Yammer Rundown

Someone in an administrative office contacted me to ask about Yammer, as I had offered to talk to someone else in the office about it and word got around, as it does. In telling the first person, I allowed as how I was a heavy user of our Yammer instance, but I didn’t know how heavy until I looked at the user list. Let’s put it this way: I’m the user with the most posts, with about 50% more posts than the number two person. Ulp.

Anyway, here’s what I wrote back:

I’m flattered that you would contact me about this, and will try to give a coherent perspective on Yammer, though of course it is only one of many. In some of my discussion, I’ll name names who you might want to contact as well.

Pros:
* Getting a message out to a broad range of Yale community members. Yammer was the primary channel I used for getting organizers for the first internal IT unconference last May, and even the primary channel for alerting potential participants, and we oversubscribed in 24 hours.

* Great way to get less-varnished opinions on things. Not necessarily by running a poll or other structured information-gathering exercise, but just by seeing who’s talking about what.

* Naming names. This can work both in a praise direction and in a direction of nudging someone who’s not being active on something. I’ll use it to say that so-and-so did a great job on something or to point out a project of a colleague, but also to answer a 3-day-old post that should have been answered by someone who’s in the know. This latter is certainly something I do judiciously and for which I write posts skewed toward making it clear I’m not trying to shame and blame.

* Learning what’s going on in IT at Yale and beyond. Where once upon a time, so much of the valuable information was shared over cubicle walls or in the break room, some portion of that information is now going out on Yammer. Because most of the top posters are techies (see below for the con), I particularly value this discussion space. I learn of software vulnerabilities, service pilots, events, and more.

Cons:
* I had written something about Yammer not allowing new private groups, but on looking closer, it seems like they are allowed. This confuses me, so I’m keeping the mention that I could have sworn Yammer was phasing out allowing new private groups for free networks. In any case, note that REDACTED’s group in REDACTED has made pretty heavy use of their private group, so she would be worth contacting. Conversely, there are a ton of groups both public and private that have 0 messages, so there must be people out there who can speak to why they never got going, like REDACTED.

* The biggest con is the signal to noise ratio. This can be dampened by using the web interface, but the mobile and desktop clients are so much more suited to how I work that I very rarely use it. With something north of 1400 users now, there are a lot of posts that I just don’t care about, and wading through the slop (meaning that only as a snap judgment of what interests me, not as a comment on the broader importance of any given post) can be a little tiring. I expect this would be especially tiring for skeptical users or those whose interest is narrower yet than mine.

* The open communication issue and the signal:noise problem combine to make it singularly annoying to get blast announcements (formatted to grab attention) from a group I don’t want to hear from. If you’ve been on Yammer even for a little while you might know what I’m talking about. I’m avoiding names not to be coy or have a fig leaf of decorum but more to signal that I don’t have a personal gripe with someone using Yammer in a way that works for their group even if it makes it harder for me to read.

* Self-perpetuating talker community. That is, the early adopters of Yammer were techies for the most part, and that’s still the general bent of most conversations. Looking at the list of users sorted by messages (ye gods, I didn’t realize I was quite that garrulous), you’ll note the swift drop in posts into the low double digits by the time you are halfway through two pages, and it flattens out after that at an even lower level. Those top 75 or so are predominantly IT(S) workers or Library personnel with a technological bent. My expectation is that this ends up discouraging others from claiming Yammer as theirs also.

* Possible conflict over what can happen to the content. Yammer says in their TOS that Yammer does not have, nor does it claim, any ownership rights in any User Content. However, they also say that Yammer will not review, share, distribute, or reference any such User Content except as provided herein or in our Privacy Policy or as may be required by law. There’s a possibility, of course, that what Yale would like to do with the content is different from Yammer’s policies, whether more or less restrictive.

This is all a bit spontaneous, so let me know if you’d like to talk some more whether in person or electronically. You might also put this question out on Yammer itself to see what kind of reactions you get. I don’t know if anyone has meta-used Yammer like that in a while.

Immediately after, I had another thought and added this in a subsequent message:

I completely forgot to articulate, though it’s there by its absence, that I hardly ever use the filesharing, polling, event creation, or similar features. I’m just here for the conversation.