Here is another cross post from the FASTForward blog on a very useful tool. It is designed for the consumer web but I think there are many business applications. Recently, I spoke with John Payne, CEO of CircleUp, a social communications service that sports teams and other organizations are using to manage group communications across email, instant messaging and (soon) Facebook and other networks. When John described how CircleUp can be used to coordinate events and reduce email, I immediately thought of how wikis can address the same issue. John said there are several differences between CircleUp and wikis that helps define its unique aspects. First, a wiki is optimized for publishing whereas CircleUp is optimized for messaging.
Rather than serving as a destination site like a wiki, CircleUP is an application that runs horizontally across the messaging networks to improve group communication. It is a standalone service that can also be embedded in team or group sites, run through integration with Microsoft Outlook or soon from embedded robots in instant messaging networks. It works like this. When you want to send a message to a group (such as who can attend a meeting, who can provide rides, etc.) CircleUp aggregates the responses so you get one message back that summarizes the responses. This summary can be a tally, a chart, a spreadsheet or other format. It can also scale as John provided an example of a spreadsheet returned from one CircleUp message by a tournament director with 1500 tee shirts ordered by 90 youth soccer teams in 6 sizes.
With CirclelUp the message recipients do not need to have an application installed, be part of a group (like Yahoo groups), nor do they need to download an application. They also do not need to go to a site like a wiki. I spoke about it with a friend who is the chair of an academic department. She said that most of her faculty would not go to a wiki to coordinate events so this direct out reach through established channels appealed to her. You can also use multiple channels (e.g., email and IM) with the same message depending on each recipient’s favorite channel. You can add image sand tags to the messages.
The question creation process involves some structure to facilitate the aggregation of results. CircleUp also provides suggestion wording and suggestions for the response options. It has been developed as a consumer application but like many other web 2.0 applications, there has been interest in business applications. You can create a community like a project team or a department, send out regular questions, and get aggregated responses.
In September they plan to integrate with Facebook so it can be another communication channel. Facebook is another web tool that is getting increasing business use so this only enhances CircleUp’s business opportunities. I have no connection with CircleUp but writing about it as I saw great potential within Enterprise 2.0. Others seem to have the same idea as John reports that business interest is growing even though this has not been their target market. It is a simple tactical tool focused on one task but that is its strength. I hope they move to provide an open API as it could be a great tool for mashups. enterprise 2.0 web 2.0 enterprise social media