Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Ross just announced an angel round raise for Socialtext which I participated in. Ross and his crew are working on wikis in the workplace and other social software solutions and represent the cutting edge on a variety fronts.


This company seems so ... 1990s. What's your exit here? A big IPO? An acquisition? I hope you're squirrelling a little of your money away in a safe place and not putting it all into these kinds of venture companies.

I have to agree with David on this. Socialtext is just trying to capitalize on other people's ideas.
I do not think that they have the technical staff to pull any useful social software.

I've been using Socialtext's services for our workgroups and they have quite a good corporate wiki solution. Ross understands the the social software space very well, and their small but effective technical crew are experimenting with blogs and wikis in creative ways.

It's still an early stage company, so we'll see where things go, but I think it's a first rate team in an exciting space.

Nearly every feature mentioned on the socialtext web site comes with microsoft sharepoint 2.0, aside from a "wiki," which I personally could implement in under 2 days. Although it is fun to hate microsoft, most corporate IT departments already use their other crap (exchange/outlook/word) and the new sharepoint seems to integrate pretty well with all these services. The other issue is that the ASP business model is dead outside of end-user use.

Ah now, the ASP model is not dead. It's just having a nap.

It sounds like Socialtext have good expertise, which goes beyond the merely technical. I agree there is a questionmark over whether they can succeed in translating their expertise into something they can make a lot of money from in the marketplace. (And you have to make a lot of money if you're ever going to pay your investors back.)

I have to confess that I tried all this once, in my adventures in Nua. It's worth going through the wayback machine to see how the company ( evolved. We came up with an idea to develop and license a 'methodology' for online publishing. Basically, this didn't work. No one wants to license a methodology. Don't even go there. It's also very hard to get people to pay for the consulting, and it's getting harder every day.

So what you have to do is turn the 'soft' knowledge into a software product that's really good, hits all the buttons and is really easy to use. Then you have to wait for the sector to go big-time. Knowledge management and content management haven't hit the big-time yet.

You also have to keep the cash flowing while you keep the big vision alive. Basically that means finding some specific sector where you can get references and make a substantial impact. It's not glamorous, but it's how you get a software concept to pay in the early years. (As an example, the Nua product is now sold by Arconics mainly into the aviation/pilot training sector.)

I am fairly confident that Joi wouldn't invest money in the company if he wasn't sure they were reasonably close to finding a cashflow source that will keep them alive.

Rolando is quite right about the Microsoft problem. MS have a set of products that will do pretty much anything you want at this stage, and the customers already have them installed. The problem is that no one uses the tools to their full potential, and the user interface often doesn't suit.

The basics are good though. They are addressing a problem (information overloadand management and managing interactions and creativity) that most companies have. Good strategy is about making the best of the business environment you find. I'm sure they'll make a pretty good fist at doing that.

Re: features

There are a lot of collaboration systems on the market with many, many features.

The trouble is that these systems often go unused, because they are too complicated for people to use and they don't fit in with people's daily work pattern.

Our mission is not to offer the greatest number of features, but to have a product that is easy to use and works well with people's day-to-day process.

- Adina

"... easy to use and works well with people's day-to-day process" -- oh, like a *Wiki*? Give us a break.

I'm with the first commenters. There are companies doing interesting things in the "social software space", but SocialText ain't it.

Wikis have been around for how long? And they're *still* waiting to catch on? This sounds like a warmed over 1998 pitch.

I'm not a believer.

Blogs were around for a long time before they, "took off". I've been running Infoseek Japan for around 7 years now. This year we saw the percentage of people in Japan jump from 30% two years ago to 70%. Just because things have been around for a long times, doesn't make them obsolete.

Jeez, rough crowd -- and it is kind of hard to believe that Michael Palin hisself (, no less!) dropped by ;)

I see the value in things like Wikipedia and Meatball, but I'll admit to some skepticism about garden variety wikis' utility in the workplace (at least for me), but then I've never seen Socialtext's product.

(And Joi, I can't parse that stat -- 70% of Japanese net users are using Infoseek Japan?)

A survey conducted by the government on net users asked "do you use search engines" and the number jumped from 30% to 70%. Most probably use Yahoo. ;-P On the other hand, Infoseek Japan is #3 after Yahoo and MSN in terms of reach. We recently aquired Lycos as well.

The user interface on wiki's at the moment is crap. Say it to yourself out loud and slowly. Crap. If someone fixed the user interface, people might start to use it.

The user interface on wiki's at the moment is crap. Say it to yourself out loud and slowly. Crap. If someone fixed the user interface, people might start to use it.

Relax everyone. It is only the Angel funding round. They are called 'Angels' for good reasons. Frankly, I wish I had some angels looking over my shoulder myself.

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Socialtext schlie〓 seine erste Finanzierungsrunde ab. Unter den Investoren ist auch Joi Ito. Read More