Can You Help With Data Collection For Hurricane Irene Crisis Response?

CrisiscommonsWith Hurricane Irene bearing down on the East Coast of the US and expected to make landfall within the next 24-48 hours, many volunteer efforts are underway to be in position to help the regions that may be effected... including efforts by "technology volunteers" to collect data and assist crisis response organizations that are there on the ground.


The CrisisCommons group now has a page up at:

with information about how you can get more involved - see the "Open Data" block on the right side for current volunteer projects.

One such effort is a map of shelters and incidents that will evolve as shelters are set up - volunteers are needed to help put existing maps of shelters onto the map.

Another effort is media monitoring being done by Humanity Road.

The CrisisWiki is also gathering resources about Hurricane Irene.

If you aren't in one of the affected areas (where you may have much more direct things to worry about), all of these are great ways that you can help out from afar!

If you have some time to spare today or over the weekend, please check out the CrisisCommons page to learn how you can help!

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Google Wave to rise from the ashes in open source form?


Ever since the announced demise of Google Wave, I think we've all been wondering what would be next and how much of the code Google would make available. Today, they've taken a step in that direction with this post:

Wave open source next steps: "Wave in a Box"

In the post, they say that they will make available as open source:

  • an application bundle including a server and web client supporting real-time collaboration using the same structured conversations as the Google Wave system
  • a fast and fully-featured wave panel in the web client with complete support for threaded conversations
  • a persistent wave store and search implementation for the server (building on contributed patches to implement a MongoDB store)
  • refinements to the client-server protocols
  • gadget, robot and data API support
  • support for importing wave data from
  • the ability to federate across other Wave in a Box instances, with some additional configuration

If they follow through on all this, it should be quite a good offering.  As they note:

This project will not have the full functionality of Google Wave as you know it today. However, we intend to give developers and enterprising users an opportunity to run wave servers and host waves on their own hardware.

After Google announced Wave back at that famous Google I/O presentation, I've been intrigued by it (and written about it) but what has most intrigued me is the possibility to move collaboration to a "distributed and decentralized" model in a way similar to email and web servers.  Distributed and decentralized is, after all, "The Internet Way", as I wrote about at great length in the past.

Let's see what happens... and I, for one, will definitely be watching to see what they make available.

What do you think?  Can Wave re-emerge as something useful?

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5 Steps to Enable Google Wave for Google Apps accounts

googlewavepreview.jpgWith Google Wave now being available for everyone, and specifically now available for businesses using Google Apps, I thought I'd just post the 5 steps of how to enable Google Wave for your Apps account. (The steps appear in the video on the Google Apps page, but you have to watch the video to know that.)


You have to be the administrator for your Google Apps domain in order to enable Google Wave.


Next to the "Service settings" heading there is a "Add more services" link. Follow that link:



On the next screen, you just select the "Add it now" button:



Google throws up a page just warning you that you can't get support for Wave through existing support contracts... and other warnings. Just hit the "Yes, enable Google Wave" button:



That's it. Now you can just direct people within your Google Apps domain to go to:

and they can start waving! Here's what it looked like for me:


Now, as noted in the warnings, users in your Apps domain can by default also invite external people into your corporate waves. That may be a great thing... that may be something you want to think about.

In any event, enjoy waving within Google Apps!

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Can't attend Google I/O this week? You can follow along in Google Wave.

Remember Google Wave? The big buzz that we all talked about last year? (And that I wrote a good bit about here.) While some of us may have reduced (or dropped) our Wave usage, Google is naturally using it heavily and as 5,000+ developers all gear up for the big Google I/O conference this week in San Francisco, the word is out that you can follow along in "Live Waves" during the event. This big URL should take you there (assuming you have a Wave account):,!w%252BeRiTZrZkCcw

You should see something like this:


Note that if you are already in Wave you can simply enter this in the search box:

group:[email protected] tag:io2010

If you aren't familiar with the idea of using "live waves" for conference note-taking, you may want to view my Emerging Tech Talk #40 video podcast where I demonstrated how Google Wave could be used this way.

Note: Thanks for Jay Cuthrell for tweeting out this info.

P.S. If you are out at Google I/O, please say hello to our Voxeo Labs team who will be in the Google I/O Sandbox demonstrating Voxeo technologies and how they work with Google services

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Ning's Phase-Out of Free Services - Smart Business Move? Or Utter Betrayal?

ning.jpgMuch has been made in the social media part of the blogosphere about Ning's recent decision to end their free services. In a post to their Ning Creators Forum titled "NING UPDATE: PHASING OUT FREE SERVICES", the company posted an email from their CEO that said most importantly this:
So, we are going to change our strategy to devote 100% of our resources to building the winning product to capture this big opportunity. We will phase out our free service. Existing free networks will have the opportunity to either convert to paying for premium services, or transition off of Ning.

The post outlined why they need to make the move - and disclosed the fact that they were laying off 69 people.

Some 700 comments later, they closed off comments to the post. The comments seemed to be a great number of very upset users of the free Ning service mixed in with a few folks defending Ning along with Ning employees who seemed to be trying to be genuinely helpful.

The comments across the blogosphere and Twittersphere raged quite strongly. ReadWriteWeb had a post listing alternatives, as did Mashable. TechCrunch reported on sites "welcoming Ning refugees".

While the news sites may have reported it matter-of-factly, many other sites were full of passion. Many nonprofits and educational institutions wrote about how the were going to have to find some other home because they couldn't afford fees. My friend Shel Holtz wrote a blistering post called "Ning reneges on its core promise, shatters customer trust", which included this line:

But the word that keeps repeating in my mind is “betrayal.”

Strong stuff.

Betrayal? Or sound business decision? I understand the arguments on both sides.


If you go back in time, Ning was launched with great fanfare in October 2005, a new startup by Marc Andresson of Netscape fame. Per the RWW article I just linked to, Ning's FAQ (now gone) was:

"Our goal with Ning is to see what happens when you open things up and make it easy to create, share, and discover new social apps."

I remember the launch... many of us tried it out. I think I even created a Ning network... although I can't find any email or evidence that I really did. I know I joined a couple. The idea was cool... now anyone can create their own social network!

Over the years Ning raised over $120 million from investors and at one point was valued at over a half billion dollars. Mashable reported one year ago that there were over 1,000,000 networks created on Ning. Ning was one of the early supporters of OpenSocial and rolled out "Ning Apps" to Ning's 1.5 million networks at that time. I know of many folks in the social media/marketing space who recommended Ning as a platform for people to build communities. I did to several groups. I was even considering using Ning as a platform for a community around my upcoming book like Steve Garfield did for his Get Seen book. (I opted for a blog and a Facebook page instead.)


It now seems rather clear that something was broken with the business model. $120 million dollars and 1.5 million networks later... they chopped 40% of the staff and dropped the free service that brought them so much attention and undoubtedly investment.

It sounds like from a company perspective they had little choice. As a recent Mashable post said (my emphasis added):

We’re not sure how pricing will change over the next few weeks, but what we do know is that the dotcom-era free-for-all of apps, services and content for end users is not-so-gradually coming to a halt. In the light of economic reality, nothing is free. Someone — be it an advertiser, an administrator, an investor or an entrepreneur — is footing the bill for every one and zero that’s electronically transmitted across this great Internet of ours. And at some point, most of those folks expect to see a return on their investment.

"And at some point, most of those folks expect to see a return on their investment."... indeed. And $120 million of investment is a lot to seek a return on. I can understand that they didn't have many great choices... and were undoubtedly running out of time.


On the other hand, I completely understand the anger, sadness, frustration and passion of all of those who built communities on Ning. Ning offered a great service ... all you had to do was bear with seeing the ads that were displayed. In return you had powerful tools to build your own community.

You put your trust in Ning that they would provide this service for free - and now Ning has betrayed that trust.

I don't envy all the nonprofits, schools, churches and other groups that used Ning as their community and built their communication infrastructure around that site. Sure, there are alternatives, but switching is a pain... you ideally want to move some or all of your content... and you have to bring all your users over with you... It is a lot of work.

It's easy to say, as I've seen many commenters do, that "you get what you pay for"... and to chastise users of Ning's free service to be so naive to think that it would be around for the long term. But why not? That was the promise made by the company. Build your community here and we'll make it easy for you to maintain and grow - and so many networks did prosper there.


As Shel wrote in his post, I have this issue with "single points of failure" (SPOFs). I've written at great length about how Twitter and Facebook violate "The Internet Way" of distributed and decentralized services. I would add Ning to that list as well. It is a centralized service under the control of a single company... and a startup company at that.

The problem in relying on a single company/service/platform is that if you are locked in to that company/service/platform, you have a single point-of-failure.

They die... you die.

Compare the Ning situation to, say, garden-variety web hosting providers. You can get web hosting pretty much anywhere for an inexpensive amount of money. Upload your HTML files, point your domain there... ta da... your website is up and running.

Don't like the web hosting provider? Or have too many service problems? Or have the web hosting provider fail as a business? No problem... sign up with another web hosting provider... upload your HTML files (you do have a backup, right?)... point your domain there... and ta da... you're back in action. You have many, many, many choices for web hosting providers... it's all distributed and decentralized.


With a web hosting provider... or even an email provider... there is a fundamental feature:


If you don't like the provider, you can move. You aren't locked in. Sure, it may be a pile of work... and moving your domain may be a hassle if you didn't retain control of it... but it's relatively straightforward to move. Even if you use PHP or other scripting languages, odds are that you can move your web site to another provider, because...

Web sites are portable as they are based on open standards.

Usually... unless, of course, the web hosting provider found some way to make your administration "simpler" and subsequently lock you in to their services.

When using Ning, though, you sacrifice that control and portability in the name of simplicity. It's easy and simple (and free!) to set up a Ning community. It can be a lot harder to set up your own software on your own server - and it will probably cost you something. The same can be said of Facebook and using a Facebook Page or Group... or using any of the many other services out there that let you build communities.


Sadly, hundreds of thousands of actual users (perhaps millions) are learning about control and portability in a bitter and harsh lesson. They will soon learn about what pricing Ning will be offering... and they will have to make their choices. Pay some fee... move their community... or simply shut it down. I already know that one of the ones I am a member of will be moving. I expect many others will move as well.

I can only hope... and that is what it is - "hope"... that as Ning community administrators look at alternatives, they will ask those providers the tough questions, like:

  • How do I know you will be around in a while?
  • How can I trust you not to screw me like Ning just did?
  • What is your business model?
  • How easy is it for me to move my community OFF of your platform if I choose to do so?

And so on...

As for Ning, I wish them luck... I somehow think they're going to need it.

UPDATE: John Cass has an excellent post tracking many good posts involved in the conversation about Ning's changes.

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The Single Biggest Reason Why I Can't Yet REALLY Use Google Wave

googlewavepreview.jpgI'm a big fan of Google Wave. A huge fan in fact. I've written about it, posted a screencast about using it in conference collaboration and have much more about it in my writing queue. I love the promise of the Wave protocol that will allow for distributed/decentralized collaboration that is in line with "The Internet Way". I've been a long-time fan of the XMPP protocol that is underneath it all. There is so much great potential in Wave.

But I can't really use it today.

Not yet, anyway.

It's NOT because of the common sentiment I hear about not having anyone to communicate with on Wave. Between Voxeons trying it out, PR/marketing folks associated with FIR trying it out, and a whole lot of other early adopters I know, there are probably easily 150-200 people that I could use Wave with.

And I very definitely can use Google Wave for PUBLIC Waves like those I described for conferences in my screencast. For public waves, it's great and works well.

But I can't really use it for true collaboration with a team a people - and therefore can't really push Wave to see what it can do.


Two simple pictures illustrate the issue:




Figure it out?

Yes, indeed....


Like I alluded to earlier, no big deal for a public wave. Public waves are by definition, well,... public... and so anyone can join in a public wave. And anyone contributing to a public wave should realize that anything they type there is potentially visible to everyone. It is an annoyance that you can't leave a public wave... but that's it.

(Note: the Google Wave team did hear the cries from Wave users and have allowed anyone to remove a bot from a wave. So bots can be kicked out, but not people.)


I'll give you two examples, though, where this is a huge problem.

First, imagine that you are trying to use Google Wave to collaborate on, say, a news release for your company. The content of the wave is confidential. You invite your team into the wave and you all work on the document. Then, because the current Wave user interface is, um, not entirely intuitive, one of your team members accidently adds someone from outside of your company into your confidential wave.


There is no way to boot that person out. In fact, via Playback, he/she can see everything you have ever typed into that wave... every edit... every snarky comment...

All you can do at that point is: 1) appeal to the person's brother/sisterhood as a fellow early-adopter to excuse the problem and try to pretend they don't see everything going on in the wave; and 2) start a brand-new wave (copying content over) that includes just your team and not this person.

Not ideal solutions.

Second, let's say that you are working with a team of people and one of the people decides to leave the team. Maybe they quit or are fired from the company. Maybe they start a competing project. Whatever the case... you don't want them to have access to the Wave any more.


copytonewwave.jpgAgain, no way you can remove them. The best you can do is go up to the upper right corner of one of the "blips" in your wave and do the "Copy to new wave" command... and then add everyone to this new wave.

I recently had to personally do this for a wave of 25+ people. Not a fun experience, particular because the current Wave UI only seems to let you add one person at a time. So I had to create the new wave and then figure out who all was in the old one and add them one at a time to the new wave. It didn't take a long time... it was really only a few minutes... but it was a pain. And then I had to flip between the old and new waves to be sure I had brought everyone over.

And then, since everyone would still see the old wave in their inbox, I had to change the title of the old wave so that people would not go into that one and would know they could archive it to get it out of their Inbox.


As The Complete Wave Guide indicates, it's not necessarily an easy problem to solve due to Wave's collaborative nature. Having said that, the problem has been solved in the IM space in places like Skype Group Chats, IRC channels, etc. Now, federation isn't here yet, but Wave's distributed and decentralized architecture could add some interesting syncing challenges to this issue - but yet it still seems to me to be solvable.

As "GeekLad" notes in "5 Reasons Google Wave Is Not Ready, it's an issue of lack of any real kind of "access control". I agree with with GeekLad that something like this kind of system needs to be in place:

  • Allow the wave creator do add/remove any participant from a wave.
  • Allow the wave creator to assign/modify the following permissions that can be set at the wave and participant level:
    • Permission to add bots to the wave.
    • Permission to invite other participants to the wave.
    • Permission to remove participants from the wave.
    • Read-only or read/write access to the wave.
    • Permission to grant/modify each (or all) permissions for other participants and/or the entire wave.

That's what we need.

Access control and the ability to remove participants from a wave.

Until that time, as much as I dearly want to be using Google Wave for all sorts of collaborative development... I won't... I can't in good conscience do so with private information.

Here's hoping that the Wave team does give us this feature real soon now... until then... I'll keep using it for public waves, and for non-confidential private waves... but I want to use it for so much more...

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VIDEO: How to use Google Wave for Collaborative Conference Note-taking

googlewavepreview.jpgOver the past two weeks, I've both witnessed and participated in an incredibly powerful way to use Google Wave. The use case is simply this:
collaboratively taking notes at a conference

I saw this first Oct 28-30 at eComm Europe in Amsterdam. Members of the Google Wave team set up some initial waves and showed "live waving" during the actual event. Others then participated in (everyone at eComm was given a Wave account). I joined in asking some questions and participating in the dialog. Although I wasn't there, I wound up learning a lot of what went on there and now there are some great notes people can reference about the sessions. If you have a Wave account, you can see the eComm waves yourself by going to the search box at the top of the center column (where it usually says "in:Inbox") and entering in:

tag:ecomm with:public

Now you will see all the public waves that were created by multiple people during and after the event.

At VoiceCon and Enterprise 2.0 this week in San Francisco, I and a number of others did our own "live waving" and the process was quite powerful in cases where a number of us were collaborating. You can see the waves in Wave by searching on:

tag:voicecon with:public
tag:e2conf with:public

There weren't as many Wave users at the two conferences, so we didn't have quite as many collaborators in some of the public waves - but look at the ones relating to "Google Wave" to see some strong collaboration.

I actually used ScreenFlow on my Macbook Pro to capture one of the editing sessions, because I think you really need to see that in action to fully appreciate what it can do. I'm hoping to edit that and get it up as a screencast soon.

To show how to use Wave in this manner, I created this Emerging Tech Talk screencast based on the eComm public waves:

The Emerging Tech Talk blog post has a few more details about what I showed in the video.

If you use Google Wave in this fashion, please do leave a note letting people know how to find your waves. As we all explore this early preview of Google Wave, it's great to learn from each other.

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Heading out to Enterprise 2.0 conf next week in SF...

enterprise20-2009-boston-1.jpgOn Sunday evening I'll be heading out to San Francisco were I'll be speaking at both Enterprise 2.0 and VoiceCon next week at the Moscone center (they are co-resident). As I outline on a page on the Voxeo Talks blog, my talks at Enterprise 2.0 will both be on Tuesday, November 3, 2009. The first is:
11:15 am–12:00 pm – Case Studies In Enterprise Micro-Blogging Micro-blogging is taking hold within the Enterprise. The social aspects of real-time messaging promise to improve productivity, knowledge sharing and community-building. Organizations pursuing “Enterprise Twitter” solutions however face numerous issues: *What is the business case (including metrics and ROI)? *What are the policy, security, compliance, and discovery implications? *Are there best practices to help with employee adoption? *What application scenarios work best? e2 Moderator – Irwin Lazar, Vice President, Communications Research, Nemertes Research
Speaker – Brad Garland, CEO, The Garland Group
Speaker – Dan York, Director of Conversations, Voxeo Corporation
Speaker – Scott Mark, Enterprise Application Architect, Medtronic
Speaker – Wim Hofland, Manager, Inspiration and Innovation, Sogeti Netherlands

It should be an interesting discussion, particularly because my views on "enterprise micro-blogging" have evolved a good bit (and not necessarily in a positive direction) since I wrote my long piece a year ago about Yammer, and Laconica.

Next up, and on the same general theme, is a "reactor panel" that is a bit of reprise of a similar panel at Enterprise 2.0 in Boston earlier this year, although with different participants:

4:15 – 5:00 pm – The Future of Social Messaging in the Enterprise The rapid rise of social messaging services such as Twitter creates challenges and opportunities for end-user organizations. How can end-user organizations utilize social messaging to improve external and internal collaboration? What’s the role of social messaging in a unified communications and collaboration architecture and how are UC&C vendors incorporating social messaging into their products? How can organizations embrace social messaging in a way that is consistent with needs for security, governance and compliance? Will the rise of public social messaging services render investments in unified communications moot? Join us for a free-wheeling discussion into the all of these topics and more. e2 Moderator – Irwin Lazar, Vice President, Communications Research, Nemertes Research
Speaker – Akiba Saeedi, Program Director, Unified Communications and Collaboration, IBM Software Group
Speaker – Dan York, Director of Conversations, Voxeo Corporation
Speaker – David Sacks, CEO, Yammer
Speaker – Eugene Lee, CEO, Socialtext
Speaker – Paul Dunay, Global Managing Director of Services and Social Marketing, Avaya Inc.
Speaker – Vivek Khuller, President and CEO, Divitas

Again, it should be an enjoyable session... particularly if we get to have a bit more of a discussion.

Both sessions are "slide-less" in that we as participants are not showing slides... just discussing the topic.

On Thursday morning, Irwin Lazar and I also have a "Deep Dive" on "Web 2.0 in the Enterprise", although interestingly that is going on over on the VoiceCon agenda.

Anyway, if you are out at either Enterprise 2.0 or VoiceCon, do drop me a note and perhaps we can connect somewhere out there. You can expect, of course, that I'll be tweeting from the show on probably both @danyork and @voxeo.

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Today's launch of Google Wave - some links and initial thoughts

googlewavepreview.jpgUnless you were under a rock, or are not in the tech part of the online world, you knew that yesterday into today was "the big day" when Google Wave launched it's wider public preview. Having had a Wave login since back in July, but not honestly had a whole lot of folks to try it out with, I was pleased to get the invite this morning to join in the public preview. If you are in the world of Wave, I can be found at:
[email protected] [email protected]

Feel free to invite me to a wave. [UPDATE: It appears that within Wave, you have to use the "" address.]


There were, of course, a zillion stories written over the past couple of days related to Google Wave. Some of the ones I found most useful in understanding the basics:

Mashable has also had extensive coverage over the past few months, as has RWW in particular.

There were some other posts I found interesting:

The demo, in particular, was quite compelling and intriguing to see how Google Wave could fit into existing business apps like Salesforce.

With ANY service that was so incredibly hyped as Wave, there was the inevitable backlash... predicted by a TechCrunch article, chronicled by a RWW piece and certainly given the greatest roasting by none other than Robert Scoble himself:

Many, many, many more posts out there, naturally, and I'm sure many more will come in the days and weeks ahead as more people try it out. (I would also be remiss if I didn't point out Dion Hinchcliffe's great post from back in May: "The enterprise implications of Google Wave - Definitely worth a read.)


As I worked with the public preview today, I did have some initial thoughts:

  • Overall, I definitely LIKE it - Having worked with it for a while, I have to say that the potential for near-real-time collaboration is pretty amazing. It's great to see the ecosystem of applications (gadgets and robots) developing. The preview seems pretty fast and stable. And it's all built on XMPP and other open standards with the promise of a distributed architecture. All in all pretty impressive.

  • UI takes some getting used to - Having said that, the user interface to Google Wave does take some getting used to. Just the way comments are inserted... it's part IM... part email... part wiki. You might be leaving a comment toward the bottom of a wave when someone else inserts something toward the top. Just takes a bit to understand.

  • Namespace shared with GMail - This is either a good thing if you have a GMail name you like, or an annoying thing if you were hoping to get a particular name. In my case, I had perhaps naively hoped that maybe I could get "danyork", but since someone else has that for GMail already, I couldn't. So I wound up using my GMail account name. To be honest, it makes sense for Google to do it this way. There will just be namespace collisions for people like me with common names. So it goes.

  • Yet another place to check for messages - Both Louis Gray and Robert Scoble mentioned this, and I definitely agree... your Google Wave inbox becomes yet another place to check for messages. I already have a work email account, a personal email account (well, several, but all coming into one client), a Skype IM account, a dozen other IM accounts aggregated into Adium... so in addition to checking all of those I need to check my Wave inbox. And because it is web-based I don't have a way in my Mac's Dock area to know there are new messages. Hopefully at some point it will be integrated with GMail or provide some other way to help us with this issue.

  • Distributed architecture isn't there yet - I realize that this is only a "preview" for 100,000 people, but I'm impatiently interested to see the distributed architecture outlined at As I recently wrote about at great length, the "Internet Way" is to have distributed, decentralized architectures. Services like email or the web where: 1) anyone can set up their own server; and 2) you don't have to ask anyone for permission to do so. Google Wave holds out the promise of giving us a very rich collaboration infrastructure built on a distributed, decentralized model. I want to get there. Today. :-)

Those were some initial thoughts... I'm sure I'll have more as time goes on and I'll write about them here.

What do you think? If you are in the initial preview pool, what has your experience been?

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Tomorrow is "Google Wave Day" - some links to learn more...

If you're in the tech part of the blogosphere, you are probably aware that tomorrow Google will send out 100,000+ invites to Google Wave. It's a big deal, really, as a larger audience gets a view into what Wave is all about. Thankfully the folks at RWW put together a great post: For those wanting the "official" Google perspective, here you go: Now if only I could remember my %#$#% password to get into my Wave sandbox account, I could find out tomorrow how to get set up in the "real" Google Wave.

I'm looking forward to seeing Wave in action with a larger audience!