Email, Spam and Information Router

Another good Steve Gillmor article from InfoWorld: “Spam will go away — with the death of e-mail.”

Gillmor then talks about collaboration technologies:

With the explosion of the Internet and the Web, collaboration gained a ubiquitous connected presence and its attendant real-time technologies: instant messaging, peer-to-peer file sharing, and videoconferencing. Lotus moved Notes to the Web with Domino, opening the data store to URL addressability, and Microsoft soon followed with Exchange 2000’s Web Storage System.

Suddenly three data types were available from the same store. Notes had previously merged e-mail and Lotus Organizer’s scheduling and calendaring features. Now Exchange 2000 added Office and other documents to the mix, all accessible via the browser. The long-sought vision of an information router seemed closer.

With Notes essentially cloned and the original Ozzie team resurfaced at Groove Networks, Microsoft shifted its attention to XML Web Services. With Microsoft’s investment in Groove, collaboration RD is now focused on the intersection of Groove’s decentralized peer-to-peer model and Microsoft’s centralized STS (SharePoint Team Services).

The first fruit of this collaboration is the STS integration kit, which lets a Groove user create a shared space, populate it with an STS connector, and input the URL for the target SharePoint site. The result: a Groove shared space that maintains a private copy of the SharePoint data and synchronizes additions in both directions.

The SharePoint editing tool (aka Internet Explorer) remains a crippled subset of Word, Excel, and Outlook. Excel has already been updated, but we have to wait until Office 11 for real XML support in Word and Outlook.

In a universe where documents are made up of the same underlying DNA (XML), e-mail, Word documents, and Outlook messages share a common data type with extensions appropriate to their unique tasks.

With identity as the base on which business logic is built, access privileges and the location of the data can be offered by the “sender” rather than pushing a message out. Instead of playing the digital equivalent of dodge ball with spam, we can now market our identities and barter degrees of access in return for services, products, or information.

A lot of food for thought there. The key is Identity Management, according to Gillmor. Interestingly, the last issues of Release 1.0 have dealt with Identity Management – need to think and understand this more.

Also read: Jon Udell’s article on “Putting People first for a change“. He writes:

Every day, we pour an ocean of information into Outlook e-mail messages, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and Web pages rendered in Internet Explorer. The sum of all this data vastly exceeds what is stored and managed in databases, and essentially none of it today has anything to do with XML.

Strategies that aim to change that include shipping .Net to the desktop, upgrading SQL Server’s XML engine in Yukon, and converting the Windows file system to an XML object store in Longhorn. But focusing on these future plans deflects attention from what was already feasible several generations of Office ago. The .Net Framework only recreates, in managed code, the XML parsing, validation, manipulation, and transformation technology that has been standard in Internet Explorer, and therefore the Windows OS, for at least three years. Office hasn’t exploited this stuff because Microsoft has been in no hurry to commoditize the proprietary file formats on which the Office empire was built.

The turning point may finally be at hand. Last month, Office czar Jeff Raikes showed Word 11 working with schema-valid XML. The enthusiasm that bubbled up on the developer Weblogs that registered this event was a measure of the pent-up demand. Users aren’t clamoring for XML writing tools, but they do respond to the concept videos, and developers know that deployment of those tools will help them deliver the goods.

One deliverable Microsoft isn’t promising for Office 11 is the universal canvas touted in the 2000 .Net rollout. This notion pushes embedded OLE objects to their logical conclusion. All data is represented as XML; application boundaries dissolve; users create or annotate any piece of data in any context; the self-describing XML data says which tools can manipulate it. This can’t happen any time soon, Raikes told InfoWorld, because the applications’ storage and retrieval algorithms are optimized in ways that preclude working with live XML storage.

The way to think for the future, according to Udell: “ad hoc peer-to-peer networking, instant messaging, presence, Weblogs, and publish/subscribe notification”.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.