One Small Step For Socialcast, One Giant Leap For Enterprise Social Networking - InformationWeek

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5/9/2008
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John Foley
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One Small Step For Socialcast, One Giant Leap For Enterprise Social Networking

The Jet Propulsion Lab will begin pilot testing startup Socialcast's social networking software for potential use by NASA. The space agency is interested in using Socialcast for knowledge transfer as Apollo-era employees retire.

The Jet Propulsion Lab will begin pilot testing startup Socialcast's social networking software for potential use by NASA. The space agency is interested in using Socialcast for knowledge transfer as Apollo-era employees retire.Founded in 2005 (originally as Event Robot), Socialcast introduced an enterprise version of its social networking platform last fall. The software, offered as a hosted service, supports collaboration and knowledge sharing. Founder and CEO Tim Young was a presenter at the recent Software 2008 conference's Innovation Showcase, where he talked of the NASA project and of new customer Hot Topic, an alternative-music retailer that's getting ready to roll out Socialcast to 10,000 employees.

NASA is interested in social networking as a way of sharing knowledge as it ramps up its Constellation Program, under which new spacecraft are being developed. Constellation draws from earlier programs such as Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and the Space Shuttle. Like the Shuttle vehicles themselves, however, many veteran NASA employees are approaching retirement. NASA is hopeful that, with new IT tools, they'll share what they know with newer employees.

Socialcast's Tim Young points out that NASA's organizational model -- with its sprawling space centers and long-running projects -- tends to create silos of expertise. The thinking is that enterprise social networking can break down barriers and ensure that NASA's institutional memory carries forward. I haven't talked to NASA about all this yet, but the request is in.

NASA already is using Web 2.0 technologies -- RSS feeds, podcasts, video, playlists -- on its MyNASA Web site. The agency's Socialcast experiment could serve as a case study in social networking applied toward knowledge management among a workforce in transition. As baby boomers retire, many companies will face a similar challenge.

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