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  • Posts tagged ‘Socialtext Signals’

    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.

    New videos on editing pages, images and more!

    We’ve been busy over here at Socialtext, adding new features and enhancing our latest version of Socialtext 5.0.  Here’s some training videos we’ve put together that highlight some of those new features and enhancements.

    Socialtext Page Editor

    Our easy to use page editor enables you to create pages just like you would in any document editing program.  You can easily change fonts, background color, add bullets, numbered lists, tables of any size, insert images or videos…. The list goes on and on – take a look here.

    Working With Images – Basics

    This video will walk you through the basics of adding images to your pages, how to size images and how to align them as well as few extra tidbits we’ve thrown in.

    Working With Images – Advanced

    Here, you’ll learn how to apply some advanced functions to your images such as word wrapping, adding image borders, linking to a website and more.

    Working with Tables

    Working with tables has never been easier, this handy tutorial will show you how to add tables into your pages and specify the exact look you want for them, including alignment within the page, or defining the size of columns and rows. Our handy one click icons enable you to quickly add rows and columns, move rows and columns or just cells.   You can also customize cells with color backgrounds and also enable sorting on different columns or rows.  We’ve also added a bonus tip so be sure to watch the video to find that tip.

    Turning Enterprise Microblogging Inside Out

    “What if instead of focusing on the time or person, we instead focused on the assets being shared?”

    Over the last year or so, Enterprise Microblogging tools (like Socialtext Signals) have become of one the main ways colleagues share information with each other. People ask questions, post status updates, share links to web pages and upload files they want their peers to see. The information shared via microblogging is displayed in what we call “streams.” These streams display information chronologically, meaning as new posts or comments are made they are added to the top of the stream, pushing older information down. The posts flow by like a river, and while you can scroll back to see things you’ve missed, typically people just pay attention to the information being discussed right now.

    As we spoke with our customers about Signals, we quickly learned that the information being shared had tremendous business value. Marketing teams were sharing information about competitors. Sales were sharing presentations about customers. Engineering was sharing links to support issues. So we asked ourselves, “What if instead of focusing on the time or person, we instead focused on the assets being shared?”

    Our answer, Socialtext Explore, the next stage of microblogging. Explore takes the stream and turns it inside out. Instead of showing who shared what and when, it provides you a way to focus on what was shared. You can choose to look at links, attachments, or both. Explore not only displays the link or file being shared, you can also expand to see the entire conversation that took place around the asset, providing you all the context of the discussion and the participants.

    Socialtext Explore - Sorted By Recency (click to enlarge)

    Filters along the left hand side of Socialtext Explore make it simple for you to narrow down the scope of the information being displayed. You can filter by time, by tag, by group or by person. Here are just a few of the countless ways Explore could help you:

    • Find the most popular links shared by members of the Marketing team during the last month
    • Which wiki pages did your manager ask you to review last week
    • Which customer presentation has the Sales team linked to the most this year
    • Find all the signals tagged about a specific competitor or customer

    Socialtext Explore - Sorted By # of Mentions (click to enlarge)

    I believe Socialtext Explore will dramatically improve the way people accesses the information being shared via microblogging.   No longer will you have to worry about missing something important in the stream.  Just take a quick look at Socialtext Explore, click a few filters and you’ll discover all the things being shared.  I’m wicked excited about Explore, and how Socialtext once again is leading the industry in Enterprise 2.0 innovation. I’d love to get your feedback, so please leave your comments below.

    Avatar Theme Days Are A Fun Way To Increase Microblogging Adoption

    video game avatars

    Yesterday one of our developers changed his profile picture to Blinky, the red ghost from Pac-Man. This sparked a series of updates from other people (I’m DigDug) and a fun conversation ensued. While this may not be “business-related” it did result in good team camaraderie, which is especially nice in a distributed team.

    Similar events happen on the open-web, where people change their photos for a specific cause, to celebrate a holiday or to support their favourite sports team. I remember when everyone became a Japanese manga character, Simpson-ized themselves (site is down), or created vintage yearbook photos.

    The point being, these are all social actions. They get people involved, talking and sharing. Microblogging is a great medium for participation and as more people inside your organization become comfortable with the tools, you will start to achieve greater business value.

    So what theme-days do you want to have?

    Socialtext Signals Gets File-sharing, Tagging, and More

    You can now use Socialtext Signals to share files and links to web sites and Socialtext workspace pages. You can also use tags to group similar conversations together and make them easier to find via search.

    Here you can see the new Insert action buttons:

    Insert objects into a signal

    Sharing Files: Using the new Attach File action, you can now add richer content to a conversation including pictures, presentations or documents. If an attached file is an image, a small thumbnail version of it will be shown which can be clicked on to display the full size.   All other attachments can be downloaded or opened in their native application.

    Sharing Links: These two new buttons make it easy for you to include a link to either a web page or Socialtext Workspace page.

    Adding Tags: Tags are a useful way to group similar topics together. For example, you may wish to tag all Signals about deals your company wins as “Customer Win.” Tags can be added either via the Insert – Tag action or if you’re familiar with the Twitter “hashtag” convention you can begin a tag using “#” followed by one word. You can click on a tag that appears with any Signal to open a list of all Signals containing that tag. You can also search by tag, using the convention “tag: tagname” where “tagname” is the tag you are searching for.

    Sharing A Web Page As You Surf

    If you’re reading a web site that you want to share with your colleages, you can now simply click on “Signal This!” to share a link to the page.   This will create a new signal for you,  which you can either send as is, or update the text, choose which group you want to share it with and even add tags to.


    To Install the Signal This! tool:

    • Click on Signals in the universal navigation bar at the top of any Socialtext page.
    • Scroll to the bottom of the Signals stream, click on the link in the sentence “Tip: Use the Signal This! bookmarklet to share any page on the web via Signals.”
    • Follow the instructions on the Signals Bookmarklet page to drag and drop Signal This! to your bookmark bar.

    These new features make it easier than ever to share information and engage with your business colleagues using Socialtext Signals.    We have customers using Signals for: questions and answers, sharing competitive intelligence, making company announcements, taking virtual rollcall and meeting minutes, brainstorming ideas, and more.   What are you using Signals for?

    Be Part Of The Conversation With Socialtext Signals

    Socialtext Signals makes it easy for you to share information and participate in conversations with your colleagues. Below are three of the new Socialtext 4.1 enhancements that you’ll want to start using right away.

    Conversation Threading

    Signals now groups all responses below the original topic, making it easy for you to follow the entire discussion.

    Link To A Signal

    Since a great deal of valuable corporate knowledge is now being shared inside Signals, it is important that you be able to reference past conversations. To facilitate this, each Signal now has a permanent address that displays the message on a web page in context with the discussion it was part of.

    Monitor Important Information

    Finally, there is a new way you can follow the stream of information in Signals. You can already use a web browser, the Socialtext Desktop client, and your mobile device, and now you have an additional method called “popout streams.” A popout stream allows you to open a separate browser window (or multiple), so you can continue using your main browser window for doing other work. Popout streams allow you to filter the information to display the messages that are most important to you.

    We know that some of the greatest ideas and insights come from open conversations with your peers. With the latest version of Socialtext you can now easily share information, participate in discussions, and keep up to date with the latest activities all across your organization. We hope that you find Socialtext Signals to be an invaluable business tool. As always, we love to hear stories about how Socialtext is helping your company succeed.

    Architecture Matters – Privacy in the Social Platform

    This week I had an engaging conversation with Mike Gotta of Burton Group, whose enterprise and architecture chops are as strong as anyone I know. Concerning enterprise social software, Mike says he’s seeing an increase in the breadth and depth of questions from his clients about security, privacy, control, and regulatory compliance. As I talked about Socialtext at a platform and architectural level, he encouraged me to talk about it more openly, so here goes.

    Enterprise 2.0 requires much deeper thinking than merely copying Web 2.0 patterns, throwing in a little SSL and email integration, and charging money for it. In order for enterprise social software to enjoy long term success, vendors must recognize the importance of security, privacy, identity, IT policies and procedures, and architectural fit, etc. The entire team at Socialtext has deep enterprise pedigrees, and that experience has been key to the robust architectural and design choices we’ve made over the years.

    In our early days, we learned a great deal about the dynamic tension between privacy and collaboration from pioneering the use of wikis in the enterprise. On one hand, we learned that too much privacy is an anti-pattern for collaboration and social software adoption. For example, if different pages in the same workspace have different privacy settings, people can get very confused about who can see or edit which content. On the other hand, we also learned that granular privacy can dramatically encourage collaboration because it helps people feel comfortable about the context of the group and the people with whom they are sharing. People naturally understand what’s appropriate to be shared in the “virtual watercooler” or “social intranet,” while the “Leadership Huddle Workspace” gives executives the confidence to discuss confidential or sensitive topics without worrying about leaks.

    As we embarked on building out our complete Enterprise social software suite, we wanted to build a sophisticated privacy model into the architecture. It’s important for privacy rules and patterns of user experience to be as consistent as possible. This is key not only for enforcement, but also for adoption. I’m pretty proud of how well this has held up since we introduced Socialtext 3.0 back in September 2008, and especially since we rolled out our enterprise microblogging capability, Socialtext Signals.

    To illustrate our privacy strength, take a look at how we implemented “Edit Summary,” which lets you summarize your edits to a wiki page. Some examples of edit summaries you might write: “Added links to Mike Gotta’s blog post” or “reorganized the lead paragraph.” Alongside edit summaries, we added a nice little feature called “Signal this edit”. If you choose to “signal this edit,” Socialtext sends the text of your edit summary out as a Signal (a short microblogging message) to your colleagues.– That signal will also contain a link back to the page you just edited. And it’s here where privacy safeguards are so important. What if the page you were editing was in a confidential workspace called “Acquisition Planning,” and the page was titled “Functions to be combined and reduced”? Could someone accidentally Signal this edit to the whole company?

    The answer is no, and that’s because of the Socialtext platform’s underlying privacy architecture. The Signal you send, regardless of how broadly you send it (accidentally even), will only be visible to those people who have view privileges to that confidential workspace. From a technical perspective, this privacy is enforced on the server side. It is not an exercise left to the developer writing client-side code, a key to enforcing privacy rules in a consistent manner.

    Privacy is a design pattern in the Socialtext platform. It applies to visibility (who can see a Signal, a group, a page) and participation (public vs. private vs. semi-private groups). This is on top of the fact that security is a core capability of our platform – whether it’s our shared hosted service, or our SaaS appliance that customers install inside their own firewalls. We’ve been thinking about and working on this for a long time – Adina Levin has written a few blog posts on the importance of privacy in enterprise social software, which I encourage you to read: Data Sharing, Context, and Privacy, What’s Different about Enterprise Twitter?, and Enterprise OpenSocial – A Year of Progress

    But we never waver in our attention to these issues. We’re constantly listening to our customers and industry experts to see how we can make it better. It excites us that our customers do mission critical work inside our product, and our team constantly makes improvements in our agile development cycle to keep up with their complex privacy and security requirements.

    Socialtext 4.0.1 Improvements All Around

    You’ll be happy to know Socialtext 4.0.1 contains several updates that will immediately improve the way you work.

    The video below provides an overview of some of the enhancements, including:

    • Sending longer microblogging messages in Socialtext Signals
    • Installing the Desktop application for rich-client access to Socialtext
    • Filtering a Group’s activity stream so you can focus on specific types of events
    • Improving the look of certain wiki page elements

    Communicate Openly With Your Colleagues

    Trying to collaborate with co-workers via e-mail can be frustrating. That is why many people are using our microblogging application, Socialtext Signals, when they need to get answers, share links, and give quick status updates. Based on your feedback, we’ve now increased the Signal length to 400 characters, so you can send longer messages.

    Experience Socialtext Desktop

    The Socialtext Desktop application is a great way to access Socialtext Signals, the activity stream, profiles, even all your Socialtext workspaces pages. We want to make sure you get a chance to experience Desktop yourself, so we’ve placed a new link at the top right of Socialtext where you can click to install it.

    Easily Keep Up With Group Activity

    Socialtext Groups make it easy for you to work with your colleagues on projects or areas of interest. Each Group has its own home page, with an activity stream that displays what the group is up to. New in 4.0.1, you can now filter the stream to display just specific types of events, such as signals, page edits, comments, etc.

    Using Enterprise Microblogging for Sharing Links

    As children, our parents teach us to be kind and share with others. “Share your toys. Share your snacks. Share your games.” So shouldn’t we be expected to behave the same way when we grow up and join the business world?

    Unfortunately in competitive corporate environments, people sometimes horde information to try and gain any advantage they can over their colleagues. Thankfully, a cultural shift is occurring, where people understand that sharing and openness are vital to company-wide success, and that helping others is actually one of the key ways to getting ahead.

    This is the third part of a series explaining the benefits of microblogging in the enterprise. In part one, we took a look at how sharing status updates can lead to tighter knit teams and reduce duplication of work. In part two, we examined how affective microblogging can be for questions and answers, enabling everyone to benefit and contribute to knowledge sharing. Today, I’d like to highlight how enterprise microblogging can be used effectively to share links to information, from public websites as well as internal resources.

    When you read a blog post or news item online that you find informative, do you share it with others?? If so, how and with whom? If the only corporate tool at your disposal for sharing is email, do you really want to bother your colleagues by putting yet another message in their inbox? Will they even read it? What if there are other people that should know about the information? That’s where enterprise microblogging solutions, such as Socialtext Signals, come in, providing a better way to share information.

    Sharing links via microblogging, instead of e-mail, has several benefits

    1. Audience – Everyone in the company benefits from the information, not just a few people on an email recipient list. For example, you may think that article about a competitor will be interesting to the Marketing team, but the Engineering team could benefit from reading it as well.
    2. Discoverable – Via search, everyone can find links that have been shared, since they are not locked away inside someone’s mail file.
    3. Conversations – Often, when a link is shared, it sparks a discussion, leading to thoughts and ideas that let you improve products and services, or better satisfy customers.

    Each of these characteristics have lead to link sharing becoming one of the most popular uses of Twitter. According to a recent New York Times article, “(on Twitter) One-fifth of posts and 57 percent of repeat messages contain a link, proving that this is an increasingly popular way to spread news” – Dan Zarrella, Social Media Scientist.

    So what advantages does sharing links via internal microblogging provide versus using Twitter?

    1. 1) Privacy – Employees want to share information with each other easily, but not disclose it publicly. For example, if employees research a company for a possible acquisition and want to share lots of links about it, that must be kept confidential. The same goes for sharing information about your competitors. Also, people share intranet links with sensitive information and descriptions which must be kept internal, such as “Everyone please take a look at this list of questions from the Acme account.”
    2. 2) Expertise – Sharing links is not just about the content, it’s also about the people. Enterprise microblogging integrates with the corporate profiles of the authors, providing a great way to discover which people have expertise and interests in certain areas.
    3. 3) Integration – Rather than using multiple tools, content creation, link sharing, search, and profiles (mentioned above) should be integrated. Socialtext Signals features the unique ability to post a microblogging message automatically when a workspace page is updated. The resulting Signal (microblogging message) provides a link back to the page, and shows who made the update. Click on the person’s name or photo to see their profile. Go to the search bar in Socialtext, and find pages, people, and signals all from the same location.

    But what about social bookmarking?

    Sharing links is not a completely new idea. “Social bookmarking” sites, such as Digg and Delicious, have been around for a while. Some enterprise software vendors even offer dedicated internal social bookmarking tools. However, sharing bookmarks in their own unique location results in employees having to look in more places to find information. Instead, by sharing links via microblogging, employees now have a single experience for creating and discovering status updates, questions and answers, and shared links.

    So the next time you’re reading something that you think could benefit others, signal a link, and let everyone know.

    Here is a video of sharing links via Socialtext Signals.

    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.


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