One of the issues with many of the popular enterprise social networking apps we’ve written about previously is the loss of control. Commercially-sensitive or valuable company information being stored on someone else’s servers tends to make corporate IT nervous. The apps aren’t behind the company firewall, so you’re relying on someone else to keep that data secure. Additionally, the provider of the tool could potentially decide to change it or withdraw service with little or no warning.
How about a self-hosted, open-source solution instead? Lockheed Martin’s Eureka Streams may be worth a look.
If you’d like to give it a try, there’s an online demo available here; you can sign in as a few different users. It’s a polished product, with a fairly intuitive interface. Similar to other enterprise social networking tools (which all borrow heavily from consumer apps like Facebook and Twitter), most of the action centers around the familiar concept of activity streams. Users post updates and share links on their streams, and you can “follow” the streams of users you’re interested in and comment on their updates. (You can find those users by searching their profiles for relevant interests or job responsibilities.) Following updates from everyone in a large company would be bewildering, so Eureka Streams also enables users to create and join groups.
In addition to the activity streams and profiles, Eureka Streams can also act as somewhat of an intranet dashboard. The home page can be configured to show a variety of different information via apps, and widgets that can be added and repositioned on the page as required. Apps can include activity streams of individuals and groups, bookmarks and RSS feeds, and you can set up multiple “Start Pages” on different tabs.
Eureka Streams is missing one major piece of functionality: You can’t share files, which means it’s much more limited as a collaboration tool than many of its commercial competitors. It’s a surprising omission, as many work-based discussions are based on documents, although I suppose you could just post links to documents hosted elsewhere.
While it doesn’t have all the polish and features of a tool like Yammer or Socialtext, the additional control and security may prove attractive to some organizations. And an open-source tool like this has other advantages, too. If you need to tweak some of the functionality or customize the tool — integrating that missing file sharing functionality, possibly via a third-party app, for example — it can be done. And having full access to the data produced by the use of the app could be useful for organizational analysis.
Eureka Streams can be downloaded from Github. There are instructions on building and running the app here, and there’s a Google Group for discussing the product and getting support.