IBM's Social Beehive and Discovery Search

Here's a peek at the social networking, search and collaboration technologies coming down the pipeline from IBM Research.

Orlando, FLA. -- IBM served up a lot of technology for its 15th annual Lotusphere show here, but the uber vendor still has plenty of dishes cooking in its research lab oven.

Software engineers from around the world showed off, for the first time, several wares in demonstrations for the Armonk, N.Y., company's Innovation Lab Jan. 21.

One of the more interesting concepts is Beehive, an opt-in internal social network to help the thousands of IBM employees get to know each other better. As IBM's Facebook, Beehive has drawn more than 6,500 employees to the fold since hitting beta last October, allowing employees to share personal and professional information with colleagues.

Beehive has many of the characteristics of your typical social network -- profiles, lists, events, photos -- and users can post photos and videos like any other media-oriented site. The software also allows users to drag and drop information throughout their profiles.

Self-branding is the key with Beehive; users needn't provide required information the way other social sites do, Beth Brownholtz, software engineer of collaborative user experience for IBM Research, told eWEEK. Users can portray themselves the way they want, choosing what they want to share and what they want to keep private. Users can also leave comments.

Beehive currently offers search by people and by tags. One thing it doesn't do is rank the strength of connections, for example, to assemble contacts by frequency of contacts with other colleagues. This is considered an important tool in fine-tuning the efficiency of social networks in the enterprise.

IBM is using Beehive profiles to populate another important internal work-in-progress: Project Bluegrass. Bluegrass is a virtual reality application that lets software developers work on projects together, showing visual representations of ideas and Web data. The program attaches Beehive profiles to avatars and lets users hold virtual meetings, a useful proposition for a company whose employees are spread far and wide.