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It is with pride that I announce the release of my first mobile app, the SAP Mentors Outreach app for Android, just in time for the SAPphireNOW/ASUG conference in Orlando, Florida. It is available for free in the Android Market. Here is the Market link: https://market.android.com/details?id=de.thorstenster.mentors. What is this app about? 

It is designed to help the SAP Community connect with the SAP Mentors, especially at big events like SAPphireNOW and SAP TechEds, where many Mentors are present and easily recognizable.

Most of you have seen the SAP Mentors’ jerseys with the twitter handles and jersey number on the back. The purpose of these shirts is to make SAP Mentors easily recognizable. They are an invitation to connect and chat with us. We Mentors are very passionate about our respective topic areas, and if your interests are similar or interestingly complementary, we’ll be able to talk and have fun for hours! But how do you know who shares your interests and expertise, or who is a topic expert on a field you would like to discuss? This is where the SAP Mentors Outreach app comes in. It’s an extension to the long-standing invitation to connect. By making our profile information available at your fingertips (great Microsoft slogan from about ten years ago), we make it a little easier to get in touch.

Fig. 1: SAP Mentor jerseys with twitter handles and squad numbers

Look up a Mentor, browse profiles, search by topic, connect on twitter

The app allows you to quickly look up any Mentors with a full text search – by jersey number, twitter handle, name, expertise, anything. Suppose you are sitting in the same conference room with these guys and you want to know who they are. Searching by jersey number will be the quickest way to find Michael Koch’s a.k.a. @pixelbase’s profile. (The search function is available from inside the app, but also from the Google Search widget for the system-wide search on your home screen. Select “Search Settings” to activate it for the SAP Mentors Outreach app.)

Fig. 2: The search function – also integrated in the system-wide search


Fig. 3: Michael Koch’s profile

Michael one of the few people in the SAP space who have extensive experience with both ABAP and Java, more specifically SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment. He is also a terrific guy and his profile doesn’t tell you that he has an excellent taste of music – jazz – and Scotch Single Malt. The best way to learn this and other things about a person is to just connect and start a chat. I assure you that all the Mentors I have met are genuinely nice, open-minded people who will be happy to meet a fellow SAP geek, but knowing a bit about the other person makes it much easier to find common ground.

Of course you can also search generally by expertise and then try to locate that person. For example, if you’re interested in who has SAP’s “River” in their profile, the search will reveal the profiles of two Mentors. (Richard Hirsch a.k.a. @rhirsch has to update his profile, too.)

Fig. 4: Search results

In trying to locate these people on-site, the twitter feed feature will help you. Tipping on the twitter handle on the details screen opens the person’s twitter stream, which, during conferences such as SAPphireNOW or SAP TechEd, often reveals which session they are currently attending or in which piano bar they are bribing the pianist to play silly songs.

Take personal notes

Fig. 5: Taking personal notes

Share and forward

On the Mentor details screen, the menu offers also a “share” function that allows you to send the currently displayed Mentor profile to any app on your Android that can receive text.

Fig. 6: The “Share” menu option

On my phone, I get a nice list of apps to send the profile to, but the most likely ones for me to use will be ColorNote and my mail application.

Fig. 7: Plenty of options for sharing


Fig. 8: Tobias Trapp’s profile in Google Mail

User experience

I hope very much that your user experience will be a good one. I tried very hard to make you as independent of a network connection or availability of bandwidth as possible. The app comes with a snapshot of the current Mentor profiles as of today, so once it is installed you don’t need a network connection to run it. There is a Refresh button that updates the entire list and stores the updated list on your device so you don’t have to reload it again and again. On the devices I had available for testing, the app ran very smoothly and reliably.

Technical background

The SAP Mentors Outreach app is written in Java and I used Eclipse as my IDE. The back-end is a database application I created in SAP River together with Richard Hirsch and Nigel James. River is a cloud-based Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering by SAP that is currently in private beta (meaning that asking politely will get you get access) and allows you to rapidly create database applications and it exposes REST web services, which makes it an ideal back-end platform for mobile applications.

Fig. 9: The SAP Mentors app in SAP River

I will blog about the technological aspects more thoroughly in a separate post. Two months ago, I’ve shared my first impressions of SAP River in this blog post: First Impressions of SAP River – Much more than Silos in the Cloud (First Impressions of SAP River – Much more than Silos in the Cloud).

Outlook

There are plenty of ideas for new features, and I hope we will get the best implemented in time for SAP TechEd this fall.

  • Fellow Mentor Abesh Bhattacharjee a.k.a. @asbesh has suggested embedding QR code recognition and even supplied some code samples. I find this very exciting – just hold your camera against a Mentor jersey with a QR code and it takes you to the profile page!
  • Newly minted Mentor colleague Pete Lagana a.k.a. @petelagana has suggested a wealth of social media platforms to integrate the app with. We could evolve it into a genuine social media hub.
  • Generally, adding data for more contact channels (email, Skype, phone, etc.) is an option but these contact details must be approved for release on a per-Mentor, per-field basis.
  • Favourite a Mentor and add as a contact come to mind as natural next steps.
  • I hope that we can create an iOS version for iPhones and iPads before SAP TechEd. The very minimum should be a web version optimized for iPhone.

A personal note

It breaks my heart, but I will not be able to attend SAPphireNOW/ASUG 2011 in Orlando personally. I would have been extremely thrilled to see this app in action during the conference, but having to stay home, perhaps you can make my day by giving it a try and telling me about your experiences.

So if you go to SAPphireNOW or any of the future conferences, please do me a favour: Look up a Mentor, talk to them, and tell me about it. You’d make a simple Mentor very happy!

And if you meet Sting, tell him to come back and play at a SAPphireNOW or TechEd I attend.

Spread the word

Thankfully, fellow Mentors Natascha Thomson a.k.a. @nathomson and Abesh Bhattacharjee a.k.a. @asbesh will spread the word and represent the app at the event. I’m sure they’ll do a great job and create enough buzz around this app to make the marketing for HANA look pale and meek in comparison. But it’s really up to you – please give it a try and reach out the SAP Mentors as we reach out to you.

 

Update 05/19/2011: A native app for iPhone and iPad is in the  making and we hope to be able to release it in time for SAP TechEd 2011. This is a driven by John Moy (@jhmoy), Björn Weigand (@weigo), and John Astill (@JohnA69), and I can’t wait to see what they’ll cook up! Meanwhile, with rapid and invaluable help from Ethan Jewett (@esjewett), I created an iPhone-optimized, web-based version of the SAP  Mentors Outreach app. It misses some of the functionality of the native  Android app but the native iPhone version will make up for that! Until  then, iPhone users please enjoy http://mentorsoutreach.appspot.com/.

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15 Comments

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  1. Kaushik Choudhury
    Hello Thorsten,

    Amazingly great work . A perfect and much needed  platform to connect with SAP mentors.

    Can I expect/request  the same for iPhone ?

    (0) 
  2. Gregory Misiorek
    Thorsten,

    hang in there. not all of us are going to Sapphire. your app keeps this community of interests closer together regardless of being half way across the world or if we meet face to face. face to face is better, of course, but mobile apps come close second.

    @greg_not_so

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  3. Tammy Powlas
    I downloaded it to day to my Android and it breaks my heart too that you and Matthias Steiner are not here.  I look forward to seeing you both at SAP TechED.

    Great work by all.

    Tammy

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  4. Tom Cenens
    Hello Thorsten

    Application looks nice. If you need an iPad tester somewhere in the future just let me know 🙂

    Kind regards

    Tom

    (0) 
  5. Derek Loranca
    Great job! I’ve enjoyed showing it to folks and giving them the chance to take a look.  Hopefully some non-Mentors have taken it up and are using it!
    (0) 
  6. Marilyn Pratt
    Loving community driven projects like this.  You SHOULD be proud.  Anyone on the mobile SAP side you would like me to socialize this awesomeness with?
    (0) 
  7. Krishnakumar Ramamoorthy
    Awesome work. There is a reason why you are a mentor yourself:-). How about enabling augmented reality to triangulate a mentor’s location within a conference, something like the ‘urban spoon’ app for iPhone (of course, only if the mentor allows access)
    (0) 
  8. Thorsten Franz Post author
    Update 05/19/2011: A native app for iPhone and iPad is in the making and we hope to be able to release it in time for SAP TechEd 2011. Meanwhile, I created an iPhone-optimized, web-based version of the SAP Mentors Outreach app. It misses some of the functionality of the native Android app but the native iPhone version will make up for that! Until then, iPhone users please enjoy http://mentorsoutreach.appspot.com/.
    (0) 

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