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Social Collaboration: Corporate Activity Streams

What Facebook calls its News Feed and Twitter calls its Timeline is known generically as an activity stream. Every member of the social network generates a stream of posts and other records, which you can see by navigating to that user’s profile.

In addition to showing a person’s latest status posts, the system might show groups joined, connections made, and documents created or uploaded. Each user can also view a merged activity stream that provides an overview of everything going on in the organization that has been recorded on the collaboration network. If the entire feed is too overwhelming, you can filter it down to show just items related to people you follow and groups you have joined.

Applications connected to the social network can also generate activity stream posts, such as notifications of deals recorded as closed in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.

The notion of a social-style feed or stream has also become a run-away success in the world of enterprise applications. Even outside enterprise social networking platforms, many software products mimic the format of a social feed to represent important events in the form of a social feed. Ideally, these feeds and the user profiles associated with them should be synchronized with other social applications in use across the company.

Having separate feeds for specific functions and applications isn’t necessarily bad, but one of the goals of social collaboration is to be able to get a bird’s-eye view of everything going on in the organization.

A user on Jive Software’s social collaboration platform who navigates to the Activities tab will find more listed there than just status posts. Oh, you can filter the feed to show just status posts, if you like. Normally, however, you would see all sorts of updates, revolving around documents, projects, tasks, and messages from executives posted as blog entries. Jive provides a much broader set of options for creating or sharing content than Facebook or even some of the other products for business, such as Yammer. That means there is more going on here that you may want to be notified about.

Notions of what a corporate activity stream ought to look like vary between social collaboration platform providers, but here are some of the common elements:

  • Status updates: Short posts employees use to share what they’re working on, where they’re traveling, or pithy thoughts about life and business.

  • Photo and profile: Every post includes a photo or an avatar of the author, linked back to that person’s profile.

  • Activity stream organization: Posts and other items in the stream are listed in reverse chronological order, at least by default. Comments posted as replies are often indented under the original post to keep the entire discussion together.

    • Ranking: The most important content tends to rise to the top. For example, posts that may be older but are the subject of active discussion will tend to rank higher than newer posts that have attracted no attention. Every social collaboration platform has its own algorithms for determining importance.

    • Filtering: The stream can be viewed through a variety of filters. For example, users should be able to filter the stream to display posts from only those people they chose to follow (as opposed to all employees) and in either strict chronological order or through an algorithm that promises to display the most significant content.

    The Activity tab in Jive 6 displays all activity from all employees, but the screen in the following figure has been filtered it to just the status posts.

    The Activity tab in Jive shows all recent messages and updates.
    The Activity tab in Jive shows all recent messages and updates.

    The following figure shows what Jive calls the Connections Stream, which is limited to whoever you follow on the network.

    The Jive Connections Stream narrows the activity stream to activities from the people, groups, and
    The Jive Connections Stream narrows the activity stream to activities from the people, groups, and documents you follow.

    The next figure shows the Jive Inbox, which is where you can see all the messages specifically addressed to you.

    The Jive Inbox displays messages and notifications specifically addressed to you.
    The Jive Inbox displays messages and notifications specifically addressed to you.

    Finally, this last figure shows how you can create your own custom filter, for example to track employees who report to you separately from the rest of your connections. You do this by clicking the New Stream link and selecting specific co-workers to include.

    Creating a Jive custom stream.
    Creating a Jive custom stream.
  • Links and documents: In an activity stream, you can post links to other web pages and upload documents to share with colleagues.

  • Embedded applications: Increasingly, social collaboration systems embed application objects in the stream, allowing users to interact with them in the social context. This is similar to the way Facebook will let you view a YouTube video using a player embedded in the stream, rather than clicking away to the YouTube site. The business equivalent may be a requisition approval form embedded in the stream.

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