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Before his recent comeuppance, Howard Dean’s Democratic presidential campaign focused attention on the emerging category of social software, as Dean’s campaign team used Meetups and Weblogs to generate more than $40 million in contributions.

In the enterprise, social software can help build connections between workers and their business contacts and customers. The social software phenomenon began with such services as Friendster and LinkedIn and has been expanding to include a variety of real-time Web technologies.

Ross Mayfield, CEO at social software maker SocialText, calls these new social networks “frictionless whuffie fun.” But whuffie, a colloquial measure of digital reputation, speaks to the fundamental problem confronting social networks: How do you establish trust over the public network and make group formation and information sharing more secure and efficient?

Spam and virus assaults on e-mail have undermined the reliability and utility of collaboration. In response, instant messaging use has accelerated, particularly via vendor and corporate portals. Enterprise versions added archiving, API monitoring of file transfer and sometimes content, and hierarchical scoping by project and group.

A small step up from such IM content capture is Weblog infrastructure, first provided as a community-building hosted service. Tech companies such as Groove Networks used Dave Winer’s Manila server to share information behind a firewall. RSS aggregators now provide a powerful management tool for routing this data across workgroups and external partners.

As IM and RSS end points have mushroomed, so too have the requirements for prioritizing and managing access to those information streams.

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