Blogging using Domino

IBM have recently started to publicise the forthcoming 7.0.2 Notes/Domino point upgrade and emphasise the new features in terms of an out of the box blog template.  Their blog template development team was strengthened earlier this year when they hired Steve Castledine (developer of the ProjectDX Domino blog template).

So here we go … we have an access controlled Domino database providing a blog on a Domino server which has a http stack running.  Super, but who will use it?  How will users use it?  How will IT departments manage it?  Who will see and read the blogs?  Is Domino the right platform?

Who will use it?
Steve Richards proposes that in order for knowledge workers to become more productive they need to have a personal voice.  So internally within your organisations and enterprises your key knowledge workers will have a voice.  Everyone possible should have a blog (call it something else though as then you’ll have a better chance of selling it internally).  There should be strong, easily understandable guidelines which support freedom to air opinions in addition to fact.  It will turn the authoring triangle on its head.  Where at present there are few authors and information flows down with blogging there is a flatter structure with more information flow from peers and although top down information will still flow the proportion of it as a total will reduce.

The importance will be fostering a culture of authorship within your employees.  This will be more difficult than deploying the technology.  My personal experience with colleagues is that they view blogging sceptically, as a tool which has had highly publicised sackings, a tool tarnished by those publicised sackings.  OK, so we start with a policy and framework which is simple to understand, fair, open to critical comments and posts and embrace the benefits that open authorship will bring.  Lets face it many employees have so much information locked in emails which would be amazingly useful to collegues.  So we need a personal voice.  Our combined personal voices tooled with good tagging, the folksonomies those tags produce, and a good search engine combine to give the organisation an excellent source of information moving forwards.

Some organisations have taken this approach one step further as discussed here.  The most interesting concept is the automatic linkage of information between different types of blogs:
People blogs (personal voice)
Project blogs (project voice)
Customer blogs (account team voice on a particular customer)
Focus blogs (area of expertise voice)
Etc.

This linkage is powerful.  I’d be interested to see how these links can be automated with Domino as I feel this will be a minimal addition to the template’s code and will be one of the areas where Domino Blog’s could excel over alternative platforms.

How might we use Notes/Domino for Blogging? (publishing and reading)
I hope there will be the ability to post using a browser, the Notes client and standard blog post generation software (wBlogger etc). 

So how we going to read these things?  This is something that most corporates aren’t addressing at the moment.  It is also an area where most of the dedicated RSS Reader’s have no offering for the Notes client.  So one question I haven’t had time to research is how in Notes Release 7 we will be able to subscribe to RSS feeds.  I assume this will be a database rather than an extension to the client code (we shall wait and see but whatever it is needs to be slick or users won’t like it).

How will IT departments manage blogs?
Initially we won’t, initially it will be a hard sell!  Getting the business to open the gates to allow broad authorship will be difficult in most organisations.  Once open it will be dealing with the demand that may well become the major issue.  I think this is a perfect opportunity for someone like HaDSL to sell a portion of their FiRM product.  This could allow automation of blog deployment in order to remove the administration from IT support staff (obviously these functions would need to have capacity limitations).

Apart from physical management of  deployment and decommissioning of retired blogs it is important that processes and procedures are in place to cope with disputes over content (legalities, flame wars etc).  This really is going to be a crossover between executive management, human resources and to a lesser extent IT (if at all).

I touched earlier on capacity.  It is important that and blogging infrastructure, which will become more important over time, has the necessary capacity management, monitoring and general operation reporting in place.  Without this then 6 months into a new service and with no capacity remaining you won’t be the most popular architect on the planet!

Is Domino the right platform?
Now this is an interesting question and until we see the upgrade it will be difficult to say.  Being more general it would really depend where the skillset of your IT organisation sits.  If you aren’t a Domino house now then this won’t, in my opinion, be a compelling reason to switch to Domino – I will stand corrected if the new blogging template is better than anything else out there (Domino is a powerful application development platform so hopefully we’ll all be pleasantly surprised by the blogs capabilities).  If you are a Domino house then you will have a tougher decision.  Do I run my blogs through Domino or do I use another platform.  If you run your ntranet on Domino now then this is a no-brainer – go for it.  If you run only part of your intranet on Domino then you would have to take the time to analyse how the most suitable platform.

The main compelling arguments for using Domino to Blog

This is supposition at this stage but here are my guesses as to what will be the key drivers:

Sametime integration.  I’d love to see sametime integration into blogs so that presence awareness is pervasive throughout posts, comments, blogrolls etc.  The power that this will supply will be a key factor in potentially differentiating Domino as a blogging platform from other tools.

Extensibility.  The ability with some application development knowledge to customise the any database template to suit your organisations needs is one area where Notes/Domino have always excelled – this will I assume extend to the blog template.  As discussed which the Earnst and Young example blogs can be linked and automatically cross linked.  If this is possible in the Domino blog then it will be a differentiator.

Security.  Domino has always had a strong security model.  The only area where some attention will be required is whether the template and platform will conform to the present techniques for authenticating RSS readers to secure feeds.  I know this is something that is getting the attention of the IBM developers.

To summarise, and common sense really, the technology issue of deploying blogs on a specific platform is about 10% of the problem.  40% of the problem is business processes and 50% is instilling adoption within the workforce.  Whether Domino is the correct platform for blogging in your organisation will depend upon both your needs and your existing infrastructure.

5 Comments

  1. Pingback: lekkimworld.com
  2. I think the blogging template will be a very much welcomed addition to the Lotus Domino offering. Yes, people can download one of the public blogging templates but they need to know about them first.

    I’ve always been amazed at the number of admins and developers out there who don’t know anything about the notes community outside of notes.net and if your not part of the community then you wouldn’t know about DominoBlog or Blogsphere or any of the other blogging templates.

    With the IBM seal of approval and inclusion in the next MR of Lotus Domino the IBM blogging template will be seen by more admins then ever before. They will test it and, if they are doing their job right, they will sell the idea to the right people in their organisation.

    The blog deployment system is a great idea and something that the HADSL product would be very adept at handling.

    As for the platform, I think that Notes is ideal for blogging. Your users use it everyday for mail and other apps so why not for blogging. The security can make sure that only the correct people can create new entries while the ‘secure RSS’ urls in domino 702 will make sure that only the correct people can subscribe to feeds.

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  3. Your idea of linkage is something that I’ve been promoting for a long time, but with DocLibs not blogs, because blogs had not been invented yet! 😉

    I have long believed that every user should have a personal DocLib. Not the wimpy personal journal that is local only, but a true server-based personal DocLib. And through a centrally administered system based on Group membership, every personal DocLib should be linked to a set of group DocLibs. E.g., I would have my personal DocLib linked to my deparment DocLib and my division DocLib, and also to one or more project DocLibs — and with a single click I could publish a document (or a link) from my personal DocLib up to any of the group DocLibs that I am linked to.

    I had toyed with the idea of building the deployment manager and customized DocLib template for this as long ago as 9 years ago. If someone — HADSL or IBM, or anyone — built this right, I think it would be incredible. At the same time, though, I see the upcoming activity-centric collaboraiton products from IBM making linkage somewhat less relevant, because they will enable collaboration to take place across containers.

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  4. In the end, I do not think that blogs will have any more or less success than department level intranet sites. The problem will be that most people are much better editors than authors and creating original content is not something that most people do well. I think most of them will begin as del.icio.us type blogs for sharing links to internal and external information as well as a file repository. They may or may not expand to be true blogs full of original content.

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  5. The fun part about automatic user-initiated template deployment isnt in fact the templates itself. Its all the group ACL work that usually (and should!) happen in the background.

    On two recent projects, both migrating 18,000 or so unique apps to a new version/platform, one of the biggest issues we had were that a percentage (say between 2%-5%) didnt have their ACL’s set up in the “standard” way – so we had to break into them. (The only time I have actually *wanted* full access admin mode!).

    We do auto-template/database creation – but as it would also require the group module in order to properly create/delegate and post groups in ACL’s – it unfortunately wouldnt be a subset…!

    Thanks for the mention – and very good article by the way.

    It touches on the greater issue in large domino environments – where its difficult for an end-user to get a shared database hosted on servers – primarily because (IMHO) administrators either havent been allowed to do so, or are too busy to add this to the internal service provision. A crying shame, as these environments are missing out on about 60% of Dominos capability…

    —* Bill

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