Socialtext New Tool: Like a Private Twitter for Enterprises

Today Socialtext, a Palo Alto-based social software company, released Socialtext Signals as an appliance product that will let companies have an internal, Twitter-like activity stream inside their companies, allowing employees to update each other on the status of projects, documents and other work-related actions.

While Socialtext offered such a tool in the past, this will be the first time it’s offered as a stand-alone product, something Socialtext’s president, Ross Mayfield, says was in response to high-demand for microblogging in the enterprise. In the past, Socialtext has focused on wikis for the enterprise, before expanding into other areas, such as microblogging and social networking profiles.

“We’ve been getting a lot of demand for Signals on its own,” he says. “So for the first time, we’re unbundling our product line.”

Socialtext has recently seen the arrival of some new competitors, including Yammer, a company that has built Twitter-like feeds for the enterprise as well.

Socialtext is offering the product to enterprises as an appliance. In the most basic terms, an appliance is a box (like a server) that IT plugs into its existing infrastructure. But with an appliance, unlike installed, on-premise software, the software vendor does most of the maintenance, including updates.

While the product is separate than Socialtext’s flagship wiki, it will also include Socialtext People, which lets companies build their intranet using social networking profiles that employees maintain. The appliance integrates with existing enterprise databases, so the profiles can be automatically populated with critical personnel data (name, title, etc.), Mayfield says.

Because the product utilizes RESTful APIs (representational state transfer application programming interfaces), which essentially means it plays nicely with all kinds of software, the actions people take in other applications become automatically broadcasted as a short message (microblog post).

More on integration could spell privacy fearsSo if you integrated it with your document management system, for example, employees would get messages that say, “Chris just edited his newest article.”

Ideally, industry followers believe this scenario will cut down on excessive e-mail as people gain an “ambient awareness” of their colleagues’ actions, rather than having to message them for individual updates.

Many companies have begun experimenting with microblogging in the enterprise to this end. Back in May, not long after Socialtext launched Signals, Davies, a public affairs firm, rolled it out internally to help its employees communicate more efficiently.

“We’ve been using it as a way to vastly increase efficiency while cutting down on e-mail,” Lisa Bertero Palmer, senior vice president of Davies, told at the time. “People will share pieces of knowledge or key actions they’ve taken throughout the day.”

C.G. Lynch covers consumer and social applications, and tracks their migration into the enterprise. You can follow him on Twitter: @cglynch.

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