Thoughts from Enterprise 2.0 Boston 2010

Posted By on Jun 22, 2010

Baydin participated in the Enterprise 2.0 LaunchPad this year, announcing availability of our email-based automatic knowledge discovery tool, Unsearch.

I felt like we were preaching to the choir, because the keynote speakers who talked before us, including Tony Zingale from Jive and Jamie Whitmoyer, who implemented Sony’s E2.0 infrastructure in SharePoint, showed data about how much room there is for email and search to improve inside the organization. We were thrilled to be able to announce a product that makes email collaborative, for everyone in the enterprise, just a few minutes later.

We had several large/medium companies approach us about setting up pilot programs, so I would definitely encourage other startups in this space to apply to be part of the LaunchPad at E2.0 San Francisco in November. If you weren’t able to be at E2.0, but are curious how Unsearch’s email integration can get 100% of your coworkers involved and collaborating using the systems you already have, like SharePoint, please email us about setting up a demo.

Below are a few thoughts about the conference.

Major Themes

Collaboration and Social Software is back again in 2010. After a couple rough years because of the economy, it looks like companies are again making major pushes to find and deploy software to try to get people talking, collaborating, and connecting with their coworkers again.  There were several major themes that appeared throughout the keynotes, across the Expo, and in the panels.

The Rise of Feeds
Everyone has a “News Feed” view now. It’s clear that vendors have discovered value in bite-size pieces of information, delivered in chronological order, from people you already know (or groups you are already part of). This is a major part of practically all the new E2.0 products. The big value in these feeds is that they are public and somewhat customized, but unlike email, they are not directed specifically to you, so you can read just part of the stream and not worry about missing something.

There’s a lot of value in being able to filter information this way, even if the filter is “I don’t have time to look at this today.” The software demos looked like they would have a lot of irrelevant information in the feeds, though and there was a large number of unread items in most of the demos. I tend to feel stressed by unread counts, so I’m not sure the ability to come and go through the feed, without worrying about missing things is as strong as in the consumer News Feeds.

I worry that these systems will continue to create more information overload, but I think there’s a lot of potential here. Especially since most of the feed systems allow comments and discussions to form around news entries as they catch people’s interest.

Innovation in Search
Between the “Search is Not Enough” panel, the keynote speeches describing information overload, and the cool techniques presented for incorporating more serendipitous information browsing (like DarwinEco), I think the big technological shift over the next couple years will be in changing the way search works. Of course, I’m biased. But the panelists made it clear, over and over again, that searching through these new systems is going to require more intelligence on the part of the system.

The amount of information getting shared, through microblogging and social collaboration systems, continues to increase. Files are still important, but most of the new shared information is showed through searchable, non-proprietary-file-format HTML, which means that all the Web 2.0 tools for navigating this information can be brought to the enterprise.  That’s exciting.

Barely a panel went by without a mention of millenials (people who graduated from college after 2000 seemed like the general definition) – a bit strange, since I only saw a handful of fellow millenials in attendance. There were two major ways that millenials came up in discussion.  The first is that we were described as being more comfortable sharing information digitally and more willing to become contributors using collaboration software. In my experience as a millenial at a big company, this was absolutely true. There were plenty of older (even 50+) people who were heavy users of our wikis at ADI, but virtually ALL of the millenials used it a lot.

The second context where millenials received frequent mention was in a sort of reverse-Luddite way. Essentially, said some panelists, millenials grew up with Facebook and are incapable of learning to operate in an environment without it. We are apparently too young to understand how to communicate via email or in person, and without Facebook for Business, we are unmanageable. Selling social software based on these premises struck me as asinine – selling software on the basis of old people being too dumb to adapt to a world where the telephone isn’t the dominant form of communication would be clearly offensive, so why is it OK to generalize about millenials in such an obviously wrong way?

New Infrastructure Ideas
My favorite product at the expo was an infrastructure product.  Cisco’s Pulse has some very bright minds working on it. Pulse is based on physical boxes that sit in front of Exchange servers, or Wiki systems, or video sharing systems, with all the network traffic itself running through them. Like, with a physical wire. The Pulse systems pull information out of the physical packets on the network and identify the appearance of a set of pre-specified keywords as they go over the wire, connecting people with the experts who regularly communicate about that keyword.

They’ve also got some incredible tech baked in for detecting phonetic appearances of those keywords in online video, making the video searchable. This reverse-keyword technique is different, because instead of building an index of every word mentioned (and dealing with associated transcription issues), they instead look specifically for a dictionary of words that are known to have meaning.

This approach is technically very interesting to me, and I am looking forward to seeing how the product develops, and potentially integrating Unsearch with it. I am very impressed with Cisco’s ability to innovate as a HUGE company – and a system this complex needs a lot of resources and a lot of different expertise, so it almost requires a big company to build it. Very impressive.

The LaunchPad

Baydin was incredibly excited to be named the winner of the Enterprise 2.0 Launchpad. Companies from around the globe, including some pretty big names, competed to launch products at the LaunchPad. The four companies on stage came from Cambridge (us), Portugal, Switzerland, and Germany.

Our fellow finalists put together some amazing demos. They did a great job presenting, and all of them are working on stuff that could really have an impact. We were honored that the Enterprise 2.0 attendees selected us as the winner out of a group with this much potential.

The finalists were:

Doodle – A very easy way to schedule a meeting. Suggest times that work for you, and let the other invitees vote for which times they’d prefer. They announced a new feature that lets a meeting organizer see free/busy status for fellow Doodle-users when first selecting possible times for the meeting.  Think MS Exchange-style scheduling, but cross-platform.

InnovationCast – Leonardo described InnovationCast as a tool for managing innovation as a company develops new products and services. Built on top of Telligent, they provide some really neat analytics on how innovation grows and spreads through an organization.

MindQuilt – Enterprise Q&A tool, think StackOverflow/Yahoo Answers for inside a company. I expected MindQuilt to be really derivative, but it turns out they add some really slick autotagging features and integrate really well with email and IM clients, making it easy for users to get into it. I expect them to have a lot of success in large companies.

The E2Conf folks haven’t uploaded the video of our presentations yet, as far as I can tell, but you can see some photos from the LaunchPad and the other Wednesday keynotes here:  The videos that we created to be selected as finalists are here:

Thanks very much to all of you who voted for our video and made it possible for us to be part of the conference this year.

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