It’s a Christmas Miracle! Softlayer enables business partners to create integrations in a snap

Santa has come early for IBM Business Partners!

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I remember the days when I worked at Key Services and any time we wanted to try out new software it had to go through all kinds of approval processes because it was expensive. Usually it would require approval for a server and then the man hours to go through the installation and configuration process. Needless to say it was very costly to try out new things or even prototype things on new platforms.

What if I told the IBM Partners they can get going on the latest and greatest for under $200 a month? Well you can. In my previous post (Is your solution Ready for Smarter Commerce?) was the entry point to start building widgets and integrations into the Smarter Commerce platform. If you select the developer option and then WebSphere Commerce you get presented with two options:Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 8.06.48 AM

 

If you select option two you could get a fully configured WebSphere Commerce instance up and running in minutes! Just look at all of the different areas you can provide solutions for:

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Short URL: http://bit.ly/1wsq4Fk

My top 10 videos on YouTube this year!

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It is that time to reflect on the past year and this year I am starting with my YouTube channel. In case you missed any of these blockbuster hits you can watch them now!

This year I had over 32,000 views (up over 10,000 views from last yearThank You) on my YouTube channel and gained over 150 new followers. This is the first year where I had five videos over 5 minutes long in top ten. I still stand by the YouTube law that videos over 3 minutes rarely get fully watched but in the end content is king – so maybe I did something right with those 5. I gained 3% in audience retention from last year.

Only two of the top 10 videos were actually published this year (Editing and Saving CSS with Google Chrome and Data Load Utility in WebSphere Commerce Introduction) a 57 second video and a 14 minute video.

Most of my views believe it or not still come from external search (mostly Google) or YouTube search, accounting for almost 50% of my traffic sources.

Traffic source – Top 5 Views
External website 8,097 (25%)
YouTube search 7,301 (23%)
Unknown – embedded player 5,213 (16%)
Unknown – direct 3,861 (12%)
YouTube suggested video 3,191 (9.9%)

Before we get to the list let’s look at some demographics:

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The United States and India are by far by largest viewership.

Geography Views
United States 10,305 (32%)
India 5,385 (17%)
United Kingdom 2,458 (7.6%)
Germany 1,790 (5.5%)
Canada 1,221 (3.8%)

I actually started published videos and content at my night-time so it is available to the east in their morning, I have already started seeing shifts in views – it will be interesting next year to see if it made any difference.

So here are the 2014 Top 10 videos:

Video Views
Quick Tip – Eclipse Auto-Complete 1,581 (4.9%)
eSpots and Precision Marketing with WebSphere Commerce 1,554 (4.8%)
Quick Tip: Getting The XPath In Google Chrome 1,498 (4.6%)
Aurora – the WebSphere Commerce Starter Store 1,359 (4.2%)
WebSphere Commerce – Extended Sites Part I 1,272 (3.9%)
Searchandizing with WebSphere Commerce 1,073 (3.3%)
Debug JavaScript and HTML in a UIWebView on an iOS Device 1,006 (3.1%)
Editing and Saving CSS with Google Chrome 978 (3.0%)
Data Load Utility in WebSphere Commerce Introduction 977 (3.0%)
IBM Digital Marketing Optimization (Coremetrics) Integration With WebSphere Commerce Part 1 965 (3.0%)
Short URL: http://bit.ly/1yYorfu

WebSphere Commerce is now on the Request for Enhancements site!

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Yes, this news is actually about 9 months late but I am realizing not many customers know about this so I figured I would re-announce it today. This is the place where you can vote on features and even submit new ideas for features and get them voted on. And it is not just WebSphere Commerce but all the products in the B2B & Commerce portfolio.

B2B & Commerce RFE Community

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Short URL: http://bit.ly/13tLxCI

Coding Commerce: Showing the shopper which items they already purchased

Do you shop on a specific site and would like to see what products you have previously purchased in the shopping experience? I have seen some implementations of a “My Closet” where its a specific page on the site that shows what products you have already purchased. What I think would be really cool is if you could get that information on the product page or product listings or even both.

So let’s look at the WebSphere Commerce Aurora site, here is what the men’s shirts category entry page looks like:

mens-shirts

 

Continue reading

Short URL: http://bit.ly/1sxiGZv

Is your solution Ready for Smarter Commerce?

Business Partner Ready for Smarter Commerce

Earlier this year IBM announced a partnership with over 16 new partners who have created integrations with the IBM Commerce platform. That number is now up to an astounding 35 partners in less than a year later! You can check out the total partner list here. IBM has a very easy process to get started in this space and get your solution into the certified partner list. Click the picture below to get started:

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Short URL: http://bit.ly/1zf8Meo

Coding Commerce: Extending the Price display widget for consumable products

Commerce systems are getting more and more advanced and specifically in the B2B space you are seeing more and more information about products on the product page or even in product listings. We see things like color swatches, likes, ratings, reviews, etc in the B2C world but in the B2B world its all about value. This little change to WebSphere Commerce (and I mean little, a few lines of JSP code) should spice up your site to show the value of your consumable products. Here is a picture of a somewhat normal looking product display search result. We will be enhancing this with the price per page based on the contract price of the customer:

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I present to you a pattern. A pattern you can use across all consumable products in your catalog. The pattern is generic and can be applied to any product simply by assigning an attribute. Let’s start with an example, a printer cartridge. Most printer cartridges, especially high-end business printers, come with a max number of page the cartridge should be good for, like 500, 1000, 10,000, or 20,000 pages. From a business perspective it would be good to know how much you are paying per page so a product listing like this might just do the trick:

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Continue reading

Short URL: http://bit.ly/13eB3al

Thank you for a great 2014!

Over the years I have had interactions with many of you and I wanted to say thank you for reading my blog!

I am attempting to gauge the value of my blog by getting some reader feedback. So if you have time please write a short email back to me (no need to reply to all) and let me know what value you have gotten from my blog or videos on YouTube.

What I am looking for is any value what so ever, here are some things to consider:

  • It helped me with a problem I had at my job or at customer XXX
  • It helped educate me on a particular technology or feature
  • It helped me on a school or work assignment
  • It helped me close business at customer XXX
  • It helped my marriage or significant relationship

It is up to you if you want to name customers or companies – the more information the better, I will leave that up to your discretion. I promise this information will not be made public.

Sincerely,

Bob Balfe

Short URL: http://bit.ly/1x3lUoE

B2B just got a whole lot easier with IBM Commerce

This is a big moveservices_WebSphereCommerce for IBM Commerce. You will be seeing some cool videos coming soon with the new B2B functionality. Here are some key quotes from the announcement:

Available this Wednesday, IBM B2B Commerce transforms the complex B2B buying process by providing customers with a more engaging and simplified experience that ensures they can easily find and purchase the products they need across any channel or device. B2B organizations can quickly build these advanced B2B digital storefronts in just minutes with no technical experience required. – link

….

While the U.S. B2B ecommerce market was predicted to reach $559 billion in 2013 according to Forrester Research[1] – more than twice as big as B2C ecommerce sales – a vast technology gap remains in how businesses engage, buy and sell products and services from one another. – link

Also keep in mind, this new store front capability brings the traditional B2C shopping experience to the B2B experience along with all the organizational management and ordering features you would expect from a traditional B2B store. Here are some great statistics from Hubspot that prove more B2B companies are moving to this model:

  • 68% of B2B businesses use landing pages to garner a new sales lead for future conversion. (MarketingSherpa) twitter-bird-logo-blue
  • 37% of B2B marketers are using marketing automation to generate leads. (MarketingProfstwitter-bird-logo-blue
  • 84% of B2B marketers use social media in some form. (Aberdeen) twitter-bird-logo-blue
  • B2B companies place a higher value on educational formats like blogging and webinars, whereas consumer businesses are slightly more willing to experiment with advanced digital formats like interactive content and online tools. (HubSpot State of Inbound, 2014)
Short URL: http://bit.ly/1uRCMNl

Integrated content management and WebSphere Commerce Workspaces!

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One of the really big problems in the eCommerce space is you may have a custom or enterprise content management system and a really great eCommerce platform like WebSphere Commerce but the two are rarely ever connected into a single approval process. Workspaces are essentially the “sandbox” and approval process for publishing products, content, etc to your site where you can schedule it to be released on a particular day after approval – or have it released on approval. The workspace is sort of a sandbox of changes where a team can work on the site collaboratively and see the other changes in the system.

You may recall this video series I did about CoreMedia’s Live Context integration with WebSphere Commerce about a year ago, click here for the video series. Well, CoreMedia is back and with an even more important integration in my opinion – Workspaces!

In this video I show how CoreMedia Live Context has been integrated with WebSphere Commerce Workspaces for approval flow and staging.

Short URL: http://bit.ly/1xLtC5O

Great mobile application for Black Friday

I was sent a story idea for a mobile application call Zoomingo and I will say upfront that if someone pitches me an application or story idea I really have to like it to blog about it. This application fits the bill. I installed it and immediately found value with it. What is cool, as you can see from my screen shots below is you can get a glimpse into Black Friday deals.

Zoomingo tracks and displays Black Friday sales as soon as the information is available – the only shopping app that displays local sales and offers from more than 100 national retailers at more than 70,000 retail outlets throughout the nation.

What you get are weekly Ads for Target, Walgreens, Walmart, Macy’s, Forever 21, H&M, CVS & Kohl’s.

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Short URL: http://bit.ly/1AjoIz5

Afraid big brother is tracking your online activity? Then check out Tor …maybe

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 9.56.59 AMWith all the worries that big brother is looking at your online activity something like Tor may just be the answer to online anonymity. The announcement that Verizon is planning to have a perma-cookie tracking ID placed on your phone – even when in private browsing mode – is pretty disconcerting in my opinion and clearly shows big companies are moving in the direction of eliminating anonymity. Tor is 100% open source and works on pretty much all operating systems. Facebook recently announced support for the dark network (link). Tor must be raising eye-brows because even the TSA is interested in this technology.

TOR’s privacy enabling software is designed to mask the source and destination of internet traffic. Originally funded by the US Navy as “The Onion Routing protocol” to help government operatives and employees working in potentially hostile areas, it has come to be used by a wide range of activists, dissidents and journalists around the world. – link

I am not sure I will be installing Tor yet but I plan on following this project on its site and in the news. There are also many articles exposing Tor as a trojan horse actually funded and created by the government to spy on anonymous users of the internet, check out this article where Michael Reed claims Tor was created by the US government (link).

In that same article it also states the TorFAQ explains how “exit nodes” can in fact eavesdrop on activity – all be it encrypted:

The TorFAQ clearly states that exit nodes can eavesdrop. “Yes, the guy running the exit node can read the bytes that come in and out there. Tor anonymizes the origin of your traffic, and it makes sure to encrypt everything inside the Tor network, but it does not magically encrypt all traffic throughout the internet.” – link

Another really good article posted on pando.com really highlights the origins of Tor and complexity around why the technology is good or bad for the average person. It also explains what Onion Routing is and why and whom funded the original project (and apparently still does).

Onion routing was like a hustler playing the three-card monte with your traffic: the guy trying to spy on you could watch it going under one card, but he never knew where it would come out. – link

I am very interested in any opinions on this browser as I am already seeing many articles about TSA “marking you” as an extremist if you install or market Tor – doh!
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Short URL: http://bit.ly/10Vhnr1

Webinar – Inside the User Experience; Solutions to Mobile Banking Issues

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Our friends over at BlueSky will be hosting a free webinar this Thursday, register here today!

This free webinar will teach you how to see the way your mobile or desktop websites are working through the eyes of each consumer with IBM® Tealeaf®. You’ll also learn current best practices for identifying problems in your organization, and future planning you can initiate to identify them, with or without Tealeaf.

 

Short URL: http://bit.ly/1xSu9QN

Donate to Wikipedia today!

I have long been a fan and user of Wikipedia. And as many of you know, it comes with no advertisements and that means it solely relies on donations. I highly recommend anyone who uses Wikipedia to go and donate $3, $5, $10, or even more to the site today. You can even claim this donation on your taxes, check out this page.

Donate today!

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Short URL: http://bit.ly/1thd8Rb

Want to learn WebSphere Commerce? Check out this new play list

One of my colleagues (thanks Paul V) requested I create a playlist of my videos that could be used for education purposes in a logical order. It is not perfect but I think it is a good start for someone who is just starting to learn WebSphere Commerce.

playlist

You can access the play list here.

Videos         Description
1 – 5             Creating Extended Sites
6 – 7             Content Management
8 – 12           Composer and eSpots
13 – 18         Marketing
19 – 23         PIM
23 – 25         Search and SEO
26 – 29         Promotions
30 – 35         Integration
36 – 42         Coremedia Integration Series
43 – 46         General Tips


Short URL: http://bit.ly/ZWpMt3

What do you think technical eminence is?

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 11.25.02 AMThis is a very interesting topic for me as I have heard the term several times within IBM. Let’s tear apart the phrase:

Technical – obviously someone who is a technical expert or at least claims they have the capability to enter into a technical discussion about architecture and implementation.

Eminence -fame or recognized superiority, especially within a particular sphere or profession. – link

Mixing these two together can be problematic in the technical world, especially if you are an introvert or someone who is not social at all. In the old days people published books, articles, or spoke at large conferences to gain “eminence“. Today, I see a very different way of achieving technical eminence through social media and social networks.

If you are reading this blog then you are most likely familiar with what I write about and what my YouTube channel is. I have often been on the fence with some of my content because I am trying to reach a variety of skills, mostly developers and users of IBM software and tooling. One could easily argue much of my material is either too technical, not technical enough, or not technical at all. This balance in my opinion is very delicate and in my experience you can potentially lose or gain readers based on this balance. With my videos especially, I do not want to get down the path of being viewed as “just a demo person” with no depth, so I intentionally write about coding, connecting, and architecting the solution. Of course many of my videos and content represent the contributions of a much larger team.

So the question is, how valuable is this “technical eminence” to companies? Should technical architects and software engineers or senior level IT staff be “out there” building their personal brand.  In my opinion, technical eminence is achieved when the individuals material or individual himself is often referenced on the subject at hand. This comes down to mentions, views, readership, and most important of all recognition as someone who “knows this” and is “known” for this. Thoughts?

Short URL: http://bit.ly/12S5C54