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Soledad Alvarado Ganshorn recently posted a question in the Docupedia area of Collaboration Workspace asking “What are the key topics you would like to see featured in docupedia”. Rather than outlining specific topics that I’d like to see featured, I’d like to go through some improved functionality I’d like SAP to use when presenting documents within SDN and its various other document stores. This functionality could be used to enhance the presentation of Tech-ed presentations, How to guides, White papers etc.

The display of PDF, Powerpoint and other kinds of document files within SDN is fairly primitive. For example, the recent Building a Composite Business Process from Scratch with SAP NetWeaver Business Process Management on Business Process Management provides three links to useful tutorials on this subject. However, the links are to PDF documents which must be downloaded in order to view their contents. While it is possible to view these in HTML though an SDN search the resulting output does not render well. Also, there is no real possibility to bookmark these files with a permanent URL.

A much more desirable feature would be the posssibility to view documents within the browser, using a preview feature. Sites such as Slideshare, Scribd and edocr use Flash technology to preview documents though an elegant display interface. It is important for users that documents are easily accessible and can be viewed within the web browser. Gmail and Google Docs recently implemented functionality to allow PDF files to be read without having to download the document and open with Adobe reader or Foxit. This technology has a number of benefits – over downloading documents – including:

* Eliminating the need to download large documents in order to read one paragraph
* Allowing documents to be embedded into blogs, wikis, intranets
* Enabling documents to be viewed using mobile devices e.g. iPhone
* Providing documents with a permanent URL, that can be tagged and easily shared 

 

Web 2.0 features

 

                                                                                                                                       

While the platform (Jive Software’s Clearspace) used on Collaboration Workspace allows the possibility for users to comment,tag and rate documents, it still does not offer some of the interesting web 2.0 features seen on other sites. For example, on Slideshare / Scribd there are a number of interesting features allowing more interaction with documents. These include being able to:

* share documents though email or social sites such as twitter, delicious, digg etc
* add documents to your account by making them favourites
* downloading documents in PDF/Plain text if required
* find related documents, or other documents from the same publisher or in a similar group

These features all provide for others to participate and interact with documents, thus providing extra value over and above the content of the document itself. By letting users comment, bookmark and embed documents it adds value and context to the content.

 

Linking for context

In my view one of the most powerful features is actually the view count and linking abilities. On Scribd – and other sites such as Youtube – there is the ability to see all the sites that link to a document, including the visits from those sites. It would be interesting to see what discussion forums/blogs/OSS notes etc. link to a particular SAP presentation or white paper. This can help to contextualize the information and link it to a subject matter expert. Also, the number and frequency of visits could help determine the popularity of a document and whether others consider it still useful or valid. While it’s easy to find documents on SDN it’s often difficult to understand whether they are the latest version, or whether the functionality they discuss is implemented widely or considered useful. The forums/blogs may contain this information, but the cross referencing is opaque and requires another search.  
 

Example of statistics on a Scribd document

Channels

It would be interesting to see SAP develop a channel on Scribd/Slideshare and upload their documents there. There are various different channels on Scribd from Barack Obama, Ford Motor Company and Nasa sharing various documents in an easy and accessible format. Also, the API can be used to implement this preview functionality on other sites. 

Web 2.0 allows us to see the potential to increase the value of documents by making them easily accessible and interactive. Fully exploiting these freatures will allow for the SDN/SAP documentation experience to be more collaborative and user friendly. 

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4 Comments

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  1. Richard Hirsch
    I think the main question is to what extent SDN should use external content and then integrate this back into SDN. By “external content”, I mean SDN content that exists outside the community itself. I know that SDN (SAP) has a YouTube channel and one at ustream as well.  Using Scribd would just be another example of integrating external content. I also think you are correct in describing the importance of linking this external content with internal content. Such a combination is critical for users to be able to form their own knowledge networks rather than having others do it for them.

    The use of this external content is also proof that the SCN is looking beyond its own borders to further enhance the functionality it offers its users.

    D.

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  2. Former Member
    in your blog you beautifully managed to illustrate a major challenge for the usefulness of web 2.0 and collaboration tools. what I mean is the awareness of users/participants of authorization matters of materials/information supplied.

    in your (public) blog on web 2.0 features you happened to include two links to restricted information (who is S.A.G.? and what exactly was his/her question?) as well as include a link(image?) to a web 2.0 ressource (example on a statistics on a Scribd document @ some site called stitch.com)which is soo deadly slow, that it just therefore disqualifies as a collaboration item.

    personally, when I get invited to some collaboration workspace where I ‘see’ a number of ressources but always get a 403 when clicking anyone of them I do not ask often hard to identify authorities to get the right credentials but I just turn away from that workspace  and contribute in places where users are aware of the authorization status of the stuff they contribute.

    my 2 cents, anton

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    1. Former Member Post author
      Apologies for any confusion with the links. You may need to register to use Collaboration workspace (CW)(http://cw.sap.com) – however I understand there is SSO between SDN and CW
      (https://cw.sdn.sap.com/community/gettingstarted/blog/2008/12/07/single-sign-on-for-sdn-users).

      The person I refer to is Soledad Alvarado Ganzhorn an SAP Netweaver Product Manager https://weblogs.sdn.sap.com/pub/u/26642. [original link is broken] [original link is broken] I appreciate it may be confusing to see a blocked message on Collaboration Workspace, but hopefully SSO or registering will solve this. 

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