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10/30/2006
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Online Entertainment, Brought To You By Your Collaboration Software

Lately I have been traveling and spending late nights at the office.  Sometimes I just need to take a short break and distract myself.  Not having access to a TV, I downloaded a peer-to-peer collaboration tool called damaka that has integrated IPTV.  A damaka user can select from 24 different free channels, such as news, business, cinema, sports, music, comedy, and shopping.  I clicked on ABC News and in less then 10 seconds I was able to quickly relax and watch the highlights of the evening news.   Is this the future of collaborative software?

Integrating entertainment and news tools into collaboration tools for businesses is not new.  Groove built several games into their collaboration client.  When I worked for Novell, employees would share their iTunes libraries with others in the same floor.  In the past, many of my co-workers would play video games with each other during their lunch breaks and I even saw some people playing video games with each other during meetings.  My mechanic’s secretary is always playing solitaire. When I visit my colleagues who are college professors, I find them watching movies during their lunch breaks.  My brother told me that at Altiris (www.altiris.com), they even have a TV room where people can go and work.  He said that during the world cup this room was full of people.  Radio has been around the work place for a long time now and it’s a part of many work environments.  Many call centers have their own DJ’s who entertain customers while they are on hold.

Many of my colleagues have written about the future of the workplace and have done a great job capturing the possible integration and functionality a single super-collaboration tool could provide. Many vendors are doing a great job in delivering such tools.  I propose that in addition to collaborative functionality, vendors start thinking about integrating entertainment tools such as TVIP, radio, and games into collaboration tools; this is already being done by consumer focused collaboration tools such as the above-mentioned damaka and Yahoo.  Groove already started doing it for the enterprise.  The advantages of such integration include:

·    The vendor’s ability to draw further use from, and greater viral spread of, the collaboration tool.  
·    Employers will be able to control and monitor employees use of different mediums of entertainment
·    Employees will be able to have some form of entertainment that will help them relax and maximize their enjoyment of their free time while at work.
·    IT departments will also be able to more securely control community gaming environments that may involve non-company players.

Employees have already found ways to leverage existing collaboration tools for their own pleasure.  Office computers are used to play movies, video conference rooms used to watch TV, company networks are used for gaming, and collaboration community portals used for employee hobby discussions.  In addition, employees have also started posting their own blogs and streaming their own podcasts to other employees.

A recent study published by the Inspector General’s office reported on time wasted at the U.S. Department of the interior.  The report estimated that about 104,221 work hours per year are wasted by the Depart of Interior workers pursuing Internet gaming sites. The report cited thousands of collected logs from users' computers showing workers spending between eight and fourteen hours at a time on gaming sites.

The loss of productivity caused by the increasing forms of entertainment made available by the Internet and technology is a reason for bringing different forms of entertainment at work under control.  Either employers can cut all forms of entertainment, limit employees, or find employees who can be trusted.   Companies who would like to limit different forms of entertainment could look at collaboration providers as a possible alternative for providing entertainment options for their employees.  If an employee is already spending most of their productive time in the software, why not also spend their break time.  I certainly did while working late nights with damaka.

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