Convofy brings Facebook-like features to business

Social networking in business can work, as this new Air app shows. It brings real-time messaging to workgroups in a fresh way.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
3 min read

I thought the whole "Twitter for the enterprise" concept died out after Yammer launched at the TechCrunch conference in 2008. It's an interesting tool, as is competitor SocialCast, but while products like these are achieving some early successes, the real-time, social-networking-at-work thing has not taken the business world by storm. Remember Google Wave? It's likely because businesses that already get the concept are using Notes or Sharepoint, and those that don't need to be convinced by their employees--who are dealing with their own social-network overload thanks to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

The new Convofy, which will launch on April 1 from the makers of Scrybe, is worth a look, though. It's like a Facebook wall for business, with a few cool work-focused features thrown in. It's easy enough to get started and to build up a work network on Convofy, but it also has enough command-and-control functionality to keep the corporate admins happy once they get wind of it.

Convofy gives workgroups a Facebook wall-like discussion page.

The core of Convofy, an Air client to a cloud-based service, is a conversation screen much like other social workflow apps. Users post ideas, links, and files, and their followers can comment on them. Updates appear on followers' screens in real time. There are mobile apps for iPhone, Android, and modern BlackBerry smartphones.

The fast, real-time app would make Convofy good for keeping teams up to speed on the issues of the moment. Here in our newsroom, I could see using it to share story ideas and coordinate the creation and editing of news packages. It's more dynamic than e-mail, more structured than instant messaging, and better than both for certain communications.

Convofy has a strong focus on image and video annotation. It's easy to drag files to the app and then mark them up on the built-in viewer, with little arrows that point from your markups to text you add in a comment window. You can even mark up videos, and the annotations get attached to them at particular time markers. For teams needing to do quick reviews of documents or graphics files, this could be a very useful tool.

Mobile users get an HTML5-based app. Convofy

The version I tested was still in development, and it shows a bit. While the application is attractive and has a good selection of work-focused features (like a to-do list manager that allows delegation of tasks), it has some design issues. First, the conversation flow can appear overwhelming. Even in a two-party conversation on a demo account, I found it easy to get lost and feel flooded by comments. Second, there are two interfaces for communicating, which is one more than necessary: one is the Twitter-like text comment screen, the other is the document review page, where comments pop up like IM windows over the image or file being discussed.

Convofy's revenue model should work to get the app out there without killing potential profits. The app is free to everyone in a version without much in the way of administrative controls. But that's just what a rogue group of users in a company needs to get up to speed on the app. Once the admins want to lock down on Convofy, they can sign up for administrative and additional security controls, but then they'll have to pay up: $5 per user per month, still reasonable.

Robert Scoble has a lengthy video interview with Scrybe CEO Faizan Buzdar.

If you're interested in experimenting with social network concepts in your workgroup, I'd recommend trying Convofy with a close group of co-workers when it comes out on April 1.