Group aggregation

By Steve Gillmor  |  Posted 2004-03-16 Print this article Print

Weve often talked about the Groove opportunity to integrate RSS aggregation and routing features. Where does that stand with Version 3?
We learned a lot with the RSS aggregator work that were working on in-house. Its very easy for us to bring sets of feeds together from multiple interested people to look at. The only part that I dont think weve nailed yet is what happens when the useful information can only be seen when youre not looking at the summary—when you click the links, do you then have to go out to the site? People havent packaged those sites in a way that they can be taken offline.
When I look at your site feed, the URLs in the summary point at HTML pages; they dont point at MHTs (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension HTML [MHTML] format), self-contained blobs that I can pull down. I would have to do a deep crawl of your site in order to pull down all the content into that shared space. Unfortunately, the Web standards people have not done a good job yet at, [is that when] given a URL, how to write a method to pull down the MHTs. The model Im looking for here is the ability to capture an RSS feed that contains the full text or an XHTML rendering of it. And it would also solve some other significant issues related to RSS aggregation and authoring—namely, multiple machines, where Groove file-sharing enters the picture. What weve done in Groove—not in the packaged product, but weve definitely done a few versions of it [that] our customers have used—is Groove aggregation. That same Groove aggregation technology works across your machines. If you read something on one machine, it gets marked read on the others. And it can aggregate multiple feeds, and so on. There are so many aggregators out there. I dont know whose is going to ultimately gain the most market share. But we have done a bunch of experimentation on that, and I look forward to, at some point, either we or one of our partners releasing a good group aggregator. Thats a pretty obvious, useful application. Version 3s capability of sharing at the file-system level should allow groups to get together in a way theyre comfortable with in terms of the tools that they already use, but it also empowers the users to essentially replace the server with an administrable architecture. Youve always had an interesting relationship with IT. Even though its eliminating the more obvious server functionality, Groove Version 3 is at the same time providing a cross-domain collaborative group architecture that can be administered. When we started Groove Networks in 1997, our real motivator was that the nature of business was changing from operating within its own shell, within its own firewalls, to operating in a very network fashion—that increasingly businesses were going to be working with different partners, and cross-firewall use was going to be a big deal. What weve learned in the past few years is that the basic nature of work itself is changing for individuals, and that impacts organizations. What we were really trying to instantiate in Groove Version 3 is the virtual office: the thing that you need on your computer to take all the stuff with you that you need that you would have in a physical office. The files that you need are with you in a highly mobile fashion. If you meet with people, you can work with them like you would work with people in your office, except in a highly mobile and very secure fashion. If you wanted to do things that were very specific to your function—if youre a customer support rep, for example—you could very rapidly put together an application that matched how you work in your own work processes. This concept of a virtual office thats serving highly mobile, laptop-armed, WiFi-armed people is the sweet spot of Version 3. The IT message: One of the things that makes Groove very attractive to small businesses and individuals is indeed this zero-IT aspect, that you can start to get some of this power of these collaboration tools that were available to major corporations, except that they can now do it without IT involvement. That was something that we really werent focusing on. It really came out a lot as weve been selling the product off of our Web site to small businesses. It turns out, though, that this low IT burden value is also being embraced by major enterprises. Theyve had layoffs. They have very little in the way of resources. And now they can extend a lot of those capabilities out to the lines of business and individuals without adding a big burden to what they have to support. Does the tool allow IT to monitor the distribution of resources and deployment to users? The Groove Management Server lets you centrally do a one-click deployment to all the people in the organization or a subset thereof. It federates with that enterprises directory through all the usual methods and lets you select what people get Groove. It either lets Groove use its own PKI [public-key infrastructure], or it uses the enterprises PKI if the enterprise happens to have a PKI deployed. This is a huge deal in government, where they have 2 million common-access cards deployed—you dont need a separate smart card or equivalent for Groove. It has these really sophisticated bonding features that enable an IT organization that cares about auditing and compliance to crank up those features, and the client will record the things that its doing for the enterprise. The enterprise can, if they so desire, understand what users are using Groove for—how many spaces and how often. Enterprises dont actually use that to monitor peoples activities. What they use it for is to find out who needs to be trained. When you see somebody not using it who should be, its an indicator that sometimes you have to go reach out to somebody. Software on PCs is not used unless its really user-friendly, and software thats deployed by enterprises isnt used unless its able to be managed. I think weve found the right balance between those two. Its unbelievably easy to use. Performance is so tremendously enhanced in Version 3, in some cases 2X, 4X, even 10X. The UI has been redesigned to be just really approachable—weve done a lot of user testing—and yet all these IT administration features dont get in the way of using the product. Next page: The über operating system

Steve Gillmor is editor of's Messaging & Collaboration Center. As a principal reviewer at Byte magazine, Gillmor covered areas including Visual Basic, NT open systems, Lotus Notes and other collaborative software systems. After stints as a contributing editor at InformationWeek Labs, editor in chief at Enterprise Development Magazine, editor in chief and editorial director at XML and Java Pro Magazines, he joined InfoWorld as test center director and columnist.

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