Microblogging: the future of business chat
‘Business chat’ – the process by which informal information sharing is quickly administered through an online platform like Slack, is growing up. What started as casual chats on platforms like MSN Messenger, as a way to reduce the torrent of email chains that had to capture everything in a conversation, grew into groupware-like chat environments that loosely mirror Internet Relay Chat (IRC).
But IRC’s text-only limitation is the same restriction that made Usenet (and news servers generally) an ill-fit for modern communication needs.
Why Slack works
Slack works well because it has a very shallow learning curve. Users can quickly get to grips with the different chatrooms concept (an IRC-like scheme). Various multi-room platforms exist, with various levels of maturity. Slack also makes communicating fun and easy – by handling large file transfers and media-sharing seamless, together with integration with the big cloud players, the process of communicating is effortless. However, the sting in the tail is licensing when usage ramps up.
But a lesson learnt is that keeping to a straightforward approach is the best way to enable effective communication, and a way to do this effectively is to keep the platform web-based. That is, in the social & technical environment that most users are very accustomed to. On that basis, there are some well-supported, mature platforms well worth considering.
Alternatives to Slack
All of the federated social network platforms provide the means to have group chat functionality off the bat. Some web platforms also perform this task well. A few examples include:
- Mastodon – benefitting primarily by having robust mobile clients
- Diaspora* – appropriate for media sharing
- Friendica – media sharing and internetwork connectivity
- bbPress – WordPress-based bulletin board system
- buddyPress – Another WordPress-based system, but more ‘social network’ in orientation
Getting a system set up and users registered is a painless process. Users can then familiarise themselves with the concepts of that system and start broadcasting messages to other group members when the need arises. Thus, microblogging in the context of business chat is a very useful medium for information sharing and problem resolution.
This collaborative approach to information working is growing culturally; the pride of ’empire building’ is falling away as more enlightened workers enter employment and expect these types of systems to be available.
Discuss with us what systems you can use to harness the opportunities available.