Blog Posts

Connecting Clouds to Open Source: Plone & Salesforce.com Integration

With the brand new release of Plone 4, I thought it would be a good time talk about the open source project and how it connects to the cloud.
Connecting Clouds to Open Source: Plone & Salesforce.com Integration

Plone & Salesforce.com Integration

The world of open source website and blogging platforms is pretty big with lots to choose from in many different computer languages. My tool of choice for at least the last eight years has been the Python based Plone which is built on a Zope backend. Plone is a well managed, fully featured and highly adopted application that installs on almost any operating system. Plone benefits from hundreds of developers, products and themes which makes building and launching a website a breeze. The new Plone 4 release brings speed, flexible folders, a new default theme, and a ton of other new features.

Why Not Force.com Sites

While Force.com Sites built on the Salesforce.com platform allows for some great integration, the tools for managing and publishing content are just not rich enough. Take a discussion board for example, in Plone that is just adding a product that gets downloaded and installed in less than a minute. With Force.com Sites that would be a lot of configuration and build including some tricky user licensing. As it stands today, Force.com Sites are good for highly integrated, simple featured, and brochure type websites. Plone is still great for content publishing, complex, and community based websites.

Making The Connection

The good news is that Plone and Salesforce.com have some great connection tools that can be leveraged to get the best of both worlds. Starting with the core of the integration is Beatbox which is the Python toolkit that talks to the Salesforce.com API. From there you add on SalesforceBaseConnector which is the Plone product connecting Beatbox and Plone.

Two Great Integrations

The first is SalesforceAuthPlugin which allows you to leverage any existing object in Salesforce.com, such as a Contact, Lead, or User as the logged in user of Plone. This means users who register on the website can be automatically created as leads or other objects in Salesforce.com. The username and password as well as other information are stored in Salesforce.com and any authentification now happens through the API. One central place to manage all data. A very cool trick.

SalesforcePFGAdapter creates a web-2-anything form within Plone which after being validated and submitted on the Plone side can create or update Salesforce.com objects. The power of this product is that it can not only create one object from one form, but many objects and relate them. An example we did for a client recently was an event registration that when submitted, created an Account, Contact and custom registration object, all related and in real time.

With these and other Plone and Salesforce.com products CRM and website integration takes on a whole new level of sophistication.

To learn more:

Google Strives to Include Everything Productivity in Gmail

With an exciting new feature launching this week Google was very busy moving more and more productivity apps into their Gmail platform.
Google Strives to Include Everything Productivity in Gmail

Google's new voice and messaging system embedded within Gmail

    With an exciting new feature launching this week Google was very busy moving more and more productivity app into their Gmail platform.

    If you are like me, you live in your email. My favorite web based email client is most definitely Gmail. Here at Arkus we run our entire business in the cloud which includes using Google Apps for email and productivity. It's great to have the ability to email and chat all on one page but sometimes that just isn't enough - sometimes you need to actually speak to someone on the phone - I know, so last century. Google recognized this and recently launched Gmail Voice and Video Chat.

    With this new service Gmail users have the ability to make calls via the Gmail interface to any phone around the world. Calls are FREE, yes, free to the US and Canada and for low rates to anyone else around the world. It's as easy as clicking the Call Phone link within the embedded Google Chat widget within Gmail. A dial pad pops up and you just dial the number you want to call and use your computer's internal microphone and speakers to make the call.

    Google is striving to bring every aspect of communication and collaboration into their suite of products and this is just another step in that direction. They have already launched Contextual Gadgets which helps connect applications and emails using contexts and now they are allowing you to make phone calls directly from their service. 

    Perhaps Google will create a brand new paradigm for email even giving the option to replay how the conversation got started so they can catch up to the entire thread - maybe even with the ability to add third party widgets to these emails. Oh wait...they did that already with Wave and are killing it off... As you can tell we at Arkus are a little bitter about Google killing off Wave. You could read more about our coverage of Wave and Google in prior blog posts linked below in the related content section. As Google continues to add more and more feature to Gmail maybe they will reconsider with Wave as it would add a really great feature set to a now really beefed up and feature rich Gmail experience. One thing is certain, Gmail has come a long way over the last few years.  

 

Secure Communication and Collaboration in the Cloud without Email

Yammer vs. Chatter - 2 different approaches to social networking and collaboration in the in the cloud - advantages and disadvantages of each service.

Yammer

Yammer is an enterprise social network akin to Twiiter for your company. It has feeds, profile pages, an external communities product, and can act as a knowledge repository. You can start it up for free where only people with your company's email address can join the network then later have the company claim the domain and administer the network yourself. Yammer is really easy to setup - takes minutes, and allows for employees to collaborate using a variety of different platforms.

 

Apps: 

  • Web App
  • Cross-Platform Client Desktop App
  • Mobile Apps (iPhone, Windows, Android, RIM, and SMS)
  • Browser Plug-ins
  • Twitter Integration
  • Email Integration
  • 3rd Party Products

With a plethora of different ways to interact with Yammer adoption is easy to achieve particularly with all the plug-ins to existing popular services and products - Twiiter and Google Reader to name a few. Yammer also includes a rich API for building social apps directly within your own infrastructure - they provide developers with the same API that they use to build out all the integrations mentioned above.

Salesforce Chatter

Salesforce Chatter is a collaboration tool embedded within Salesforce.com CRM and any other custom App built on top of the Force.com platform. Chatter turns all Apps within the Force.com platform into social apps allowing both people and data to talk or Chat. Users of Salesforce can choose to follow people via their profile pages or data via any record's detail page within the system. Chatter is embedded on any page within Salesforce that the system admin decides it should be on and it creates a stream of news much like a Facebook News stream essentially socializing data within the Salesforce.com system.

 

Apps:

  • Web App within the Force.com UI
  • Integration with any Application built on Force.com
  • Mobile via Salesforce Mobile (Lite and Full Version) on iPhone, Windows, and RIM
  • Many 3rd party apps built in the Chatter Exchange on the Appexchange

 

Each Product has their Advantages and Use Cases

 

Yammer

Yammer can act as a standalone application creating the always needed Enterprise Class Social Network. Being standalone has it's advantages and disadvantages. Advantage being that users don't have to already be a Salesforce user in order to use Yammer. Every employee within the company can use Yammer. Disadvantage being that it calls for adoption of an entirely new standalone tool which could be challenging.

Yammer's integration with desktop clients, existing web apps and services, as well as their API's ability to integrate into existing infrastructure is a definite bonus. People love Client Apps for Twitter because they are much easier to use then the rather blah twitter.com interface. The desktop element mixed with the mobile element make Yammer adoption much easier to stomach for most users. Add to that the ability to send something to Yammer from my Google Reader and now we are talking about true integration of Enterprise Collaboration with the Consumer Web - a sweet mix.

 

Chatter

Where Salesforce Chatter really takes the cake is it's ability to turn an already familiar and highly adopted system in Salesforce.com into a full fledged social network. People already use Salesforce every day to manage their CRM, their Service Desk, and many other uses so it's easy enough to turn that platform into a social network. The other main point is that not only can people talk BUT data talks. If you subscribe to a record like a top customer anytime someone changes that record you could be notified in your feed - something like that really turns information into a push mode and makes it easier to follow what is going on within your company - not only with people but with your customers and your data.


Where Chatter falls short thusfar is it's integration with other 3rd parties. While there is a robust API for building these integrations they haven't surfaced just yet. A desktop App seems like a must and while Chatter is embedded within Salesforce mobile apps it feels as if a Chatter specific App would be a great thing. Not to mention integrations with Consumer Web products such as Twitter and Google Reader which Yammer already concurred. It's understandable that Chatter doesn't have these integrations just yet but with the release of the Flex Toolkit for Force.com and the Adobe Flash Builder for Force.comI imagine an Air App for the desktop is soon to come for Chatter.

 

All in all both of these products, Yammer and Chatter, have the ability to change the way communication and collaboration occurs within the Enterprise in a safe and secure way. If you are already a Salesforce.com user it's likely Chatter is the way to go as it's one of those things you just turn on. If you aren't and are looking for a Twitter type solution for your company I would recomend taking a look at Yammer because it has some great features and integrations. Either way, both solutions are game changers in the world of communication and collaboration.

Google Shows No Vision by Killing The Wave

With the recent announcement that Google is stopping development and eventually shutting down Google Wave, Google might be doing more harm than good.

We have been posting, tweeting and talking about our love of the Google Wave product since they included it as an opt-in feature in Google Apps. While hard to describe, Google Wave has gone from being a quick curiosity to a daily productivity tool. Google has publicly said that they embrace their failures and learn from them but I think they are hurting the overall cloud computing movement by shutting down Wave, with little vision of foresight into the decision.

The Labs Excuse

The first thing that people point out is that Google Wave was a Labs experiment and that any company that took it too seriously or rolled it out to many users didn't do so wisely. I take issue with the term of "Labs" where most things are done in private and there is a big difference between adding a few features to Gmail and making them opt-in and making a huge splash with a new product and including it with Google Apps. If Google wants to do things in the labs, they should keep them in the labs and not announce them to the world in press releases and on stage for the world to evaluate. That is not what most scientist do with thier lab experiments.

Enterprise Pushback

Having worked in some large companies hand-in-hand with technology groups, I know what it is to have fought them about the difference between traditional IT and cloud computing. I argued about features, scalability, and ROI. They countered with conservative control and data security. Google has now given those old school IT arguments a bit more fuel to add to the fire. This is where large enterprise IT managers will point to a company that doesn't care about the effect on the end user. A company that will turn on and off features as it wants, when it wants, without any true roadmap or visibility. Those managers will point to Google shutting down the Wave and say, "See, I told you so. If we had started to roll that out to any significant amount of users, we would have to spend more time and money now replacing it and with no tools to recover the data."

They would be right.

Don't Be Evil

It is short-sighted for Google to shut down a product without providing a roadmap, without visibility into the numbers it sought to gain, or even try to monetize it using tools like Adsense.

In the end it shines a harsh light on the cloud computing industry and points out a very old addage, "You get what you pay for". Google likes to give a lot away for free, which is great, but it is a hard day when they come and take some of it back.

I would argue that goes against their self impossed motto of "Don't be evil".

To share your thoughts with me on twitter.com/JasonMAtwood

From Pull to Push, Cloud 2 Changes Everything

Cloud 2 changes everything about the way people interact with the web and companies on the web. It even changes the way we work - we go from pulling information to having information pushed in context in real-time.
From Pull to Push, Cloud 2 Changes Everything

From Pull to Push, Cloud 2 Changes Everything

Some companies haven't even adopted the Cloud as part of their technology stack, so why move so fast to Cloud 2? The answer is actually simple, because the way we use the Web has changed dramatically over the last few years. What was once very much about "pulling" information is now all about "pushing" information in context.

Cloud Sourcing

For example - if you were to be in the market for a new bluetooth headset 5 years ago you would likely "Google it" by typing "bluetooth headset reviews" into the search box. You would comb through links and stories about bluetooth headsets and eventually get to the information you need to make a choice - you would essentially be "pulling" information from the vast internet. Fast-forward to today and you are more likely to Tweet the question of "which bluetooth headset is best for my phone?". Not only will your friends supply answers but if there are savvy bluetooth headset manufacturers and marketers out there they would be able to send you an answer via Twitter too - they would be "pushing" information at you for your consumption in context of what you were looking for. This is the power of Cloud 2 - the ability to interact with people in far different ways - including the public internet as a marketing and communication channel. The ability for users of the internet and marketers at companies to be on the web together and know what each other really want - not just guesses based on search terms blindly typed into a box.

 

Now examine the push vs pull scenario within a company's firewall. Wouldn't it be nice to have the same situation as described above with bluetooth headsets be true at your company? Wouldn't it be nice to just throw a question out into the ether about the best research document to use when talking to a certain type of client? Or what pitch deck should I use when pitching a specific product? Or even something as mundane as what is the best restaurant to go to in Omaha, NE? This is the type of push and feeding of information that today's and tomorrow's knowledge worker is going to expect when sitting at their desk, or better yet, staring at their mobile phone.

 

Cloud 2 is all about getting to information that is, to use a cliche, "stuck in silos" within a company. Open up the communication channels by allowing employees to communicate with each other, and their data, the way that they do in their "real lives" and the results could be magical. In the end, that's what it's all about - employee interactions with people and data that they already are familiar with because they do it every day on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Our Cloud 2

 

At Arkus we use Cloud 2 in the following ways:

  • Instead of a blast email to the entire company we post something in our Salesforce Chatter feeds

  • We use Google Wave as opposed to Email and Chat for collaboration

  • We don't do press releases, rather we Tweet, Podcast, and write Blog Posts

  • Twitter and Craigslist are often sources for Leads as opposed to purchasing lists

  • We interact with our customers on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to enrich our relationships

 

Cloud 2 goes along with the notion of a more collaborative and interactive web. If your company isn't adopting this new wave of computing then you are missing out because this is where your customers are.

Using Google Wave for GTD, Scrums and Project Management

Our team takes on using Google Wave for productivity, events, agendas and generally getting things done (GTD).
Using Google Wave for GTD, Scrums and Project Management

Using Google Wave for GTD, Scrums and Project Management

I was very skeptical when Google Wave was announced over a year ago. I signed up for the beta, started a few waves then went on to ignore it for the next year. When Google announced it was to be bundled into Google Apps with single sign on, I decided to give it another try and invited some co-workers into the water with me.

We have not worked the same since.

The email traffic at Arkus has gone down tremendously as we move from sending emails to "just throwing it in a wave." While we are constantly coming up with new ways to use Google Wave, here are some that have taken hold so far.

Scrums

We are an agile methodology shop, but not geographically close, so stand up meetings in the morning don't work that well. Instead we have a weekly scrum wave that we put our "big rock" tasks. Each task gets a time value and crossed out when complete. We start off each Monday with a new weekly wave, add to it in a bulleted list every day commenting and updating as the real work gets done.

Agenda & Meeting Notes

If meetings are the plague of corporate productivity, agendas are part of the cure. A good clear cut agenda, sent out before the meeting and stuck to during the meeting can keep things on track, on time and with clear roles. During the meeting we add followups and action items to the wave. Again, a simple bulleted list does most of the work. During meetings and conference calls we use a wave to capture all notes and the real-time nature of Google Wave shines as we track what notes others are writing. I can gently remind a co-worker of something to cover on the call by just adding it to the wave, like instant messenger they see it and can react.

Goals

While corporate goals can form the start of a dictatorship we use them as a way to drive forward on what we want to accomplish. Yearly goals are looked at monthly to come up with monthly goals which we break down into categories of opportunities, projects, marketing and business. Before starting off a weekly scrum wave we go over the monthly goals and see what next action we can take to push those bigger projects along. We don't always get there, but setting our sights on the end helps us focus from day to day. There is nothing better than crossing off a big goal during the month and letting everyone else in the wave know it is done.

Projects

A new wave is started for every client project. Notes, agendas, screenshots and comments all go into the wave as the project continues. Links to other project tracking tools as well as action items get recorded in the wave and checked off when complete. When we have action items in one wave for a project, we link to that wave from our weekly scrum wave to keep everything in context as we work through tasks.

Google Wave has really changed a lot of the way we work, coordinate and collaborate on a day to day basis. This blog post was first started on a wave, sent out for invitation and commented on all before being posted to the website.

To learn more about Google Wave check out the main page wave.google.com or ask us on Twitter or Facebook.

We also cover this type of stuff on our new weekly podcast entitled CloudFocus.

Whats Up with Facebook and WhatsApp?

With the recent announcement of the purchase of WhatsApp by Facebook I figured I’d give a run down of what WhatsApp is and how I’ve been using it for the last few years. I’ll add in a few things I hope Facebook does with it and a few that I hope they don’t do.
Whats Up with Facebook and WhatsApp?

Whats Up with Facebook and WhatsApp?

My Introduction to WhatsApp

For the last three years a group of five friends of mine have been using WhatsApp to communicate with each other in group chats. Years prior we all had been using BBM to chat in groups over data networks but now we were splintered on iOS, Blackberry, and Android (in the last year everyone has moved off of Blackberry). When looking for a way to keep our group chats going we found the useful app WhatsApp. At it’s core it is a cross platform messaging application that allows for individual or group chats that go out over data networks and not utilize the all valuable “text messages”. I personally love that the messages go out over the data network as I’m sometimes in places where there is no cellular service (seriously, I know) yet I do have wifi therefore I can still “text” with friends.

WhatsApp vs. iMessage

To this day we continue to use WhatsApp even though almost everyone in the group is on iOS and could use iMessage. The main reason we continue to use WhatsApp is because of the one Android holdout but even still, if everyone was on iOS, I believe we would continue to use WhatsApp. WhatsApp has a much better user experience for group chatting then iMessage does. The interface for group chats displays more like an inbox with a “name” for the group chat which is really helpful in identifying which chat you are in at any given time as opposed to the way iMessage does it with just displaying people’s names separated by a comma. If there are more than two people in the conversation then you aren’t exactly sure which group you are in; this is why I prefer WhatsApp to iMessage for group messaging.

Facebook Messenger Fail?

Facebook tried a few years back to revamp their messaging platform and even released a standalone messaging application that seamlessly integrated with the core service. In my opinion it has fallen flat and obviously hasn’t taken off the way that Facebook would have wanted. Why else would Facebook spend a reported $19 billion on a messaging platform? So what can Facebook bring to the table to make WhatsApp better? I actually hope that they do nothing to the application itself aside from bring more users onto the messaging service. The other thing they could do is make the application work on the iPad, hopefully Facebook can use it’s sheer size to get Apple to allow the application to be installed on the iPad. Aside from that, I’d like for Facebook to leave well enough alone. Don’t integrate it into Facebook, don’t require a Facebook login to use the app, and don’t mix my contacts up inside of WhatsApp with my Facebook friends unless I explicitly allow it.

Why WhatsApp?

To me Facebook just spent a whole lot of money on a feature that they already had built years ago. Clearly they are covering gaps with user adoption with this purchase. Messaging is a huge play on the mobile device and Facebook messenger wasn’t even an option for me. I have been using SMS, iMessage, and WhatsApp for years and don’t even think of Facebook messenger. WIth this purchase, I can still not think about Facebook messenger but I will be using a Facebook product for messaging and I think that’s the way Facebook wants it.

Please feel free to comment below, on our facebook page, or directly at me on Twitter @JustEdelstein.