Box.net's (news, site) tagline is "Simply Share". Today the company has taken a new step to enable its users to easily keep updated on what's happening with their content through the introduction of a content-centric newsfeed.
Content Management Should Be Simple
That's what Box CEO Aaron Levie says. Of course he said more specifically that cloud content management should be simple anytime, anywhere. And it's hard not to agree with him. There is so much information passes through our organizations that it's difficult to manage it all, let alone keep track of what's happening with it. But both are what we need to do.
Organizations are geographically distributed and content can appear in the context of any number of business systems we work in. Want to know what's happening with your content? Who's previewing it, commenting on it, what tasks have to be performed on it? Box has the answer: content-centric newsfeed.
Box Updated - Tasks View
Social-enabled Content Management
This is actually not the first time I have heard the term social-enabled content management, but it's one that I have thought about a lot lately. Content Management vendors are spending an enormous amount of time adding and/or integrating social capabilities into their solutions. But these social features are for their customers, not for their own employees to manage the work they do on their content.
The Box newsfeed is for the employee. It's an activity feed that provides real-time updates on what is happening with their documents including who has looked at it, updated it, approved/rejected it, commented on it and more.
The newsfeed is a completely revamped version of their existing activity feed ("a glorified RSS reader" Levie called it). This one enables users to collaborate directly within it -- it's not a read only feed.
Box Updates - Activity Filter
Updates can be filtered -- in this version the filtering is event-based, but future versions will allow filtering by people or specific document. You can also click on a person's name in the feed and be taken to a profile for that person that lists all their activities.
Updates included in the newsfeed are not just limited to what happens directly within the Box environment. If, for example, a document was updated in Google Docs, or NetSuite CRM, an update is sent to the newsfeed. In this version you don't see where the update originated from, but Levie says this will be available in future versions as well.
The Social Intelligence Layer
Levie indicated that this new capability is just the start of a number of enhancements to Box that will add a deeper social intelligence layer to the content management system. Other plans include allowing vendors to use the Box Updates API to pull the newsfeed into their own applications, and you will see mobile events and activities show up in the newsfeed as well.
Says Levie in a blog post on the announcement:
This shift towards a more immediate, intelligent presentation of crucial business information will not be unique to content management - we're already seeing it begin to disrupt other software categories and create demand for a new breed business applications that are reinventing how business is done.
He's right. The first time I saw an activity feed that really caught my attention was when SocialText Chairman, President and Co-founder Ross Mayfield demoed SocialText 3.0 to me. The platform includes microblogging, profiles, activities feeds and a workspace to access your wiki or blog posts. Seeing the activity feed in the context of projects or people was very appealing.
NewsGator also has a strong view on activity feeds. Their solution captures events and activities around content and workflow. This information is stored in an event store and can be used to show relevant information via activity feeds and other applications. Remember that NewsGator's Social Sites is built on top of SharePoint, so SharePoint is another content management system that can provide the newsfeed capability similar to Box.
But Box has the advantage of having all the capabilities within one solution. In addition, I don't think the NewsGator feed allows you to work directly within it like Box's newsfeed does.
Striving for social intelligence within your content management system should be something all content management vendors should be doing. Social business software isn't the only software that can benefit from rich activity streams that are actionable -- it almost seems like a must-have for content management.
Levie indicated that there is much more to come with this initiative, including some possible integrations with vendors like Jive, Yammer and Salesforce Chatter, Google and Zoho. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. But like Levie already knows, making Box more social and collaborative, while keeping it simple and easy to use, will be the key to success.