Activity Streams Are Not the Killer App

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Keywords: search, social, activity streams, buckleyplanet, innovation, SharePoint

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Expert blogger David Lavenda wrote an interesting piece for the Fast Company blog which essentially paints activity streams as the email-killer. While Twitter provides a sort if activity stream, better examples are Facebook, Yammer, and SharePoint My Sites, among others.

 

Activity streams, or, as Lavenda describes them -- syndicated update -- do provide a much more effective method for the broadcasting of information than email. However, he also points out the limitations of this method, requiring filtering of groups. Tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite, while providing some degree of filtering of messages received and of those sent. But this is both inefficient and still does not replace the need for private communication that email provides.

 

While Lavenda writes a fun article, and I am looking forward to his next post where he explores ideas of how activity streams should be extended to meet the needs of the enterprise, I think his article has one fatal flaw: the idea that there is a "killer app."

 

Email is not going away. Activity streams will not displace it. Instant messaging in all of its variations (real-time, instant communications, presence awareness, stand-alone app or integrated into a product) will remain prevalent. Live video using Lync, Skype, LiveMeeting, WebEx, GoToMeeting and others will increase their footprint. No, activity streams are not going to be the killer app because there is no single solution to meet our ever-increasing connectivity needs.

 

The way we work and connect and create has changed dramatically over the past 15 to 20 years, back when the idea that a single tool could change everything. The reality now is that information workers demand multiple ways to connect. While I do agree that activity streams will take a larger piece of our mindshare over the next few years, expanded to collect data from any transactional system we connect with to show an even more accurate picture of what we do during the day (from a business perspective, mainly), allowing others to comment, rate, Like, search, and connect with those activities -- all of which will lead to even more possibilities with search and data analysis.

 

If there is any kind of killer app in the next few years, my bet is in the area of business intelligence -- to filter through and organize all of this new data being created. 

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Rich Blank

If you are under 25

you probably FB message or txt each other or post to some stream somewhere. Theres a great gartner diagram showing email vs social. You should check it out. Email is indeed secure and ubiquitous. However in the workplace we will see email merge into the stream more just like facebook. You should be able send a private message to someone@company.com from within the stream at work. In fact you see this in facebook already....u can send a private msg to a FB friend or outside of FB. No email wont go away but it will change from what we know it today.
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Christian Buckley

Social informatics are changing

I don't disagree, but my point was that it won't be a single tool that will "kill" email, but the morphing of multiple tools into something new. An activity stream that allows you to talk synchronously or asynchronously, to share documents and mark up in real-time, or one-click to launch into a multi-person web meeting, or send a simple message to a single recipient with strict information management policies applied. That's not email today, neither is it IM, activity streams, or anything else. It's a combination of all of those things.

I'm holding out for a holographic interface.
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Rich Blank

all depends on how you look at things...

With Newsgator's activity stream I can click from the stream and launch IM or web meeting. Just the tip of the iceberg as the integration of these multiple collaboration tools is key. Just like within Facebook today, I can email, chat, share, message, filter, discover, etc...without having to go somewhere else. Linkedin, FB, Twitter...the focal point is still the stream and everything else is built around it...the activity stream is indeed game changing.
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David Lavenda

No Killer App

Chris, I agree with you. I said in my piece that "email is not going anywhere anytime soon...email fulfills a basic need for one-to-one communication. Furthermore, email is universal; its standards were hammered out years ago, so you don’t need to use a particular product to send or receive it. And most importantly, everyone feels comfortable with email. And changing user behavior is the biggest impediment to getting new technologies adopted."

I don't there will ever be a single "killer app" for communication. Rather, there will be smart aggregation, filtering, and contextual matching that will help business people makes sense of the flood of noise with which they are trying to cope. Cracking this nut will forever change the way we get our information. But it is a very complex problem to solve.

My subsequent blog post on Fast Company (http://ow.ly/a3ukM) looks at some practical things individuals can do to deal with today's load. A future post will address Chris' concern, which is what does the communication tool set of the future look like.
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Rich Blank

David, you said...

"there will be smart aggregation, filtering, and contextual matching that will help business people makes sense of the flood of noise with which they are trying to cope. Cracking this nut will forever change the way we get our information." --- This is exactly what the activity stream should be doing! Hence, it is indeed a killer app and there are indeed tools that focusing on solving this complex problem today. The holistic view is really about unified communications and collaboration...where asynchronous and synchronous flow around, within, and between social networks.
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