In his article Is “My Dow Network” a “Social Network”, Dennis McDonald describes a series of reasons for a company to want to offer the social networking experience to a limited internal audience.
In the collaboration systems space there are plenty of examples of private platforms. Systems such as messaging, newsgroups, document sharing and information portals, and especially the old mainstay email are commonly used in a closed environment. Companies can supply them internally (or have hosted on their behalf) and they match well the need for internal consumption and privacy whilst allowing an interface to and from the outside world. But what about the particular dynamic that is fulfilled by online social networking?
Are there any social networking platforms that can host a private instance for clients who want such features in a ring-fenced social sphere?
Or are there any software providers or open source projects that allow companies or societies to deliver an internally housed service to their stakeholders?
And increasingly the more important questions will be:
- how can such systems provide interfaces to leverage information, connections and features that already exist in external (or partner) social networks?
- How could the private system allow a limited flow of information out into third parties, or onto the public domain?
- What provision could there be to allow new joiners to import information, and individuals to retain a copy of information they might want to take elsewhere?
I’m afraid I don’t have any answers to these questions right now, and perhaps that’s a shame. After all, the bulk of our modern economy is based upon information, and unless the entire world of commerce turns around and says “nah, its just hype – there’s not really any lasting value in information about people, their relationships, and anything they share or transact!” then I’m certain there will be a lot of attention (and by consequence cash) being focussed in this area in the coming months and years.