Sunday, 25 September 2011

Web 3.0 and Facebook

Keen as I am on selling my company’s services to help other organizations make the best use of social media, I never thought that I would be focusing a blog on our old friend Facebook. And yet, this week’s announcements at the F8 developer conference seem to have taken Facebook out of the ‘me-too’ duel with Google plus and Twitter and, in a quantum leap, put it way ahead of the game. Bringing Tim Berners-Lee’s vision of a Semantic Web closer.

Facebook recently allowed us to separate our real friend from our ‘Facebook friends’ in a similar way to Google plus’s circles. Then they gave us the ‘Subscribe’ button, allowing us to filter what we read. We can subscribe to ‘all’ updates, ‘most’ updates, or ‘only important’ updates rather than get news of all the goings on of our friends. But then – like Twitter – you can subscribe to people you don’t even know, following their statuses and profile updates. Interesting, but, in many ways, underwhelming. Then they announced Timeline, which is a replacement for the current profile page. And then the big one – Open Graph.

Open Graph (a new class of app) will apparently enable Facebook users to share experiences in realtime. Users will be able to instantly share activities with their friends without being required to grant apps permission each time. The more business-oriented amongst you will realize that Facebook users will be sharing more data with friends, so with Graph Targeting the marketing people will be able to deliver specific marketing messages to the ideal target market.

But, apart from Mark Zuckerberg getting even more shedloads of money, this announcement moves us a step closer to the Semantic Web – or Web 3.0 as it’s sometimes called. Way back in 1999 Tim Berners-Lee said: “I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analysing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A ‘Semantic Web’, which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy ,and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The ‘intelligent agents’ people have touted for ages will finally materialize.”

The Semantic Web will, in many ways be computer driven rather than human driven, and will integrate information from many different sources. This is dependant on meta data being avilable – and in many ways, this is what will happen with Facebook’s new approach.

We can turn our Web pages into graph objects using the Open Graph protocol tags and the familiar Facebook Like button on those Web pages. The tags look like:

In addition to the Open Graph protocol’s four required properties:
  • og:title –t he title of the object as it should appear within the graph, eg a film title.
  • og:type – the type of your object, eg "movie".
  • og:image – an image URL, which should represent the object within the graph.
  • og:url – the canonical URL of tha object that will be used as its permanent ID in the graph, eg

Facebook has added:
  • fb:app_id – a Facebook Platform application ID that administers this page.

And recommends using: 

  • og:site_name – a human-readable name for your site.
  • og:description – a one to two sentence description of your page.

When a user ‘likes’ a Web page using a Like button, a News Feed story is published to Facebook.

Wikipedia suggests that: “There are some who claim that Web 3.0 will be more application-based and centre its efforts towards more graphically-capable environments .” This is what Facebook’s Open Graph appears to be.

It also seems that some companies, such as those providing music streaming services, video streaming services, and newspapers will be able to customize the ‘Like’ button to say ‘listen’, ‘watch’, or ‘read’, as appropriate. Then, once someone has shared the content using these new buttons, other Facebook users will be able to access the content within Facebook provided the content supplier has created a compatible Facebook app.

Mainframers probably already know that IMS has a page at, and CICS has a page at You might not know that the Virtual IMS user group has a page at, and the Virtual CICS user group has a page at

Interesting times for Facebook and definitely putting some distance between it and its nearest rivals – for a while.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Mainframe maintenance – a new paradigm with new challenges

For many organizations, we’re beginning to see a new model of how IT customer support can be organized – and the model is coming from management who are completely platform-agnostic. To them, IT is IT – it doesn’t matter whether something runs on a mainframe or a distributed platform. And this new way of working brings with it new challenges.

This whole change in staff structure is also being encouraged by the advent of the zEnterprise hybrid machines with their zBX blades running everything from AIX to, potentially, Windows. A consequence is that a mainframe specialist could be dealing with a Linux error message, or a Windows SharePoint guru might be trying to understand what’s going on inside CICS. What can you do to help them?

Or let’s suppose in a more traditional mainframe environment, for whatever reason, you lost some of your top technical people. Perhaps they got jobs elsewhere or perhaps they retired early, but suddenly you find yourself with a huge knowledge gap. Maybe you can transfer someone across from the distributed team. Or maybe you can recruit one of the new generation of youngsters who are learning the benefits of mainframe computing. But whatever you do, there will be a fairly long period of time during which anything out of the ordinary occurring is going to leave everyone scratching their heads and searching Google – whereas, previously, your in-house expert knew exactly what to do. So, in this situation, what are you going to do?

Let’s not worry too much at this stage about Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and performance targets. Let’s simply focus on the problem. How can any organization, irrespective of how its IT team is constructed, ensure that appropriate expertise is available at all times to whichever staff members are available?

Obviously you can have the manuals, and some could be on the IBM mainframe portal, but that doesn’t give you speedy access to the necessary information. A Google search will reveal hundredsof pages of results, but it takes a degree of expertise to sift through those and find the correct one quickly. And someone without any expertise could spend a very long time reading solutions to completely different problems before ever finding the right one. Not a satisfactory way to provide IT services to customers – whether internal or external to the organization.

So what would be a good solution? How can these issues of staff working outside their comfort zone be dealt with in a way that is good for the business? And what kind of a solution will still be able to ensure those business-critical mainframes are being supported in a year’s time, in five year’s, or even further into the future?

This is where a new breed of solutions that can address this coming challenge are positioning themselves. One of these, Softlib with its iSolve product (, allows an organization to combine all its IT-related information into a single virtual library. That means users – your harassed staff – have to search in only one place, not as previously in many places, to find a solution to any problem. And once you have a single location for information available, you can allow product champions and other IT-literate staff access to it – which should result in more empowered and satisfied users and fewer calls to the Help Desk.

It makes sense to organize the information in this single virtual library using themes, so CICS information might be one theme, IMS another, Linux a third, etc. The information in the library starts from IBM and third-party software vendors’ manuals, and can be supplemented with information from newsgroups and other online resources. Plus, you can add your own technical expertise.

Access to the information can be from a Web browser or a terminal server. It can be hosted locally, or as a cloud-based resource. The advantage of the cloud route is that the information is looked after by Softlib and they already have access to a huge number of the resources you’ll need. So you can start using the facility almost immediately. Plus the online documentation is automatically updated when new information becomes available. Other benefits include knowledge usage analytics that can help address missing or outdated knowledge, and seamless integration with CRM, bug-tracking, Service Desk, content-management applications, etc.

All in all, Softlib’s iSolve product has a lot to offer most mainframe sites, and certainly provides an answer to the question of what to do if you restructure your IT customer support and need to extend the working expertise of your staff onto other platforms such as AIX and Windows. It also offers a solution to the problem of losing key mainframe experts in a mainframe-only environment.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Get the size of all site collections for a Web application

Get the size of all site collections for a Web application

This week, Darren Pritchard, our SharePoint guru, lays out clearly exactly what needs to be done in order to find out the size of all site collections for a Web application in SharePoint 2007.

The first step is to create a batch file containing:

SET STSADM="c:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Web Server Extensions\12\bin\STSADM.EXE"
%STSADM% -o enumsites -url SiteStats.txt

Pretty obviously, where it says , you need to change that to the name of the Web application that you need to produce the statistics for.

Next you need to copy the batch file to your Web front-end server and run it.

The output will be in a file called SiteStats.txt. Open the file and for each site collection you will see ‘StorageUsedMB=’ and a value. It’s the value that you’re interested in.

On a completely different topic: on Tuesday 13 September the Virtual CICS user group meets. Rocket Software’s Charles Jones will be discussing “CICS TS 4.2: Leveraging event processing and high-performance Java”. More details about how to register can be found on the user group Web site at

Friday, 2 September 2011

Create custom permissions – for SharePoint

It’s been a while since we’ve published one of iTech-Ed Associate Darren Pritchard’s SharePoint 2007 beginners’ guides. This time he’s explaining custom permissions and how to create them.

Let’s start off by defining what we’re talking about. Specifying custom permission levels give you more control over the degree of access users can have to SharePoint sites, site collections, or site content. In effect, you create a new security group.

So, let’s run through the steps:
  1. From the site collection click ‘Site Actions’ 
  2. Click ‘Site Settings’
  3. Under ‘Users and Permissions’ click ‘Advanced Permissions’ 
  4. You will then see a list for permission level group
  5. Select the ‘Settings’ drop down
  6. Click ‘Permission Levels
  7. Click ‘Add a Permission Level’
  8. You will then be able to create your own security group.

It’s worth remembering that only this site and all its sub-sites will have access to your new group.

Below is a list of permissions that can be set. Please note that selecting one may also result in others being selected because they are required as part of your selection.

List Permissions:
  • Manage Lists – create and delete lists, add or remove columns in a list, and add or remove public views of a list.
  • Override Check Out – discard or check in a document that is checked out to another user.
  • Add Items – add items to lists, add documents to document libraries, and add Web discussion comments.
  • Edit Items – edit items in lists, edit documents in document libraries, edit Web discussion comments in documents, and customize Web Part Pages in document libraries.
  • Delete Items – delete items from a list, documents from a document library, and Web discussion comments in documents.
  • View Items – view items in lists, documents in document libraries, and view Web discussion comments.
  • Approve Items – approve a minor version of a list item or document.
  • Open Items – view the source of documents with server-side file handlers.
  • View Versions – view past versions of a list item or document.
  • Delete Versions – delete past versions of a list item or document.
  • Create Alerts – create e-mail alerts.
  • View Application Pages – view forms, views, and application pages. Enumerate lists.

Site Permissions:
  • Manage Permissions – create and change permission levels on the Web site and assign permissions to users and groups.
  • View Usage Data – view reports on Web site usage.
  • Create Subsites – create subsites such as team sites, Meeting Workspace sites, and Document Workspace sites.
  • Manage Web Site – grants the ability to perform all administration tasks for the Web site as well as manage content.
  • Add and Customize Pages – add, change, or delete HTML pages or Web Part Pages, and edit the Web site using a Windows SharePoint Services-compatible editor.
  • Apply Themes and Borders – apply a theme or borders to the entire Web site.
  • Apply Style Sheets – apply a style sheet (.css file) to the Web site.
  • Create Groups – create a group of users that can be used anywhere within the site collection.
  • Browse Directories – enumerate files and folders in a Web site using SharePoint Designer and Web DAV (Distributed Authoring and Versioning) interfaces.
  • View Pages – view pages in a Web site.
  • Enumerate Permissions – enumerate permissions on the Web site, list, folder, document, or list item.
  • Browse User Information – view information about users of the Web site.
  • Manage Alerts – manage alerts for all users of the Web site.
  • Use Remote Interfaces – use SOAP, (Simple Object Access Protocol) Web DAV, or SharePoint Designer interfaces to access the Web site.
  • Use Client Integration Features – use features that launch client applications. Without this permission, users will have to work on documents locally and upload their changes.
  • Open – allows users to open a Web site, list, or folder in order to access items inside that container.
  • Edit Personal User Information – allows a user to change his or her own user information, such as adding a picture.

Personal Permissions:
  • Manage Personal Views – create, change, and delete personal views of lists.
  • Add/Remove Personal Web Parts – add or remove personal Web Parts on a Web Part Page.
  • Update Personal Web Parts – update Web Parts to display personalized information.

Armed with that information, you’re now in a position to try to create a new security group and give a person or a group of people a different level of access from what they had previously.