IBM Lotus To Pair Collaboration/Programming Strengths In 'Jazz'

The Lotus team, working with IBM's Rational group, is building "in-context" collaboration onto the Eclipse integrated development environment (IDE), said John Patterson, an IBM Distinguished Engineer working out of the Lotus facility here in Cambridge, Mass.

The project, under way for two years, puts a "Jazz Band" at the bottom of the Eclipse UI, showing photos of relevant team members, along with icons showing if they are on line at any given time. Hovering over the photo gives the viewer a list of the subject's projects. Clicking on the photo initiates a chat session.

Research Scientist Li-Te Cheng demonstrated live code Wednesday, illustrating how color-coded references show which team member has code checked out at any time. Changes that member makes to the code are color-coded for tracking purposes. A team manager can also "look over the shoulder" of any programmer remotely to see what he or she is doing.

The project, which started even before IBM bought Rational two years ago, is still in its developmental stage, and neither Patterson nor an IBM spokesman could comment on time frames or delivery specifics, although it is likely that the Rational group would decide that.

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Such a project would compete with elements of Microsoft's proposed Visual Studio Team Edition, although some observers say Lotus' background in collaborative technology may give it an advantage here.

IBMers also showed off a new "Activity Explorer" module that will become part of Lotus Workplace version 2 later this month. The user interface would list a given user's projects down the left side of the screen. A project can be initiated by any "artifact," be that an instant messaging session, a PowerPoint presentation or a document. By dragging and dropping that icon onto a buddy list name, the user would give that person permission to view and/or edit any given object, according to Werner Geyer, project manager.

A transparent "Screen Activity Tool" window would enable a worker to take a snapshot of a given computer screen, for example, and share that with the team. The system would even enable realtime annotation of that screen.

Research manager Dan Gruen showed off new e-mail technology that seeks to rationalize how various mail components are utilized. One tool, for example, would scan mail looking for items that appear to be appointments and guides the user to automating their insertion into his or her calendar.

Also in the R&D bag of tricks were new Wiki tools that would rationalize the creation, exiting, posting and tracking of group knowledge.