Tag Archives: real-time

Yammer Bangs On oneDrum

This entry was cross-posted from Meanders: The Dow Brook Blog.

Yammer logoYammer announced on Wednesday that it has acquired oneDrum, a UK-based provider of file sharing and collaborative editing tools for Microsoft Office users. Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed. oneDrum’s technology and people will be integrated into Yammer.

In a briefing on the acquisition, Yammer CTO and Co-Founder, Adam Pisoni, stated that the deal was done to quickly accelerate movement toward Yammer’s primary strategic objective – to be the social layer, spanning key enterprise applications, in which its customers (and their extended business networks) get work done.

Yammer’s action is consistent with its strategy to release usable, but not ideal, functionality and then improve upon it as quickly as possible. Yammer introduced the homegrown Files component into its suite late last year. With oneDrum’s technology, Yammer will be able to improve its Files component by enabling syncing of files to desktop folders and mobile devices, as well as automatic sharing of new and updated files with other members of Yammer groups. As usual, Yammer seeks to occupy the middle ground, offering file sharing functionality that has some of the necessary enterprise-grade security and manageability that consumer Web services lack, while retaining as much ease-of-use as possible. Yammer’s ability to balance complexity and usability is what differentiates it from the majority of the other enterprise social software offerings in the market.

The current file creation and editing capabilities available in the Pages component of Yammer will be nicely complemented by the introduction of oneDrum’s ability to co-create and co-edit Office files (Excel and PowerPoint now, Word in development) with others. Many may interpret the addition of this capability, together with the added file sync and sharing functionality, as an indirect attack on Microsoft SharePoint by Yammer. Pisoni clearly stated that Yammer will continue to offer customers integrations with SharePoint, as well as with Box, Dropbox and other content repositories. He did, however, acknowledge that while Yammer is not intentionally targeting SharePoint, many of its customers see their Yammer networks negating existing SharePoint use cases.

Yammer’s real target appears to be email, which offers a single place where people may communicate, share content and get work done. Pisoni spoke about the symbiotic relationship between content and conversation in social networks, as well as the blurring line between content and communication. The former is clearly demonstrated by the frequency in which enterprise (and consumer) social interactions are anchored around a specific piece of content, whether that be a traditional document, blog post, wiki entry, status update, audio snippet, photo or video. The latter is evidenced by the growing enterprise use of blog posts, wiki entries and, especially, status updates to share content (and explicit knowledge) in small chunks, rather than waiting to gather it in a document that is distributed by email.

Pisoni’s assertion that the distinction between content and communication is blurring is interesting, but less persuasive. Much of the asynchronous communication within organizations is still only secondary to the content that is contained in attached (or linked) files. Corporate email use as a transmission mechanism for documents is a clear, common example. Yammer’s vision for decreasing email volume appears to involve using oneDrum’s support for real-time chat between individuals working together in an Office document (Excel and PowerPoint only at present) as a means to blend content and communication to help people get work done faster. It will be interesting to see if Yammer network members adopt this envisioned way of working as an alternative to entrenched communication and content sharing norms.

oneDrum was not well known in the U.S., as it was a very small vendor with a beta status offering. However, it appears that Yammer has made a good acquisition that will help the company, and its customers, address the changing nature of business organizations and work. The devil, of course, is in the details, so we will have to watch and see how well Yammer assimilates its first acquired company.

Microstreaming in the Middle

monkeymiddleI noted, in a post titled Shifting Sands, last week that I am twittering far more than IMing these days and gave the key reason why – it’s about us, not you or me.  I still think that’s the most important reason, but I have also discovered another:

Twittering is neither synchronous nor asynchronous; it lies somewhere in between.

“Whoa!”, you say.  “That’s impossible.”  You are correct from a technical standpoint, of course.  Twittering (and microstreaming in general) is an asynchronous form of communication.  There are delays between tweet publication, reading, and response.  Those delays could take days or hours, but they are most often measured in minutes or even seconds.  It is this broad range of possible interaction time with tweets that leads me to say that microstreaming lies somewhere in the middle of real-time and asynchronous communication.

Let me explain this further by contrasting two other forms of online communication — instant messaging and e-mail.  As the name clearly states, IM is instant or synchronous.  There are slight delays between message and response, but those are generally measured in seconds.  If it is believed that there will be a significant delay in response, most of us would choose to send an e-mail instead.  On the other hand, we may quickly receive a response to an e-mail (i.e. in a minute or two), but we don’t have that expectation when we use the medium to communicate.  We clearly classify e-mail as an asynchronous communication vehicle and IM as a synchronous one.

Microstreaming seems to have a different, flexible set of expectations for communication time associated with it.  In some cases, we hope for a nearly immediate response to a tweet.  Other times, we really don’t care how long it takes to get a reply.  In fact, we occasionally tweet with no expectation of any response whatsoever!  We merely communicate a thought or feeling to the collective just to get it out of our head.  These varying expectations for microstreaming communication time are what leads me to say that the channel is neither synchronous nor asynchronous, but somewhere in between.

Is temporal flexibility the secret sauce of microstreaming?  Please let me know what you think.

Shifting Sands

sand-dunesI’ve noticed a pronounced shift in my synchronous online communication activity lately.  In this post, I’ll share details and then ask whether or not you are experiencing a similar shift and why.

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I began using Twitter and IBM’s internal equivalent, BlueTwit, about three months ago.  I know — way late to the game, but better late than never!  Since then, I have found that tweeting has replaced IMing as my preferred method of communicating virtually in real-time.  That’s true both behind and beyond the IBM firewall.

There are probably several reasons for this shift, but in retrospect I believe they can be summed up in one statement:

It’s about us, not you or me.

In the Twittersphere, communication is generally addressed to the collective rather than to an individual.  You can post a question to no one in particular and quickly get an answer back (or, more likely, several answers!)  Conversely, information can easily be shared instantaneously with several people.

Twitter expands real-time communication to a one-to-many model, as opposed to IM, which was created to facilitate person-to-person, synchronous communication.  I explained this difference to my wife just last night, when she asked me with whom I was twittering.  When I explained how I interact with the Twittersphere, she looked at me as if I was a crazy man talking to thin air in public!

Isn’t it more productive to share what you know or what you are learning with everyone, rather than just one person?

The belief in the verity of the affirmative answer to that question has driven me to nearly stop using IM altogether and communicate almost exclusively via Twitter and BlueTwit.  Perhaps I’ve had an epiphany much like my colleague, Luis Suarez, had regarding the use of social software instead of e-mail (chronicled here.)  More likely, it was my non-techie wife’s innocent question and disbelieving reaction that made me realize that my online synchronous collaboration channel of choice had changed, probably irreversibly, and why the shift had occurred.

How about you?  Has tweeting begun to occupy a larger percentage of your real-time virtual communication activity, at the expense of IMing?  If so, why?  If not, why not?  Please share your thoughts in a comment below.  If the accumulated feedback is interesting enough, I might create a short, quantitative survey on the topic!