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    SocialCalc, the Social Spreadsheet, Comes Out of Beta

    I’m excited to announce we’re removing the beta tag from SocialCalc, the world’s first social spreadsheet. Today marks the 30th anniversary that SocialCalc’s creator Dan Bricklin released VisiCalc, the original spreadsheet and “killer app” that launched the PC revolution. SocialCalc enables large and distributed teams to collaborate across spreadsheets, as an alternative to playing e-mail volleyball with Excel(TM) attachments. Many of our customers have already been having great success using SocialCalc in conjunction with our Socialtext Workspaces (wikis) and Socialtext Signals (microblogging).

    Meredith Corporation, for example, publishes more than 20 magazines, including Better Homes & Garden and Ladies’ Home Journal. Typically, marketing teams at several magazines would input data from new subscriber campaigns into their own spreadsheets. Then, they would e-mail them to Meredith’s consumer marketing department, where they would be laboriously compiled into another master spreadsheet. Now, with SocialCalc, that data can be shared online and in a central location, with the necessary security and version control required by a large enterprise like Meredith. SocialCalc also enables flexible roll-up reporting of key indicators for executives.

    I used to get 10 e-mails a day from different people with these reports,” said Dave Ball, Meredith’s vice president of consumer marketing. “Now, with SocialCalc, I can go in at one point in the day and see what’s going on in all our active campaigns right now. It helps us distribute information and knowledge faster, so we can react more quickly.

    Seeing Meredith’s implementation has been particularly gratifying for our SocialCalc Product Lead Dan Bricklin, who has watched the spreadsheet evolve so much over the years. On October 19th, 1979, Bricklin’s publisher received the first shipment of the completed VisiCalc package and sent a shrink-wrapped copy to his home in Massachusetts. VisiCalc has been credited with helping launch the revolution of personal computers because it gave the machines a practical use for consumers and businesses. But while the sophistication and speed of spreadsheet programs advanced with the computing industry in the following years, most have failed to capitalize on the power of social technologies and the real-time advantages of the Web to speed the flow of work.

    SocialCalc is the next logical step for the spreadsheet,” Bricklin said. “As we move into the social world, as typified by a wiki where there is one current copy that everyone can work from, the spreadsheet needs to move there, too.

    In fact, for years, companies have struggled to update and maintain spreadsheets that reflect the real-time work being done by their employees. Typically, teams e-mail around Excel attachments or upload files to a shared drive, leaving managers unsure about the current state of the business. Although online spreadsheets have replicated aspects of Excel in a web browser, they lack the social capabilities of SocialCalc. This includes the ability for spreadsheets to integrate with enterprise wikis, microblogging tools and social networking profiles like those found in the Socialtext platform.

    SocialCalc is immediately available for trial and for current customers in the October Appliance release. It costs $3 per user per month. New customers who purchase the full Socialtext platform in 2009 get SocialCalc without charge for 2010. Current customers that participated in the beta program get SocialCalc without charge for 2009.

      7 Replies to “SocialCalc, the Social Spreadsheet, Comes Out of Beta”

    How is it different from Google Spreadsheets which already allows collaborative sharing and editing, version control etc.

    Is it based on Dan Bricklin’s work on WikiCalc?

    Question One

    Here are a few important differences, SocialCalc is…

    Social – Sheets are an integrated part of Socialtext Workspaces. As changes are made or tags are added, people are automatically informed as the updates are broadcast to the Socialtext activity stream. Authors profiles are linked, allowing you to discover more about the people who are contributing to the sheets.

    Distributed – Spreadsheets can contain values from other spreadsheets, even across workspaces. As values change, the updated are rolled-up to all the sheets that contain that value.

    A few examples:

    1. 1. A team of sales professions each track their own progress via individual sheets. Their manager has a single “master sheet”, that contains totals from each of the rep’s sheets, providing them a complete overview.
    2. 2. The CFO is working on a budget. Rather than each department working on a single combined sheet, they can instead each work on their own, and the totals can roll-up to a single Total Budget sheet.
    3. 3. An inventory sheet can pull values from multiple other sheets (each controlled by a different team), such as part numbers, warehouse locations, primary contacts, etc.

    Secure – Socialtext can run behind the firewall on a dedicated appliance.

    Integrated – Information from SocialCalc (entire sheet, range, or a cell) can be embedded into Socialtext wiki pages. The opposite is also true, a Socialtext wiki page can be embedded into a SocialCalc page. Also, any html content from the web can also be embedded.

    Question Two

    While some of the data formats and coding algorithms in SocialCalc are based on work originally done for wikiCalc, the entire SocialCalc engine is a brand new program integrated with the Socialtext platform.

    Google Spreadsheets does have the capability to roll-up cells from multiple spreadsheets into a master document – http://documents.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=98757 – as well as from any other web source – http://docs.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=75507

    And of course, Google spreadsheets are social in terms of allowing real-time coediting and can be distributed easily in the exact manner specified above through their APIs.

    So apart from the option to be run as a dedicated appliance, I am afraid I don’t see how SocialCalc is significantly different from Google Spreadsheets – would appreciate a answer with greater details….

    The deep integration between content and profiles. In SocialCalc you can mouse-over a person’s name/avatar to see their profile business card, or click on them to be taken to their full profile.

    The Socialtext activity stream which shows page/sheet updates and tagging allowing colleagues to easy see when updates are made, and by whom.

    The two way integration between workspace pages (wiki) and spreadsheets. You can easily embed a spreadsheet, range, or cell from a sheet in a page, and vice versa. (without having to know the API) For example, you can include the total for a budget on a wiki page, without revealing the details of how the number was calculated. When the sheet changes, so to will the wiki page. The opposite is also true, you can embed a wiki page in a spreadsheet. For example, you could have a page filled with instructions or links to further resources on the topic, and embed that in a sheet(s), or even in the sheet’s template. Then when you want to change that content, say a new instruction is added, you simply edit the wiki page, and all the spreadsheets that contain it will be updated with the new information.

    The behind the firewall appliance is a very large factor, and a key reason why customers choose Socialtext.

    How is SocialCalc doing now? I’m always curious about trying different tools that may increase productivity.

    We have customers using it in fantastic ways. Next week we’ll be releasing a few enhancements to SocialCalc.

    Just to tell you, I do believe you will find there’s problem with your RSS feed, it’s not at all showing right in my Feed reader. It just began a few days ago, did you modify something on the website?

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    Weblog on gaining business results from social software.

    On this blog, Socialtext staffers and customers explore how companies can gain the most business value from their use of enterprise social software, including microblogging, social networking, filtered activity streams, widget-based dashboards, blogs and wikis.


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