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March 22, 2005 / jnolen

Wiki-vendors at PCForum

SocialText announced at PCForum today that they have relaunched their product line to address three distinct markets: Enterprise, their enterprise appliance. .Net, their hosted product for SoHo and consumers. And .Org, which appears to be the same as SocialText.net, but offers discounted pricing for academics, non-profits (and perhaps open-source projects, though that's not said explicitly). You can read more about the SocialText relaunch on Ross Mayfield's blog.

Despite the rhetoric in the press release, this doesn't appear to be a substantive change. SocialText has had the same basic divisions for the last several months, at least. Instead, I think they're using this announcement to focus attention on their enterprise appliance, which has been pretty well hidden prior to today.

My guess is that they've finally heard enough feedback to convince them that a hosted solution is a problem for a lot of potential customers. For example, externally hosted data is a total non-starter in my company. So talking about SocialText enterprise helps them in the door with those kinds of companies. On the other hand, I think appliances are a questionable idea in general. I'd much rather have a installable software. But I suppose that this is better than not having an inside-the-firewall product at all.

SocialText Enterprise also “comes with a number of different features required for enterprise use including enterprise-class backup, monitoring and storage, directory integration, security, and easy migration between intranet and secure extranet uses.” This is interesting, but unfortunately, I can’t see any of it, since my trial site is hosted on SocialText.net. (Actually, I’m starting to think these names are going to get confusing. Remember SourceForge.net vs. SourceForge.com?) And the product pages and documentation are very light on details.

SocialText also released the next version of their software (v1.6) today, which includes an updated user-interface with several nice improvements.

They’ve built in a kind of trackbacks, or “backlinks” in SocialText terminology. Unfortunately, it only appears to record links within the wiki, so it’s not a true trackback system. As I mentioned in this post, I think real trackbacks would be highly useful on wikis, particularly public or company-wide wikis. And as far as I’ve seen, none of the vendors provide it yet.

Taking a page from Confluence and JotSpot, SocialText now allows you to email content to a space or a blog. I really think this is an excellent feature. But I’ll admit that it hasn’t gotten a lot of use in my company. I’m not really sure why, though. I also think that JotSpot does this particular thing better than the rest of the pack. Allowing people to email a particular page is smart. Having an catch-all email bucket seems like a half-measure.

The UI itself has been revamped as well (screenshot). It’s not very different, from functional perspective (though the nav has been reworked for the better), but it seems tighter and more polished. I still feel like they rely on text a little too much and their navigational elements are too undifferentiated. I’m all for standards-compliance and quick page downloads, but it’s awfully hard to quickly distinguish page content from application chrome.

JotSpot also presented at PCF05 today, but I haven’t really found much in the way of details. Jason Calacanis says that it was the now-standard Intro to JotSpot presentation. This does highlight something interetsing, though. I suppose you can’t just give the same presentation over and over at different conferences and count on it being new to your audience any longer. The audience for every presentation is now the entire blogosphere.

One Comment

  1. Adina Levin / Mar 22 2005 8:07 am

    FYI, Socialtext has had the email-to-space and email-to-blog feature for well over a year. We’ve added a shortcut for email-to-blog.
    The Socialtext Appliance has also been in production for quite a while — a number of our larger customers use the Appliance, or the Appliance and Hosted Service together.
    If you are interested in more information about the Appliance, (and more about productive usage patterns for the email features), please contact your account representative.

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