In Rational Asset Manager, we currently have forums for users at both the individual asset level and the community level. After looking at current deployed instances for Rational Asset Manager, the forums have been very rarely used.

The development and usability teams are trying to understand if the way the UI is designed prevents people from easily creating forums and having discussions in them. We wanted to create a blog entry about this topic in hopes of eliciting feedback through the comments about this lack of use. What stops you from using the forums? Are there specific parts of the UI that prevent you from creating forums and posts?

Screen shot of a forum page

In the current implementation above, the main page for a forum has a lot going on. What are your thoughts on this page? Do you think everything on this page should go here or is there a better location?

Another idea shown on the above page is the idea of sharing the same forum with multiple assets. Do you like this ability or do you find it confusing?

Please leave any thoughts on the questions above or other thoughts on the forums in general in the comments section. Your input will help us make future design decisions about the UI.

I thought it would be interesting to go through the 12 Principles of Civilization to see how Rational Asset Manager measures up.

Is there a necessary shared purpose that we accomplish together?

  • The general purpose of a community is creating, maintaining, and consuming a set of assets that serve a similar purpose.
  • Community administrators can further define the purpose of the community by declaring the community’s mission on the community page.

Does each member have an identity? Can we tell who’s who, even if members remain anonymous?

  • LDAP support allows each user to have an identity. Users have a profile page that shows users’ identities.
  • Users’ names are always shown as links that link to their profile page.

Are we able to share information and ideas that fit our purpose?

  • As stated above, the purpose of a community is to share assets. Submitting assets to the community is one way of achieving this purpose.
  • The community Overview and Configuration pages serve as a one-way direction for sharing information about the community. Community forums allow two-way information sharing.

How can we build trust? What tells us that it’s safe to deal with other people in the community?

  • LDAP support allows users to build trust in the identity of other members.

How do we form reputations? What lets us build status?

  • Users build reputations by the assets they contribute and how well the assets are rated.
  • Improvements:
    • In future versions of RAM, we would like to build on this and allow you to see more information about users like their activity.
    • We should consider rating users on their activity level. We can show their activity level next to their name. On their profile page, we can show where they have been active in forums and reviews.

Have we created ways to work together in small groups?

  • User groups allow community members to work in smaller groups within the community.
  • “Work” in this case can refer to reviewing assets or contributing certain types of assets.

Is our environment a shared space that is appropriate for our goals?

  • This is up to the community to decide. If Rational Asset Manager is not an appropriate tool for the community’s goal, then the community should not be using RAM. Rational Team Concert is a good product for software development teams. Lotus also has some nice community-building applications (Connections and Quickr, for instance).

Do we know who belongs in our community and who doesn’t?

  • Because a community can be configured so that everyone can participate, Community administrators create user groups and roles to classify how users relate to the community.
  • Improvements:
    • On community forums and maybe on user profiles, show users’ roles and user groups. This would also improve building trust because seeing that another user is a member of a community user group causes you to trust the user’s involvement in the community.

What’s our system of governance? How do we regulate behavior so that it supports our shared values?

  • The system of governance is defined by the community, but RAM’s review processes, policies, forums, and reporting are all tools that can help govern the community. If all else fails, the community’s system of governance can be described on the community’s page.

Is there a system of exchange that allows us to trade knowledge, support, goods, services, and ideas?

  • Rational Asset Manager itself is the system for exchanging assets.

Are we able to express our group identity in a timely way? Are we aware of what other members are doing right now?

  • The community identity can be expressed through the community’s page. Custom information about the community can be added. The community’s tag cloud and configuration page is one way of expressing the types of assets the community offers.
  • Improvements:
    • To improve awareness of what members are doing right now, we can add the user activity to the user profile page.

Do we have ways to review our history and to track our evolution — and leave behind what’s best forgotten?

  • Using the data URLs to create reports is one way of tracking a community’s history and evolution (for example, number of assets over time)
  • Retiring, archiving, and deleting assets allows removal of irrelevant assets.
  • Community forums are sorted in reverse chronological order so that the newest topics are surfaced prominently

Christina Lau recently wrote about how Source Configuration Management systems are very different than Asset management systems. I thought since this question comes up occasionally with our developer users I thought I would also write about it. An Asset can be Zero, One or more Artifacts are at a point that you want to make them available broadly in a community. Or you may simply want to store to keep track of metadata about the asset without ever reusing it. In cases where you want to share them you likely may want to broker them between an asset producer and consumer. In these situations it might be worth adding some governance to manage that interaction. Things like requiring an asset be reviewed, notifying consumers of changes and providing secure access to only certain activities associated with the asset. When publishing the asset you may consider modes for publishing versions of that asset. Will there only ever by a single version of that asset that you simply keep replacing with updated releases or will you add new versions to the asset versions that are already available. Rational Asset Manager allows you to share, find and govern assets. Part of the governance includes the ability to version assets. Versioning of assets is at a different level than versioning artifacts. For those that come from a SCM background you can think of asset versioning as a human readable version number that is simply a baseline of a set of artifact versions. Like RAM version v7.1 ear file asset is really made up of many artifacts each have their own versions. RAM provides Asset Versioning. SCM Systems provide artifact versioning. Here are some other differences between and SCM system and Rational Asset Manager.

Capability SCM (ClearCase, CVS, Subversion) Asset Repository
Primary roles Developers Business Analysts, Developers, Architects, Managers, Anyone in the enterprise
Content level Files Assets – an asset can contain multiple related artifacts (files) and associated metadata
Change rate Frequent – work in progress, parallel development Rare – hardened reusable components
Collaboration For creation of artifacts and parallel development For creation of assets. 2 Asset modes. Single published asset version that is replaced or multiple asset versions. Review and reuse of assets: discussion forums, emails, notification, RSS feeds
Taxonomy N/A BPM asset types and relationships. Customers can add additional classification
Search File based Metadata based search, custom metadata attributes
Metrics N/A Track asset usage, feedback and popularity
Review and approval Change management Review boards, customizable review process
Asset types, relationships and Impact Analysis None Recognize BPM asset types and relationship. Help with end-to-end traceability including production deployment
Versioning Done at source files level Done at asset level. An asset can contain multiple files
Client Access Eclipse Both Eclipse and Web

One of the concepts of this blog is to give you a heads up on new information about Rational Asset Manager that isn’t publicly known yet. Since Rational Asset Manager is about sharing, governing and reusing assets, we thought we would give you our customers a place to exchange assets related to Rational Asset Manager. Since Developerworks already has an existing infrastructure “Exchange Place” on line we decided to take advantage of it. We will shortly be adding a new Rational Asset Manager Exchange to this area. The exchange will probably be live within a week or so. This will be a great place for you to contribute and get assets from customers like yourselves that are using RAM. It will be based on “Quid pro quo” mantra of the internet. If no one contributes then no-one receives the benefit. Many contribute then many will receive the benefit.

Here are some examples of assets you may want to consider contributing.
Category Schema – Like industry or Geography
Asset Type definitions –
Policies –
Assets – Like tips and techniques for Rational Asset Manager, or other best practices documents you have used to roll out RAM.

Notice I didn’t say sharing assets like mp3’s or your ripped DVDs.