I’m currently looking into the Apps available from the Marketplace for a Google Apps for Education installation. One area of particular interest is social collaboration. If, for example, you are running a dedicated social collaboration enterprise solution that is good but expensive, is there a viable cheaper alternative through Google Apps?
Well, I think there is a serious contender and it’s called Socialwok.
Some people call Socialwok – Facebook for business on Google Apps
If you think about it, Google Apps is a loose collection of Apps. Socialwok does an amazing job of tying this collection together and enables you to see all the activity across the Apps, be that Calendar, Google Docs, Activities, etc. Content can be kept private to a company/university/school, with restricted access to specific groups via the ‘feeds’ arrangement within Socialwok. However, it’s also possible to publish to Socialwok while simultaneously publishing out to Google Buzz, Twitter, and Facebook; a time saver and potentially great publicity mechanism. Also external collaborators can be granted access to a specific Socialwok feed, something that I know is required.
The personnel at Socialwok are technically very impressive and rather astute business-wise, which is always a plus point when considering longevity in today’s world of technological winners and those that fall along the wayside. I think this video by Robert Scobles (Scobleizer) from Google I/O 2010 Conference in which he asks Is Socialwok the best of the collaborative enterprise social services? demonstrates both these aspects.
Another innovation with Socialwok is the integration with Seesmic to create a desktop facility (read the Seesmic blog post) to monitor and contribute to your ‘corporate business activities’, or ‘course studies’ in an educational setting, alongside maintaining your PLN of contacts via Twitter and Facebook. This is bringing Google Apps to the Desktop in a full featured client, with real-time social search and relevance ranking functionality. This integration is a point of pure business genius, and is highly significant, which I have to applaud.
My interest is in educational uses. When it comes to appealing to students and encouraging them to work with social collaboration media, the fact that the environment has a ‘look & feel’ of something they are already used to has distinct advantages.
Of course you might need to hammer home the differences in the philosophy underlying each. Something I wrote previously on the subject:
[Facebook/MySpace/etc] is out there, it’s open, just do what you do in there. The [university/college/school] collaboration environment is something different; it’s not trying to be [Facebook/MySpace/etc], and it’s certainly not trying to compete with [Facebook/MySpace/etc]. Our collaboration environment is more akin to a professional environment you might see within companies when you’ve graduated [uni/college/school], or a social network relating to a particular area of professional interest (an international science social network for example).
The [uni/college/school] has provided our environment as a secure place, where you can work through your ideas, collaborate with others, develop an understanding of how to participate in a professional manner, with the assurance that your work is secure and that your ideas remain just that belonging to you and the [uni/college/school]. The loss of your Intellectual Property is a consideration if you use openly available tools and environments hosted elsewhere. Put more simply, if you put your work or your ideas somewhere on the web, you might just have given those ideas away (the chances are you won’t have checked the small print).
By developing the additional skills that using such a tool can enable, you can demonstrate to future employers your ability to work professionally within a collaborative environment.
There are probably particular benefits to using the environment for researchers, with respect to Intellectual Property and the ability to work and share with external colleagues, partners and collaborators from anywhere in the world.
I’m rather interested by Socialwok and I need to investigate more fully its potential for educational use with colleagues.