Lots of Collaboration News Coming out of IBM Lab

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IT Business Edge blogger Loraine Lawson wrote about Atlas, a tool that worked with IBM's Lotus Connections to illustrate users' social connections and the relationships among those connections, back in December 2007. One of the coolest-sounding features: Reach, which maps the degrees of connections between users to show the people you'd need to contact -- and in what order -- to reach a desired contact. IBM added some new features to the Atlas/Connections combination over the summer, including the ability for users to add links to internal business applications or to external social networks such as Facebook and the ability for users to tag themselves and others based on key topics or areas of expertise.


As interesting as Atlas sounds, IBM is apparently further refining the concept of internal social networking with an internal Social Networks & Discovery project, which considers a number of factors to connect folks, including mutual connections across multiple networks and shared knowledge flags. It's smart enough to give some connections, such as a mutual boss, more weight than others, writes Jeff Widman on TechCrunch, who got to see the project in action while attending Lotusphere. One of the most impressive features, writes Widman, is the system's ability to work across any entity, including people, text documents or metatags.


It's hard to say whether, as an IBM researcher told Widman, "no one else in consumer or enterprise is doing this yet," but it sure seems like a slick and well-developed system. Widman writes that he expects to see it included in Lotus Connections in the near future.


Want screen shots of Social Network & Discovery and other cool new collaboration tools seen at Lotusphere? Check out eWEEK's slide show.


For those who still aren't convinced of the importance of making these kinds of connections, read my post about the research of Corey Phelps and Jan Dempsey, colleagues at the University of Washington Business School. They found that companies with high degrees of clustering (connections between members of a group) and reach (ability of group members to connect with members of other groups) were more innovative than other companies.


Helping some 400,000 folks in 6,000 locations around the globe is one of the key functions of General Electric's internal social network, which I wrote about in July.


A new feature coming to the Lotus Connections suite later this year is a Twitter-like microblogging tool users can use for status updates, reports eWEEK.