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Integrating Social Media with Messaging and Collaboration Tools

I'll start off this week with an update: I wrote a column in June about how Exchange Server 2007 uses the Windows paging file. Mike Lagase of Microsoft has written a terrific, detailed explanation of the Exchange 2007 paging mechanism on the Microsoft Exchange Team Blog, including information on how and why Exchange allocates memory for various uses. It's well worth reading.

For this week's topic, I wanted to touch on social media. You've probably seen sites or tools that hype themselves as being part of the "Web 2.0" movement, of which social media is a keystone. There are many arguments about whether social media adds any actual value to business operations; I'm not going to debate those here. Instead, I want to look at ways that social media systems could conceivably become better-integrated with the messaging and collaboration tools we already use.

Instant Messasging (IM) is one example of this integration because IM is in many ways the first real social networking tool. People tend to think of IMs as ephemeral, but Microsoft included a nifty function in Office Communicator 2007 that lets it store your IM activity in a special Conversation History folder in your Exchange mailbox. That makes IM sessions searchable and indexed right alongside email, calendar, and contact data. In principle, this unification of data types is one of the big benefits of Microsoft's approach to unified communications (UC). The more data types you put into a single repository, the more value that repository has as a source of interesting data, such as presence information showing whether the people you need to talk to are free or busy.

Mashups, or sites that combine data from various sources, are another example of the potential for social media and messaging to interact. There are some great examples out there, such as, which combines map data from Google with real estate price data to show you what your neighbors' houses are worth. Zimbra has had some success pitching the ease of building mashup capabilities into its Zimbra Collaboration Suite web client. Microsoft has a neat toolset called Popfly for building mashups, and the Exchange team has shown some examples of building Exchange-based mashups at TechEd and INTERACT. I'm really interested to see what kinds of mashup capabilities future versions of Exchange and Microsoft Office Communications Server might include.

Shared bookmarking is an application that some people swear by and that others just don't find useful. (I'm in the latter group.) IBM ships Lotus Connections, a shared bookmarking tool, but I don't know of any for Exchange yet. This strikes me as an ideal application to include with SharePoint because of its emphasis on shared dynamic lists, but it's not clear to me how well this capability would integrate with Exchange and Exchange clients. After all, any social media tool that requires its own separate client reduces the value of being able to use contextual collaboration tools in the first place!

What about Twitter, perhaps the best-known of the new wave of social media applications? I'm on the fence with this one; I can see the value in getting certain kinds of updates, but do I really need to know what random people in my social circle are having for lunch? To help settle the matter, I've decided to use Twitter for a while and see how it works out. You can follow my experiment at; feel free to drop me a note if you're using Twitter or if you've rejected it as impractical.

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