MindTouch provides an open source collaborative platform and they have made some significant moves with the 2009 release. I have written about them before (see Deki Wiki Tees Itself Up as Your Intranet). I recently spoke again with Aaron Fulkerson, Co-Founder and CEO at MindTouch to learn more about the 2009 release. He mentioned that they are moving away from the DekiWiki branding to use the company name, MindTouch, and provide a more consistent reference point for their product.
Aaron said they are getting a lot of interest from companies who went through the enterprise portal experience. Not too long ago it would take a team of consultants up to a year or longer to put a portal into play. I have certainly seen this in action being part of many enterprise portal implementations in the late 90s and early 00s. Now with MindTouch, similar functionality can be achieved by one person in a few days.
There are three main components to this release. The first involves the use of MindTouch as an enterprise switchboard. With the new bi-directional messaging bus users are now able to setup and receive change notifications when changes are made within MindTouch 2009 or to the many applications that users plug into MindTouch 2009, such as enterprise systems, databases, office productivity applications, Web services and more. Here is a screen shot of the message bus.
This change provides bi-directional messaging and publishing as the content change notifications are automatically pushed out from the MindTouch platform to a variety of places, selected by the user, such as email, mobile devices, or even Twitter and WordPress blogs and then they can come back again. Users can select to receive an email that notifies them when a specific page changes, or when certain files are revised, or when new users are added to the system. For example, with a WordPress plug-in, users can create a WordPress blog page, which then automatically posts the same content to MindTouch 2009. And when users collaborate and make changes to that page’s content inside MindTouch 2009, it pushes the changes back to the original WordPress page. You can also add a Twitter @name to a comment to generate a tweet notification. Here is a sample notification.
Amazon, Comcast, and the Washington Post are some of the companies who have built applications with MindTouch. The Washington Post built the WhoRunsGov.com community site. As the site states it, “offers a unique look at the world of Washington by providing in-depth biographies of its key players and personalities. It’s your window into how deals get made and policy is shaped.” On each profile page about political figures, page properties can be used to associate the profile with a specific political party. This page property can then be accessed through DekiScript to identify and aggregate all social profiles related to a specific political party.
The third component of MindTouch 2009 involves the offering of custom extensions through MindTouch’s front-end plugin architecture. This enables developers to extend or modify MindTouch’s front-end without affecting the ability to upgrade the software. The plug-ins allow developers to adapt MindTouch to workflows specific to their organization. Using the MindTouch plugin architecture, developers can write programs or functions in the popular PHP scripting language to add features or services to the MindTouch front-end. Here is a sample task list in MindTouch.
With this enhancement developers can add plug-ins to extend the front-end with functions such as file listings, image galleries, user login and logout processing, and RSS feed creation. I see this ability to adapt to workflows as a hallmark of enterprise 2.0. You create software based on people actions rather than having people conform to the software. MindTouch gives you a robust set of open sourc tools to accomplish this.
As I often do on interviews now, I also asked Aaron how he is using Twitter. He said MindTouch is actively using twitter for several reasons. First, they look for mentions of DekiWiki and MindTouch to respond and engage in these conversations. They ask about possible new features to get crowdsourcing feedback. This was used by a number of the early software bloggers. They also welcome new customers who appreciate the attention. They have both a MindTouch Twitter feed and Aaron has his own for more personal messages.