Friday, December 05, 2008


I heard about Yammer the other day on NPR's All Tech Considered segment. It's like twitter, except for the workplace. Some people swear by twitter, but I haven't been able to see the use of it myself, given the time investment seemingly required. (I know--I probably just don't get it.) Anyway, yammer seems like a solution to a problem.

What problem? Well, spam in short. Not the external kind that clogs up the Internet in general, but internal spam. At a large enough institution, it's an example of a tragedy of the commons. Way more than half of my emails are stuff I don't particularly want to read. If it were tagged with a minimal amount of meta-data then it would be much more useful to me. For example if a message came with standard tags I could instantly decide whether or not I'm interested in reading it. Better yet, if I could just let it blow by without even entering my In-Box, so much the better. That's essentially what yammer does. It's like sending out a chat on a group channel, but with meta-data possibilities. It's simple to embed a tag: just use a pound sign. For example:

Trying to learn the yammer API #web
would tag the message with the web keyword. Users could elect to follow that thread, or even create an RSS feed from it. There are also groups. I'm not sure what the relative advantages are of the two options, other than that groups can be made private.

There is a desktop application that's very pretty. It runs on Adobe's AIR platform. A picture is shown below.
It's very pretty, as you can see.

Is this really a company-wide spam killer? That remains to be seen. I'll first test this in my areas of responsibility and see how it works. With any luck, others will become interested too.

Yammer is free for basic functionality. If you want more administrative functions, you have to pay.

Edit: I can already tell this isn't really a tool to eliminate much internal spam. It generates more traffic if anything. It's for a different purpose, and I will explore this (you can actually see what the creators envision on a short video on their site). I'm thinking that perhaps posting mass mailings to a portal message board is the solution to the spam problem.

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