Should you use social software at work?

Basecamp icon

Where’s the line start and end with social software?

Currently I'm using these and more social software services.

Flickr
Audioscrobbler
Eventful
Bloglines
Del.icio.us
Reader2
Myprogs
Ideabank
Listal

But just recently I've been testing out basecamp. Now basecamp is a product by 37signals camp and I was impressed by the talk which was given. But theres something different between the other social apps I'm using and basecamp. See the rest I use in my personal life and projects not at work. But Basecamp is a project management tool, fitting somewhere between a adhoc wiki and full on microsoft project ummm project? Where do I have to manage the most projects? Work of course.

So is it correct of me to use a online tool to project manage internal BBC projects which I maybe working on? Its a tricky question and I'm not certain of the answer. Some would actually suggest that I shouldn’t be discussing this in public on my own blog. But I'm not revelaling anything which is secret or private to the BBC, so I'm sure I'm on good grounds with this entry.

So back to the question. The only time I've come across this type of dielmma is when using del.icio.us. There are a lot of urls which I would like to store in my bookmarks and del.icio.us means I can access and store them anywhere but should I store internal urls in the public del.icio.us? Yes I know del.icio.us like flickr and a few other services have a private tag which means it will not appear in the public. But is that a good idea? Anyhow the question of bookmarking was solved for me when someone setup del.irio.us inside the BBC firewall. So all my internal urls are now stored there and external one's on del.icio.us.

But back to basecamp, this certainly quite a step up from storing bookmarks. Storing project metadata externally is a risk too far. The logical solution would be to download a opensource version of basecamp and run it inside the firewall but then you lose some of the flexibility of social software. I don’t believe basecamp is even available to download and the other project management tools in this area tend to be too structured (alas Microsoft Project) or too unstructured (alas a fancy wiki). If someone can suggest somthing they have seen which is dead in the middle please do add a comment.

The next step for me is look at the public and private aspects of Basecamp and of course the End user licence. I already noticed you can export all the data as one large xml file but it didn’t quite work for me. I got a lot of structure and no data except the actual project title. I'm sure its a bug or something. Theres also RSS and iCal data which can be subscribed and used as a restful api if the export is not up to the task.

I'm sure many other businesses use basecamp small and maybe large. But they may use the paid version which has more features and maybe a slightly different end user agreement? no its the same one. I'll check this out later but I'm actually writing this from my hospital bed and believe it or not there is no wireless and i'm not allowed to use my mobile to dial up on 3g (hint of cheekyness of course).

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.