Lockheed releases source code for social media platform

A little over a year ago CivSource first reported on the development of an open source, social media tool by Lockheed Martin called Eureka. Since then, the company has officially released the source code for Eureka Streams. According to two of the creators of the project, Streams is designed specifically to drive conversations around user generated content created on the Web.

For the past four years, Lockheed has been developing an internal collaboration platform that sought to incorporate the latest Web 2.0 tools inside the organization. Initially, Lockheed’s Information Systems & Global Solutions (IS&GS) group launched Project Unity. Unity integrates Google Enterprise Search Appliance (GSA), Microsoft’s Windows Sharepoint Servicess (WSS) and NewsGator’s Enterprise Server.

But according to Shawn Dahlen, Social Media Program Manager in charge of the internal product development of Eureka Streams, Unity focused heavily on capturing content, such as blogs, wiki’s, forums, and social bookmarking. The problem, he said, was that they weren’t “seeing conversation around that content.”

Which he says, follows a basic evolution in the social Web since the rise of Facebook.

From 2006 to 2008, the Web has been driven by user-generated content. As well as a growing number of traditional publications getting into the mix and begrudgingly accepting the new normal. But less dominant during this time was a consistent interaction model. That is, until Twitter came to every desktop, laptop and mobile device.

“Twitter became the dominant way to collaborate,” Dahlen said, “to the extent that Facebook began looking like Twitter, and Google launched Buzz. We decided to model basic interaction designs that had solidified on the Web.”

According to Dahlen, feedback from Lockheed employees indicated they wanted a tool to exchange short messages and drive conversation from there, like posting links within Twitter and seeing the conversation around that. So the Eureka Streams’ central focus is on the activity stream with plug-ins that allow users to automatically share activity from any RSS or Web feed or from user-generated sites such as YouTube, Del.ici.ous and Google Reader.

Complimenting the activity stream is a profile page and landing page. The profile allows users to customize interests and describe groups, creating a directory of sorts, so others can follow your stream. The third component of Eureka is designed so users can create apps, gadgets, and convert any stream to a widget on start page.

Decision to go Open Source

In addition to these capabilities, Eureka Streams was built using Open Social Specs, Dahlen said, which are supported by the likes of Google, Yahoo, MySpace, Ning, and others as a competing platform to Facebook. Specifically, Streams runs on Apache Shindig, launched by Google in 2007.

Dahlen said his development team is shifting its processes to operate in the public, with check-ins happening regularly inside a Google Group to help troubleshoot interested developers. So as feedback is generated from Lockheed’s 38,000 user base, and early users attempt their own implementations, additional tweaks and lessons learned can be integrated into a growing base code.

“Streams is a commodity that many folks could leverage and use – the value could be integrated into day-to-day business rhythms,” he said.

Wrangling in the Gov 2.0 crowd

Tom Haser, Director of Social Media Solutions for IS&GS Civil, said there’s a lot synergy between what Lockheed is doing internally with Eureka Streams and what state and local governments could do with it.

“The value here is equal between Lockheed Martin and state and local government. From demographic point, a lot of state and local governments have a workforce that leans to the right and they have to backfill with younger workers. But the expectations of a younger workforce has been shaped by Web,” he said.

Because Eureka Streams integrates many components of the modern Web that younger workers want, and because the solution is designed using an open source framework, Mr. Haser believes it can help engage employees around government’s mission, while helping government attract not just younger talent, but IT-focused talent.

“From an IT worker standpoint, with our project we think a lot of government IT folks are looking to the open source world for solutions, and we think Eureka Streams can be a piece of that.”

“State and local governments can experiment – try before you buy,” he said. “And if they have the technical expertise in-house they can develop it on their own. If they want professional support or want to evolve the solution over time,” we can help support that.

Dahlen and Haser said they envision a business model that is similar to other professional open source organizations, like Red Hat. Now, their focus is going to be on gaining support from the open source community, helping to make their internal deployment a success, and developing a business model around Eureka Streams.

“All of these feed on each other,” Mr. Haser said. “Successes internally could be articulated to customers, added to open source code, and utilized elsewhere in the open source community.”

Visit GitHUB for a copy of the Eureka Streams source code.