Many a neutech hipster looked askance at the huge IBM-plex situated front and center at this year's Web 2.0 conference.
No one could deny the hardware/software/services giant's place in tech history (their first plant is now almost 100 years old), but what does it have to do with the glassy, streamy, widgety world that tech had become? IBM staff on-site had many answers for that oft-repeated question, which was usually phrased, roughly, "What the hell are you guys doing here?"
And those IBMers were full of buzzwords: Mashups, they said. Social media. The [expletive deleted] cloud. They said IBM was doing more to support developers for the new web.
So, what is IBM really doing in the social space?
Enter developerWorks, reportedly the largest online technical resource for software developers in the world. Today, half of the world's developers use it; that's around 8 million members.
And today, IBM is launching a social network just for them.
And before you rush to make comparisons, it's nothing like Facebook, LinkedIn, or any of the better known social nets we all know.
The functions of the site are remarkably task-focused. IBM's demo video sets a stage of goal-oriented techies seeking a specific knowledge or skill set and using My developerWorks' groups, discussion threads, and profiles to determine who has experience or expertise in a particular field. Warning: Demo video works better if you ignore the business stock photography. We know most dude developers don't really have frosted tips.
The most exciting prospect is the possibility for ongoing collaboration. All IBM needs now is to show profiles in other disciplines so that the biz dev, marketing, design, executive, and VC types can get in on the action and boom, you've got a never-ending Startup Weekend.
An IBM rep said via email Wednesday night, "IBM's goal with My developerWorks is to connect the global community of software developers and make it easier for them to create new technologies based on open standards such as Java, Linux and XML. With $4 trillion in global economic stimulus investments on the way for projects such as healthcare modernization, smart grids, and public infrastructure improvements - all of it technology-driven - IBM wants to give developers a seat at the table and help them build skills in hot technology areas including analytics, clean tech, and cloud computing."
And what does IBM stand to gain from a web of millions of registered software developers sharing information, compiling data, building teams, brainstorming ideas, critiquing and refining their work, and creating products on and through their proprietary network?
We didn't receive a comment on that point and have journalistic standards of objectivity to maintain; however, we're sure that the My developerWorks will profit both the individuals and the organizations involved.