Web 2.0 Collaboration Rolling Review: Socialtext - InformationWeek

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4/29/2009
04:30 PM
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Web 2.0 Collaboration Rolling Review: Socialtext

Platform offers specialized capabilities, but it's not for novices.

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Socialtext is a great tool for creating wikis and blogs. However, like other Web 2.0 wares that claim to double as project management tools, Socialtext is useful only for certain types of tasks. It excels at managing projects where the skills and knowledge of the participants determine the success of the endeavor. But a project management app and some unified communications tools might do more to achieve your goals.

Socialtext is essentially a standalone product or hosted service that emphasizes social networking in a business environment. Whether IT and corporate executives are ready to embrace tools like Socialtext as mission critical remains to be seen.

Without a doubt, the most compelling feature of Socialtext is its attractive interface. However, unless you choose your tasks with care, project management may be disappointing. Socialtext is better suited for strategic projects such as retargeting a marketing strategy, tracking a competitor, or brainstorming the strategy of a case in a law firm. We don't think it's a good choice for projects that involve lots of small duties assigned to many different people.

As with many of its competitors, you'll need to spend some time planning your Socialtext collaboration site, which is comprised of workspaces. And you'll need to muck around in Socialtext to figure out how many workspaces you'll need and how they'll be organized, because Socialtext provides little help with these decisions.

We got the impression that the developers of Socialtext assume that the user is already embracing Web 2.0 technology and is familiar with how these products are used. We don't believe that most new enterprise users possess that proficiency yet.

Not For Web 2.0 Novices

Rolling Review
WEB 2.0 COLLABORATION TOOLS
Business value
We're testing Web 2.0 collaboration products and services, gauging their project management capabilities against increased security risks.
Reviewed so far
Central Desktop
Secure collaboration once staff get up to speed, but it doesn't do videoconferences.

PBwiki
Services let users exchange ideas and contacts securely, but it's not the tool for large project management.

Socialtext
Attractive interface enables easy wiki creation; poor support for complex project management.

Still to come
Digital Samba, Jive, Google, Microsoft, Novell, Polycom
The online Socialtext help guides you on how to create a page and add tags and import files, images, and other items to it. But Socialtext then proceeds to more advanced features without showing how to link each page to your home page. To get a better idea of how to use it, we actually referred to a book about a competitor's product.

Socialtext might be intuitive to users who've spent time creating Web sites or wikis, but the typical accountant, sales professional, or manager who's new to Web 2.0 technology must invest considerable training time. The help that's offered for beginners is a series of pages that describe specific tasks you can do with Socialtext. Examples of these tasks include building a to-do list, creating a conversation page, and preparing a meeting agenda. However, these help pages don't explain how to do these tasks. You must search other places in the product to find that help.

The most difficult aspect of Socialtext is planning a site. Don't expect Gantt charts or calendars, and voice- or videoconferences and shared desktops must be set up outside the application. We saw no evidence that Socialtext could integrate into ERP systems or unified communications products, although the company has announced an interface to Microsoft SharePoint.

As a service, Socialtext is priced at $15 per user per month for 50 to 99 users. A Socialtext appliance is required for 100 or more users. Service and appliance packages for 20 users or 50 users are priced at a flat rate of $99 and $199 per month, respectively, and require a one-year contract.

Our Take
SOCIALTEXT PRODUCT AND SERVICE PLATFORM
Pricing may make this product attractive to smaller enterprises.
Socialtext handles security well. Still, it's not easy to master.
This isn't a good tool for project management unless the project needs of a lot of social interaction.

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