The Economist adds its voice to the recent articles on how blogs can help businesses. Among companies in this space are Traction Software and SocialText.
Ross Mayfield, the founder of Socialtext, a firm based in Palo Alto, California, wants to move blogging beyond its usual constituency of teenagers and wide-eyed political activists. His company is taking a novel approach, arguing that blogging might actually be useful in business.
Socialtext makes a corporate version of a wikia web page that can be edited by any reader (the word means quickly in Hawaiian). Wikis offer a middle ground between e-mail and a conventional web page, which makes them useful for collaborative projects, particularly those involving far-flung teams. Rather than maintaining multiple copies of a document and sharing ideas by e-mail, a wiki allows members of a team to pool their thoughts more easily. Wikis are not particularly new, but are now beginning to demonstrate the potential to replace other forms of groupware.
Socialtext takes the wiki concept and adds to it some corporate bullet-proofing. It can be used to create a conventional blog, yes, but more importantly it tracks different versions of documents, so that people working on a project can see each other’s changes and go back to earlier versions. It also has administrative tools that allow wiki entries to be viewed and sorted in different ways.
Socialtext launched its product at the end of last year, and already has dozens of customers. One example is Soar Technology, a Michigan-based software firm. Jacob Crossman, an engineer at Soar, has been using the Socialtext software for a six-person project. Though there is still room for improvement, he says the software will probably become the collaborative tool of choice at his company.
One of the objectives for this emerging software category is to get people to work better in groups.