• All Posts
  • Application Development
  • Customer Success
  • Enterprise 2.0
  • News & Events
  • Product Updates
  • Tips & Tricks
  • Posts tagged ‘activity streams’

    Why Social Trumps Email: Reply to Alan Lepofsky

    I just had a fascinating Twitter exchange with my colleague and good friend Alan Lepofsky.

    I had tweeted: “Reason #71 why I hate email: I start my day playing catch-up.”

    Alan replied: “And does the same thing not happen in social software? At least in email its all in one place.”

    And I thought to myself: No, Alan, It’s really no the same thing.

    I can see where Alan is coming from. He has argued eloquently that shifting correspondence from email to activity streams doesn’t really accomplish anything. Of course on some level Alan’s right: Messages are messages, whether they come through email or an activity stream.

    But there’s a huge, fundamental, monumental difference between email and activity streams: Posts to an activity stream are usually public inside the enterprise. (Or at least posted to a group.)

    The transparent nature of the activity stream changes everything. When I reply to a post in an activity stream (a “Signal” in Socialtext-ese), I’m not only writing for the person to whose Signal I’m replying. I’m writing for everyone who has access to that conversation thread.

    That’s a totally different mindset. When I go through my emails, it’s a series of updates–usually reactive–to individuals: Don’t do this, that is approved, can’t make this meeting, missed you at that conference. When i go through Signals, it’s an opportunity to model, to muse, to question, to inspire in a uniquely public and transparent way: This is how we should think about this, help me understand that, I’m making this a personal priority, let’s celebrate the awesome job she did on that.

    So maybe it’s just my Meyers-Briggs type but no, I don’t feel like I’m playing catch-up on Signals. There’s work waiting for me there, to be sure, but it’s work that adds to my energy, rather than taking it away.

    Is it time to rewrite the email handbook?

    Email has become quite the hot-button topic of late with companies proclaiming an end to their internal emails and a move to social platforms and why not?  Let’s be frank, email kind of sucks – we are bombarded by an average of 112 emails every day with 19% of that considered spam despite filters. It’s also a time drain, hard to keep track of, and often clogged. French IT company Atos Origin is on its way to banning email altogether. According to CEO, Thierry Breton, who has not sent an email in over three years, “We are producing data on a massive scale that is fast polluting our working environments and also encroaching into our personal lives.

    While email is not likely to make its exit from the professional landscape anytime soon – there is a better way to wean your company away from this costly distraction.

    Enterprise social networks (ESNs) are on the rise as they can deliver an immediate solution for aligning stakeholders around activity streams with the familiarity of Twitter or Facebook.”

    —Brian Solis, Altimeter Group

    Although email is still very useful in some situations, an activity stream is simply better for most as it simplifies the communication process and creates transparency that can then open up new ideas. It is also a solution that delivers a social on-line experience that is familiar, easy to use (we love that!) and engaging to employees. Email messaging will start to dwindle and eventually become a thing of the past.

    An activity stream like Socialtext Signals can bring you out of the email doldrums and into an invigorating work experience. Think of a Signal as an email in the flow of work. With Signals, you share information in real time. Signals are similar to “status updates” with additional benefits where you can share information with everyone in the company, a group or directly to an individual. Instead of sifting through emails for information, if you or a co-worker need to retrieve that information, you can easily find it through a keyword search. Being copied and bcc’d is also a drag and cumbersome. But if that message were sent via Signals, you could tell instantly relevance to you and whether you need to react, without the pile up in your inbox. Doesn’t that feel better already?

    The power of Signals is that it also opens up an organization to endless possibilities.  For instance, when employees learn about products that are in the works in other departments, they now have the opportunity to add to the project or give feedback. If this information were sent via an email to a select few, someone with direct knowledge or expertise may never have the opportunity to contribute. With Signals, messaging is spread out laterally and not just from the top down. When new team members are brought in, everyone can say “hi” with a message or warm greeting. That action translates into a welcoming reward that enhances a company’s culture. These and other benefits of using a tool like Signals simplifies getting work done rather than detracting from it. With Signals you can watch your inbox decline and focus on what really matters.

    Here’s a new approach.  Let’s rewrite the email handbook and develop best practices for communications optimization and reducing the clutter in our dreaded inboxes. Here’s a start to outlining the 10 biggest complaints we hear about email and the benefits to using an activity stream such as Signals:

    Email vs Signals
    Unnecessary CCing, BCCing   Transparency, Only Read What You Need, More Time
    Time Consuming Message Sifting   Easy Search, Tagging, Filters
    Overuse Of Reply-To-All   Transparency and tagging ensures visibility across teams and relevant participation
    Information Locked Away In A Silos   Visibility across teams, Distributed Knowledge,
    Information Retrieval Issues   Easy Search, Tagging, Filters
    Limited Collaborative Process   Open Collaborative Process
    Content Duplication   No More Reinventing the Wheel
    Document Versioning Issues   Facility to online workspaces where versions are easily compared
    Lack Of Institutional Knowledge Sharing With The Right People   Easy Access To Information, Ability To Share Openly And Selectively
    Creative Ideas That Will Never See The Light Of Day   Creative Ideas That Are Shared

    Missing anything? Let us know what we left out and how activity streams and Signals are making your workplace flow in an effective and impactful way and of course re-writing the email handbook.

    Why It’s Not Just Filter Failure: Managing Tasks in the Unstructured, Social World

    One of the main benefits to social technology — and the Web in general — rests in its lack of structure. Or at least in our ability to surrender structure as a concept we held dear for ages.

    The Google founders were the first to figure this out in a meaningful way. They realized that packaging data into tidy, digital folders was an unrealistic endeavor. On the Web, too much information was already being created every second. We’d drive ourselves mad trying to keep up. Just let all that data be, they said. Google will go back and find the most relevant information for you whenever you need it.  Other features in the Web 2.0 era, mainly tagging, assisted in making things findable in this unstructured world.

    Then came Facebook, Twitter, and the general emergence of Activity Streams. These firehoses deliver a wealthy stream of unstructured data and information generated by both people and machines. Some of it might be annotated and tagged, but it’s still lightweight in its organization.

    Many ask, isn’t that too much data and information for people to process?

    Every consultant or social media expert, for their part, will cite Clay Shirky’s “it’s not information overload, it’s filter failure” theory to answer that issue for you. The problem is, when it comes to using these tools inside companies to get work done, it’s not filter failure that worries me; it’s an execution and prioritization failure within those filters.

    Filters have improved and are getting better (in fact, it’s an area where enterprise social networking is ahead of  consumer social networks). In many enterprise social platforms, you can filter by group or virtually any object type, which helps put relevant information at people’s fingertips.

    But while filtered enterprise social networking tools give people greater awareness for colleagues, projects and initiatives inside their company, it’s harder to keep track of which things need doing first. If we collaborate around enough work issues in a social environment, something needs to be done to ensure the individual — and the groups he or she interacts with — knows where they stand on a certain set of tasks, projects and issues within this collaborative context. And this  needs be done without imposing too much structure since business processes change so quickly.

    Right now, I think the enterprise social networking world has just scratched the surface of how to deal with this challenge.

    At Socialtext, our developers are probably ahead of the curve. They use a Kanban process that tracks key state changes in their development efforts via tagging. When they build a new feature, it’s chronicled on a wiki page as a “story.” With each crucial step along the way, they use different tags to mark that state change. Those changes are broadcasted in our activity stream, as well as on a visual representation built on a page (think: “assigned,” “in progress” and “completed” types of steps). We have actually made this into a widget for our customers to use to map to their business processes. In this case, our engineers used the lightweight tools within a social software platform (mainly tags, wikis and activity streams) to monitor these key changes without resorting to an overly structured system that would hamper innovation.

    One area that will also help is bidirectional task executions within the stream. Whether it’s approving a task in another external system, the ability to stay in the context of the stream helps end users immeasurably in getting their work done.

    I’m posting this with the obvious caveat that I’m not a social design expert. But what the Socialtext devs have done with Kanban might represent a larger trend with social software and enterprise social networking moving forward, and it’s something I’m listening to closely right now in my visits with companies utilizing these tools internally.

    Four Reasons Why We’re Betting on the Open Web in the Enterprise

    Last week, I blogged about why “Social Software needs to be a Layer, not a Feature, in the Enterprise.” Now, from an architectural perspective, I’ll riff on what we’ve done to make this a reality. Back in June, we launched Socialtext Connect, a new offering that enables companies to surface critical events from enterprise applications and inject them as streams into our social software platform, where employees across an organization collaborate and take action.

    On a high level, we made a strategic bet with Socialtext Connect that an embrace of Open Web standards and REST APIs will make it easier for companies to integrate their traditional systems with social applications.

    Here are four reasons we have made bets on the open web in the enterprise.

    1. REST APIs — We’re developing to where the puck will be, not where it’s been. We’re helping channel the wave of open web standards inside the enterprise firewall. A large number of enterprise IT departments have been rethinking their approach to their enterprise architecture, using REST instead of SOAP – for faster and more agile development cycles, better scalability, and cleaner separation between client/device and server/service. We’ve focused on REST as our API strategy from the very beginning, and we’re doubling down on that bet with Socialtext Connect.
    2. Bringing architectural patterns, not just Twitter and Facebook, from Web 2.0 to Enterprise 2.0 — We continue to monitor emerging patterns in the consumer Web 2.0 space for relevant value within the enterprise firewall. The most recent of these are Twitter Annotations, Webhooks, and activitystrea.ms – all of which we’re incorporating into Socialtext Connect. Our co-founder, Adina Levin, has also blogged about the power and usefulness of these standards in the enterprise.
    3. To escape application silos, the Social Layer needs to be usable by non-users of applications — Ease of use remains key – application streams and App Bots are designed to facilitate productive, context-based conversation around reports, events, and exceptions in the underlying application, by injecting these into what was previously only a channel for conversation between people. AppBots aren’t just persona that “tweet” – they are interactive agents that can respond to queries and drilldowns by users – all of which contributes rich context to the overall conversation about a specific event or exception. This video can highlight what I mean.
    4. We’re trying to straddle and connect the applications and social worlds without binding you to either — With regards to integration and architecture, we take a different approach that our competitors in the Enterprise 2.0 world. Some believe that social technology should be an add-on feature to their departmental application, and therefore produce a programming model that’s an extension of their application model. Others think social software should be a heavyweight Java container, where you pour your development resources, time and money. Our objective is to enable you to liberate information, events, and transactions from application silos and the user community silos that are captive to them – by liberating your development resources from a monolithic, stack-bound development model.

    By embracing open web standards and making social a layer in the enterprise architecture, we’re already seeing how this can play out with our customers. As we shared recently, Hayes Knight, an accounting consultancy in Australia, used Socialtext Connect to integrate their CRM system with Socialtext Signals to make it easier and faster for the company’s accountants to collaborate and answer important customer questions.

    “The speed with which we’re answering questions has been cut in half, and is a full 7−8 minutes faster on average,” says CTO Jack Pedzikiewicz, a very active member of our SocialDev community, which shares best practices on Socialtext Connect. “The wonderful thing is, as we capture these great answers inside of Socialtext workspaces, we also cut back on repetition where questions cover the same issue and build best of breed responses and knowledge on key issues of importance. It allows us to serve our customers faster and more consistently.”

    We believe Hayes Knight’s success is just the beginning, and look forward to sharing more customer stories in the coming months.

    Accounting Consultancy Hayes Knight Utilizes Socialtext Connect To Serve Customers Faster

    With the recent launch of Socialtext Connect, Socialtext customers have begun surfacing events from other critical business applications (CRM, ERP, etc.) inside of Socialtext Signals and Activity Streams. This gives employees the ability to see relevant work their colleagues do in other systems, engage in conversations around those events, and take action on them.

    One great example is Hayes Knight, an Australian accounting and consulting firm. Hayes Knight uses Socialtext to share knowledge and provide its clients with the best and most up to date information about tax and accounting issues. Hayes Knight utilized Socialtext Connect to trigger a microblogging message when critical actions occur inside of Salesforce.com.

    Hayes Knight’s knowledge management company, Knowledge Shop, provides a web-based member service subscribed to by 500 accounting firms and the thousands of accountants who work for them. It serves as a place for members to ask questions about accounting issues and get access to all kinds of tax and accounting information that experts at Knowledge Shop deal with everyday. The questions range from general accounting questions, to more complex tax advice issues.

    The customer service representatives for Knowledge Shop use Salesforce.com to manage membership information, seminar registrations, and to assign and track questions for Knowledge Shop advisers. When a rep enters a question into Salesforce.com from a Knowledge Shop member, the service rep can push that question into Socialtext Signals with the click of a button. Even though the question is addressed to a specific tax adviser, Hayes Knight finds value in letting others see the questions being asked.

    Then the Knowledge Shop adviser documents answers in Socialtext Workspaces, for current and future use. Once they’re completed, using a customized button inside Socialtext, they can send the proper answer back to Salesforce.com for processing.

    Hayes Knight CTO Jack Pedzikiewicz used Socialtext Connect to perform the integration. The ReST API within Socialtext Connect allows Socialtext customers to take events from a variety of other enterprise systems and surface them inside of Signals. Jack says he wants the advisers working in Socialtext because the software has deep collaboration features that allow them to create, share and capture knowledge −− something they wouldn’t get if they worked in Salesforce.com.

    “Signals allows us to respond faster,” Jack told me recently in a video chat. “The speed with which we’re answering questions has been cut in half, and is a full 7−8 minutes faster on average. The wonderful thing is, as we capture these great answers inside of Socialtext workspaces, we also cut back on repetition where questions cover the same issue and build best of breed responses and knowledge on key issues of importance. It allows us to serve our customers faster and more consistently.”

    We’re always looking for more great uses of Socialtext Connect to share. Please feel free to send me yours. Customers or business partners interested in joining our Socialtext Developer community, where practitioners can learn how to get the most from Socialtext Connect and share best practices, please contact us at socialdev@socialtext.com.

    Social Software Needs to Be a Layer, Not a Feature, In the Enterprise

    If you spend any time reading about enterprise software these days, headlines and phrases like this have become pretty common:

    •    ”Social software is an entirely new way to work!”
    •    ”We can break free of the tyranny of email.”
    •    ”Web 2.0 is so much easier to use than those clunky old enterprise applications – and Enterprise 2.0 means we don’t have to use them any more.”

    Passionate evangelism often stimulates new movements. Enterprise 2.0 has been no exception. Our company played a big part in creating the enthusiasm you see in the corporate world for social technologies, and that’s a point of pride for us. But although the enterprise social software space has enjoyed incredible growth and the pace of innovation continues at an amazing clip, it’s also important to take a long, more pragmatic view to the future, one that considers the realities of the customers we serve and the investments they’ve made in past years.

    Of course it’s true that the Web 2.0 movement created a new way to think about software, stimulating all of us to ask “why do I get a better software experience from Netflix and Amazon.com than from my own IT organization?” The explosive growth of blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have given hundreds of millions of people a great willingness to share, which many Enterprise 2.0 vendors (Socialtext included) are capitalizing on. And yes, for much of the early phases of this industry, a lot has been accomplished with almost no regard for those very applications that have frustrated employees for so many years.

    But it’s important to keep in mind that the real problems that enterprise social software helps organizations overcome are information and knowledge silos – that huge benefits are reaped by unlocking and releasing information and knowledge across teams, groups, departments, functional organizations, business units, and even company boundaries. We’ve made it simple (yet secure) for employees to cross those boundaries by riding the cross-organizational communications wave that social software enables, with compelling results. This is one of the most important ways that enterprise social software is more than just “yet another attempt to improve collaboration.” Yes, it’s great for team and workgroup productivity, but the greatest benefit accrues when it is explicitly and proactively spread across the gaps between organizational (and the attending information and communications) silos.

    For those of us who believe in the transformative power of social software, we must now think about how to make social productivity more substantial, by weaving the ability for enterprise social software to release information and knowledge that was previously trapped in organizational and communications silos together with the transactional and workflow capabilities that 80% of IT budgets are spent maintaining – traditional enterprise systems of record (CRM, ERP, HRM, etc.) We should work with and integrate, not ignore, these enterprise applications in an holistic way.

    As we undergo the challenge of rectifying the new with the old, I worry there’s some trends underway in our space that would undermine that effort. A common question that I’m asked by analysts and journalists should elucidate what I’m getting at: “Well, why don’t the big boys just add social features to their existing enterprise applications? Isn’t it a simple matter of programming to add Twitter-like functionality to an existing enterprise application, giving customers the best of both worlds?”

    Indeed, traditional enterprise application vendors such as Salesforce.com with Chatter and SAP with 12Sprints have caught the “social is sexy” fever. They have bolted social features onto their existing application, trumpeting how this social skin will make their software easier and more fun to use, stickier, and more engaging.

    While we have applauded their embrace of social technologies, and the validation and enthusiasm (Salesforce.com in particular) brings to the Enterprise 2.0 world, the long term consequence of an enterprise making this their social software strategy will cause us to miss the opportunity of true enterprise wide collaboration that can have a transformative effect on core business processes. That’s because if social tools are just a feature add-on to an enterprise system dedicated to a specific business function, it doesn’t look pretty when we fast-forward that movie. The end result will be a plethora of social silos or islands — groups of employees sharing and communicating in their app-specific community, walled off from the rest of the enterprise.

    But wait – weren’t information and knowledge silos the very thing social software should help us remove at our companies?

    Don’t get me wrong. I think Chatter is really cool… for those few companies who have every employee on Salesforce.com. But for most companies, the real value of social software rests in surfacing information and events from all their company’s various systems, and pulling that into a central stream where all of their employees, not just those housed in the sales and support departments, can collaborate, take action, and drive new business opportunities.

    We believe we can avoid the fate of information silos by building a “Social Layer” in the enterprise architecture. The social layer will span all employees across all organizational boundaries, and connect them to key enterprise applications beneath it in the architectural stack. We recently introduced Socialtext Connect, which is the beginning of our approach to enabling this Social Layer.

    In my next post, I’ll be drilling into some of the architectural approaches to connecting enterprise social software to existing enterprise applications – across application silos – in order to make The Social Layer a reality.

    Socialtext Connect: Bringing Open Web Standards Behind the Enterprise Firewall

    I’ve been busy preparing for our Webinar tomorrow that provides a deeper dive into the workings of Socialtext Connect, a new offering that can surface critical events from applications and systems across an organization through Socialtext’s social software platform. Connect provides an easy to use interface to build lightweight applications and integrations with social features behind the firewall — something we believe greatly increases the overall business value of our products and existing systems of record.

    In my mind, what makes Socialtext Connect especially unique is its embrace of open web standards and architectures behind the corporate firewall. These standards and frameworks have improved the experience we have as consumers on the public Web (with products like Facebook, Twitter, and Google Buzz), yet their potential in the enterprise is vast. We believe by harnessing many of the tools that have been proven on the open web we give our customers the benefits of greater agility to move data in and out of our platform (their platform), so that people can connect with the information they need faster so they can do their jobs better.

    As we bring the open web behind the enterprise firewall, I wanted to provide some context for how and why we got here.

    When I first joined Socialtext three years ago, I was very impressed by our team’s devotion to building our enterprise social software based on the principles of the Open Web. With a robust REST API, Socialtext provided a simple, approachable and powerful approach to integrating enterprise applications of all kinds. Not only could I use the API for administration, I could also create and modify content with it.

    Since then, I have used the API to integrate a variety of different applications into Socialtext. These include an alternate interface for high-powered workspace editing, mailing lists integration, and subversion change notices. In addition, I’ve built a powerful system to automate testing of our product.

    The great thing about a nice API is that it allows a customer to say, “Thank you for building this product, but I’m actually going to try using it in a new way that you didn’t think of.”

    So when our team builds new features or products, we stay as close as we can to the principles of the Open Web to make it easy for that to happen. We first build an API around a core data model, and then we build our user interfaces on that. Layer architectures and easy APIs allow our customers to use our product in new ways we didn’t envision. The beauty of this is that learning what someone has done is becoming easy for people with some basic knowledge of Web development, or even those who can just hack a little bit of HTML, rather than difficult enterprise development language.

    As I write this post, I’m sitting around the kitchen table with my fresh out of college brother-in-law. Though he’s not a “programmer,” yet he is showing me how he whipped up some HTML5 open web technology to grab screenshots from some video playing in-browser. It reminds just how much HTML and Javascript are becoming so pervasive and easy to use. Those darned young people today not only expect all their friends to be on Facebook, they expect to be able to hit “view source” in their browser and copy and paste code to create new hacks.

    That’s pretty amazing, when you stop and think about it.

    As we have built the various aspects of Socialtext Connect over the past years and months, we thought hard about how customers can make their existing business applications social. This has really come together nicely with a few open web technologies, which we rolled into Socialtext Connect. There are three really core technologies that form the basis for my excitement around Socialtext Connect.

    1. The first is Socialtext’s REST API, something close to my heart (and hand). But as @progrium points out, a REST API is only half of the necessary technology to create, as he calls it, “the evented web.”
    2. An equally important technology for a real-time, programmable, evented web is WebHooks. Webhooks allow other systems to receive notification on certain events. As it relates to the Socialtext platform, this means that it’s possible to have a completely external system receive updates for, say, every time a Signal (microblogging message) is sent to a specific group. With Connect, Webhooks has been expanded to a first class position in our API family, beside our REST API. That way, we can sent notifications for all interactions to the social objects we manage. The impacts of this on integrating line of business applications are huge!
    3. Finally, there are Twitter Annotations (which, in the enterprise, we call Signals Annotations). When Twitter first announced their new annotations feature, we immediately saw the power and possibility of this feature for the enterprise. Previously, we found it challenging to embed these types of payloads into our social framework. But when we saw Annotations, things just clicked. We’ve since used them as a core technology in some of our new features, such as image thumbnails for attachments to a signal. But using annotations to the end will pale in comparison to the integration possibilities this opens up to our customers.

    These three technologies – REST, Webhooks and Annotations – reflect the spirit of the open web in the enterprise. And they all build on each other. Furthermore, they are the basis for supporting other protocols, such as Activitystrea.ms, PubSubHubbub and others.

    During my career, I have often been in the role of toolsmith for my peers in that organization. One of the things I have found most rewarding is to watch them repurpose and use those tools for entirely new purposes I hadn’t thought of when I built them. I think this is what gets me so excited about Socialtext Connect; People can make awesome tools that can help their company in amazing ways.

    Hope to see you all at Socialtext Connect Webinar this Wednesday. Click here to sign up!

    Making The Case for Enterprise Activity Streams (And Why It’s Not Just “Another Tool”)

    Whenever people ask me about my job, I tell them what you’d probably expect: I work for a company that takes technologies with social dynamics that you enjoy on the consumer Web, like Facebook and Twitter, and adapt them to the way we work inside companies. And lately, I’ve called upon activity streams to help communicate the value, focusing on Facebook’s News Feed as the best possible analogy.

    Instead of interacting with the pictures you took during the weekend, I explain, you share what document you edited or a transaction you took in your sales system. This gives you and your colleagues the ability to take action on that information in real-time.

    But even if the conversation progresses to that level of granularity, and the person I’m talking to agrees that activity streams represent a better way to consume business information and connect with colleagues, I’ve been often dogged by one important question, “Well, what you’re saying might be true. But in the end, how isn’t this just another tool for me to deal with at work? As it is today, I can barely get through my e-mail, which, as you point out, stinks.”

    Overall, it’s a question that the Enterprise 2.0 industry — software companies that sell social technologies to businesses — has handled poorly. Even today, we still see blog posts that call for the end of e-mail or bombastic presentations that call upon companies to cast the “dusty” systems of record that they invested millions on into the corner.

    We need a more pragmatic approach that tackles the “why isn’t this just another tool?” question more substantively. The phrases like “this is like Facebook for your company” or the “why aren’t your tools at work like the ones you have home?” are tired, old and not good enough. They especially don’t work in communicating the value of enterprise activity streams.

    Ultimately, the real value with activity streams will be to provide a social layer on top of your current business systems. Before many companies get there, however, they need some more practical reasons why they need activity streams in the first place.

    So let’s get a few things straight:

    1. Admit Activity Streams Are Another Tool (It’s OK That It Is)

    From a purely practical standpoint, various activity streams, and social software in general, are extra tools layered on top of the current systems a worker has in place.
    This is inherently true because we’re not replacing systems of record; social software should be designed to complement them and make them more useful. Activity streams don’t replace your e-mails; it makes the e-mails you receive more relevant. As system updates flow to you and pass downstream more efficiently, and you put filters in place to catch what you want to examine later, your communications (including e-mail) can be for more focused and relevant.

    2. When Done Right, Activity Streams Quell, Not Add To, Information Overload

    The New York Times has been running an interesting series called “Your Brain on Computers.” In a recent article that detailed how much we tether ourselves to the devices and systems around us, we saw just how acute the information overload problem is at work.

    In 2008, people consumed three times as much information each day as they did in 1960. And they are constantly shifting their attention. Computer users at work change windows or check e-mail or other programs nearly 37 times an hour, new research shows.

    Activity streams take information overload by the horns and pare it down to size by putting your employees in control of the information they consume. Rather than tab toggle to various applications all day, you can select what information from those systems you wanted pulled to you. You can check on it at your convenience, and it’s not pushed to you against your will like e-mail.

    Filtering by tags, groups and transaction types from a system will create control that e-mail notifications (a popular refrain for Activity Stream skeptics) only does minimally, and badly.

    3. You don’t have to stare at activity streams all day

    Geeks stare at activity streams all day, but normal people don’t. Too often, we try to push the value of Activity Streams (and to a degree microblogging) by presuming in our argument that things would be better if people watched the stream all day. This is simply not realistic.

    Someone who isn’t on Facebook all day still gets immense value from it, and the same is true with enterprise activity streams, mainly because:

    1. Activity streams encourage relevance. Today, if you went on vacation, you can return to work and go through all the e-mails you missed, but you’ll be limited to what information you were addressed on, and a good portion of those messages will be largely irrelevant. With Activity Streams and microblogging, you can seek out keywords and tags relevant to your job, and find out what happened while you were away that really mattered (you can also look at ranked content).
    2. Activity streams aggregate information from systems. Similarly, you don’t need to go to each system of record to see what you missed while you were away. Instead, you set up filters and aggregate the specific information you want from each of these systems, as well as the information generated by colleagues that matter to you.
    3. Activity streams and microblogging are reply-optional. The reply expectation we have with e-mail doesn’t apply. Although Activity Streams are persistent in their real-time nature, you can passively examine the information that’s relevant to you as many times a day as you find valuable. This, again, speaks to the power of pull (versus push).

    4. They’re Cheaper and Easier

    Some of the biggest winners in the move to enterprise activity streams are casual (or non) users of traditional enterprise systems. Today, to get information locked in an ERP or CRM system, you must be a licensed user of that system or be on an e-mail list that pulls certain information from them (that, most likely, someone other than you decided might be relevant).

    Now, since companies have the ability to utilize open web standards to pull vital information into an enterprise activity stream, a company’s employees can get more from their systems of record, without having to be trained on one of these complicated systems.

    Ross Mayfield and Robert Scoble talk about Socialtext and Enterprise 2.0

    Ross Mayfield – Chairman, President, and Co-founder of Socialtext – talks with Robert Scoble.

    Topics include:

    • SocialCalc, the social spreadsheet. On the 30th anniversary of VisiCalc, Socialtext has released a new online spreadsheet that enables distributed teams to work together to solve business problems.
    • The speed and agility of software development in the 2.0 world vs. some of the larger enterprise software vendors
    • Moving beyond “adoption of new tools” to instead talking about the business value of enterprise 2.0, and how tools like microblogging provide value very quickly
    • The change from IT talking about “software stacks” to instead now focusing on the importance of REST APIs
    • Activity streams, and the underlying event engine architecture

    Activity Streams Drive Enterprise 2.0 Discovery and Productivity

    Quick, can you tell me what’s happening at your company right now?

    • Do you know where your colleagues are, and what they are working on?
    • Do you know what conversations are going on, or updates are being made to your content?
    • Do you know what content has been worked on the most in the last week, and who the most active contributors were?

    If you’re still communicating primarily via email, storing files in shared folders, and relying on manually created status reports and meetings to find out what is going on, then the answers are most likely no. But if you’re using Socialtext, you would know all of these things, and more.

    Activity Streams Keep You Informed

    Email is limited by design. The messages displayed in your inbox are restricted to only the conversations that you are directly involved in. That means you can’t gain insight from all the other conversations taking place in your company, nor interact with all the other people.

    Compare that to Socialtext’s activity streams, were you can view all the events taking place, and follow updates from people all across your company. You can see when edits, comments, or tags are made to Socialtext pages. You can see when people update their profiles, share links to news, or add people to their social network. Developers can also extend the list of activities to include events from your company’s other business systems, by using Socialtext’s robust programming interfaces.

    Monitor Activities On Your Dashboard

    Starting with Socialtext release 3.6, three new widgets are available on your Socialtext Dashboard, Activities, Active Content, and Active Members.

    The improved Socialtext Dashboard (click to enlarge)

    Socialtext Dashboard 3_5_9 torn.gif


    Socialtext’s Activity Streams have been designed with the following Enterprise-grade requirements in mind:

    • Multiple Content Types: The Activities widget has been designed to be the one place people go to see all the updates happening inside your company. It displays information from events taking place in Socialtext workspaces, messages from Socialtext Signals, and can be extended to show events from other 3rd party systems.
    • Security: Access controls ensure that you can only see the updates that you have access to. So even if you are following someone, if they update a page in a workspace that you don’t have access to, you will not see that in the stream.
    • Filtering: You can easily customize the stream to display a subset of information, by filtering the type of events shown (label #2 in the image below) and who they are from (label #3)

    The Activities Widget (click to enlarge)


    For example:

    • If you just want to see the Signals from the people you follow, you can do that. This helps you keep up with where your colleagues are, what they are doing, and things they are sharing such as news items or links to information. You can also post Signals (label #1), enabling you to share status updates, ask or answer questions, share links, etc. Also new to 3.6, you can now delete Signals you have sent in error. (label #4)
    • If you want to see just the updates (edits, comments, tags) being made to pages you’re working on, you can do that. This helps ensure you’re always looking at the most recent version of content. No more digging through your inbox or file system to try and find the latest presentation of spreadsheet.
    • If you want to see everything from everybody, you can do that too! There is tremendous value in discovering new people, and new content that you’ve never worked with before. If you remain restricted to your inbox, that won’t happen. But with all the events taking place inside Socialtext being broadcast to the Activity stream, you now have a way to find new pages or new colleagues that can help you in your job.

    Active Content and Active Members

    While activity streams are a great way of keeping up with what is going on now, you won’t always have the time to follow the entire stream. So what you need, is an easy way to quickly discover the most active pages and people. With the Active Content and Active People widgets, that information is available at a glance.

    activemembers.jpg The Active Members widget allows you to see who’s profiles are being viewed the most often, plus who the most active readers, editors, and Signal’ers are.

    The Active Content widget, shows you which the most viewed, edited, watched, and emailed pages are.

    You can easily configure (from the wrench icon) the source and duration for these widgets, allowing you to customize them to display the information that is most important to you.

    activecontent.jpg For example, you could:

    • Find out which pages have been viewed the most over the last year across all your Socialtext workspaces
    • Discover which pages have been edited the most in the last week in your HR workspace
    • See who’s read the most pages in your Marketing workspace this month
    • Look at who’s sent the most Signals in the last week

    We understand that when running a business, you need to know what is going on, and you need to know now. You need to know what people are working on, and make sure you’re looking at the most recent content so you can make informed decisions. So stop being burdened by the overflow of your inbox, and see how Activity Streams and Socialtext Dashboard can help you access the right information and find best people to get the job done.

    About This Blog

    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.


    Find us on Facebook


    Recent Posts

    Recent Tweets