MicroBlogging Within the Enterprise: The Missing Communications Tool

I have touted the benefits of using MicroBlogging tools like Twitter in the past as a good method of replacing listservs and as a way of creating a virtual water cooler to bounce ideas off of others. MicroBlogging - basically, a method of small electronic message communication - has many ways of streamlining communications in ways that e-mail cannot. I recently learned that one of Twitter's former competitors, Jaiku, is not being killed by Google, but rather, it is being set free as open source software. The details are not complete, but I'm going ahead and assuming that when they say open source, they mean that I will be able to load the MicroBlogging software on my own network and create a MicroBlogging service within my own network. Enjoying all of the benefits of small messaging services, with the security of having it behind the firewall. Jason, over at No Option for Law Firm has a great overview of what it means to have this type of service available in a secure environment.  (Note: there is an existing option for MicroBlogging within your organization by using Yammer.  However, Yammer is an external application and may make some IT directors hesitant to try it without having control over the backend of the program.)
Many of us work in environments where we have individuals that are highly intelligent, creative, and inquisitive.  Bouncing ideas off of these people would not only help you better handle the tasks that are set before you, it may also clue them into different ways of looking at problems, and help them handle task better.  Unfortunately, the people within your organization that you could benefit the most from having these "water cooler" discussions with, may be in different offices, or even in different countries.  E-mail just doesn't give you the ability to toss out an idea to a community, and see if someone picks it up and tosses a suggestion back.  Imagine what would happen the first time you sent out one of those infamous "ALL EMPLOYEE" e-mails.   The other possibility is to try to revive "instant messaging" within the enterprise, but I think that is something that gives every technology leader within an organization a twitching eye.
Having an MicroBlogging resource within the enterprise allows you to start building these relationships without overburdening the email system.  It also allows you to throw things out there like links to a good article you just read, or to a competitors website with a comment of "can't we do something like this here?"  Some of the messages will never be answered, but some will.  And, answered by someone that you may not have ever had the chance to work with before.  Breaking down barriers within the organization, and allowing the ability to really play off the wealth of knowledge that is contained within the organization.
Of course, there will be drawbacks to MicroBlogging - there's always someone that decides that it is the perfect place to talk about the concert they went to last night, or how there are cookies in the break room.  But, to be honest, even these things are not all that bad.  IBM has had these Web 2.0 resource internally for over a year now, and they are encouraging any type of communications, even personal activity discussion.  The thought there is that people will better know other workers and feel that there is a true community within the organization.  
We all hear that communications is essential to a well-run workforce.  But, most organizations haven't really evolved past the e-mail phase of electronic communications.  MicroBlogging within the enterprise can be the next step toward enabling employees to communicate without overloading either the email system, or each other.  I look forward to testing out Jaiku when it is released as open source.

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Steve said...

Have you seen this eBook by Pistacio Consulting yet?


mister.thorne said...

Doesn't Instant Messenger have it all?

Martin said...

You do not have to wait for jaiku. There are other Open Source tools available like ESME and laconi.ca. However, if you look for a professional internal microblogging service try Communote (communote.com). It is ready out-of-the-box and can be used as Softwas as a Service or on your own servers behind your firewall. It features tagging, filtering, attachments, rights management, security, LDAP integration...

Christoph Schmaltz said...

I am all with you Greg! We are currently witnessing the broad adoption of Twitter outside the enterprise. It's useful for building relationships, bouncing of ideas, eliciting quick feedback, breaking news. There is a similar need for such a tool inside the enterprise and therefore will be adopted sooner or later.

Yes, you could talk about the weather and lunch using microblogging, but people do that already anyway using email, IM, phone, watercooler. We are social beings and therefore need to communicate with others beyond work related matters.


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