The Chatter Evolution

Week 1 of the Chatter Dev Zone is drawing to a close. I have seen the conversations shift from general social chit-chat, to ideas exchange, and real collaboration. Now it is time to start understanding the power of Chatter through what makes it different from many of the analogies people have drawn between it, and other social networking sites.

It is coming to the end of the first week of the Chatter Dev Zone. The experience has been a pretty remarkable one. Uptake aside, I am starting to see the light bulbs go on. At first, the experience for many users was similar to Facebook: throw a witty comment here, dig on someone's profile pic (yes, you know who you are ehhmm). But then, things started to change.

 Conversations changed to suggestions on how to make the sample apps we provided even better, ideas on what they might want to build and advice for doing so. 

All of a sudden people were not just passing around idle comments, they were beginning to collaborate. There was real work being done. Joel Dietz, took the discussions even further and extended the Chatter Bubbles app to include pagination, and what did he do then? He shared with the other developers. I've been on Facebook for a while now. I use it to communicate with friends and family, I use it to promote my books, but I can honestly say I have never collaborated with someone, let alone built something as a result. This fact alone shows the potential Chatter has. I had already collaborated with folks inside Saleforce when I was writing the Introduction to Chatter and Chatter Recipes articles, but in less than a week two former strangers now delivered something real, something tangible, and something better than one person alone produced.

This organic collaboration reminded me of something Bruce Campbell, Salesforce's Chief Creative Officer said during my new hire orientation a few years back. With the lights low, Bruce sat at the front of packed room, crowd transfixed, and said (I'm paraphrasing as I can't remember the exact words) "I really don't like computers, and technology. It gets in the way of what I want to do" That thought has stuck in my head ever since. It sums up just about every argument for and against Cloud Computing I have ever heard. Collaboration needs to be the same way – you are collaborating to get something done, you shouldn't have to think about how you keep in touch, how you share files, whether you have the right version of software x installed, and most importantly who has the right to acess (or not access) the content of your collaboration. 

Access brings me to the next part of the shift I have seen within the Chatter Dev Zone over the past week. 

I have seen a lot of chats talking about integrating Chatter with things like Twitter. While I certainly see the value of connecting the clouds, care must be taken in understanding what Chatter is: a way of enabling the social enterprise. With that statement comes an implied level of privacy and trust. The Chatter Dev Zone is a little unique in a sense that it brings together a large number of disparate developers.  This is different from a 'typical' Chatter enabled environment for a company or organization, who's conversations, and actions are governed by established policies and procedures in respect to privacy, code of conduct etc.

I see a strong use case for enriching the Chatter stream from other social networking channels or news sites like twitter, yahoo finance and so on. The more access to timely informantion, the more informed the decisions will be. Marc Benioff already alluded to using multiple sources to gather the most information you can in both of his techcrunch posts, The Facebook Imperative and The Facebook Imperative Cannot Be Stopped , and I referred to some interesting ideas of using Google Wave in other innovative approach. 

There is massive potential there, but care must be taken.

 Stefan Zweig, once said "It would be foolhardy to count on the conscience of the world.In Chatter, I take this to mean "don't forget conversations, and access to them are enforced by the Force.com platform's security model." Posting chats outside of Chatter in your organization, removes that implicit trust. 

Any of us that have worked with Saleforce.com sometimes come to take security for granted: Its there, it works, we don't have to worry about it ( I can hear Bruce Campbell's statement ringing clearly in my head—the technology stays out of your way). I happen to be one of the people who think Zuckerberg's push to make Facebook information public by default  is the right one. Not everyone agrees with Zuckerberg's decision of course, but this is beside the point of my discussion: Facebook is about connecting people, and staying in touch with friends, and family; It is not about enterprise information. Imagine if Bank of America decided to follow Facebooks lead and make all the users information public by default, or Apple posted their next generation iSomethingy

The point of my conversation here, and Stefan's quote is simple: recognize the strength in Chatter through its differences, through what makes it unique; One of these being security and trust of the information it
contains for a particular organization.

As next week begins, I wonder where Chatter will take us next. I expect to see much more collaboration individuals come together. I expect to see conversations change to discussing convergent technologies, and how they can leverage chatter. And I expect to see many people like Ed Schlesinger from Studentforce, Chatter-enabling their existing apps to differentiate themselves from their competitors overnight.

Heres' to week 1. Hat's off to all the folks who have been so active within the Chatter Dev Zone.

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The Chatter Evolution