Feeling the pain of inbox overload? Here’s an idea: now add in messages that are status updates from your CRM system (“Jim Chen just hit his monthly AGP quota”), content management system (“Presentation AugConfv2-2.pptx was added”), social networking page (“Jackie Cropper just commented on Susan Hg’s photo”), and project planning system (“Task ‘Get buy-in from VPs’ is now 2 days overdue”). There, now do you feel more informed?
Activity streams have been around a while as a concept, but are getting a bump in interest. IBM talked them up at Lotusphere 2011. Microsoft added an ActivityManager class in SharePoint 2010 for MySite and profile changes, although they didn’t talk about it much or connect it to the rest of SharePoint. In fact, most categorizations place activity streams under “social software” for historical purposes, not that their value is limited to social status updates.
Definitions of activity streams range from the mundane (something like “an aggregation of real-time feeds”) to new-fangled paradigm shifting like this:
The solution to the information overflow problem is Activity Streams. Activity Streams are the future of enterprise collaboration, uniting people, data, and applications in real-time in a central, accessible, virtual interface. Think of a company social network where every employee, system, and business process exchanged up-to-the-minute information about their activities and outcomes. Now, instead of pockets of knowledge, the company will have one central nervous system that unifies every piece of corporate information. … Activity Streams fundamentally change how companies do business, unlocking the vast amount of information generated by everyday operations and making it instantly available across previously defined boundaries. Activity Streams humanize every business process inside a company, adding a social layer to data and opening up real-time collaboration.
I have cautious optimism about activity streams. Applying attention management is difficult because there are so many systems to apply it to. Creating a fulcrum for setting up alerts, filters, recommendation engines, and the like yields more value from the investment in time and money for managing attention.
Unfortunately, right now the focus seems to be mostly on plugging everything into the streams. The resulting deluge of status updates may give activity streams a bad name. For that reason, I’d like to see attention management controls and UI built into activity streams from the start, not evolve over time. But I am but one voice in the stream of life …