Friday, June 05, 2015

Getting Started with IBM Connections - Communities (Creating a Notification System)

With Sametime (Chats) out of the way (See: Part 1 and Part 2) and the initial user setup done too (see here), it's time to start building things and getting users engaged in IBM Connections Cloud.

From what I've seen, it appears that there are two major features to go; Communities and Meetings. For the time being, I want to focus on Communities. 

What is a Community?
A Connections community seems to be a "group or topic around which members gather" in order to share and develop ideas. There are lots of things which could be communities;

  • Your company as a whole.
  • Specific Departments (or Business or Functional Groups)
  • Members of a Particular Project
  • A System (For example, your Invoice System). 
  • An Idea, such as "Business Continuity" 
  • A Hobby (such as a pet club, readers club or a movie watchers club).

Most communities will probably be business-related but if you're having trouble getting people to use Connections, it might be worthwhile providing them with a community they might enjoy participating in. 

Creating a Community
Ideally, before you create a community, you'll have decided what exactly the purpose of the community is.  In this particular example, we need a community to track changes to external companies whose membership we manage.

To get to the communities page, sign into IBM connections and then click "Communities" and "I'm a Member".  This will take you to the communities pages where you will see the communities that you're already a member of.  There's also a button marked "Start a Community"; Click it.  

Showing the Communities that you're a member of
The "Start a Community" Form
Give your community a meaningful name, It's possible to change the name later but it's best to try to get it right from the beginning.

The Access is the most tricky part of the form.
You generally have three options; Restricted, Moderated and Open.

The first question to ask is;
Will anyone outside of my organisation be required to join this community?
(ie: anyone that you haven't purchased a Smartcloud licence for).  If the answer is yes, then you need to choose "Restricted" and everyone who joins the community must be "invited".   You'll probably also want to tick the checkbox marked [x] Allow people from outside my organization to become members of this community.

If the answer is No, then the next question to ask is;
Can anyone in my organisation decide to join this community?
If the answer to that question is yes, then you should choose Open.

If your answers were "No" and "No" to the two questions above, then you should choose "Moderated".

The next part of the form is the community description. You don't need to put a lot of detail here for now because you'll probably find yourself editing this as your community begins to find its role.

The last field is "tags".  These are keywords associated with the community.  The biggest decision to make here is how to represent multiple words which belong together (for example; financial institutions).

If the words are to be treated as a single keyword, they can't contain spaces  or commas.  It's possible to use a hyphen (eg: financial-institutions or to simply leave the pace out entirely FinancialInstitutions. Whichever way you choose, try to be consistent across your organisation.

The Icon
Below the fields is a link that reads "Upload a Community Image".  I can't stress the importance of community images enough. These provide an important recognition point for your system.

These icons should be square and ideally larger than they are displayed in other areas community. I tried at lower resolutions but they don't look good. A jpg of about 500 x 500 pixels is ideal but 250 x 250 is okay too.

I'm assuming that you've already created an image (I might explain how to do one quickly in another post). so just click Upload a Community Image, then choose your file.

There's also an area where you can select Members.  It's not a bad idea to put yourself in there as an owner to start with.  You can fix the rest up later.  It's best not to go adding others until you've gotten the system to a reasonable state (otherwise they'll start getting all sorts of messages).

In the Access Advanced Features section, you can set the rules for who can email who (email privileges).  More importantly though, you can set the start page of your community to "Status Updates".  If you can't see these options now, don't worry, they'll be there when you come back and edit the community later.

Now that you've done, click Save and your community will be created.

Configuring your Community
Now that you have a community, it's time to configure it a bit. This is a whole new topic in itself, so I'll just do one quick example;

We've decided that we want a calendar and activities as part of this community.
On the top right of the menu bar, click Community Actions and then Change Layout.

Next, click on the Add Apps tab to see a list of the apps you can add. Click the plus on each app that you want to add.

Now, still in the layout view, scroll down to see the body of your community. You'll notice that activities has been added to the very bottom of the list.  If you hover the mouse over the word activities, it will turn into a four arrowed cursor.  When that shows, it means that you can drag the activities dialog all the way to the top of the community so that it gets more easily noticed.

Your changes will be saved automatically.

That's it.

Using your New Community
Now if you post a status update, you should be notified. Your users can subscribe to this community and be notified too.

A Quick note on RSS
You'll notice that there are little fields which say "feed for these entries" against community elements. You can right click on these and copy the link address.  (That's the Chrome wording, it's probably a little different in other browsers).

Next, switch to Lotus Notes and expand the right hand pane and find the Feeds widget.
Click the Square RSS Feed icon with a green plus
A dialog box will appear, paste your URL and then click Go.
Change the feed name to something sensible (because the default one is just silly)
Click Ok.

Your notes client will change to show the feed (and if you've just posted something, it should pop up automatically).

You now have a notification system that your users can subscribe to.  To keep up to date on company changes.