Socialtext Brings Enterprise-Level Software to the Masses

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icon_free50_128x128In an interesting business move, Socialtext (previously covered on WebWorkerDaily) today opened up its enterprise organizational collaboration software to smaller organizations with its new Free 50 offering for groups of up to 50 people. Previously, Socialtext did not have a freemium model (just a free trial), and instead offered its internal social networking, messaging and collaboration tools at a per-user price that put it out of the budgets of many smaller companies and groups. Now, with Free 50, virtual teams of web workers can sign up for a free version of the hosted SaaS.

What’s Included in Free 50

So what do we get for free? Most of the core features of Socialtext are offered as part of Free 50, including:

  • the Facebook-like private social network.
  • the customized home page dashboard.
  • a collaborative workspace that blends wiki and blog functionality.
  • Signals, the Twitter-like messaging system.
  • Desktop, an Adobe Air (s adbe) 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.)

What’s Not Included

Free 50 doesn’t include tech support or multiple workspaces. If you need help with the software, however, you aren’t entirely on your own as you can visit Socialtext exchange for crowd-sourced technical help.

The lack of multiple workspaces means that if you have anything that needs a more private, collaborative space away from other members of your team, or want to have separate workspaces for different projects, you’ll have to upgrade.

Back when I first spoke with Ross Mayfield, co-founder of Socialtext (read that blog post here), I was excited about what his hosted software solution offered to globally distributed workers. I wasn’t thrilled, however, with the pricing structure because it was too expensive for my own startup, leaving me to pine away for the product from afar while cobbling together my own makeshift solution.

SocialtextDesktop353ActivityFollowedMy biggest challenge to adopting Socialtext is convincing a team of people already overwhelmed with social media tools for their personal lives, professional lives and for their work on client projects to adopt yet another technology. I think the selling point for Socialtext to my team will be the desktop app, which should create non-obtrusive yet pervasive access to the team’s conversation.

The other challenge is to find the right balance of use for the Socialtext workspace and features. Mayfield suggests making Socialtext an integral part of the process, not a side tool for communicating or as a knowledge base simply to archive communications and resources. For example, we could make Socialtext the key communications tool for our company calls and meetings to include the agenda, notes, changes and followup notations. By turning Socialtext into part of the overall process, instead of an afterthought, I’m hoping we can strengthen our virtual team with this rich suite of communications and collaboration tools.

Have you been using Socialtext and if so, how has it been working for your organization? If not, what are you using to provide more connectivity and internal communications for broadly distributed teams?

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