Social Bookmarking Apps Provide
a New Knowledge Management Platform"> IBM Lotus, BEA Systems and a string of startups are aiming for corporate "power to the people" in the form of Web 2.0 software. But can any system managed by the masses be truly effective in the enterprise? Pundits for new, enterprise-oriented social bookmarking and tagging systems claim they can provide what knowledge management systems havent: easy and secure storage, retrieval, and sharing of valuable documentation within an organization and around the Internet.In fact, the process isnt all that different from a traditional bookmarking service. As users visit pages, they fill out a form for their bookmark by entering the URL, a brief description (the tag), status of the page (private or not) and other information. The data from the form is stored in a central database. Users can then retrieve their bookmarks or those of others, assuming privacy and security restrictions allow it. But for organizations, and particularly hierarchical ones, the wisdom of the crowdsor "folksonomies"suggests a knowledge management system gone mad. For years, IT departments have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars carefully cultivating infrastructure and taxonomies to classify documents across the enterprise. While these taxonomies might have been static at times, at least they provided consistency. Given enough active users, folksonomies can be self-correcting. But organizational hierarchies and complex, first-generation Enterprise 2.0 software make it hard to attain sufficient involvement within the enterprise. The immaturity of many Enterprise 2.0 products doesnt help, either. Basic security and privacy requirements may not be met, and user interaction needs to be better conceived. Costs can also mount quickly. Nevertheless, IT cannot ignore the emerging area of enterprise social bookmarking. Unlike the much-touted but failed groupware of the 1990s, enterprise bookmarking systems leverage two well-tested usability factors: Users want to recall valuable documents, and tagging is a growing means of doing so. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 28 percent of Internet users tag documents, including 7 percent daily. These figures will only climb as Generation Y moves into the workplace. A recent survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a provider of business intelligence, showed that 85 percent of CXOs see Web 2.0 as a means of increasing revenue and profit margins. "Were all looking at these technologies as a way of increasing collaboration within our organizations," said Norm Jacknis, CIO for Westchester County, N.Y. Enterprise bookmarking and tagging systems reflect this team spirit. Tools of the trade
The full range of social software tools includes blogs, which let employees express themselves; user profiles, which provide users with their own internal Web pages, including personal information as well as automatically generated links to content theyve created and their bookmarks; social networking capabilities, which connect colleagues online (think LinkedIn); groups and communities, which bring together co-workers with common interests; collaboration features, which include a variety of commonly used software components such as to-do lists and calendaring; and user-driven mashups, which combine the results of different enterprise applications.
For this special report, eWEEK assessed the four enterprise social bookmarking solutions currently available.
Click here to try the enterprise social bookmarking apps.
IBM Lotus and BEA provide enterprise bookmarking as packaged software. Lotus Connections is a software suite that provides all the capabilities mentioned above except user mashups. Dogear is Connections bookmarking component. BEA Pathways provides the bookmarking function for the companys AquaLogic SOA (service-oriented architecture) suite, which offers social networking as well as mashups. Pathways also boasts a unique ranking algorithm.
Connectbeam, a 16-person startup thats just raised $3.5 million in its Series A round, offers the only appliance in the social bookmarking arena: Connectbeam Application. The product is well-integrated with leading enterprise search engines, includes social networking capabilities and requires no back-end software.
Cogenz, an even smaller startup based in the United Kingdom, is the only service provider of the four. Cogenzs service is distinguished by its low price and Delicious migration capabilities, and the company expects to package its services as software in the fall.
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By enabling users to "tag" documents and then track them across user bases, enterprise bookmarking systems can promote or demote a document based on its popularity. Think Delicious (http://del.icio.us) inside your firewall.