I recently wrote about Socialcast’s new broadcasting capability with Marcia Conner of Pistachio Consulting (see Socialcast Adds Broadcasting Capability to Enterprise Microsharing). A few days ago I spoke with Tim Young, their CEO, about a broader set of issues, the role of dedicated micro-messaging tools in the enterprise.
After Twitter showed wild success on the Web, a number of firms, including Socialcast, produced micro-messaging tools for the enterprise. This was a good move, like the enterprise social bookmarking and social networking tools that followed del.icio.us and Facebook, especially since tools for the broader Web are not designed to meet enterprise business needs. Now a second wave has occurred as many enterprise collaboration suites are integrating micro-messaging into their platforms (see Rise of Micro-messaging in Enterprise Collaboration Platforms). They have made micro-messaging a feature rather than a product.
So I asked Tim about the role of micro-messaging products after this new wave. He responded by discussing a new direction they are taking which make a lot of sense. Socialcast would like to become the unified activity stream across the enterprise. The problem with activity streams within a collaboration suite or other applications is that this can then create silos. You can end up wit multiple disconnected activity streams.
Tim said that studies have shown that the average worker can handle three to four tools. However, now the average workers uses around ten tools. They do not need to go into several of these to see what is going on within each. The vision for Socialcast is to facilitate an aggregated activity stream that goes across the enterprise, eliminating the need for to look within different applications. This can be dome through XML, APIs, and to a less efficiently through RSS. Their vision enables micro-messaging to change from an application to a platform.
They are already to do this in their firm as they can poll activity within their third party wiki and have it feed their Socialcast instance. They have deployed this capability to a number of large organizations. Several of these have more than 50 applications feeding into their Socialcast stream. Here is sample screen from their desktop application.
Socialcast has just announced a further step in the direction by providing more support for their vision. They now offer an API that allows developers that use Socialcast to build native clients on top of it. In addition to supporting extensions of Socialcast by other developers, this bi-directional API makes it easy to integrate with other enterprise applications for two-way communication. For example, an HR group can send out a Socialcast alert about a new benefit package and allow employees to click on the alert to enroll.
The Socialcast API is a REST API for interacting with messages and comments. It supports BASIC AUTH authentication and is secure using SSL connections. The launch of the API comes at the request of several clients that want to build applications that fit into their workflow. Now that is another good idea. Socialcast has created a developer API community on Get Satisfaction for developers who would like assistance or to provide commentary. Here is sample screen for their recent freemium launch.
There is more and this is where the possibilities get really interesting. One advantage of a unified activity stream is that executives and employees can start to see the activity patterns across the organization. However, if there is a lot of activity this can be overwhelming. Socialcast is working on developing intelligent filters to help make sense of this activity. Now we are talking about a way to look into the work activity and see what is going on. This is enabling one of the real promises of enterprise 2.0 and all the social interaction data it creates. I look forward to seeing where this goes. I think Tim has provided an excellent response to my initial question and firmly established a place for micro-messaging as an application, rather than simply a feature, by turning it into a platform.