Socialtext collaboration platform gains microblogging

By , IDG News Service |  On-demand Software, collaboration, microblogging

Socialtext has built microblogging functionality into its hosted enterprise collaboration system in recognition of the growing popularity among professionals of Twitter, the service that has made microblogging a phenomenon.

The microblogging feature within Socialtext's eponymous collaboration product is called Signals and, like Twitter, lets end users broadcast to their "followers" short text posts, like updates on what they're working on or problems they need help solving.

Co-workers who subscribe to someone's Signals feed will read the posts at their own convenience, respond if they have any useful tips or information or simply take note of the message if they find it relevant.

Like blogging, wikis, RSS feeds and social networking, microblogging is the latest Web 2.0 technology that has found its way to workplaces after becoming popular among consumers.

These services have become important elements of enterprise collaboration platforms, expanding the options that employees have for communicating and cooperating, beyond the traditional tools like e-mail, shared files and instant messaging.

Unlike services such as Twitter, which are designed for broad, Internet-wide communications, Signals was built to function within the Socialtext environment, limiting the broadcasting of posts within an organization's boundaries.

MicroStrategy subsidiary Angel.com, which makes Web-hosted call-center applications, has been beta testing Signals, and finds the service to be a very good complement to the Socialtext platform, which it has been using since 2005.

Twitter-like services are appropriate for employees whose jobs require them to communicate company information externally, like public relations staffers and product evangelists, said Angel.com CTO Sam Aparicio.

However, those involved in tasks like product development who manage sensitive and confidential information, are better served by Signals, which lets them microblog in a secure, controlled environment, he said. "With Signals, you can 'tweet' without giving out a secret to the Twitter public," Aparicio said.

Microblogging promotes spontaneous communication that requires little effort, complementing more formal tools like blogs, shared documents, wikis and e-mail, he said. By offering employees a microblogging tool, internal communication and collaboration is increased, to the benefit of the entire company, Aparicio said.

"Each communication and collaboration tool demands a different degree of effort and attention. Writing a Signals entry is a small gesture, so by itself it generates a small amount of value. But put together with everyone else's gestures, you get a collective view of what's going on, which is important for companies that want to execute better," Aparicio said.

In addition to launching Signals, Socialtext is also unveiling the public beta of a rich Internet application called Socialtext Desktop for its collaboration platform

Built using Adobe's AIR technology, Socialtext Desktop offers end users an interface that functions similar to a traditional desktop application, complementing Socialtext's hosted software-as-a-service architecture.

Both Signals and Desktop will be available as of Tuesday at Socialtext's Web site. Existing customers of Socialtext's collaboration platform get Signals at no additional cost. Socialtext offers a 14-day free trial for its collaboration platform, whose price starts at US$15 per user per month.

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