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Summary:

Corporate social networking company Socialtext adds to its product lineup today. Building on the theories of collaboration and networking that Socialtext founder Ross Mayfield and I discussed previously, the new additions are intended to improve collaboration and teamwork by binding the “loose ties” in an organization […]

Corporate social networking company Socialtext adds to its product lineup today. Building on the theories of collaboration and networking that Socialtext founder Ross Mayfield and I discussed previously, the new additions are intended to improve collaboration and teamwork by binding the “loose ties” in an organization more closely into the network. The two new apps, which are likely to be particularly interesting for web workers in distributed teams, are: Signals, a microblogging and messaging platform; and Desktop, an Adobe Air desktop client.

Both of these new products are tightly integrated into the Socialtext suite and not something you can use apart from the other tools: Workspace, essentially wiki and blog capabilities; People, for social networking within organizations; and Dashboard, where you can customize what Socialtext activity you see.

New app Signals is a Twitter-like messaging system for work-related status updates, which are added to your Socialtext profile. Saying what you are working on, and sharing that with others, can help bring more context to the conversations and relationships you have with distributed team members. Much like Twitter, you decide which coworkers you would like to follow. As well as reporting their status updates, Signals also monitors other “signals” from the coworkers you are following, such as updates they make to a wiki or a blog, helping you keep tabs on what they are doing. Signals resides on your Socialtext Dashboard as a widget.

Mayfield points out three main uses for Signals:

  1. Sharing links and information with others
  2. Quick Q&As with team members
  3. Sharing context to bring help more cohesion to the team.

socialtextdesktopsignalsmycolleaguesDesktop enables you to stay up-to-date with what your coworkers are doing while you aren’t in the Socialtext web environment, keeping you abreast of the activities that you want to track. You can parse the feeds in several ways:

  1. “All” shows all activity and status updates, company-wide
  2. “Mine” Shows just your status updates and activity
  3. “My Colleagues” shows status updates and activity from the people that you are following
  4. “My Conversations” enables you to track your conversations

Mayfield describes the confluence of applications in Socialtext as “discovering people through conversations” (facilitated by My Conversations, where you can see who is posting to what you’ve posted) and “discovering content through people”(facilitated by My Colleagues where you can find information through other people’s posts).

The new features are similar to those from other private Twitter-like microblogging services, like Yammer and Present.ly, but the tight integration with the rest of the Socialtext suite means that keeping tabs on your co-workers is effortless, and you don’t have to rely on their status updates to see what they’re doing.

Socialtext offers a 14-day free trail, then prices its service at $15 per user per month. Sadly, this is out of my company’s budget at this time. We have12 people on our virtual team who could really benefit from Socialtext, but we can’t justify $180/month. Even Socialtext’s “Small Business Package” of up to 20 employees for $99/month is outside of our budget.

Still, internal social networking with integrated tools like this can be really useful in building a tighter team, especially when many of the team members don’t know anything about each other, so Socialtext is on my “web app wish list.”

How are you building consistency and cohesion with far-flung web workers on your team?

  1. “Sadly, this is out of my company’s budget at this time. We have 12 people on our virtual team who could really benefit from Socialtext, but we can’t justify $180/month.”

    I don’t understand. If you have 12 people, they probably cost you thousands of dollars per month. Each. If they could really benefit from it as you say, isn’t about $4/week per employee utterly negligible?

    If the benefit of SocialText is REAL (i.e. it saves time, reduces errors, makes projects go faster, etc) it seems like a no-brainer. If it’d just make people feel connected, maybe not.

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  2. Tony – When one has numerous fixed business costs and set budgets, there is an enormous difference between $28/month and $180/month. You pull it apart as $4/week but the reality is that it is over $150 extra per month. When every dollar must be justified AND covered while still trying to maintain profitability, every extra bit can be a big leap for a small startup.

    Also, my recent move to rural Alaska increased my basic Internet access costs from $69 to $250+/month. I’m not a math qhiz, but I do know when I need to hold off on expenses to maintain a positive cashflow.

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  3. [...] Desktop, an Adobe Air desktop application that provides monitoring and access to Socialtext without having to constantly visit the Socialtext web site. ( I wrote about Signals and Desktop previously.) [...]

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