IBM announced two tools aimed at the blog, the apparent next generation of corporate communication. One tool, called Weblog Preview, is available as a free download from IBM's alphaWorks site, while the other is a fully built blog component that will be included in next month's release of Workplace Designer 2.5. Bringing free-ranging business bloggers into a secure corporate environment is a driving force behind the IBM push.
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Weblog Preview is designed to take advantage of the existing Workplace infrastructure, said Chris Reckling, senior product manager, IBM Workplace application development. For example, the preview includes many features already available in Workplace applications, such as Rich Text editing, roles and the ability to create templates. In addition, once information is posted on a blog, it will be integrated into the Search feature of Team Spaces.
Blogrolls, or lists of a users' favorite blogs, will also be available. On the 'Net, these offer a glimpse into a user's interests and hobbies, but in an enterprise they give employees a good source of necessary information that otherwise may be saved on someone's desktop, Reckling said. "It's almost like you have a librarian who's filtering all the sites and blogs out there and filtering it down," he said.
Atom and RSS syndication feeds, elements currently missing from Workplace Designer, are provided in the preview.
The preview works with Workplace 2.5 and Workplace Collaboration Services 2.5. IBM has no firm plans to include it with any future product releases, Reckling said. "It's really [there] to gauge interest in that particular implementation and get feedback on that before it ever gets to a product."
Meanwhile, the primary effort behind the Designer blog component is "to bring the same level of productivity our customers enjoy…to the J2EE world," Reckling said.
The component can be deployed as is, but developers will have the ability to customize blogs, whether it's by changing colors or by adding additional components, like a document library or task list, to the blog template.
IBM makes this customization available because the component is intended to serve as a educational tool, Reckling said. "Developers learn by looking at other people's code. It's part of the whole learning process," he said. "It's always good to have samples for people to pick apart."
Both blog releases offer centralized security and management. This helps protect the sites from security threats and keeps confidential information off the internet. At many companies, Reckling said, blogs are going the way of IM – users either employ the same service they have at home or host their blogs outside the office. "It's a completely open network, and potentially insecure," he said."
While the announcements mark IBM's first Workplace platform for corporate blogging, Notes/Domino developers have had blogging applications for several years. The main tools are the open-source template BlogSphere and the DominoBlog. IBMers have also proven adamant bloggers, with 2,800 blogs used internally and 30 hosted for all the world to see on developerWorks.