Facebook Lists and the Enterprise
By Clayton on Aug 26, 2010
This article on TechCrunch reminds me of how much I dislike enterprise systems that require you to recreate many of the relationships that are inherent in an organization using constructs that are available and remain unused in many popular consumer social sites.
Tonight at a Facebook Developer's Garage meeting at Facebook's headquarters in Palo Alto, Zuckerberg fielded a question about the service's privacy controls. He said that the ideal solution for sharing different things with different people is to make a friend list. "But guess what? Nobody wants to make lists," Zuckerberg admitted.
Yes, nobody wants to make lists.
The TechCrunch proposal is excellent for Internet-facing applications, as differentiation between "friends" and "followers" is usually a good first cutoff in a relationship. Enterprises have these relationship distinctions too...hence why you're likely to see a broadcast from your CEO, but your CEO probably isn't seeing broadcasts from each individual employee.
In the enterprise, your peers, managers, reports, approvers, and so forth are already grouped in meaningful ways as part of business applications. Since these systems need to be accurate for payroll, promotions, mailing lists, and a number of other processes to work, there is significant incentive for the specific relationships to be accurate.
Contrast this with single-purpose lists used by a single platform that need self-management. Such lists are maintained manually, are not going to be corrected by others if incorrect, and are unlikely to stay meaningful.
We've long said in the directory space that the directory is a place for identity information that has utility in the broadest number of places. Similarly, many of these existing relationships are already modeled in the directory. With virtual directories, even those relationships found in external business systems can be brought into the scope of your applications via a single, simple LDAP request.
I'd like to see mor enterprise applications become more social by simply using the "lists" and relationship granularity that is already defined rather than try to mimic Facebook and other Internet sites that require me to maintain these on my own.