Making system administration social

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How can we make system administration more social (in the social networking sense)? And, more importantly, does anyone want to make it more social?

I’ve been thinking about this recently because I’m using Twitter and participating in the community of VMware and cloud enthusiasts who are gathered there. There are loads of technical tips and tricks being shared on a daily basis and members of the community are supporting other members who have specific technical challenges. It is quite clearly valuable in building community among VMware users, the company and its users, as well as a practical way to get tips, tricks, and solutions to problems very quickly and in a ‘crowdsourced’ manner.

One way to make system administration more social would be to bake social networking features into the system administrators toolkit. Some examples of ‘social’ system administration products:

Web browser plugin: Similar to what Zemanta does to recognize that you’re working on a blog post, one could build a plugin that sees you’re logging into the web interface of a management application (e.g. Rightscale) and create an overlay that provides relevant Twitter content and interaction capabilities.

Plugins to extensible management systems: For example, VMware’s VCenter allows for 3rd party plugins. As far as I know, there is no technical reason why a plugin couldn’t be written to ntegrate with the Twitter API and/or specific RSS feeds.

Open source monitoring with social extensions: Use an open source monitoring platform as a base, but make it highly social via a set of extensions, with hooks to Twitter, recommended blogs, etc.

Similar to a product like StockTwits, I’d imagine you’d also want to feed this highly curated, specific Twitter stream to a destination site which could hopefully drive additional user acquisition through SEO.

If you’re an IT manager or a system administrator, do you want your toolkit to be more social? Is anyone doing something like this today? Do sysadmins even want this, or are they content with a social networking experience that is disconnected from their day-to-day toolkit. Very curious to hear your thoughts.

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  1. Some excellent ideas here John. I see that User Groups have always been one of the most effective means for sysadmins to share “their secrets” – and you have some good ideas. Traditionally, it’s only been a matter of feeling that one’s advice will go on to make someone else’s job a bit easier, and the camaraderie that has helped this thrive to today. Some good ideas here.

    1. Joe — user groups are definitely a key source of knowledge exchange. Maybe there is a way to pull that information into this type of tool … some of these forums tend to have RSS feeds so many that’s a starting point (with some filtering applied).

  2. It is an interesting idea, but I would lean towards saying that adding more social features to sys admin tools (or any ‘tools’ for that matter) tends to be a distraction.

    In my experience, most sys admins use IRC for their ‘social’ needs related to their work…and search, blog posts, and articles to help them work through new problems they don’t really have experience with…so maybe there’s some room for making these parts of job a bit easier via social tools (but I think you’d have to go a lot further than where current plugins and tools are on the semantic front to deliver a level of quality content that was actually relevant and useful to someone like a sys admin)

    1. Hi Kevin – good to hear from you. I hadn’t thought of IRC — you are right that its another channel to explore.

      Re: it being a distraction, I agree, although one could argue that a sysadmin is plenty distracted already by flipping back and forth between their work apps and Twitter. Some folks I follow are Twittering all day while they are doing their IT jobs, so my thought was that if the activities were integrated it would increase overall productivity.

      Re: semantic aspects, I’m wondering if you could leverage something like Zemanta’s API to knock out the blog part of the ‘quality content’ equation.

  3. Great Article.I always liked the idea of having a plugin to integrate Twitter API and/or specific RSS feeds. However it still leaves a lot to imagination as how we are going to make it useful in a specific/customized environment?

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