Clearvale, BroadVision’s new Elgg-based social-network-as-a-service

Old skool portal and e-commerce vendor, BroadVision (remember them?), has caused a bit of a stir with the launch of its new social-network-as-a-service, Clearvale. You can use Clearvale to create closed (intranet), restricted (extranet) or open (Internet) networks.

I created a free Clearvale account so I could take a look and was immediately greeted by what is a reasonably customised, but instantly recognisable, as an Elgg site. Actually, this was a pleasant surprise!

Clearvale

Unfortunately, while ReadWriteWeb and TechCrunch were off comparing Clearvale to Socialtext, Jive, Ning, Salesforce Chatter, and Status.net neither of them quite joined the dots on this one! It would be nice to see some analysis of what this means for the Elgg platform itself.

Headshift has used Elgg on a number of projects, both here in Australia and also in the UK. If you aren’t familiar with Elgg, from a software architecture point of view it is a really interesting and very sophisticated people-centric (rather than being document- or content-centric) platform. The out-of-the-box Elgg interface is really a special set of plugins that run over the core Elgg engine – so in theory you can take the Elgg engine and build an entirely customised application running off it. It also comes with an API (although RWW say Clearvale are building an API, which may mean they are in fact customising it for their implementation of Elgg). However, most people work with the engine and the default front end. At this level, you customise Elgg using plugins that hook into different functions, views and a widget framework – this makes it very modular. Heavy or deap customisation of Elgg can actually get complicated, because its not a case of simply hacking PHP code – you actually have to understand how Elgg works.

So with that in mind, and without fully testing the Clearvale customisations, on first look it does appear they have done a good job of selecting and integrating a number of customisations to create a good set of core tools for people to use. This includes supporting some basic theming options, which isn’t something Elgg offers fresh out of the box – so you can add your own company logo and pick from a selection of colour themes. However, unlike hosting your own Elgg you can’t add your own plugins or theme plugins (although there is a hint from TechCrunch that they might create a kind of ‘app store’, which might provide a controlled method for doing this following the Apple model). This also limits your ability to change the overall information architecture, to suit the needs of your project or organisation. One thing I did notice is that site doesn’t automatically default to HTTPS, even if you choose to create a closed network, but it does appear to work over a secure connection.

Incidentally, Clearvale aren’t the only people playing in this space. Elgg themselves also have a hosted service, currently in beta that might also be worth looking at.

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People with broken toilets use the Internet too

I know this might come as a surprise to some, but you know, people with broken toilets also use the Internet too.

Unfortunately, this point is lost on some because I spent most of my Saturday trying to answer a relatively simply question: Can I stop my Caroma toilet from leaking, without needing to call a plumber. And if I do need help or have to seek assistance at the local hardware store for a Caroma part, what do I need to tell them about what is broken?

Now, I should point out that Caroma Australia have spent a decent amount of time and effort on creating a couple of a nice looking Websites and have even created a presence on flickrYouTube and Facebook. However, if you are looking for some simple instructions on how to fix the most basic of problems you might encounter, then don’t bother. A google search eventually threw up some buried technical specs, but they didn’t really help me with my issue.

This doesn’t mean that they haven’t done this in the past – its just hard to find, although in at least one person’s opinion, it still doesn’t actually provide enough detail so they ended up making their own video. Unfortunately for me, these instruction cover an old model anyway as there aren’t any tabs to!

Now, in order to save you some time and effort if you are faced with this same problem, I thought I would share what I eventually found out. Changing the rubber washer didn’t take long, but I spent a far bit of time working out how to do it!

Firstly, does you Caroma dual flush look like this? If not, check the other video link above.

Img_1046

I believe this is a called an M5 or Mark 5 or possibly a Whisper Quiet Inlet Valve. If this looks your model, then watch the video listed here called, Mark 5 valve seal replacement (in .avi format). Note that this video was created not by Caroma but by a Canadian company called Sustainable Solutions International. Now, unfortunately, this video still makes it look really easy – their unit just clicks out with a simple twist.

I was getting really frustrated after watching the video until I read this:

I read everything on the web and a video (all useless) that avoids the hard parts and things just miraculously appear or disappear!! 
Finally after trying in vein on my own for ages I got mad at the whole f’ing thing and pulled so hard it feels like you are going to break it and presto, it is just designed to be pulled out. 

There are NO TABS just locking notches on some models.

Next you have to lever off the slot off the middle plunger. Then after trying to lever off the bottom centre of the plunger to replace the washer one realises this isn’t going to work you need to pull the old one off and stretch the new one on.

Simple when you know but no one tells you….. Companies like Caroma should web publish simple instructions for all their different products and save us all some grief. Simply retarded that they don’t.

(Emphasis added)

So, I persisted and hey presto… I discovered that it does come out with a twist and a pull:
If you look at this picture of the rubber washer, you can see it is has some odd bumps on the edges:

Img_1047

The replacement washer (which again, provides very little information about it being a suitable replacement part – but looks the same at least) is nice and smooth.

Now, you might have noticed that this isn’t a DIY or plumbing blog. But that’s kind of the point isn’t it? Because social media isn’t just for marketing.

“Invalid Password” when connecting to a Wi-Fi Protected Access network

About AirPort Client Update for MacBook and MacBook Pro

This update is recommended for some Intel-based Macintosh computers running Mac OS X v10.5.8 and addresses an issue with AirPort performance while running on battery power. It may only be installed on:

MacBook (13-inch, Late 2007)
MacBook (13-inch, Early 2008)
MacBook (13-inch, Late 2008)
MacBook Pro (15-inch, Early 2008)
MacBook Pro (17-inch, Early 2008)
MacBook Pro (17-inch, Late 2008)

All of sudden yesterday, I found that I couldn’t connect to my home wifi network from my MacBook running OS X v10.5.8. My home wifi network uses WPA2-PSK security.

The airport client kept asking me to re-enter my pass phrase, but each time it came back with “Invalid Password”. However, every other wifi device at home could connect ok. I even tried changing the pass phrase, deleting the network settings, and some other suggestions I found online – but nothing made any difference. I even changed the wifi channel (although, I’m almost sitting on top of the router and its by far the strongest signal despite 3 other competing networks nearby).

In the end I installed this update. I don’t think I was missing it in the first place as wifi has been working flawlessly with WPA for a while, but I imagine it may have reset something that was corrupted.

From the RSA’s Animate series: Daniel Pink on intrinsic motivation

A good follow on from my last post, this video is great on two levels. The animated sketching really enhances this great talk by Daniel Pink about what drives us to perform.

There are more sketch videos available from the RSA’s Animate series. I also particularly enjoyed Jeremy Rifkin’s talk on the evolution of empathy and the profound ways that it has shaped our development and our society.

Hat tip to Headshift and Channel N.

Employee engagement with social computing tools – just another scam?

Last week I had a long talk with a mid-level executive about the rollout of a new employee engagement program in his organization.

(You know it’s gonna be bad when the words “rollout” and “program” appear together. “Rollout” alone is a dead giveaway.)

He told me that he was reluctant to throw his own enthusiasm behind the program, because he wasn’t sure if it was fair to ask the people who work with him to give any more than they were already giving. He just couldn’t get engaged in the engagement program.

This executive isn’t lazy, or lacking in ambition, or afraid of the challenge of employee engagement. He believes that, more often than not, employee engagement is usually a scam.

And he’s right. Employee engagement is a scam.

Hmm. If employee engagement is bad, what about employee engagement with with social computing tools?

Actually, as this post and the comments with it go on to discuss, employee engagement can actually cut both ways depending on the motivation and world view of those behind it. Having said that, I suspect it is actually harder to manipulate people through employee engagement that this article gives credit for. Certainly, its why I worry about the past history of change failure in the projects I’m involved with.

Bearing that in mind, employee engagement with social computing tools is probably no more or no less a scam that any particular employee engagement initiative might be. However, I do see some additional problems with using these technologies that might be perceived as being at the employees’ expense if not thought about with some care:

  1. Not allowing people to be social – this means letting people go off topic some of the time;
  2. Giving people tools that create more work for them to participate, instead of giving them technology that works so well it becomes part of how they work; and
  3. Not being prepared to accept that some people won’t want to participate, but also not expecting that some will use these tools to achieve personal career goals (which might mean moving up, but could also mean moving on).

Address these issues up front and I think social computing can contribute positively to an employee engagement initiative.

Book Review – You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier

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Hopefully I won’t be accused of being a troll, because I’m not hiding behind anonymity here on this blog. However, I can’t find any way to sugar coat this: I found this book both disappointing and frustrating.

Disappointing because my expectations had been built up by the promotion surrounding the author and this book. Frustrating because the critical thinking I was expecting lacked clarity and depth.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t some interesting ideas in the book. Certainly, we should explore issues such as how the Internet affects our ability to be creative (and earn a living from being creative), and how it changes how we think and behave. But I’m simply not convinced by the author’s arguments (or rather, the way they are articulated in this book). Also, while the main thrust of Lanier’s manifesto is focused on the impact of information technology on dumbing down and control of how we create and exchange meaning, I think he fails to address another important aspect of people and culture, being relationships.

If anything I formed the impression that far from being unhappy with the digital world, the author is simply disappointed with the industrial revolution that is taking place online. He says on many occasions that he isn’t anti-Web – in fact his concluding argument attempts to demonstrate that point – but his nostalgia for the past is obvious. His problem then is perhaps that the Web has suddenly been invaded by the Proles*. And perhaps that is the core of the warning in this book that you will need to answer for yourself – has 1984 come to pass or is this just another conspiracy novel?

BTW Compared to the book, Lanier’s essay on Digital Maoism is worth reading.

*Yes, the irony of linking to Wikipedia is noted 🙂

My conference workshops coming up in May & July

Just to let you know that I have a couple of conferences coming up this month and in July where I’ll be running workshops:

 
 
On the second day of this conference, I’ll be running a workshop on designing a simpler, smarter, social knowledge transfer and retention approach. In this workshop I will be using our Social Business Design framework to explain how to tap into collective intelligence, improve productivity through in-the-flow knowledge transfer and do more with less.
 
 
I will be running a full-day masterclass on the last day of this conference, to provide an A-Z guide to implementing a social media marketing strategy. This will be based on Gov 2.0 Taskforce Project 8 guidelines, developed by Headshift, however I’ll also be providing an overview of current current Web trends and their impact on policy setting and public sector marketing.
 
As always, come along to either of these workshops ready to participate!

Cross-posted from the Headshift Australasia blog.