Socialtext have released Socialtext Signals, as well as Socialtext Desktop which I took a look at today. The easiest way to explain Signals is “Twitter for the Enterprise” but Socialtext have added a few features that give it extra value in an enterprise context.
The basic principle behind Signals is simple. You update it with a status about what you are working on using messages of under 140 characters. From my Socialtext dashboard below, you can see Signals in the top left. You can also see that peoples’ Signals also appear in the “My Colleagues” stream in the top middle widget as well.
You can see two examples of using Signals here. First, I can see that Lars has just met with John from Acme corporation. I may know John, or I may have another contact at Acme. Lars’s update allows me to realise that Lars and I may share contacts, and it would be worth catching up with him to see if we can share knowledge about our contacts. A formal CRM system might not capture this fact.
You can also see Livio asking a question about finding some content for a proposal. This is a powerful use case of Twitter that applies also to Signals. Instead of searching around a shared drive, or re-inventing the wheel, I can quickly ask if any standard proposal material exists, and find the person who knows about the content, as well as the content itself. Linking me with the original author of the content gives me access to context as well as content, which increases my ability to re-use existing material.
You can also see I have the option of displaying updates from people I am following, or everyone within my organisation. This can be a useful filter, depending on the task I am trying to achieve.
So far, so like Twitter. There are two additional elements that stand Socialtext’s implementation apart. The first is when I am editing a wiki page. As my mouse hovers over the save button I am prompted to add a summary which will appear as a signal, as shown below
Having the prompt appear as the user hovers rather than clicks is an excellent UI development. It reminds the user as they save a document that they can Signal, and makes it as easy as possible for them to do so. It also remains unobtrusive, if someone just wants to save they can do so, without an annoying popup reminding them about signaling all the time. If people were had to click before the dialog appeared, it would have been cumbersome and counter-productive.
The final feature Socialtext have implemented is Socialtext Desktop. This is an Adobe Air client that runs on your machine, showing you Signals and other updates from Socialtext without you having to log in, receive email updates or monitor a news feed. It lowers the barrier to using social software is a similar way Twhirl or Tweetdeck has done for Twitter. As with those Twitter clients, you can update as well as receive updates from your colleagues. As well as Signals it can also show who has commented on and edited documents that you are watching.
Whilst other social software platforms have status features, none have put them in the context of a user’s existing workflow in the same way as Socialtext. By prompting people to Signal as they save documents, and allow them to receive and send Signals immediately without having to log in to a website should drive up adoption significantly, as Twitter clients have done for Twitter.