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About Me

I am the "IBM Collaboration & Productivity Advisor" for IBM Asia Pacific. I'm based in Singapore.
Reach out to me via:
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Providing user information in JSON

In the MUSE project we encountered the need to retrieve user information in JSON format. Easy done one would think. The trouble starts, when you have multiple directories and you need reasonable speed. Sometimes falling back to @Fomulas gives you what you need, fast and easy. @NameLookup knows where to look and you don't need any extra configuration. A simple call to an form will give you all you need: https://yourserver/somedb.nsf/namelookup?Readform for yourself or add &User=John Doe for any other user. This will return:
"QueryName": "John Doe",
"NotesName": "CN=John Doe/OU=ThePitt/O=GIJoe",
"AllNames": [
"CN=John Doe/OU=ThePitt/O=GIJoe",
"John Doe/ThePitt/GIJoe",
"John Doe",
"eMail": "",
"MailDomain": "SACMEA",
"MailServer": "CN=PittServer42/OU=ThePitt/O=GIJoe",
"MailFile": "mail/jdoe.NSF",
"Empnum": "0815",
"Empcc": "4711"

The form makes extensive use of @NameLookup and looks in DXL quite simple.


Custom experience for IBM Connections Cloud - Project Muse

The old saying goes: "You can't have your cake and eat it too". When organisations move computing from servers they control into a SaaS (the artist formerly known as ASP) environment, they swap customisability for configurability and standardisation. The idea is, that a vendor controlled cloud environment benefits from both the economy of scale as well as the frequent updates the claimed DevOps model brings.
But you can have both. One of IBM's best secret are the assets that the IBM Software Services for Collaboration (ISSC) has been and is building. One of my all time favourites had been Atlas for Connections which predated Watson Analytics by half a decade.
Now I have a new darling: IBM ISSC Project Muse. This is the internal code name, no official name has been set or any decision been made to make this an official offering. However you can ask ISSC nicely, and they will use Muse technology in your project (that you awarded to them/us).
What does it do?
IBM Connections, in both on-premises and cloud is build around a set of APIs. These https APIs give and take XML and/or JSON. On top of them sits the regular UI. That UI in the cloud is only to a small extend customizable or extendable. The Muse engine therefore talks directly to the API and renders an alternate user experience. This alternate experience can include custom application data or (what I liked a lot) a blend of your activity stream with your messaging. This is how it works:
Muse in a Public Cloud setting
Of course the devil sits in the details: script libraries, UI components, authentication and application engine need to be tuned to work together with proper caching and a scalable (both in device and user base) manner.
Your average IBM seller will not know about the offering, you need yo find the right Distinguished Engineer and his Wing man.


Pimp your IBM Connections installation

Depending how you look at it, IBM Connections is something different:
  1. A leading Social Business application, ready to use
  2. A set of services and APIs to integrate into your applications
  3. A platform to build social enabled applications
(Like Steve Jobs: a touch enabled iPod, an enhanced phone and an Internet access device - 3 items in one device). There are a growing number of applications and add-ons available that take advantage of item two and three. Markus Thömmes compiled a nice list in an (for now) internal presentation. I'm listing the mentioned products in short (in no specific order) here: The list is growing, keep updated on Greenhouse


A more actionable Connections UI

IBM Connections is a two headed beast: on one hand it is a set of rich APIs offering different services (Status, Blogs, Wiki, Text, Activities etc) on the other it provides a set of UIs on top of this APIs. Yes, not one, but a set: Browser, Android, iShiny™ and IBM Notes. I'm a big fan of the APIs. After all they stand for IBM's commitment to open standards and are build with XML, REST, ATOM and ActivityStreams compliant to the OpenSocial specifications.
I'm not so sure about the UIs, especially the browser UI. While it is fiercely backward compatible in its browser support, it doesn't take advantage of modern browser capabilities (a all to common Catch 22: the general expectation is software to be bleeding edge but to work on all runtimes. Only slowly the idea takes hold "work on all runtimes" doesn't necessarily mean "is the same" and software embraces graceful degradation instead of the least common denominator. We might see that in Connections some time in the future too.
Anyway, the API concept allows you to create your own UI without running foul of breaking the existing application. So I doodled around with my favourite mockup tool how I would enhance the existing UI:
A better Sharebox
Following the concept of progressive disclosure the entry box in the status update could be used to create any type of entry. It is quite paradoxical, that now I need to decide where (Status, Blog, Wiki, Activity etc.) to say something before I can say it. The what and where need to be more independent. By providing a single entry box this is absolutely possible.


Use Chrome web apps to access IBM Connections (and others)

Inside IBM (not counting the Greenhouse and SmartCloud) I'm a member of close to 200 communities. In some of them I'm quite active, in some I just follow the news stream. While the connections homepage keeps me updated with an activity stream, navigating to my favorite communities is uncomfortable.
I could add them to a browser bookmark, but that has no geek factor. Since the introduction ( read the full story) and reinvention of tiled start screens I grew fond of them and like to keep it that way. This is one of my Chrome start tabs (you can have many)
Chrome has tiles too
Luckily Google Chrome offers tiles too and with a few easy steps I can add my favorite destinations onto the start screen:
  1. Create a directory somewhere on your disk. Since you most likely will create more than one icon, put it under a common home. e.g. ~/MyGoogleIcons/wisselblog. Your "result will end in ~/MyGoogleIcons later on
  2. Now comes the hardest part: Create 2 GIF images for your application. One in the size 128x128px and one in 24x24px. If your community has an image, use that one, just make sure it still looks recognizable in the needed sizes. Save them to your directory
  3. Create a text file manifest.json in your directory. You can edit it with Notepad. The content should look like this (of course you put your own titles and URLs in there):
      "name": "NotesSensei Blog",
      "version": "1",
      "icons": { "24": "wisselnet-24.gif", "128": "wisselnet-128.gif" },
      "app": {
        "launch": {
          "web_url": ""
    We are done with writing code here, if you want to know more check the full details what is possible
  4. Open Chrome, go to the extensions settings (Settings, Extensions) and check in the upper right corner "Developer mode". You will get two new buttons: "Load unpacked extension..." and "Pack extension..." If you just want to test your new icon, load is the right choice. When you are ready to finalize, so you can share, click pack
  5. You are prompted for the directory with your manifest.json file. Leave the key empty. When you update your extension, then you need to specify the key:
    Specify the home directory
    Everything went fine
  6. You are ready to install and to share. Drag the new crx file onto your settings page and Chrome will prompt you for install permission:
    Allow installation
    The new icon is on your page and you can drag to arrange it as desired. Friends and coworkers can use the crx file too
    It worked
  7. If you are an admin and want to roll-out the icons to a large user base, Chrome policies do that job for you
  8. Repeat for all the key communities
Nice little bonus: if your application is not available (e.g. you are not VPN connected to your intranet) you get a nice screen "not available" instead of a dumb 404.
As usual: YMMV


This site is in no way affiliated, endorsed, sanctioned, supported, nor enlightened by Lotus Software nor IBM Corporation. I may be an employee, but the opinions, theories, facts, etc. presented here are my own and are in now way given in any official capacity. In short, these are my words and this is my site, not IBM's - and don't even begin to think otherwise. (Disclaimer shamelessly plugged from Rocky Oliver)
© 2003 - 2017 Stephan H. Wissel - some rights reserved as listed here: Creative Commons License
Unless otherwise labeled by its originating author, the content found on this site is made available under the terms of an Attribution/NonCommercial/ShareAlike Creative Commons License, with the exception that no rights are granted -- since they are not mine to grant -- in any logo, graphic design, trademarks or trade names of any type. Code samples and code downloads on this site are, unless otherwise labeled, made available under an Apache 2.0 license. Other license models are available on written request and written confirmation.