Developing for a Consumerized Enterprise World


Yang and Ishii

Yang and Ishii

George Ishii (founder of GENi which spun out Yammer and Sizhao Yang (one of the creators of the horrible but effective Farmville before it was sold to Zynga) both have a big history in the startup world and are now working on BetterWorks. They talked about the trends in business software.

When you think of enterprise software you think of big monolithic software like Oracle that costs multiple millions of dollars, you have an army of consultants implementing it (based on a series of requirements) and the implementation takes months. The price point of this software was high, because the only way to distribute this type of software was through an expensive sales force. The focus was on the decision maker, rather than on the user. The interface didn’t matter: who cares what the end-user sees? ssFrom around 2005 the consumer Internet started to create a whole new set of expectations from this type of technology. These expectations are created a shift in the type of enterprise software that gets created.

Ishii described five best practices for designing for consumer enterprise software:

  • Instant gratification. The first encounter with the software should create value for the user immediately. Two questions are important: What is the goal? How do we educate the user?
  • Focus on smaller workgroups. Allow managers of smaller groups in an organization to adopt the software at a local level. This means you could also create a first experience for the manager and that it should come with a low pricepoint. Virality in the distribution mechanism can only come from the small workgroup.
  • Design matters (he showed us the ultimate bad example: LingsCars. The age of boring interfaces is going away and we are getting a new fun and friendly visual design sensibility. Design is not just about being pretty, it is also about information architecture and how you deal with the cognitive load of the users (that is why you use round corners versus sharp corners).
  • Use before you buy. IF you allow the user to try the software then they will focus less on long feature lists. Again you should focus on activities that create value. You are bringing the tail end of the sales process into the decision making process.
  • Incentivize distribution. Adoption of enterprise software is really hard. One one of doing this is to make sure that people share. You can reward viral behaviour (compare how Dropbox gives out 500MB of space for a successful referal). Good designers will design “nudges” for reinvites. Another incentive you can use is privacy (SlideShare is doing this). The distribution should be an intergral part of the solution you are offering to the customer. The biggest thing you can do though is to create engagement.

There is a whole new category that is starting to transform different verticals like HR, PM, Storage, Communication, Collaboration.

Help Me Choose What Drafts I Will Finally Finish

DraftsI decided to revisit all the posts on this blog and re-categorize them. One new category is inspired by Stephen Downes’ piece on How to Get the Most out of a Conference. In it he recommends to not only put your slides on Slideshare, but also keep your own archive. I have now put all my presentation in their own category and have added the option for a PDF download to each of them.

While doing this, I encountered 30 draft posts that I never managed to get around to finishing. This is the list of drafts (from oldest to newest):

  • Blogging for the future (2008/10/15)
  • The Tactical Technology Collective: My Favourite NGO (2008/12/02)
  • Virtual Worlds (rapid e-elearning) (2008/12/09)
  • Information is now validated at the point of consumption, not creation (2008/12/24)
  • Google, Walmart, MyBarackObama (2008/12/27)
  • What we can Learn about Learning from Games (2008/12/30)
  • Open Source Red Hat (2009/01/11)
  • Attention and Presence as an Alternative to the Email Time Suck (2009/01/15)
  • Corporate Social Networking Part 2: The Inside/Outside Paradox (2009/02/18)
  • QR Codes: Linking External Information to Location (2009/02/20)
  • Networks Subvert Hierarchy (2009/03/04)
  • Corporate Social Networking Part 2: A Business Case for Elgg (2009/03/18)
  • Moodlemoot UK 2009: Day 1 (2009/04/08)
  • Brain-machine interfaces: a new way of sensing the world? (2009/04/14)
  • Universities will be ‘irrelevant’ by 2020 (2009/04/21)
  • E-learning and Accessibility (2009/05/25)
  • Daimler Sovereign 4.0 Versus Honda Civic Hybrid: Environmental Impact? (2009/09/27)
  • Interface Specialists Unite: Please Fix Assessments in E-Learning (2009/10/20)
  • A Learning Typology (2009/12/09)
  • Creating a Multilingual WordPress Site with WPML (2009/12/31)
  • Usability: Why Nokia Will Not Win and How I Lost My Principles (2010/02/01)
  • Constraints through design vs through control (2010/02/18)
  • Requirements gathering and walking in front of the customer (2010/02/18)
  • Yammer Features That I Would Like To See (2010/08/23)
  • Techno-habituation (2010/09/01)
  • To E-read or Not to E-read? That’s my Question (2010/11/23)
  • Lessons From a Do-it-at-Home Car Mechanics Course (2011/01/08)
  • Learning Technologies and Fosdem 2011 – Stuff That I Found Interesting (2011/03/04)
  • Technology’s Tendency to Diversify (2011/03/16)
  • What Learning Professionals Should Learn From Foursquare: Location and Gamification (2011/06/25)

In my Evernote account I have stored another couple of blogging ideas:

  • Bits of Freedom’s PIM
  • Sent from my Wii Fit
  • Blind for a day
  • Email Service Level Agreements (SLA)
  • Reflection and curiosity as the engine for learning
  • A visual history of my computing hardware
  • What we can learn from teaching korfbal at a secondary school
  • Using a Contracting and Procurement process to get a new job
  • Buy once versus products as a service
  • Workplace engineering
  • Personal terms of service

Here is the deal: If you let me know in the comments which posts (up to three) you would like to see being written by me, then I will write them in the next month or two.

DrupalJam in 7 tweets (Awesöme?!)

Arjen Vrielink and I write a monthly series titled: Parallax. We both agree on a title for the post and on some other arbitrary restrictions to induce our creative process. For this post we agreed to write about DrupalJam 6 by commenting on 7 tweets that have a #drupaljam hashtag. You can read Arjen’s post with the same title here.



DrupalJam 6 was held in Amsterdam on March 19th 2010. I have never really used Drupal, but as a project it has many similarities to Moodle and that makes it interesting to me. Just like Moodle it was started by a single very sociable person with a vision, just like Moodle it is a PHP application and just like Moodle it is the de facto mindshare (if not market) leader in its field. All the similarities make looking at the differences even more interesting. Moodle has commercialised through a decentralised network of Moodle partners, whereas Drupal has chosen a venture capital backed route with Acquia.Martin Dougiamas has decided to commercialise the Moodle trademark through a decentralised network of Moodle partners, whereas Dries Buytaert has chosen a venture capital backed route by creating a company specialising in Drupal services: Acquia, allowing other companies to (often freely) license the Drupal trademark too. (Text deleted and added after a comment by Bert Boerland, thanks!) The DrupalJam was more product focused (in the sense of software focused) than your standard Moodlemoot. This makes sense: DrupalJam visitors only share the fact that they use Drupal (the contents of their site can be about anything) whereas Moodlemoot visitors usually also share a passion for education.

Let’s cut to the chase: During the DrupalJam I kept monitoring the #drupaljam hashtag using Tweetie 2. I then favourited every tweet that I thought was interesting and could be used for this post. Out of the twenty or so favourites I selected these 7 to share with you.

1. tkeppens: Het zou fantastisch zijn de #drupaljam sessies na de conf als screencast te kunnen zien. Drukke agenda laat niet toe er te zijn. : – ( #drupal
A quick translation: “It would be fantastic if #drupaljam sessions would be viewable as a screencast after the conf. Busy agenda doesn’t permit me to attend”. Technology is now at a stage where even for a non-commercial event, this should be feasible. Presentation capturing is something that I have been exploring in my role as Innovation Manager for Learning Technologies recently and it is a market with fast maturing products. I have looked at Presentations 2Go and am also very interested in Echo 360‘s offering (see here for a more complete list of options I explored). I believe it is good practice to separate the video of the speaker from the video of the speaker’s laptop. Does anybody know what is the easiest way of organising this on the cheap for conferences like the DrupalJam or a Moodlemoot?

2. ellishettinga: 2 werelden komen samen, #drupaljam in de Microsoft-/Sogetizaal, Microsoft als hoofdsponsor? Gezellig.
Translation: “2 worlds come together, #drupaljam in de Microsoft-/Sogetihall, Microsoft as the main sponsor? Convivial.” I have a distaste for giving rooms names of sponsors and have tweeted about that before:

Corporate Sponsorship

Corporate Sponsorship

However the fact that it is Microsoft sponsoring an open source event is pretty new to me and apparently something we should be getting used to.

3. ijansch: #drupaljam dangerous question in opening. ‘how many women are here’ is so eighties… Make them feel normal, not special.
Women in technology is a pretty contentious topic. Ada Lovelace day has just passed and could be seen as a symptom of more ground needing to be covered. DrupalJam did not have a lot of women attending. As nooble wrote: Op #drupaljam met 2^8 mannen en 2^2 vrouwen (“At #drupaljam with 2^8 men and 2^2 women”). I agree with ijansch that the organiser did a terrible job in the way that they brought this to the attention of the complete audience. Instead they should have asked themselves why this is the case and how it can be changed for the next event. I’ve recently listened to two podcasts that discuss women in technology as a (sub)topic: FreeBDSgirl and Fernanda Weiden both on Floss Weekly. Another interesting project to stay in touch with is Women & Mozilla. Open source projects should never forget that there are also many other diversity and inclusiveness lenses to take into account outside of gender.

4. ijansch: Would be nice if #drupaljam was on for talk ratings
It is always nice to learn about a new web service through a tweet. I checked out and have decided to register for an account and try and use it at the next conference I am organising (Moodlemoot on May 26th). allows you to add tracks and talks to your event and then provide an easy link to a summary, slides on Slideshare and a way to score and comment on the talk. They have an iPhone app and an open API (so other apps should be on their way). The only thing that might be a problem is that it doesn’t seem to allow for localisation: the whole site is in English, making Dutch summaries stand out a bit.

5. ekes: apache solr stats #drupal understand what people look for on your site. Genius. @robertDouglass #drupaljam
The first tweet that has any relation to Drupal. Apache Solr is an interesting Apache project that sits on top of the Lucene search engine library. It is a very fully featured and fast search platform with things like faceted search out of the box. There is a Drupal project that integrates Solr with Drupal, bringing very rich search functionality to any Drupal website. Good stuff!

6. askibinski: Just learned about the ‘Levensthein distance’. A way to compare similarities between strings. #drupaljam
This tweet had me whipping out my phone to do a Wikipedia search (I use the excellent and free Wikipanion app for that) on Levensthein distance. It is a way to see how similar two strings of text are measured by their edit distance: how many steps do you need to transform one string into another. I have no idea why this concept came up during DrupalJam (I wasn’t at the talk), but I do now have another trivia under my belt.

7. bramveen: Maybe the speaker should remove his chewing gum #drupaljam
Every open source project seems to have a least one “rock star” and Morten Heide self-named “King of Denmark” was the rock star of the day. Morten loves umlauts, the name of his company is “geek Röyale“, and his two favourite words are “awesöme” and “shit”.

Morten's Cöntact form

Morten's Cöntact form

Morten is a web designer and was giving the final talk of the day, speaking about the new way of doing themes in the as yet unreleased Drupal 7. The only problem with the talk was that Morten was chewing gum while talking. That and the rest of his behaviour turned the talk into more of a show about Morten then a talk about Drupal theming. Afterwards Mortendk showed some remorse on Twitter: #drupaljam next time im gonna drop The gum it was an #epicfail hope ppl got The awesome shit in drupal 7 anyways. I would say: Keep the gum, the world needs more completely self-involved rock stars…

Mozilla and the Open Internet

The Mozilla Foundation

The Mozilla Foundation

For some reason I have recently equated the Mozilla foundation to Firefox. Sitting in the Mozilla room at Fosdem for a couple of hours has cured me of that.

Mitchell Baker, chairperson of the Mozilla foundation, talked about the right for self-determination on the Internet. She explained that having a completely open (meaning free as in freedom)  stack to access the Internet does not necessarily mean that you have ownership over your digital self. There is a tendency for web services on the net to be free as in free beer (think Facebook), without giving users true ownership of their data. Mozilla has started a couple of projects to try and move the open spectrum away from the internet accessing device to the net. Trying to make sure that at least one slice of the net is open. Mozilla Weave is an example project that aligns with this goal. I really like the fact that Weave does client side encryption of all data and that it is offered as a service by Mozilla but can also be installed locally.

Tristan Nitot then talked about “hackability”. He actually doesn’t like to use that word because it has negative connotations for the media. What he means with it is “generativity” (see The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It), but that word is even harder to understand. His argument was relatively simple though: vendors aren’t always creative imagining what their products can be used for. The telephone, for example, was thought to be used mainly for listening to opera music. It is important that people are allowed to play with technology, because that is where innovation comes from. Tristan finished his talk with a slide with the following text: “Hackability is getting the future we want, not the one they are selling us.”

Paul Rouget then demoed a couple of very interesting hacks using Firefox with Stylish, Greasemonkey and some HTML5 functionality. A lot of his work can be found at on the Mozilla Hacks site. An example is this HTML5 image uploader:

Finally we had Robert Nyman introduce HTML5 to us. I thought it was interesting to see that it was Mozilla, Apple and Opera that started the WHATWG and got the work on creating the HTML spec started. Their work will be very important (for example, it might mean the end for Flash) and should make a lot of web designer’s lives less miserable. Robert’s presentation is on Slideshare:

Some things will be much easier in HTML5: what caught my eye were some new elements (allowing more semantic richness, e.g. elements like <header> or <aside>), the new input types which can include client-side validation and the new <video> and <canvas> elements.

Finally I would like to point you towards the Mozilla Manifesto. This is the introduction to the document which is available in many languages:

The Mozilla project is a global community of people who believe that openness, innovation, and opportunity are key to the continued health of the Internet. We have worked together since 1998 to ensure that the Internet is developed in a way that benefits everyone. As a result of the community’s efforts, we have distilled a set of principles that we believe are critical for the Internet to continue to benefit the public good. These principles are contained in the Mozilla Manifesto.

Mozilla has endeared me again. Cool people, great projects, an important cause.

Presentations on Moodle 2.0 and on Moodle, Mahara and Elgg

My employer, Stoas Learning, organized a Moodle seminar today. I did two presentations in the morning (both of them in Dutch).

The first one was titled: “Moodle 2.0, een sneak preview”. I discussed the new features that will appear in Moodle 2.0 and did a quick demo of how you can use the repository API to pull in an image from Flickr, hand that in as an assignment and then push it out to GoogleDocs for savekeeping. You can find the slides below:

(view at Slideshare or download a PDF version)

The second presentation was titled: “Moodle, Elgg & Mahara – Samenwerkend Leren, Kennisdelen & Sociale Netwerken – Van Formeel naar Informeel”. I tried to use three cases to explain that e-learning can be more than just a web-based, unfacilitated, content to single learner experience. These were my slides:

(view at Slideshare or download a PDF version)

I do realise that these slides lose a lot of their meaning without my spoken words. When I posted Slideshare presentations previously, I wrote I would try and record the audio for the next time. I guess I failed…. I am sure there will be another chance.