by Sam Ramji on November 01, 2006 04:15pm

I got to spend an hour with Ross Mayfield (founder of Socialtext) today.  We talked about a range of things, from open source calculators (WikiCalc) to the future of Sharepoint as a platform for open source development and the shift in Microsoft's approach to open source.  Ross graciously gave us an extra ten minutes to capture part of our conversation on video.

Socialtext was the first commercial wiki company, built initially on the Perl-based Kwiki and Ross has been a leader in the democratization of this collaboration technology for many years.  For more on social computing, you can check out Wikipedia.  By now, unless you work with a group of card-carrying Luddites, you have probably even browsed a wiki within your company run by your own IT department or wiki enthusiasts.  In this case you’ve already entered the current wave of “enterprise social computing” a.k.a. “Enterprise 2.0”.  Our internal wiki at the Open Source Software Lab currently runs on Plone.

About five months ago, he open-sourced part of this platform.  The Socialtext Open Source Wiki has the details on this project.  It currently runs on PostgreSQL and Ubuntu… but since it’s based on Perl I hope that the porting effort to SQL Server and Windows wouldn’t be too much.

Even more interesting to me given my role at Microsoft is that Socialtext has built a Sharepoint integration ("Socialpoint").  This gives Sharepoint users access to a best-of-breed wiki and blogging engine while retaining presence, Office integration, and a unified portal infrastructure.  My inner geek got going when Ross described the new protocol handler they’ve built - "socialpoint:foo/bar" - for navigating within Sharepoint across wikis.  I think this is a good example of how Microsoft platform software should be combined with open source applications.  We continue to invest in scaling the infrastructure, and open it up to developers for innovative applications that can change as often as customers require.

Ross is thinking about releasing these modules under open source licenses.  I’m hopeful that the MS-PL (BSD-like) or MS-CL (Apache-like) will prove worthwhile to him, and that Codeplex will turn out to be the right repository for the work - but regardless of the license or the community site, I'm excited to see that the Microsoft platform and open source software companies can propel great technology into broad adoption - carrying innovation into remote corners of the enterprise.

For more details on the conversation - and to catch Ross' insights first-hand - check out the video interview.






Attachment: mayfield.mp3