Now, a workplace-centered social network doesn’t sound too exciting, unless you really like your coworkers. Fortunately, I do. Kinda. Enough to make Convofy a useful and entertaining tool for me. The Noisecast has a Facebook group that we use, but it’s mainly for yelling ideas at each other, and mocking Steven. We also use Twitter for quick contact with each other, but again, that’s mainly for mockery. Of course, there’s email, but that almost seems too formal for young tech-savvy studs like us.
Convofy takes the place of a meeting room. You can drop pictures into it to share with your followers or groups, and members can mark them up and add comments. Or draw balls on them. But seriously, this, coupled with Skype (or our preferred voice communication method: Teamspeak) allows the Noisecast crew to pretend they’re not spread across the entire country.
When you log in for the first time, you’re automatically granted permission to a group based on your email address. This is how Convofy keeps this social network within your business only. Once in the network, you can post comments, reply to others’ comments, upload picture and music files and even created separate groups within the larger network for more focus contact. If you click on someone’s profile, you’re given their title, links to other social media sites that they’ve listed, as well as the option to IM them if they’re online.
Why is all of this useful? As I’ve said before, we’re spread out. We don’t have meetings, we have emails that sent out and get ignored. The Facebook Group doesn’t support business style file sharing, and Google Docs doesn’t allow for very good discussion. Convofy changes that. We can point out things we don’t like, discuss article topics and share ideas all in one place. While certain things deserve to be discussed via email, but for quick hive-mind questions, Convofy fills the gap. My fellow Editors have their own opinions:
I love it. I haven’t been this impressed by some new toy I randomly stumbled across in a long time. Perhaps it’s the shade of Wave about it. I was an active user of Wave and was genuinely upset when it failed. It frees us from infinite email threads, allows real time collaborations that are *in context*, is lightweight and solves the desktop notification problem by being on the desktop. To be fair, a lot of these features (minus desktop) already exist on Facebook, Tinychat, Skype, etc. We’ve already been using those other services for collaboration. It makes Convofy almost redundant. But Convofy gives us a walled sandbox to play in and is intuitive. Within an hour, 3 of the 4 main editors were actively using it with no learning curve. All my positivity aside, I do have a sense of “creep” descending on me from all the ways I’m in contact with the team. This is hardly Convofy’s fault. My verdict is positive.
I have heard plenty of people say that Convofy is silly because Facebook already exists to serve all the purposes Convofy promises. Do we really need another social network in our lives? The thing about Convofy is that it is more about collaboration than social interaction. Yes, it does feel like a “Facebook for business” but as Chris mentioned, it is far more convenient than Facebook, Gmail, or Google Docs when it comes to document collaboration. The thing I was impressed with most was with the image collaboration tool. This is something I’ve been yearning for Google Docs to implement for a while now. Convofy makes it so damn convenient that when you upload an image file, someone else can go apply markups with comments quickly and effectively. It makes proposals and changes concise and convenient, as opposed to writing out a message or an email that says, “see that blue part at the upper right corner of the black box?” I think Convofy picks up where Google Wave left off when it comes to collaboration, and this is a wonderful thing.
However, the disadvantage of Convofy is that you are using the speed and efficiency of social media in a business environment, meaning irreversible and potentially harmful errors can me made while in “the zone.” With most other social media, you directly choose who you send your updates or messages to. A black and white separation exists in which certain people either get your content or they don’t. There aren’t any extra if-thens to complicate the process. Take Facebook’s status updates as an example. Using privacy settings you can choose to exclude groups of people from viewing your status updates. Yes there is that little padlock icon that lets you customize even further as to who sees your update, but the vast majority of practical Facebook users don’t selectively filter every Facebook status they make. People also send Facebook updates sometimes from Twitter, which completely circumvents the padlock icon.
Further proof that people don’t really think through their social media updates is evidenced by weekly stories of how certain people’s tweets or blog posts or fan page messages are redacted. It’s not that they were being careless, it’s just that social media’s need for us to act in a spur-of-the-moment manner causes us to be error-prone. For Tweets, Status Updates, and other services you are allowed to delete what you just posted before too much damage is done. I’ve deleted a few myself, although they were primarily because of an enter button getting in the way mid-sentence. There’s a certain level of control you have over what you post and what you have posted. Convofy on the other hand makes it impossible to change share settings for something you posted. For example, I wanted to post something only for the editors and by accident it got posted to all my followers. I couldn’t go back and edit the share settings to remove all my followers and just have it post to my Editors group. It wasn’t anything super important so no harm was done. But suppose a manager wants to make an observation about an employee to his colleagues, such as commenting on their lackluster performance? What if the manager accidentally posts it to everyone instead of just the other managers? It says visible to everyone, forever.
In Convofy’s defense, I asked them about this and they told me that “just like email, you cannot unshare a post after its being sent.” Fair enough, but there is a huge barrier between email and social media when it comes to information sharing. Emails, unlike social media, are directly targeted and meticulously thought out by the sender. The email only goes to the people who are specifically chosen and the email requires more than just a few brain cells to formulate than a status update. Email never was meant to be a short, quick, spur-of-the-moment shotgun blast. Email is email because it isn’t social. It’s confined and calculated. So when you try to inject email into a social media environment it fails, not because the environment is bad, but because we, as human beings, have been conditioned to disassociate email from social media.
I think Convofy has tons of potential. I love using it as a collaboration tool and I can’t wait for mobile OS ports to come along. Although it does have a few drawbacks it currently is pushing hard to become widely used and widely known in the business world. The question is, can Convofy become a big enough presence before Google and Facebook roll out competing implementations to their services?
Color me unimpressed. I’ve all but given up on it, but since everyone else likes it, I guess I’m along for the ride.
The first issue I had with it was going to the website. The first thing you’ll notice, as I did, is the little video thumbnail of a few internet media giants (Mark Zuckerberg being the most recognizable of the group) standing together like a team. The picture immediately give you the impression that these internet giants all collaborated to make Convofy, or that they had something to do with its creation, when in fact they didn’t. So right off the bat, I felt like I was being mislead. Now granted, as someone who works in marketing, maybe I’m over-analyzing here, but if I’m being honest, that’s truly the first thing that struck me.
So, with that aside, I still had some high hopes for this tool. So I asked Agrippa how I should go about signing up, to which he said that I needed to download the application. What? An application? For a social network? Why? He then told me I could also go on the mobile site… So wait, there’s an application for the desktop, but a browser based system for my phone? Seems like they got that one backwards.
So, I downloaded the app. Now, there is one thing you must understand about me before I go further. It will explain why this next part bothered me so much. I am obsessively neat. My desk is never cluttered. My home is always clean. My Roomba gets more exercise than I do. I absolutely despise things that become clutter. Enter, the Convofy app. I open it up and it immediately puts a bunch of little things all over my desktop. Pop-up notifications here, a drop box thing over there, just a bunch of junk. So it’s clear to me now why I needed an app. Convofy wants to drive me insane.
After the relatively short set up time, a plus for Convofy, I started playing around with it. The first thing I noticed is that it’s exactly like Facebook in almost every way, except it’s much less elegant. Granted, the design may change since it’s only in beta, but again, as someone who works in marketing, and more specifically, graphic design, it’s the first thing I notice. Then people started commenting on things. Pop ups blew up all over my desktop and I quickly went insane. Eventually I found my way to the settings and turned all that nonsense off.
Finally, the biggest reason I don’t like Convofy is that it’s completely redundant. Here at the Noisecast, we have a billion ways to get in contact with each other. Like Chris said earlier, we have our Facebook group, Twitter, emails, Skype, Teamspeak, texting, phone calls, etc. Since we all live scattered across the United States, communication was the first thing we established in starting our site. Convofy really brings nothing new to our table. I’ve also considered Convofy for the traditional office environment and it’s even more useless. If I’m working in the same building as you, we have no reason to communicate as if we’re on opposite ends of the universe. We could just have a meeting, or an phone call, or even a good old fashioned email. Personally, I think the workplace is an area where face-to-face collaboration will always trump electronic communication. Granted, for us, that isn’t an option, but we’ve managed to find more than enough ways to fill in the voids. Convofy isn’t doing anything we couldn’t do already, so we don’t need it.
That’s really the point I’m trying to make. We don’t need this. Yes, it brings everything together, but it doesn’t make any of it any easier. It just takes the same equation and solves it slightly differently. I’m all for innovation in the work place, but Convofy doesn’t innovate. It takes what others do, and mashes it together without without grace. So what’s the point?
Oh, and I hate their logo too.
Well then now that you’ve got our take, here’s the gist of what we think:
- Allows for a meeting room environment when the members are spread across the map
- File Sharing/Editing
- File Markup, commenting
- Official Workplace Communication
- Offers a means of quick ping-type communication
- No mobile apps, just the website
- No website, just the desktop app
- Offer too quick of a ping-type communication
- Can be brushed off as “social media” instead of being treated as a business tool
- Doesn’t look entirely put together
Overall, I think Convofy has great potential for businesses that span multiple offices. In an age where Teleconferencing is overtaking air-travel and hotel stays, Convofy fills a gap that perhaps we didn’t know existed. Within 30 minutes of introducing it to our core team of editors (minus Ron, because it’s not retro enough) we had covered quite a few topics and ideas that could not otherwise be presented, unless we were all to meet up at the Holiday Inn. If you run or are part of a geographically diverse business, The Noisecast recommends Convofy for you.