they would not sell the product or grant evaluations until a decision had been reached. It is my experience that the company does not return phone calls, respond to e-mail or to requests made via their website.

At the company I am currently assisting with the migration of an enterprise wiki from Atlassian Hosted to an in-house server. I am converting all instances of EditGrid usage to the [Confluence] built-in Office Connector tool. This seems to work very well though I am a little worried about data loss during concurrent edits of workbooks and the lack of the usual version tracking we normally expect from wiki pages. I aim to explore the use of Office Connector in an imminent blog post.

Come on Team & Concepts, you need to act fast to remedy this unhappy situation.

UPDATE

As a result of Atlassian’s Jens Schumacher’s comment (below) I felt a clarifying update was appropriate incase readers miss the comment:

1. Even if EditGrid stops working, you will of course be able to access any spread-sheet (attached to a wiki page) using the Office Connector or download and edit the files in Excel etc.

2. The EditGrid server that drives the spreadsheets in Confluence Team and Enterprise Hosted is actually hosted by Atlassian so these customers will not lose EditGrid functionality should EditGrid pull the plug on their server.

3. Versioning: Jens says: “You will still be able to take advantage of attachment versioning using the Office Connector”. I can;t see how this is so. Jens have I missed some configuration step? When I make an edit to a spreadsheet using EditGrid, prior versions of the spread sheet attachment can be accessed/viewed/downloaded etc. via the Page Attachments view (by clicking the side pointing arrowhead to the left of the attachment). Using the office connector to edit the workbook (in Excel) does not result in a new version being saved. Instead WebDAV is used to serve up the attachment as if Excel were opening it from a local drive. After editing and saving the View Attachments page there is only one version of the attachment so changes within the workbook cannot be tracked.

Data Loss

Whenever multiple people happen to be editing the same workbook using EditGrid the product seems to do an excellent job of saving every person’s changes. When I did a simple test using Excel via Office Connector changes made by person A were obliterated when person B did a file-save moments later.

I believe that Atlassian may have a enhancement ticket open to improve these two behaviours of the office connector. I feel that even with these two factors the Office Connect is a superb addition to Confluence and should be used.

I too hope that EditGrid will continue with their first class product.

Roughly 15 years ago Ward Cunningham started it all with his Wiki
Wiki Web editor. For the next twelve years the wiki was the preserve
of the techie. It was used by teams of developers to comment about code changes and features to be incorporated into the software they were building.

For the last three years people like me have been pushing the virtues
of the wiki for use outside the IT department. Enterprise wikis like
Atlassian’s Confluence make this possible by providing friendly
editors and integration with office suites like Microsoft Office.

Now Beth Stackpole spotlights in this Computerworld article the growth of enterprise wiki use within the IT department as a whole. When I spoke to Beth, I was keen to talk of all the non-IT business uses the Confluence tool was fulfilling but she only wanted to focus on IT use!

Funny how things often go full circle.

On Thursday of this week, I attended the Atlassian User Group meeting in London. Here are my rough notes on the proceedings:

Atlassian now have over 11,000 customers. They will open their European office before the autumn. It will be in Amsterdam.

Josh Wold will move from London to Amsterdam. They have a new person in London: Michael Studman.

Turnover is now 35m USD and has been doubling each year.

Confluence 2.8 has been released. It has improvements to the user interface with some good new themes, page ordering and navigation drag & drop. The SharePoint connector will be released very soon. It provides for single sign on (SSO), search across both platforms and ability to embed content from each other.

Atlassian divide their Confluence efforts into three camps:

1. Writer – improving the editor (rumors of an edit-in-MS word function).
2. Discovery – better tools to find info
3. Engine room – back end tech. improvements

Generally, Atlassian are working hard to closely integrate all of their products. The CROWD product (SSO) has rel. 1.4 which offers great user profile management with nested groups and provides a User Self-Management console.

JIRA Studio, a hosted (software) development platform and a on-demand development suite has been launched.

Atlassian see their imminent major challenges as: integration and large (organization) customers.

Sonali Vitarana from StatPro outlined her company’s use of Confluence to bolster their web based offerings (of financial stat. tools) to their external customers. SSO between Confluence and a number of other applications is accomplished by their utilization of Crowd the Atlassian authentication and user management product.

StartPro make use of an Adaptavist remote hosting contract to run their Confluence server. They utilize the Adaptavist Theme Builder product to brand and deliver an enhanced look & feel to their wiki. This gave them a greatly improved Dashboard with the ability to launch all of their other applications. They also utilize the Statistics plug-in from Adaptavist to give them greatly improved user/visitor stats.

A presentation on (JIRA) a highly configurable issue tracker from Atlassian mentioned new releases of the product, a plug-in called Green Hopper to allow the tool to be used for project management using SCRUM/Agile.

There are also a number of workflow/approval plug-ins available.

Adaptavist break-out session:

(Thanks to Dan Hardiker for the clarification post (see below))

The Dashboard’s Recently Updated panel is based on Smart Lists and utilizes the Lucene search / text indexing tool.

Adaptavist stated that the Usage Tracking Plugin ( formally known as the Activity Plugin) can have a negative performance impact where the wiki is dealing with a large number of page hits. The plugin also doesn’t work in a cluster environment.

There are similar alternatives such as the Reporting Plugin which is rather powerful, but can again have performance problems when scaling up to thousands of users generating millions of hits per day.

Adaptavist offer an alternative, the (FOSS) statistics plugin which is built to scale up to cope with billions of hits.

A very interesting video on demand site that runs entirely on Confluence: parleys

After the recent reporting by the BBC of the Forrester market forecast for a $4.6 spend on global enterprise 2.0, friends that I have not heard from for some time came out of the woodwork asking me how they could get a slice of that money.

Even though I agree completely with Euan Semple, with whom I have been working closely, that these things should not cost that much (our enterprise wiki cost about GBP16k for the year!) I do feel that there will be plenty of work for consultants so I got thinking about how to gain the experience that will be needed. Here are my ideas:

Step 1. Get accounts at all of the following, use them become very familiar with them:

Digg

Flickr

Facebook

Virb

Linkedin

Twitter

YouTube

Last.fm

Del.icio.us

Wikipedia (become a wikipedian)

Skype

AIM

GMail

Upcoming

Technorati

MyBlogLog

2. At the same time – start blogging (I suggest you start with a free account at Google – blogger)

3. Study enterprise Wikis (there are only two worth looking at: Socialtext and Atlassian Confluence).

4. Perform a couple of wiki roll-outs for charities / public sector for no pay.

5. Look at personal pages like Netvibes, iGoogle and Pageflakes


6. Having become familiar with bookmarking from step 1, look at enterprise bookmarking (Cogenz is one example)

7. Read the books: The wisdom of crowds, The tipping point, Wikinomics.

8. Read everything on this blog: http://theobvious.typepad.com/blog/

If anyone has other suggestions, please leave comments.

Good luck!

Fantastic news: Atlassian have introduced an embedded wiki spreadsheet for the Confluence product called EditGrid. It has been implemented as a Confluence plug-in and finally brings real-time spreadsheet collaboration to the enterprise wiki world.

When the wiki page is saved the spreadsheet is stored as an Excel like attachment to the page. Normal wiki change tracking / versioning is extended to the spreadsheet’s contents!

When the page is viewed the sheet’s contents is rendered in HTML right on the page – no clicking of links or examining the page for attachments! The viewing user is even able to perform sorting and auto filtering.

When the page is placed into edit, a special sheet editor is provided.

Uncharacteristically for Atlassian, the plug-in has been provided first for hosted users (both Hosted and the newer Enterprise Hosted schemes) but in-house users will have to wait until “later in 2008 Q1″.

I feel that this feature opens up the Confluence tool to even more possibilities regarding emergent applications/user organized applications and is possibly another nail in the coffin of the traditional CMS style intranet.

Well done Atlassian and thanks!

More info here.

London wiki Wednesday, 5th December 2007 at NYK Line / NYK Group Europe

Last night I hosted London Wiki Wednesday, with facilities kindly provided by NYK and refreshments funded by SocialText.

At the top of the bill was Jimmy Wales but although David Terrar delayed start of proceedings significantly, he did not show up. To be fair to Jimbo, apparently his commitment was along the lines of “I will try to be there”.
Despite his non-appearance, we were by the presence of Alison Wheeler from Wikimedia UK who spoke eloquently and at some length about the charitable work of Wikimedia.
Well into the evening, I exited the room to look for stragglers (hoping to spy Jimbo emerging from the lift) and found instead Wikimedia’s Sue Gardner, (great name for a wiki enthusiast!), who was hopelessly lost and wandering NYK’s 17th floor looking for the venue. To her credit, she immediately took to the lectern to further illustrate their altruistic work.
There were then a couple more speakers that I missed because I was busy organising stuff.
After that, I took the stage to give my brief talk on Enterprise Wiki Tips and our use of Confluence. I gave my typical, low key Lotoczko presentation but this was followed by a lively Q&A.
When I was discussing Person Pages and Skills Discovery one questioner asked if I wasn’t worried that the wiki would degenerate into a dating site. I recalled a Euan Semple story that he had recounted during one of our many meetings/coaching sessions. It runs along the lines of: During the early days of Euan’s experiments with forums within the BBC, a body of staff appeared to be using the platform for dating. Undaunted, Euan allowed it to continue, a case of any use is better than no use. A while later a program maker found the material to be an invaluable resource when he was asked to make a documentary on modern dating trends. The story was well received (I think there was one BBC guy in the audience).
An animated and enthusiastic Hong Kong student guy Francis Wan gave an impromptu talk about his involvement with the Chinese language Wikipedia. Although it faces huge problems from Chinese censorship he explained that Hong Kong and Taiwan nationals were keeping it thriving as were the ex-pat Chinese community. I found this to be an enthralling account of social media helping to overcome imperial censorship.
I even received help from Alex Jerreat (wiki gardener extraordinaire) and Sean McClowry with the back-breaking task of re-assembling the boardroom tables, allowing me to catch my last train.
In all, one of the best Wiki Wednesdays of recent months, in my opinion.

I have just returned from the Atlassian Amsterdam User Group meeting.
I give below my very rough notes of what happened:

Accenture Keynote: Michael Widjaja spoke. He stated that Gartner had placed enterprise wikis well to the right of the disillusionment area of the “hype – disillusionment – growth acceptance” bell-curve.

There is a company in Liverpool http://www.adaptavist.com/ who are very knowledgeable regarding Confluence – can build plug-ins etc. They are very busy at the moment.

Jeffrey Walker (Atlassian) Introductions, then: Josh Wold, pre-sales support, has moved from the US to London. Can now give us support in our time zone. 37% of Atlassian’s business is in Europe. They will establish a office in Europe in the next few months. They are talking to a team of independent developers in Poland who know the Atlassian products very well. They are in discussions. I predict that this team will probably become the backbone of Atlassian’s European support.

Atlassian were established 5.5 years ago. They had a 1M turnover – now 25M. They now have around 8,500 customers. They aim to always keep their costs low and the costs of products low.

The largest Confluence wiki is at SAP with around 800,000 signed-up users. An interesting customer is Pixar Animation Studios. All film production PM meetings have a scribe keying into a wiki page.

New releases of Confluence will come every 8 – 12 weeks. Features due to arrive soon are: UI improvements for Attach / Insert while in Edit; a new super user role – Manager with more powers than Admin; sorting of gallery pictures; other UI-like drop-down menus; page ordering; an easy installer.

Expect to see many commercial 3rd party plug-ins.

SharePoint Connector, which provides for Cross Search, imbedding of a wiki page in SP, wiki links direct to SP and a single sign-on.

The “Builder” product from http://www.adaptavist.com/ has a tool that can turn an email archive item into a wiki page. We could use this to enable mail-in.

PIX Software produced a case study showing how a major bank had used JIRA as a large scale Bill Payment processor.

Atlassian are finding themselves adapting to the fact that their wiki is being used in the enterprise whereas at the start it was used in technical communities. This brings new requirements in the area of permission.

Lodovic Hirlimann from JOOST said that Confluence was used as their document repository globally. They found it very good for test cases and test results. They make extensive use of templates for page creation – using templates to auto-label pages. They use JIRA for their entire travel authorisation process!

Josh talked about uses for the wiki. He pointed to many case studies on their site such as BI reporting using charting plug-in.

Ideas that came from the floor: hold person-to-person brainstorming sessions involving senior managers. Get each of them to think of their (or their department’s) 6 best successes / best practices then point them at a blank wiki page to write about them all.

On the wiki, build discussion trees / problem solving procedures.
Start CEO blogging using a personal space and the NEWS label. The CEO could make a physical desk visit to anyone who comments to give words of encouragement.

Use a Rate-this-page, digg style plug-in.

Second Life are big users of JIRA.

Last Wednesday I spoke at he Intranet Benchmarking Forum’s Global IBF meeting in London.

Afterwards, I spotted Richard Dennison’s post about one aspect of the event: the Financial Calculator.

Richard’s post along with the single response by shaidorsai got me thinking about the cost/benefit equation of using a wiki for one’s intranet.

During the meeting, while Lars Ploughmann of Headshift was giving his exelent talk, a senior figure from one of the global IBF members commented that a Confluence wiki was not that cheap. Though the licence fee was only GBP4000, the total installed cost was likly to run to 70 – 90k.

This could turn out to be true but I would argue that this expense is more-or-less a one-off.

During a typical year (for our Notes/Domino based intranet) I paid 30k for our business partner to develop an image library, 90k for a Powerpoint presentation storage and download area, and 20k for enhancements to a bespoke meeting booking system. This pattern was repeated each year as new business requirements emerged. For each requirement, a lengthy making-of-a-business-case process was needed.

Because the wiki imposes no business logic, process or work flow, once I have paid the first year cost, these types (and other currently un-thought off types) of application can emerge for free (OK, there is my salary and those of the business departments, but these would have been a factor of the old way of working as well!).

In addition, because the wiki supports self organizing, I expect business users to emerge, creating their own applications, with only a minimal amount of support from me (the central intranet management function).

If of-the-shelf commercial plug-ins, or even bespoke code is needed to support some of the more elaborate emergent apps, it should be possible to develop working prototypes for free using the base functionality of Confluence. Benefit could then be measured over a period and used to justify the additional spend as part of a phase II.

To steal a phrase from our head of corporate comms: “it’s easy to get [financial] approval if the ‘i’ in ROI is kept small”