Connect’s Third Version Launches

On Friday, Rich and Anthony updated Connect to what we’re calling 3.0, or that’s what I’m calling it.

The UI has changed from blue back to white, and the main navigation is now on the left, versus on the top. Maybe you recognize the UI; remember when we showed off some mockups back in August?

Introducing Connect 3.0

Other newish features, include OraTweet integration, which has been live for about a month. Rich and Noel completed the integration, and now, when you update your status in Connect, you’re also sending a tweet.

Similarly, when you preceed a tweet with “-s” from OraTweet (its web interface, SMS, IM, Windows client, or coming soon, AIR client), your Connect status is updated. This approach keeps Connect from becoming an OraTweet client, filling up the Activity Log with seemingly random tweets and no context.

Each tweet that appears in the Activity Log includes a link to the tweet that opens in a new tab/window. From there, you can reply @ the person and do other OraTweet things. This is one the first of many projects that uses the REST APIs Rich and Anthony have built on Connect’s data. Drop a comment if you want info on these APIs.

Of course, Noel has an API for OraTweet too, which will soon be showcased in AIR clients. At least, that’s the chatter I’m hearing over OraTweet. He already has a Windows buddy for OraTweet, but that does me no good. I do enjoy the IM integration, which we lost on Twitter long ago.

So other than the major UI changes and OraTweet integration, one thing this version of Connect does not have is OpenSocial. Rich and Anthony have essentially finished the container integration and most of the UI changes, and now, we are working with security to make sure they are comfortable before releasing the container.

Remember the FAQ post series? Security is one of those internal teams that you always want to make sure you engage. So, we’re following our own advice.

So far, the new UI has been a big hit; several people have commented positively. Connect topped 10,000 pageviews on Friday, which is rare, especially on a Friday. I’m trying to get web analytics on OraTweet so we can track usage there too.

Friday was pretty exciting for me beyond Connect, too. I got my hands on a pre-release version of Clayton Donley‘s Oracle People iPhone app, which is fantastic and incredibly useful. Using APIs (natch), it combines services from our internal directory, Aria, Connect and OraTweet.

Clayton is buttoning up the approvals and fixing a few minor bugs. Stay tuned; I plan to blog it more thoroughly when he’s ready.

Back to Connect for another teaser. Friday’s deployment included a new feature for groups we’re calling Pages. Each group can have any number of pages editable by its membership. Rich hasn’t surfaced the pages feature in the UI yet, but he created a how-to page for Connect’s APIs, and he asked me to write the About Connect page.

The feature is sweet and uses WYSIWYG instead of wiki syntax, which is easier. It’s going to be a big hit once we release it officially.

The About page became more of a brief history of Connect. So, I decided to blog the same content and dug up screenshots to show the evolution of Connect.

Connect began in July 2007 as the IdeaFactory. We were collecting ideas from teams in Applications Strategy, and none of the usual ways (email, spreasheets, wiki) worked for a team whose sole purpose was to (ahem) innovate.

So Rich built the IdeaFactory in 24 hours using Rails and LDAP. You can see the legacy of the original IdeaFactory in Connect today by paging through Ideas.

Here’s a taste of what it looked like:

The original IdeaFactory

Connect 1.0
Ideas were great and pretty successful, but we’d always planned to add social networking into the mix. Aria has always been the corporate directory, and we love it. We wanted to add a dash of social though, so in August 2007, Rich debuted Connect, which was IdeaFactory plus social networking and some other nice features.

Traffic went through the roof. We quickly realized there was strong demand for networking inside the firewall, and with Connect 1.0, we were off and running.

Here’s what the first version of Connect looked like.

Connect 1.0

That 1.0 version underwent several UI makeovers. The next version added the short-lived Connect logo and removed the AppsLab branding and centralized the navigation a bit, teasing features to come.

Connect 1.0, the sweet logo

The last 1.0 UI went from gray to white with a more Oracle standard logo and look/feel. I think Connect 1.0 had this UI for the longest amount of time. People were really accustomed to it.

Connect 1.0, white and red

Connect 2.0
After a long break to build and start up Oracle Mix, we turned our attention back to Connect, armed with even more ideas that had sprouted from Mix. Connect 2.0 went live in June 2008, adding SSO integration and a fully revamped architecture and infrastructure.

The big new feature in 2.0 was Groups, which we had built into Mix first. Now people could collaborate in ad hoc ways for work or personal interest.

The blue was a shock to many, and we got more than one negative comment about it (as compared to the white/red).

Connect 2.0, true blue

So, that’s the brief UI history of Connect over its 18-month existence. We’re back to the white in Connect 3.0, and I think we’ll stay with a clean look in the future. We’re already kicking around mockups of the 4.0 version, which is taking shape now.

Any thoughts you want to share? Maybe comments about Connect or questions?

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