When Is Social Networking Kosher In The Office? Millions of people use Twitter to post short updates about what they're doing, what they're reading and whom they're talking to. Now there's a new tool similar to Twitter that can help keep work e-mail inboxes clean. It's called Yammer.
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When Is Social Networking Kosher In The Office?

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When Is Social Networking Kosher In The Office?

When Is Social Networking Kosher In The Office?

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is All Things Considered from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: It's time now for our weekly technology segment, "All Tech Considered." Last week we took you shopping for energy-efficient televisions. This week we take you to the office. I'm joined once again by Omar Gallaga. He covers technology culture for the Austin American-Statesman. Omar, welcome back.

Mr. OMAR GALLAGA (Technology Reporter, Austin American-Statesman): Thanks for having me, Melissa.

BLOCK: And today we're not just talking about tech in the office, we're talking about social networking in the office.

Mr. GALLAGA: Right. We usually think of social networks as a way to keep in touch with old college friends or with family. But now we're also starting to see social networks really affect the way we work, as well.

BLOCK: OK. And we're going to talk more with you about this in a moment. But first, we're going to hear a report from Brad Linder. We sent him out to find out why some companies are actually encouraging their employees to use social networks such as the rapid-fire messaging service Twitter.

BRAD LINDER: Millions of people use Twitter to post short updates about what they're doing, what they're reading, who they're talking to. But now there's a new use for Twitter, or a service very much like it, keeping your work email inbox clean.

Mr. DAVID SACHS (CEO, Yammer): Let's say there's a question that you have, and somebody in your department knows the answer - you're not sure who. If you send an email to everyone in your department, you'll really clutter up their inboxes.

LINDER: David Sachs is CEO of Yammer, a company which takes the basic idea behind Twitter and moves it to the workplace.

Mr. SACHS: Essentially what it has allowed us to do is have a lot more conversations without necessarily having meetings. And you want to reserve email for communications where you actually do require a response. But if you just want to have a freeform discussion, Yammer really excels in that.

LINDER: One company that's started to adopt Yammer is Portico Systems, a software provider in suburban Philadelphia that develops technology for health care payers. Portico co-founder Scott Fraser and development manager Bill Gallagher say they've grown to hate email. Fraser says it works for one-on-one messages, but it's less efficient for group communication.

Mr. SCOTT FRASER (Co-founder and CTO, Portico Systems): The first thing you have to do when you send out the email is decide who you're sending it to. It's such - that is such a speed bump sometimes. OK, who do I send this to? Oh, shoot. I didn't remember to include this person or...

Mr. BILL GALLAGHER (Development Manager, Portico Systems): Or the order in the "to" list. You know, people are very sensitive to that.

Mr. FRASER: Oh, that's huge.

LINDER: Fraser says he's a big fan of Twitter, and he's been using it to keep in touch with people in his personal life for almost two years. And he wanted to be able to use it for work.

Mr. FRASER: But the problem was there are certain things that related to Portico that I wouldn't share. I wouldn't want our competitors to know what we're thinking about internally, what our team's focused on in terms of our next release.

LINDER: Yammer solved that problem for Fraser. He can send and receive updates, and only his co-workers can read them. Portico's development manager, Bill Gallagher, says at first he was hesitant to use Yammer because he'd heard horror stories about employees spending all day engrossed in Twitter conversations instead of getting work done. But he's come to see Yammer as a good way to keep in touch with his team members.

Mr. GALLAGHER: We're a distributed company. We're all over the world. We work 24/7. We all have different schedules. People are in and out of the office. If I have something I want to share, you know, I've found Yammer to be a great way to do that.

LINDER: Gallagher admits that some of the messages he gets on Yammer are frivolous notes about co-workers doing their laundry or describing what they're eating. But pulling out his BlackBerry, he says he can also keep up-to-date on more important conversations.

Mr. GALLAGHER: Scott, 47 minutes ago, said, hey, come over to my office and do this interview. And Matt, 53 minutes ago, was working on some performance information for one of our customers. So I pretty much know who's working on what and when they were working on it, if I choose to do that.

LINDER: More than 70,000 people have already signed up for Yammer accounts. And while not all the companies using the service are paying subscribers, Yammer is growing fast. The company only launched its service in September. For NPR News I'm Brad Linder in Philadelphia.

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