Swish around in your head the idea of using Open Source micro-blogging for social graphing. Think: Measuring how often one person converses with another. Apply the concept to a service as popular as Twitter and it’s a bit over-the-top, but apply it to a company’s private network and suddenly you’ve got the ability to track your most productive employees.
Spearheading what could possibly be a vehicle to the future of Business Intelligence is the newest offering from Canadian microblogging server Laconica—the most popular Open Source alternative to Twitter.
If It Looks Like a Tweet and Sounds Like a Tweet…
Currently, Laconica allows anyone to install its Twitter-like software on their own servers free of charge. One example is The TWiT Army, a client whose only difference from Twitter aside from the number of subscribers is its aesthetic.
The camouflage loving client’s website states: “Some of you may be tempted to call your post a ‘tweet’. WELL DON'T! This ain't Twitter and we ain't gonna be using no sissy terms to talk about our posts. Understand soldier!?”
Such avenues are, for lack of a better word, interesting directions to take the 140 character interpersonal communication phenomenon, but if it’s the exact same thing as Twitter, what’s the point?
While coming up with an argument for straying from one insanely popular service in favor of its hostile twin might be challenging—if not impossible—convincing a person to participate in a service that offers different benefits and targets businesses specifically, is definitely doable. This is where Status.net comes in.
What it Does
An Open Source microblogging service built especially for your business invites a world of possibilities. Cross referencing user profiles, friend connections and public replies combined offer up enough graphable information to yield interesting benefits for both public and private networks. For the private:
Graph Company Friendships: Get notified when one employee starts to chat with another more frequently. Perhaps they belong in a work group? Conversely, take notice of who’s not as a part of the team as they should be. Perhaps they need a new job?
Graph Customer Behavior: Which customers have the highest valued opinions of your products? These natural-born community builders are the kind of people you want to hire. Also, see if customers with similar traits in their profiles are directing similar questions to Customer Service. Then engage with that community to improve product usability for a group of people rather than an individual. Do this over and over and you’ve got a narrative around trends on an as-it-happens basis.
Twitter Can’t Make Money, But Laconica Can
Unlike Twitter, Status.net will come with a price tag. Although specific numbers have yet to be announced, companies with fewer people on their network can expect to pay less than Fortune 500s for private installations, hosted and branded. And though installing Laconica’s original offering will still be a free option, it won’t come with the professional support that is expected to hold Status.net together.
Popularity Ain’t all it’s Cracked Up to Be
Companies like Salesforce are already in the process of figuring how to mold Twitter to their advantage. The one foreseeable pitfall with this approach to tracking micro-blogging stats is of course the level of popularity surrounding our famous feathered friend. Bound by the amount of information a company really wants to pull out of the river of tweets and put on display, an alternative that offers a completely privatized network is tempting.
Whichever way the cookie ends up crumbling, one thing is certain: There's a ton of exciting potential here. If such technology can help the business world recognize and respond to the increasing value of open over control, then the game is about to change on a larger scale than anyone anticipated.
Keep track of Laconica’s efforts by following them here.