In August, 2007 Microsoft announced its intent to acquire Parlano. Parlano's leading product, MindAllign, delivered "persistent group chat". After the acquisition was completed, Microsoft has kept quiet on exactly how it would adapt Parlano's technology and deliver it as part of Office Communications Server (OCS). With OCS R2 launched in February 2009 that mystery has been resolved:
- Persistent Group Chat - Downloadable Data Sheet
- Persistent Group Chat - Downloadable PowerPoint (Features Overview)
- Persistent Group Chat - Interview With Demo
- Persistent Group Chat - Official OCS R2 Launch Video
- Note: Select "Breakout Sessions" from the top menu, then select "Introducing Group Chat in OCS"
I've been studying the intersection of real-time collaboration and unified communications with social computing (specifically: social networking, social messaging, and activity streams). As I reviewed some of the above materials recently, I jotted down a list of thoughts which I'm sharing below:
From The Downloadable Data Sheet:
- Is the name “group chat” really the right label? If you are currently an OCS client and have deployed Office Communicator, do you already believe that you have "group chat"? If so, has Microsoft created a hurdle that it needs to overcome in terms of explaining what Persistent Group Chat (itself a mouthful), what applications are possible, and the business case for deploying this new capability?
- Why do I need a “specialized client” for group conversations? I can understand the need for a dedicated client for someone who "lives" in this type of application but it seems that organizations will want a "lite" version that extends from MOC for the casual user.
- Is the “chat room” metaphor something to build on? Or does it create other problems? The concept of chat rooms is not new (you can go back to IRC, AOL, etc). But will management see this as a waste of time? Or as another communication tool that needs monitoring, audit/logging, etc. Would it be better to think of these tools as a real-time version of a async workspace (ala WSS). So, persistent group chat is to OCS as WSS is to SharePoint...
- Does the “auditorium” metaphor begin to touch on a similar capability as MOLM? Live Meeting has an auditorium metaphor (as do other web conferencing tools) yet there does not seem to be any alignment or integration between the two - should there be? Could these types of chat rooms compliment Live Meeting as a better back-channel?
- Does the federation capability (internal/external) require additional edge server considerations? It just seemed to be a gap in the materials that fully explained this concept.
- Sharing documents in chat rooms. Where are the docs coming from (local PC, from SharePoint)? Am I creating another document island where storage and content management are going to be a concern?
- Features: It would be nice to have an RSS feed capability (maybe I missed it)? It would also be nice to have a Web Part for inclusion into SharePoint and other application contexts. It would also be nice to have people in chat rooms linked to their MySite profiles (which begins to take Persistent Group Chat into the community and social networking area).
- It was not clear in the materials how the archival process works - basically, how much of SharePoints ECM capabilities are leveraged (or not)?
- The real question overall - how does persistent group chat relate to "Enterprise Twitter” (social messaging, micro-blogging)?
- Some similar questions as above came to mind re: chat history – where does it intersect with Microsoft's ECM/records management efforts? Is this information searchable – how (via SharePoint, FAST, etc?
- Will there be a browser client? For Office Communicator, Microsoft also delivered Communicator Web Access. Is there (should there be) a CWA like front-end for persistent group chat?
- Is the Group Chat server part of the enterprise pool itself? It just wasn't clear in the diagrams.
- The deck talks about federation - but it isn't clear how much work I need to do for federation of persistent group chat and the normal federation work an organization would have to do for OCS in general (for IM and presence). Are they complimentary, different? What are the impacts to edge servers?
- I would like to see some more details information on REST or JSON or Atom/AtomPub interfaces so that developers could build their own extensions and front ends. If you look at the level of innovation around Twitter and other web sites due to Adobe AIR...
- I can't help but wonder as I watch the videos whether this technology has been eclipsed by social messaging / micro-blogging / activity streams. Maybe eclipsed is too harsh - but it seems like there are different architectural models now.... perhaps group chat rooms hang off of a social messaging stream.
- I also begin to wonder about how other applications post events into the "room". If I had a persistent group chat room dedicated for data center ops for instance, could a system management tool post into the chat stream? If so - then I begin to think about the touch point between activity streams and these type of tools...
- I was hoping to see support for the type of nomenclature that Twitter supports (@, RT, d, hash tags, follow, etc) – the conversational dynamics are similar...
- Rooms I belong to – that, and other information, should show up in my MySite Profile (linking community and social networking).
- It would be nice to associate chat rooms with WSS spaces, wiki spaces, etc ... again, people ebb-and-flow from sync to async to sync, etc.
- It would be nice to see a workflow escalation scenario. Can you auto-create a persistent group chat room and provision it with people on an event basis (e.g., business application event)?
- Finally, analytics to mine, report, analyze these rooms would be nice to see.
That's it ... just a note-taking brain dump while reading/watching.