Tuesday, September 30, 2008

All Good Things...

As many of you may have already heard, My current employer, Ringside Networks is closing its doors on September 25th. On thinking back on the last eight months I find I can relate my experiences to a Star Trek Episode. As disturbing as this might sound, the episode in question was from Star Trek the Next Generation, the series finale episode called "All Good Things". In this episode you know that this is the cast's last performance, that a great team is saying goodbye. They might work together again in the future (because lord knows, there were sequels) but at this point, from their point of view, it was the end.

Ringside had an epic team of developers and a great mission: The creation of a social networking platform that could interconnect communities across the internet. In the short time we were around we fought great battles to gain the attention of the social networking community. We produced a product in just a few months capable of integrating private social communities with giants like Facebook and Myspace but in the end, the people we thought were our greatest allies walked away from the deal. All the stuff of any classic episode.

In the last days the team produced a final, innovative product which would allow any web page to become a social experience. SocialPass was a product that would enable any website owner to allow their users to "Ask their Friends" what they though about a product or service, driving new traffic to the website. Watch the video demo on SocialPass and see for yourself. What a great user experience this could have been.

If I had the chance to go back in time and do things differently as they did in the Star Trek episode this entry is named after, I don't think I would. This was a magical experience, as small start-up companies always are, and I look forward to seeing all the cast members again in the sequel.

Yammer Me This

It is not often that a web service or a piece of software makes my work life better but I felt compelled to speak out about Yammer. My team at Ringside Networks would always hang in an IRC channel because we were spread out across the US. This worked great and made us feel like a co-located team but it had its drawbacks. You had to be logged in all the time or have a bot collect what was being said when you were not around.

Then came Yammer. I was already a Twitter micro blogging fan. I already use Twitter to stay involved in my friends lives and share mine with them but Yammer allowed my software development team to coordinate like never before. While Twitter asks you to answer the questions, "What are you doing?", Yammer wants you to ask the question, "What are you working on?". As my work day progresses, I would just Yammer on what I was working on and read what the rest of the team was up to. You would get more frequent, meaningful updates than I would ever see on IRC.

The big difference was, there was no pressure to respond right way or even be online all the time to do it. It just feels less stressful. Yammer also does not limit you to 140 characters or less which is handy when describing the details of what you are doing.

Another useful difference between Yammer and Twitter is that Yammer has an implicit group of people in its community. You must have a email address at a mail domain like ringsidenetworks.com to join Yammer. Joining and using the service is free and anyone from your company who has an email address can join. Yammer provides cross platform clients and clients for mobile devices as well so you can stay in touch with your team wherever you go.

You might wonder how they plan to make money. They charge for the ability to administrate your domain. If you want to administrate the community then a company representative must pay Yammer for this feature.

If you are looking for a team building tool for your remote development team you should give this a try. Follow this link to see the TechCrunch50 Video from the yammer team.