Corporate Social Software – an opinion on ClearSpace

A lot has been written about how one might make use of WEB 2.0 and social software in a corporate. It seems that some large consulting firms and IT companies have been trying this out for a while.

IBM have had their “Sametime” product for a while, and also Lotus “Connections” which is a social-networking and collaboration suite.

There are a few others aimed specifically at corporates, where one can purchase the software and host it internally and I intend to try a few of these (Including Lotus Connections) over the next few weeks.

ClearSpace is not very well known in South Africa and in fact I had never heard of Jive Software until I found their site a few weeks ago.  They are based in Portland, Oregon, and boast over 2000 customers and a coverage of 15% of the Fortune 500 Companies.

The ClearSpace 2.0 and ClearSpace Community Products are written in Java and require Java 6.

A while back I mentioned some of the potential I saw in Facebook for the Corporate.  I wasn’t saying open Facebook to corporates to use, nor that an exact replica of Facebook would be ideal in a large corporate.  What I was saying was that some of the social concepts that work for Facebook, would be very powerful when applied to corporate problems.

For example, I work on a number of projects at any given time, I have several documents in draft and pending review, I consult on various topics and sit on a number of governance and IT committees.  Keeping track of activities and actions across all of those can be an onerous administrative task and requires discipline on my part.  As a “creative” thinker, administration and discipline are not my strong points.  If projects and forums and communities-of-practice had things like facebook groups where all their documents and discussions and actions were tracked, I could simply login to MY personal page and instantly see the latest activities across all of the areas I am involved with.  That would be freedom.  I would also no longer have any excuse to say “I didn’t know” about some decision or event or outstanding action.  

Enter ClearSpace.  This is exactly what I described above.  The concept around which ClearSpace revovles is the “community”, not a document or post.  For example a document sharing site revolves around “documents”.  A Wiki revolves around the “pages” or “entries”.  A Blog revolves around the “posts”.  ClearSpace revolves around the community. Communities may exist because of Strategies, Projects, Topics of interest, anything that warrants creating a new area of focus.  One can even create hierarchies of communities and the Parent Levels can aggregate the updates and feeds of their children.  Within these communities individuals can post Blog entries, write documents, poll other users for opinions, ask questions, create discussion forums and many more.   Almost all of these allow others to respond or comment.  The major contributions can all be scored.

In addition to community blogs, individuals may also have blogs.  individuals are attributed with the scores for their contributions.  Individuals become “experts” on the topics they contribute on most, and are considered better experts when the ratings of their contributions are higher.  

Everything in the system is based on a widget concept, so if you need a new content-type for a particular community, write the widget for it, and snap it into the framework.

This is the first Corporate-community-based collaboration software that I have tried, and I am truly impressed.  

If you need to get people in your organisation to work together and you need a software solution to enable that, then ClearSpace is definitely one to consider.

Ease of Use: 9/10
Super easy, and a really great looking interface. 

Installation / Setup: 9/10
I used the embedded database to test with, so little setup was required.

Admin Pages:7/10
Lots of menus and submenus, and I couldn’t always find the setting I wanted without browsing through a number of the admin pages.

Engagement: 9/10
This pulled me in.  I loved using it, not least of all because of how good it looks and how intuitive the user interface is.

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