A Rich Toolbox

By Stan Gibson  |  Posted 2009-04-13 Print this article Print


While some vendors' social networks have been inspired by Facebook, WorkLight created software called WorkBook that requires Facebook. "We built an application that is an overlay on top of Facebook-it allows you to pull in your Facebook friends and collaborate with them behind the firewall," said David Lavenda, vice president at WorkLight. WorkLight adds security by using a business's existing user authentication scheme to authenticate WorkBook participants.

Just as IBM and Microsoft have added social networking tools to their collaboration software suites, wiki vendors such as Socialtext and Jive have gotten into the act by offering social networking tools with their core wiki products.

Similarly, Yammer, a tool that works much like Twitter but is intended for business use, includes a social networking component that gives employees personal pages

Return on investment is a slippery concept when it comes to social networking tools because it's hard to come up with a reliable yardstick to measure the cost of the tool versus cost savings due to time saved as well as new opportunities created.

However, any social networking tool is only as good as the number of people using it, the quality of the information they post on their sites and the frequency with which they use the tool. While some companies mandate that all employees have a personal Web page, not all businesses are comfortable taking a stance that might be seen as coercive.

Despite questions, enterprises-especially those with highly skilled employees working in far-flung locations-are coming to the realization that new tools are needed to build a corporate culture in which knowledge is quickly located and shared. And a virtual water cooler is just the thing to bring that about.


Stan Gibson is Executive Editor of eWEEK. In addition to taking part in Ziff Davis eSeminars and taking charge of special editorial projects, his columns and editorials appear regularly in both the print and online editions of eWEEK. He is chairman of eWEEK's Editorial Board, which received the 1999 Jesse H. Neal Award of the American Business Press. In ten years at eWEEK, Gibson has served eWEEK (formerly PC Week) as Executive Editor/eBiz Strategies, Deputy News Editor, Networking Editor, Assignment Editor and Department Editor. His Webcast program, 'Take Down,' appeared on Zcast.tv. He has appeared on many radio and television programs including TechTV, CNBC, PBS, WBZ-Boston, WEVD New York and New England Cable News. Gibson has appeared as keynoter at many conferences, including CAMP Expo, Society for Information Management, and the Technology Managers Forum. A 19-year veteran covering information technology, he was previously News Editor at Communications Week and was Software Editor and Systems Editor at Computerworld.

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