I love Chatter. I love the way that it is a game-changer. I think that Chatter is a powerful tool. But as Peter Parker's Uncle Ben said, "With great power comes great responsibility," and with the possibility of great rewards from Chatter comes great risks.
First I'll list my conclusions, just so there's no misunderstanding. Then I'll explain some of the possible pitfalls that Chatter presents.
- Chatter is amazing. It lets users share information in ways never seen before.
- Chatter should be enabled in an org as an all-or-nothing switch - as it is now. Allowing it to be disabled for some users goes against its core purpose.
- As a single-opt-in system, the risk of Chatter-Spam is huge, but responsibility falls to each user to self-police, and probably to each company to educate its users in appropriate chatting.
Let's compare Chatter, Facebook, and Twitter in terms of what is necessary for a conversation between two people to appear in my activity stream.
Facebook is a double-double opt-in system. To see a wall post from one person to another in my stream, I must be friends with both of them, and each friendship-connection is a double opt-in, meaning that one person requests and the other approves.
Twitter is a double-single opt-in system. To see one person's reply to another, I must be following both of them. But unless one of them decides to block me, the default is that I will see the entire exchange in my twitter feed.
Chatter is a single-single opt-in system. This means that if I post something to anyone in the org, everyone following that person will see. Here's an example: Let's assume that every user at salesforce.com follows Marc Benioff. One user posts a photo of his son's graduation to Marc. Everyone following Marc will see it.
Sounds innocuous, right? Probably. But if a user keeps posting silly things to Marc, and enough people see it, other users could become annoyed.
Take it down a level, and imagine that everyone on a sales team follows each other. A junior AE keeps sending silly stuff to the strongest seller in the group, and all the sales people have to see it. This could clog their streams.
This is called a CLM: A Career-Limiting Move. As great power requires great responsibility, we must ask who should shoulder this responsibility.
- The company: Training for users and a quick eye to bring inappropriate chatters into line.
- Individuals: Just be careful. This is the Facebook public-posting dilemma. Don't forget that you have no control with whom you are connected, so anyone who wants to follow you will see anything you post, and anyone who follows someone you post to will see it as well.
The solution is NOT to turn off Chatter for certain people - Chatter is about the free-flow of data across an org, organized into forms that make it useful information. By putting information at the fingertips of every user, productivity will be increased.
Blocking people is also not a good solution.
Chatter Groups (Safe Harbor Statement!) will help, but will attenuate, not completely remove, the chances that this will happen.
Salesforce CRM should be a "sticky" app - that is, it should provide services in one place so that users see it as their central point of information. The best way to ensure the free-flow of information is to prevent blocking of certain users.