Sleepwalking to data overload?

OK, most enterprises are looking at web 2.0 technologies.  They may not know it but they are.  Microsoft Office Sharepoint Services 2007, Lotus Quickr, Outlook 2007, Notes 8 all these are being bundled with RSS capabilities.  Great.  Now, or very soon, our information workers will have telephone calls, meetings, conference calls, email, instant messaging, internet reading, books and RSS feeds to consume.

Even now most of us accept that even with methodologies like GTD we can’t keep up with everything.  We prioritise, we junk, we place into that “someday” folder – do we ever go back there?  So given the problem how do we, reputable, respectable IT types deal with this issue.  Within 48 months or so most organisations through normal upgrade paths will have moved without realising into a world where this new media for the enterprise, RSS, has moved out from the geek desktops and into the mainstream.

Dealing with the problem – the vendors

From a vendor perspective there is a disconnect at the moment.  The key collaborative players, Microsoft and Lotus, are relying on partner products for the perimeter and network level aggregation appliances. In terms of clent RSS experience both have integrations into their “email” clients Outlook 2007 and Notes 8.  Notes 8 will soon be public beta and at that point I’ll post specifically on their RSS integration.

Outlook has the more mature reader right now, being a full production release.  The Outlook client offers a good base RSS reader including:

  • RSS within email and articles have the same look and feel sitting in folders within the familiar user inbox experience.
  • Integration with the Windows Common Feed List allows users to subscribe to feeds in IE7 and have these autosubscribed in Outlook.
  • For the information worker and high end users even Outlook doesn’t offer everything we need.  For those key workers the enterprise is likely to have to consider a plugin based solution (and that is likely to be true for both Outook and Notes 8).  There are many on the market the big players in the end user space being Attensa and Newsgator.

What do I use?  What will enterprise workers use?

Well for now I’m still using FeedDemon as I personally have so many feeds I don’t want to clutter my email with more information.  I also don’t want the “unread” distraction in my mail file.  Am I typical?  No.  So in 48 months time I see most of the enterprise workers using a basic or enhanced RSS client within their email experience.

Attention – Data Overload Approaching

Attensa have recognised that there is going to be a data overload issue and are working on their concept of Attention.  Using algorythms they can determine the articles that should be of most relavence to you.  Nothing is going to be 100% ideal and a mathematical formula is never going to match your needs exactly but I hope this effort will result in a tool which is useful for information workers.

What do the vendors need to focus on?

Steve points out that security and authentication will be an issue both inside and beyond the enterpise boundary.

I am still wondering why we need RSS appliances?  We already have perimeter infrastructure well capable of routing and handling documents (only difference is they focus on SMTP right now not RSS or ATOM).  I’m sure given the increases in processing power, network bandwidth and complexity of software development that the two functions can be combined.

Common standards push in terms of blog posting and comment submission to allow single clients to be developed to both consume the initial feed and join the conversation as I posted recently.

A good productive reading experience.

What do enterprises need to focus on?

We need to be ready for this.  Sooner or later the vision of everyone having an enterprise blog may become a reality.  That in itself is a massive shift of information, or rather a massive addition to information (email isn’t going away).  We need to think about how our information workers can consume the data efficiently and effectively.  Even if enterprises don’t start blogging internally the immense volume of data in RSS feeds makes them the most useful took within an infomation workers arsenal right now. 

In order to cope with this increased data load my opinion is that we’ll need to be looking at plugin enhanced email clients consuming RSS.  We’ll need RSS appliances to control the network traffic and proxy requirements.  We’ll need to offer mobile access to those who already expect mobile email and applications.  The savvy enterprises will also think about browser enabling access to feeds, either through the mail system or a bespoke feed reeding service.


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  1. Hi Stu — good timing! Soon after you posted this, we released the newest version of our RSS reader, for Outlook 2007 (2.5 beta). It’s loaded with feed prioritization through a predictive ranking algorithm (“AttentionStream”), bolstered security, and a host of other enhancements. Give it a look and let us know what you think. Cheers, Paul


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