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Socialtext enterprise wiki getting social network features

It's going to look a lot more like Ning and Facebook...and that's for the better.

If you love a good theory--of psychology, physics, economics, you name it--go work at SocialText. These guys live in their heads. That became apparent when I talked to founder Ross Mayfield and newish CEO Eugene Lee this week about the updates they're making to the company's enterprise wiki product. I learned that if you want to sell to enterprise IT bigwigs, you need to talk a good talk. You need to, "reduce the latency of getting information transmitted."

A Socialtext people page (click to enlarge).

Which, I think, means: Talk fast.

And it helps to have some contemporary features in the products your vintage 2002 company makes. So interspersed with the theory, I got the rundown on the updates to Socialtext that will be shipping within 90 days. The most important change is the addition of a "people" datatype in Socialtext, which makes it into a passable enterprise social network. Socialtext is also rolling out a Netvibes-like dashboard that makes the wiki a lot more approachable.

I like the way Socialtext is handling the people pages. Rather than asking users to fill out a long list of form items, it's tag-based. You can tag yourself "M&A" if you're in business development. Others can tag you, too. Then, if you're looking for someone with a particular skill or hobby, you just search on tags. Tags are easier to update, and because of that you're more likely to see good information in individuals' tag clouds, compared with a bunch of form fields that no one wants to bother with. Of course, tag clouds and folksonomies are also less rigorous than straight data fields, but you know what they say: They make it up in volume.

The new Netvibes-like Dashboard (click to enlarge).

Once you find the person you're looking for in the new people pages, you can follow them and get updated whenever they change your company wiki. It's like an enterprise Twitter. It's potentially very useful, if also possibly creepy.

Every Socialtext user now also gets his or her own personal Dashboard, where they can track pages and people they're interested in, watch stats on their wiki, or see info from other sources, like blogs, or OpenSocial widgets.

These changes, Mayfield admits, "are not all that new from the consumer perspective," but they do make the wiki platform a more comfortable place to work for people who likely spend their personal online time in apps like Facebook.