Monday, August 04, 2003

Business 2.0 - A Better Way for Businesses to Blog (Traction overview)

Business 2.0 - A Better Way for Businesses to Blog "Traction Software bends the blog to the needs of business.
By Rafe Needleman, August 04, 2003
I've written before about novel knowledge-management and groupware startups like Groove Networks, Tacit Knowledge Systems, and Kubi Software. These businesses all take clever approaches to knowledge sharing within the organization. However, they all share one barrier: They require the user to learn a new form of communication.
Traction Software
CEO Greg Lloyd, former program manager at Electronic Book Technologies
HQ Providence, RI
FUNDING More than $1 million from angel investors and VCs, including In-Q-Tel
PROFITABLE? Cash-flow positive now
MARKET Enterprise weblogs

Not surprisingly, these new tools are expensive, mostly because they require businesses to invest in training workers to use them. Meanwhile, new forms of electronic communication -- like blogs, short message service, and instant messaging -- are coming at users from noncorporate directions. Guess which tools are more popular?
So it should not come as a shock that some companies are doing the smart thing: leveraging the buzz around end-user technologies and applying it to the corporation.
Traction Software is a purveyor of corporate blogging tools. Sure, any CEO with a smattering of typing skills can use the Google-owned Blogger, but Blogger (like the other standard blogging tools) doesn't offer the same kind of security features as a corporate blog. For example, Traction lets you assign permissions to individuals or groups. So you could set up the CEO's blog so everybody can read it, or create a research blog that allows a small group of scientists to post to it and a larger (but not all-company) group to read it. One clever feature is that Traction narrows its search results to those areas a user can access.
Traction's system is actually a deep hypertext database. Every entry can easily be linked to any other, and the system tracks those links. You can attach your own personal notes to an entry as well, or create notes for just your group. If this sounds more like an information-processing experiment than a corporate product, consider Traction's roots. As CEO and co-founder Greg Lloyd told me, the whole thing got started because he and co-founder Chris Nuzum were on a "Let's go build a Memex" kick. To refresh your memory, the Memex was the hypothetical hypertext machine constructed in Vannevar Bush's seminal 1945 article "As We May Think."
Back in the practical world, Lloyd and Nuzum were smart enough to realize that blogging works in corporations for two reasons: First, businesses pay for knowledge management software. Second, blogging is perfect for some business solutions, particularly in departments that live or die by logging and sharing time-critical information. Think of police and crisis-management teams. Traction's focus on these customers has landed the company a contract with the Western States Information Network, which runs networking and data services for multijurisdictional law enforcement. In this and other types of public service, a blog of events has the advantage of being secure but easily accessible by any designated user with a Web browser. No fancy logging or knowledge management software is required at user sites, and no IT support is necessary to give users access.
We tend not to think of corporate leaders and FBI officers as natural bloggers, but a large component of these jobs and many others is recording, sharing, and logging information. Judging by blogging's popularity among people with seemingly very little to say, it appears to be a natural human instinct. So it makes sense for simple blogging tools to reach the corporate world, where they can be put to work."

I took the liberty of blogging the full article text because Business 2.0 just went, in their own terms, "behind the curtain" -- you now have to be a magazine subscriber to access articles on their Web site.

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