Twitter for the enterprise

PORTLAND, Ore. —Organizations looking for a way to run a
Twitter-like microblogging service in-house may consider taking a
look at the Laconica platform recently released by
Montreal-based Control Yourself Inc.


Laconica is an open source microblogging platform—a
network service software that allows participants to post short
messages on a Web page, which then can be read by peers and other
interested parties. The messages can also be sent out to instant
messaging clients, to cell-phones as a short message service
(SMS)-based dispatch, and to other conduits.


Control Yourself also offers a version of the service at
Identi.ca.“It’s a Twitter you can
fix,” noted Evan Prodromou, creator of the software.
“People need to make their own decisions when working on the
Web.”


Prodromou spoke at the O'Reilly Open Source Conference (OSCON),
being held this week.


Laconica is different from Twitter for several reasons. One is
that it is available as a stand-alone software platform available
without cost under an open source license. Laconica also can offer
federated messaging: Two different installations of Laconica can be
linked so that a message on one service can be relayed to users of
the other service.


For federated messaging, the software uses the emerging standard
for setting up such communication, the OpenMicroBlogging protocol, so Laconica users could communicate
with other software products that use this standard as well.


Laconica can also be hooked into Twitter as well, so messages
can be shared between the two platforms. Here, Laconica uses the
Twitter's application programming interface.


Deploying Laconica within an enterprise can help employees from
different parts of the organization share information, Prodromou
said. The software can partition off different user groups for
collaboration, or have users communicate with the world—or
organization—at large. Organizations can also set up conduits
to personnel at other organizations running their own microblogging
services.


Although primarily for consumer use, government agencies have
found ways to harness the Twitter service. The Los Angeles Fire
Department uses Twitter to send out alerts and
notices to local residents about fire emergencies. NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory runs a Twitter account to provide the public the latest
information about the Mars Phoenix Lander.


The work on Laconica was born out of a Free Software Foundation
mini-summit held in March which sought to find ways to open up user
data from Web-based social networking Web services.


Prodromou likened the current state of social networking
applications, such as MySpace or Twitter, to the early days of the
commercial Internet services, such as CompuServe and America
Online. In both cases, data can only be accessed by accessing the
service itself. Sharing the data across the service boundaries, or
moving it to another service altogether is currently difficult, if
not impossible.


“The social web should work like the data Web. You should
be able to link from service to service,” Prodromou
added.


Laconica is built from the PHP Web scripting language, and uses
DB_DataObject to access an instance of a MySQL database. XML Writer
is used for writing output and data transfers are encoded using the
Resource Description Framework (RDF). The Web user interface can be
customized.



About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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