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Another paradigm shift?! That’s so 90’s.

ViewPoint is a new technology from SAP that introduces a novel new paradigm of content personalization. You can find it right here on SDN by visiting our DevToday page. I’ll talk more about ViewPoint’s features in future weblogs. In the meantime feel free to check it out yourself. You can find helpful tips in the Help section.

OK, so you must be asking yourself why SAP had to invent yet another method for personalizing web pages. That’s a good question. As the lead architect of ViewPoint I would like to share with you two of the things we considered during the design process. Hopefully you will reach the same conclusion we did: ViewPoint was necessary. And it’s darn cool too!

The first issue we identified in today’s workplaces is that it’s becoming impossible to deal with the inflow of information. A wise man once said you can’t see the forest for all the trees. Today it seems you can’t see the knowledge for all the information. There’s just too much noise. We wanted to come up with a method that will a) empower the users to focus on what they want to see and protect them from what they don’t want to see; and b) facilitate the process of finding interesting content.

The second point is more of an observation than an issue. People are lazy. Most will personalize their page once and then forget how. It’s just too much hassle to go look inside menus and submenus of options. We set out to make ViewPoint as simple as possible to personalize.

We had a complex problem but we were looking for a simple solution. Not an easy task. If you feel like running an exercise, stop reading here and give yourself a go at tackling the two points. For us, it took months of brainstorming to finally come up with this:

A rating bar

Hmmm… Is that all?

So what is it? It’s a rating bar! This little fellow pops up whenever you hover the mouse over a discussion object and allows you to rate your level of interest in that object. Discussion objects are just key terms that the webmaster chose to enable for personalization. While reading an article you might notice that some hyperlinks are specially marked by a little sun to their right. Here’s an example of how one looks like:

A discussion object

When you rate a discussion object the system re-prioritizes all the articles that contain that discussion object accordingly. For example, if you happen to raise the rating on Knowledge Management to Promote from Neutral (see image below), all articles, current and future, regarding KM will increase in priority.

Promoting KM

If you also happen to lower the rating on Windows 2000 (see image below) then articles about Windows 2000 will be demoted. What then will happen to articles about KM and Win2K? The two ratings will offset each other and those articles will come out neutral (in reality the formula is more complicated than a mere addition but for this example it is sufficient).

Demoting Win2K

Based on this priority, articles are then ordered on ViewPoint’s front page (a.k.a. My ViewPoint). In fact, anywhere in the system where articles are listed they will be listed in order of their priority.

The rating bar is cute but by itself it does not solve issue #1. With millions of documents about KM and millions more about Win2K it’s doubtful that the front page will be much help. This is why we introduced the time dimension. The front page will only show the top rated articles from the recent past (in SDN we chose 4 weeks). By setting up your interest levels in key discussion objects and checking in on DevToday every couple of days, you are guaranteed to see the new and recent content that is important to you. What content? Everything that feeds into SDN is also fed into ViewPoint: SAP Notes, weblogs (including this one), how-to-guides, presentations, product documentations, etc.

OK, so the rating bar along with the sliding time window solve issue #1. By checking into DevToday on a regular basis the users are able to find the new content that matters most to them without being disturbed by content they don’t want to see.

But have we solved observation #2? Why is the rating bar easier to use than prior methods of personalization? Because the rating bar is omnipresent yet unobtrusive – it’s always there just below the surface! You can be reading a story related to, e.g., KM and happen upon a different discussion object, say TRex. Well, all you have to do is hover the mouse over TRex and rate it. You either like it or you don’t like it. Simple. You don’t even need to leave the story you’re reading. You can continue on reading right where you stopped to rate the object.

In the beginning your ratings may be coarse-grained but as time goes by and you add more ratings it will become finer. Eventually you will narrow in on your perfect perspective. Oh yes, perspective… That’s a blog for another day…

Hope you enjoyed this weblog. I promise to read all comments on this weblog before publishing the next so if you have any comments, requests, etc. please don’t be shy.


1 Comment
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  • Before you move ahead and write something on perspectives, contexts, and other interesting topics, could you please shed some more light on the ViewPoint technology. If you don’t do that, you know quite well what ViewPoint can do…I will start looking towards the left-most side of the bar, and you know what it means; you created it…
    Just kidding.
    I would really appreciate if you tell a bit about ViewPoint’s architecture. This would certainly help in understanding the concept and utilizng the technology better.