Monday, April 21, 2008

The online version of office suites, or a hostile takeover?

In a previous post, we noted a tendency toward focusing on specific social networking sites, and suggested that in the future many of us will simply be using what was "learned" in these sites to just be more social -- out in the open, on an Internet without walls. The people we relate to, the relationships we have with them, and the use of available communication tools are the keys to success in this space, not “the site.”

I'm looking for Unified Communications 2.0, and we aren't there yet.

In the meantime, it is important to find transitional points, since we don't yet have a functional cross-platform personal portal, where all of our documents, email accounts, instant messaging clients, microblogs, and friend updates can converge with our videos, personal learning, and VOIP communications accounts.

So where do we find this virtual office suite?

Steve O'Hear recently highlighted the Facebook apps he calls a few shiny gems that can help you turn Facebook into a super-charged personal assistant. Steve listed and discussed many third-party applications that promise to help run your business, including accessing your LinkedIn contacts. But in this time of economic uncertainty and build-it-so-you-can-sell-it mentality, do we really want to invest time in a Third Party App?

I know that Jeff Pulver recently alerted the world to his Facebook conversion, but should the rest of us follow along? He contrasted the experience of Facebook to LinkedIn by identifying the former as a wealth of opportunity for vibrant interaction between users and groups of users, and at once more rewarding and more nuanced and meaningful. And Jeff is still living on Facebook, though his "community" appears to be limited in number by Facebook (a month or so ago he was maxing out at 5,000), and community (they have a limit on the number of groups you can join, as well).

So should we move all our stuff to Facebook? Andrew McAfee (and others he credits) posted an overview of how Facebook can be used as an organizational intranet. Ultimately, I think highly sensitive documents could be linked within Facebook and hosted on a protected server, but security is not my only concern. Facebook for business is still close to Web 2.0 (or as Doc Searls calls it, AOL 2.0, or AOL done right). So what do we do when we truly have a virtual presence that is unrestricted by the gated community mentality? What's the cost of conversion then? I'm all for mashing up as many parts of my life as possible, but I'm not convinced Facebook (or LinkedIn, or any other gated community) is the place to do this. What happens when they make decisions based on their needs, and not on ours?

What do you think?

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