Tech Talk 4 By Ken Baker
Keeping It Relevant
Bringing Order to Informational Chaos with Novell Teaming 2
Workspace clutter often grows in direct proportion to how busy you are, how much workload you have or the urgency of your deadlines. However, workspace clutter isn’t limited just to the piles of folders on your desk or the collage of sticky notes scattered across your shelves. It includes the overwhelming clutter of digital information that you and your team need to sort through to do their jobs. Whether it’s scouring the net for presentations, team documents, research notes, blogs or countless other information sources, finding and keeping track of all the information relevant to your projects and tasks can consume almost all your time and leave you fewer cycles to get real work done.
With the help of the relevance dashboard in the upcoming release of Novell Teaming, you can eliminate much of that digital clutter while keeping the latest and most relevant information to your work close at hand.
Powerful, Consistent Interface
The relevance dashboard is a key component of the updated user interface in Novell Teaming 2. (See Figure 1.) One of the main goals of the new interface is to present users with a consistent look and feel as they move from one page to another through team workspaces. The interface can be broken down into three main elements: header, sidebar and content area.
The Novell Teaming header runs across the top, providing a number of powerful navigation tools. It includes five different search options: general search, advanced search, find people, find places and find tags. As you enter letters in the Find searches boxes, a list of potential matching destinations will automatically drop down, providing options you can select or tab through to further simplify your search. In addition to search capabilities, the header provides dropdowns for your favorite places as well as your teams. It also shows a quick link to your own personal workspace. One of the handiest navigational tools in the header is what Novell engineers refer to as the breadcrumb trail, which shows you the path to the workspace or location you are currently viewing. This can be extremely helpful in allowing you to keep track of where you are as you jump from one page to another. You can click on any location on the displayed breadcrumb path and Teaming will automatically take you there.
The sidebar runs down the left side of the page and presents you with an array of global functions or actions that you can utilize within the teaming environment. These actions include the ability to
- post a micro-blog (similar to a “tweet”),
- track a person or a place,
- share a workspace or folder,
- jump to a recently visited place,
- go to any folder or subfolder in the current workspace,
- view and manage your team,
- tag a workspace or folder with a relevant name to facilitate finding it again,
- set your personal preferences,
- send an e-mail and
- add people to your clipboard to give you quick access to their names when needed.
To free up space on your screen, you can hide the sidebar with its hide/show toggle button.
The final element of the user interface is the content area, which displays the content of your workspaces, folders, calendars, blogs, tasks, wikis and other items in your teaming environment. The content area of your personal workspace is also where you’ll find the relevance dashboard with its ability to give you quick access to the information most relevant to your work.
The Power of Relevance
The relevance dashboard keeps you abreast of everything that is going on in your organization, teams and locations that are of interest to you. It makes it significantly easier and faster to interact and collaborate with the people and information in your teaming environment. When you log in to your workspace, the relevance dashboard will automatically show you every new item related to your teams and organization, without any configuration or set up. This gives you a very quick view into exactly what is happening in your teams and areas of interest. The What’s Hot area will also show you the most popular blogs, discussions, documents, workspaces or content in the environment.
However, the real power of the relevance dashboard comes to life with the ability it gives you to track different people and places in your teaming environment. For example, you might want to keep track of what the thought leaders on your teams or in your organization are working on or saying. Novell Teaming lets you track your thought leaders such that anytime they make a blog entry, post a document or plan a meeting, you’ll automatically know about it within your relevance dashboard. In essence, the solution leverages social engineering to make sure you and your team members can easily collaborate as well as automatically stay up-to-date and gain access to the information they need as soon as it becomes available.
In addition to what’s new and what’s hot with your teams and your tracked people and places, the relevance dashboard has a set of quick access tabs to your other areas of interest. The Tasks and Calendars tab lets you see the status of tasks assigned to you and when they’re due. It also displays any events happening today in the different calendars that you might be tracking.
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The Recent Entries tab shows you the entries you’ve recently posted or the entries you’ve recently visited. If you’ve been working on a wiki, blog or some other content, this allows you to quickly go back to it. Or, if you had been reading an article in another workspace or folder that you didn’t have a chance to finish, the history of your recent visited entries makes it easy to quickly find and jump back to that article or other places of interest that you’ve recently visited. Additionally, if you want to know who has recently visited your workspace, the Recent Entries area displays that information as well.
The relevance dashboard also has a Micro-Blogs and Shared Items tab. From this tab you can see the most recent micro-blogs of the people you are tracking. As mentioned before, micro-blogs are similar to “tweets” in that they’re intended to be quick thoughts about what you’re doing, thinking or working on. This keeps the people who are tracking you up-to-date on what’s going on with you and vice versa. In addition to seeing the micro-blogs of your tracked people, this tab also enables you to see the different items that people have shared with you. These would be any entries or content that members of your team or organization might think would interest you or that you should know about.
The relevance dashboard also provides you an Overview tab, which obviously gives you a quick overview of some of your other areas of interest. By default, the Overview tab shows your tasks, guestbook, blogs and photo album. However, this section also has an accessory panel that lets you add other element options. These accessories can include search results, a workspace tree, an HTML editor, an embedded Web page, buddy lists, team members, Wikis, remote applications and more. (See Figure 2.)
What Else is New
In addition to the relevance dashboard, Novell Teaming 2 introduces a number of other new powerful teaming and collaboration capabilities. Probably the first thing you’ll notice is that Novell Teaming no longer requires the Liferay portal. Not only does this mean that it now runs as a stand-alone application, but it also now enjoys a 4-to-1 performance improvement over the previous version of Teaming.
Novell Teaming 2 also has improved e-mail and RSS access, including the ability to subscribe to any folder. The solution allows a greater level of customization, including custom workspace and folder branding, customizable jsp pages, entry forms, workflows and extensions. Some of the customization comes from the ability to integrate with external applications, referred to as remote applications or Teaming Apps.
The remote applications in Novell Teaming interact with the solution’s Web services interface to give you significant power and flexibility in extending and enhancing your collaboration environment. You or a third party can create custom remote applications that run on another server that can pull data from teaming workspaces and other sources and then merge and present that data to address specific needs, such as automated workflow transitions. Novell also provides what it calls a template factory of prebuilt remote applications for processes such as procurement, conference room scheduling, document review and more.
While the list of new features goes far beyond what’s been introduced here, the main takeaway for Novell Teaming 2 is that it gives you a collaboration environment where you and your people can become more efficient and agile contributors. It minimizes and sorts through the digital clutter that impedes productivity and knowledge. Novell Teaming 2 brings order to a world of information chaos, delivering instant views and access to the people, places and content most relevant to your users and teams’ success.