StatusNet: Microblogging in the Enterprise

Microblogging is everywhere. Twitter and Facebook have popularized updating the world on our status, and now, most of us use it daily. From the way it allows people to communicate and requiring minimal effort to the fact that it could be considered one of the most effective ways to communicate with people as a whole in the digital realm, it’s no wonder that so many businesses embrace microblogging in the ways in which it deserves.

For this reason, people have tried to do the concept justice and create new and innovative ways of using it to really get people talking. It’s no further surprise that smart tools like StatusNet have sprung up to make the process a lot simpler for enterprises looking at embracing the social network format that we’ve seen so many times before. Read on to find out more about StatusNet and its powerful set of features.

Overview

StatusNet describes itself as “enterprise social software” but it’s clear to see that it’s a lot more than that. StatusNet is a platform to get key members within a company talking and ensure that everyone is connected on a very basic level without the need for complex tools or the frustration that can sometimes arise from the oldest tool in the box: email. Regardless, StatusNet is undeniably a very flexible app and could be used in a variety of situations, though it’s very much tailored to being utilised in a more business-related context.

Overview

Overview

It offers a variety of interesting features such as groups, very specific privacy controls, the ability to post different content formats and more. It functions very much like many other microblogging services but unlike others, focuses on a very niche “enterprise” market and as such, is tailored to fit the needs of almost any organisation with a bit of customisation.

How It Works

StatusNet itself is a software that can be downloaded freely and installed on any server for use within an intranet-style system but the developers of the software also offer a fully-hosted solution for those that don’t want the trouble of installing and configuring the software themselves.

Available StatusNet Hosted Packages

Available StatusNet Hosted Packages

For the hosted version of the app, the registration only requires an email address and the StatusNet installation is automatically generated. The site is fully-functional and after comparing the self-hosted and hosted versions, I couldn’t really see any differences. However, the paid hosting does seem to offer a few more features including “advanced administration” and custom branding but I assume that these are what is included in the self-hosted version. If you are opting for the self-hosted route, installation doesn’t take too long providing the server meets the requirements and I managed to get a fully-functional StatusNet deployed within a couple of minutes.

Home Timeline

As you would expect from any kind of microblogging app, it’s very much centred around the timeline, the section of the app that houses all of the status updates and content that is shared through the service. Very much in the way that social networks like Facebook and Twitter manage this sort of thing, it requires users to subscribe to others’ updates which will then show up in the subscriber’s home timeline. Users can then direct their content at others simply by prefixing the update with an “@” symbol followed by the username of the recipient.

The Home Timeline

The Home Timeline

I won’t go into too much detail about how the timelines work as they are very much self-explanatory but StatusNet allows users to post statuses, bookmarks, events, polls and more and for companies looking to take a more informal approach to managing such elements as events, it’s a really interesting way of doing it. Users can comment on others’ content and this can also turn StatusNet into a sort of collaboration platform where users can get feedback on their ideas and as a whole, the app manages this incredibly well.

Adding an Event

Adding an Event

Groups

StatusNet also offers a means of grouping people within the app itself. Users can creates groups and organise themselves into these, ensuring that it’s very easy to share content within that particular group without having to manually get the attention of each member. Useful for smaller subgroups as part of a large project, it allows communication between members of each group simply by having the user post an update prefixed with an exclamation mark and the name of the group. In addition, a directory is also provided for groups to allow users to find just what they’re looking for.

Group Timeline

Group Timeline

Other Features

In addition to the standard features that StatusNet offers, it also provides a means of being able to view popular topics within the network itself; it allows trends to be seen from the interface as well as popular content posted within the network. By providing this, it ensures that those involved can easily access important and popular information shared within the network – especially useful if people are too busy to browse through all of the posted content regularly.

Popular Notices

Popular Notices

In addition to the web interface, StatusNet also offers ways to use the service via external clients for both mobile and desktop platforms. Though there are a fair few third-party applications that seem to be capable of being used with the app and providing an additional interface. Though these official applications do not provide the sleekest designs in the world, they still seem to do a decent job at providing an alternative interface for those that want to use the service whilst on the go.

Mobile Splash Screen

Mobile Splash Screen

Final Thoughts

I’m very much torn with StatusNet. While it seems to offer a very large set of features that could really prove to be useful, it seems to be lacking when it comes to the whole subject of whether a company would actually be able to use this sort of tool regularly. I think it could end up being a novelty that seems great at first but the steep learning curve could potentially result in the app’s actual use declining. In addition to this, the interface, while fairly easy on the eye (if ignoring the incredibly wordy footer message), is not as easily customisable as the app claims and without decent CSS knowledge, I don’t see it would be that easy to theme the app.

Despite these, I’m quite happy with the ways in which StatusNet manages privacy among other things. The network defaults to private (which is usually a good sign) and it’s very easy for users posting statuses and other content just who said content will be shared with. As mentioned previously, I see the app as being altogether a fairly solid solution for microblogging but these couple of things really do let it down a little bit.


Summary

Communicate easily within an organisation using StatusNet. Providing microblogging tools and the ability to browse content from the web interface or various desktop clients, it provides enterprises a means of embracing social networking for their teams.

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