Computerworld: Working together: 3 new team collaboration tools, Glip, Flow, and Slingshot

The concept of how we collaborate is changing. Better tools are being developed that help workgroups put together documents, quickly schedule meetings and chat with each other. Today’s collaboration environment includes tools for text chats, bulletin boards, video conferencing, screen sharing and scheduling meetings. Among these are a number of lightweight products that offer quick and near-real time collaboration. I looked at three of the newcomers: Flow, Glip and Slingshot. (A screen from Flow is pictured above.)

While all have some things in common — all three seek to enable collaboration and can be used either on desktops/laptops or on mobile devices — they all do somewhat different things in the collaboration space.

You can read my review that appeared in Computerworld here.

Playing With Dolls 2.0

a1What do Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace and Bessie Coleman have in common? If you need another hint, how about what these three have in common with Addy, Caroline and Kaya? Still not sure? All of these are names of dolls.

Yes, Curie et al. are also real people, and therein lies the genius of what two young women entrepreneurs are trying to do with a new venture called Miss Possible. They plan on making a line of dolls based on real-life women who have accomplished a lot in the STEM area. The notion is to encourage girls to discover the fun in this technical area by celebrating women of the past who have had ground-breaking roles: Curie in science, Lovelace in computer programming, and Coleman in aviation (she was the first American to receive an international pilot’s license, and the first black woman to barnstorm back in the 1920s).

In order to pull this off, you need more than dolls: you need a backstory for the doll, something that American Girl has known about for some time. If you aren’t familiar with this operation, they have stores in major cities around the country where little girls can go in with their moms and end up spending thousands of dollars on matching outfits for the three of them, accessories, and more. They also are the source of the three other names that I mentioned above. Girls can choose a doll based on her story and costume and take it from there.

Miss Possible is trying to do something not quite so capital-intensive. Their dolls’ backstories are accomplished with a smartphone app where you can conduct science experiments (Mentos and Coke, anyone?), learn more about the doll’s namesake, and provide games that the kids can play. Not to mention use different outfits (Curie comes with a lab coat, of course.) It is very ambitious but such a great idea. I wish my daughter and stepdaughter had something like this back in the day when Barbie and Skipper ruled the nursery.

The backstory of the entrepreneurs is also interesting: both come from STEM-oriented families and both have pursued careers in STEM at the University of Illinois in Urbana, the home of the real Mosaic Web browser and the fictional creator of the HAL 9000 computer, among many other things. They are still at the idea stage and are looking for funding their company through the crowd. And they are smart about their project: everyone who backs their project, at whatever level, will get to vote on the fourth and presumably subsequent dolls selected.

You can read more about what the Miss Possible gals are doing and help fund their IndieGoGo project here. I made my donation, and hope they meet their goals. It is about time our kids had other options to play with dolls.

How to Make the Most of your Data: An Explanation of Visualization

This article was written by Jesse Jacobsen, who is a web content writer at TechnologyAdvice. He covers a variety of topics, including business intelligence, project management, and analytics software. Connect with him on Google+.

Most professionals have used bar graphs and Excel pie charts on present data. At its most basic this is what’s known as data visualization, a growing feature of business intelligence software. However, such charts are often too simplistic to convey complex data sets. That’s where today’s advanced data visualization tools come in. With them, it’s easier than ever to manipulate data sets, visualize trends, and find competitive insight. Let’s look at some of the most useful data visualizations, and show how they can provide better insights into your company’s data.

Streamgraph

A streamgraph is a stacked area graph that displays data around a central axis. By assembling the information over a time-based axis, streamgraphs allow users to compare the ebb and flow of different data sets.

1For example, in 2008 the New York Times created an interactive streamgraph that displays the ebb and flow of box office receipts for movies released between 1986 and 2008. It highlights the aesthetic nature of such diagrams, and how they can be used for quickly displaying comparisons.

In addition to being an interesting source for displaying cultural information, streamgraphs can be used to provide business insight. For example, a clothing company sells red, blue, and yellow shirts. By visualizing the daily or weekly sales figures of each shirt, companies can observe how the sales ebb and flow based on the time of day, the day of the week, or even the month. Observations on product popularity can lead to competitive adjustments in inventory ordering, marketing strategy, and even product development.

Treemap

Treemapping is a method for displaying hierarchical data through space-contained, rectangle graphing. This visualization is typically displayed within a larger rectangle, with the surface area divided into segments that correspond to data points.

2Because data in treemaps can be grouped together based on similarities or relevance, this is a great way to visualize categorical data. The Observatory of Economic Complexity did just that in their treemap displaying products exported by The United States in 2009.

By grouping exports into categories like machines, transportation, and vegetable products, this treemap compares diverse data in a way that’s easy to grasp. Companies with a diverse array of products can use treemaps to provide valuable insight into sales data or to evaluate an organization’s budget in a more accessible way.

Geolocating

Geolocation-based visualization modules display data on, you guessed it, a map. While this sounds like a simple concept, different use cases continually demonstrate how this technology can be manipulated to provide business insight.

3Companies commonly use mapping to display store locations or product availability. Many companies include similar mapping capabilities on their websites, which guide customers to the closest store. Many BI vendors take mapping visualization to the next level by including temporal data. This allows users to view geographic trends over time for further insight into behavioral patterns. For instance, Foursquare displayed the “pulse” of New York by calibrating a map to display how commuters use their “check-ins” over the course of a day.

Temporal mapping can also be useful for businesses. If your company is looking to expand to a new city, for instance, temporal mapping (combined with analytics) can provide valuable insight into where the most receptive audience for your product is.

Networks

Network visualization displays the connections of information or systems over time. While network displays can illustrate simple two-way connections, they can also illustrate complex temporal relationships.

4In June, the New York Times created an interactive network visualization that displays how club teams and national teams are connected in the 2014 World Cup. Users can scroll over any information bubble to more clearly see the relationships, including the name of the player that makes the connection.

Network visualization is an effective tool to observe and understand the relational structure of business operations, such as how acquisitions and changes in leadership affected employee retention and division management. Understanding your data through visualization modules can provide you with the information you need to get ahead of the competition.

Understanding the advantages of tablet workspaces

home screen2The days have long been over when IT could dictate what kinds of endpoint computing devices should be in their end user’s hands. But the notion of “bring your own device” (BYOD) has taken hold in the past few years means having tablets and smartphones perform truly useful business-related work. Now the particular endpoint, whether it is a desktop or a mobile, no longer matters. Indeed, mobiles are being used more and more as the main endpoint browsing device and as the default computing device.

There are some big benefits for IT with BYOD: they don’t have to invest time in their “nanny state” approach in tracking which users are running what endpoints. Or have to research which mobiles will be blessed by the corporate purchasing department. Instead, they can free up these staffers to improve their apps or deliver better service to their end users.

For these reasons, BYOD has been well received. Users don’t want to wait on IT to finish a requirements analysis study or go through a lengthy approvals process: they want their mobile apps here and now. However, the small business market has been largely a poor stepchild and not much of a beneficiary to the BYOD revolution. The SMB IT manager, where he or she exists, doesn’t have a lot of great choices to support improving the productivity of their tablet users. The challenge is that users these days want something more than just processing emails on their mobile devices: they want to be a full participant in sharing files, co-editing documents and presentations, and running corporate apps that in the past have been largely geared towards Windows endpoints.

The IT manager is faced with a series of options to support these new and more advanced tablet users. Each solution makes some compromises in terms of document fidelity, overall security, collaboration features and ease of access. Document fidelity is defined as being able to work on common Windows tools such as Word, PowerPoint, etc. on a tablet and see the same fonts and features as you would see on a traditional Windows PC. Overall security means having policies that can restrict who has access to particular files and apps on the mobile devices, or completely sandbox a business environment from one’s personal app collection. You also want to be able to collaborate on documents among multiple authors, so that they can see in real-time what changes their colleagues have made to their documents. Finally, ease of access means being able to obtain particular files without having to go through many steps or multiple and complex authentication methods.

Over the past several years, numerous vendors have tried their hand at fixing these issues and there are a number of products and services that can be combined together. There are cloud-based storage services or office app suites, custom connection apps that allow tablets to access, transfer and view files and remote terminal sessions that can bring up Windows desktops and their apps. There are also various mobile device management products that can sandbox email and app access.

One other solution involves creating an entire workspace on a tablet, sometimes as a Web service. I recently had a chance to do some custom consulting work for such as solution from NComputing called oneSpace, which compliments these products in a way that you can access both network file shares as well as cloud apps, and do so in a way that seems natural for a tablet or touchscreen user. You can see a short screencast video introduction to how this works here. Workspaces could be the future for corporate tablet usage.

New Relic: 10 Things Non-Developers Love To Say To Developers

Do you sometimes have difficulty talking to your non-technical clients, coworkers, and bosses? Do they continually say things to you that just don’t make any sense? Do they ask for the completely impossible as if they’re ordering a cup of coffee? Do they demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding of what they’re talking about?

If you answered, yes, to any of these questions, don’t worry—you’re not alone. I have a lot more to say about this. You can read my post in New Relic’s blog here.

Webinar: Best Practices for Protecting Sensitive Data from Insider Threats

Join me and Tina Stewart, the VP of Marketing for Vormetric, in an interesting webinar on 7/22 at 11 am PT. Insider threats have shifted to include both traditional insiders – individuals with access to critical data as part of their work, and privileged users — and the compromise of legitimate users’ credentials by sophisticated malware and advanced persistent threats (APTs). According to the latest Insider Threat Report from Vormetric, organizations are still wrestling with this growing problem, and struggling to find an appropriate security response.

We will talk about these issues and some of the ways that IT managers can mitigate these threats. Here is the link to view the webinar recording from Virtualization Review.

ITworld: Find the right ‘moment of trust’ to build your IT systems

At the recent Ford Trends conference in June 2014 held at the company’s Dearborn, Mich. headquarters I heard about the “moment of trust” from one of the presenters. It is a good term of art to refer to a lot of different concepts that many IT managers are wrestling with today, including creating big data models and increasing customer satisfaction.

I talk about what this moment means and how it came about at the conference for an article I wrote for ITWorld here.

Smile, your car is on candid camera

Last week I mentioned the Ford Trends conference that I attended in Dearborn. One of the sessions described an effort between Ford and Intel called Mobile Interior Imaging, or Project Mobii that I found fascinating.

As you might know, cars are coming with more cameras to keep track of their movements. There have been rear-facing cameras for years that are available to help backing into parking spaces or seeing heretofore hidden obstacles, and cameras are also on the side of vehicles and used for things like Ford’s parallel parking assist technology. I have been in several cars now that seemingly know exactly when and where to turn: all you have to do is shift from forward to reverse when the car tells you. And Ford has put a camera on the front of its pickup trucks, complete with a small washing device to keep the lens clean, to track tailgating and lane changes.

But the Intel Mobii project is all about cameras inside the vehicle. The idea is to recognize particular drivers and passengers and make the driving experience more personal, such as seat adjustment, contacts and music preferences displayed on the entertainment system. And, if an unrecognized driver sits behind the wheel, you will receive a photo of who is driving your car and could potentially disable the ignition system. Or perhaps a parent could prevent their car from being driven late at night or faster than a certain speed. Intel and Ford have developed apps for smartphones to track and monitor these functions. The mind boggles at the potential uses. Here is a short promo video that Intel developed.

Right now Mobii is just a research project, so don’t expect these interior camera systems anytime soon. But the spread of the parking assist technology has been very rapid. This time at the Trends conference I could use that technology to park in an empty spot between a row of cars in addition to the standard parallel parking situation. And the cameras on the outside of the vehicle also determine when you are drifting into another lane and warn you with either a vibrating steering wheel or gently moving your car back into the right lane position, which was amazing.

Mobii isn’t the only thing that Ford engineers are cooking up with advanced tech. At the conference, Don Butler, who runs the Connected Vehicles program, spoke about how the new Mustangs next model year will offer an advanced 911 response system. When you get into an accident, the car will call the nearest 911 PSAP and using a voice synthesizer tell the operator where you are and what is the condition of your car, whether air bags have deployed and how fast you decelerated. This is an enhancement to similar technology that is already in more than 7 million Fords on the road today, leveraging their Sync entertainment system. Speaking of Sync, they are also looking at the collection of massive system data from all of the cars in a certain geographic area. This could be useful during the next polar vortex to determine if Ford should change engine settings to better handle the colder weather, as an example.

As you might imagine, car owners have to opt-in to share all this data with Ford. Certainly, there are privacy issues to consider, but I like what they are doing and it was exciting to see some of the advances first-hand.

 

NewRelic blog: How to hold a great hackathon

Just like getting the most out of participating in a hackathon, deriving maximum value from holding a hackathon takes careful preparation and advanced planning, especially about what you hope to gain from the event. But planning and implementing a successful hackathon may be harder than actually winning one.

I have attended plenty of hackathons as an observer and mentor, but I’ve never actually run one myself. So I spoke to people who have–including New Relic’s own in-house expert–to gather some of their best practices and suggestions. You can read more for my blog post for New Relic here.

NComputing’s oneSpace improves tablet productivity

NComputing’s oneSpace combines the benefits of tablet style navigation and gestures with fully functioning Windows and SaaS applications, internal web apps and portals, and on-premises and cloud file shares in a single policy-controlled environment that is secure and separate from a user’s personal tablet apps. We tested it on both Android and iOS tablets in June 2014.

Usage of the oneSpace app requires a license to a oneSpace service.

Price: $33/user/month

http://ncomputing.com