Cloud content management application Box.net is today unveiling an updated UI that aims to encourage the adoption of a social news stream for enterprise users.
Ever since Marc Benioff announced Chatter at the DreamForce conference late last year, the concept of bringing a Facebook-like social newsfeed to enterprise has gained attention. While Salesforce.com wasn’t the first company to embrace the newsfeed (Yammer, for example, has a microblogging offering for enterprise that long predates Chatter), Chatter was the first product from a mainstream vendor that took the newsfeed concept and applied it to more than people. In Chatter’s case, any piece of data that resides within a force.com application can become a Chatter item.
Chatter brought this concept to the attention of mainstream enterprise users, and it wasn’t long before analysts began to see that social feeds would be very prevalent in 2010. As Forrester analyst Rob Koplowitz said;
While integrating social tools into other systems is still nascent, social technologies will increasingly become services to adjacent technologies. Concepts like social-enabled content management and social-enabled business intelligence will take shape in 2010 as vendors begin to integrate social technologies with other technologies in their portfolio.
Seeing this trend, Box.net is introducing a newsfeed that aims to encourage engagement directly within the feed: when users are opening, editing or sharing a document within the Box.net content archive. In execution, the Box.net newsfeed looks like you would expect: It’s appearance (see screen capture below) borrows heavily from Chatter, which in turn borrows from Facebook’s wall.
However, the rapid adoption of newsfeeds does raise some interesting questions. With more and more enterprise applications moving to the cloud and leveraging their connectedness to present information in a real-time dashboard, keeping a watchful eye over that dashboard is a necessity. I put this issue to Box.net CEO Aaron Levie asking how users can create a single place for social streams to aggregate. While I’m sure he’d hope that all Box.net users would spend a significant portion of their day within his application, the reality is that users each have unique workflows. How can a product-centric newsfeed reflect that?
His response reflected the issues enterprise staffers face with regard to social streams:
Given the diversity of critical business applications that people live out of today, I don’t think the enterprise is moving towards a single feed that rules them all… Our mission at Box is not to compete with other social streams, but rather to provide a content-centric feed of what’s going on within our customers’ organizations
This brings us back to the need for some clarity around aggregation of cloud data. As more and more cloud-based applications provide social news streams, the issues around filtering the noise will become more pressing.
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