ThoughtFarmer designed to promote growth of corporate social networks
by Alan Zisman (c) 2011
published in Business in Vancouver January 11-17, 2011 issue #1107 High
Web 2.0 and social networks seemed to be everywhere in 2010: on your
computer, on movie theatre screens and on the cover of Time magazine.
One place where it might be hard to find social networks, however: at
While many companies found ways to use the likes of Facebook and
Twitter as marketing tools, many businesses discourage employee use,
considering the social networks time- wasters at best and potential
business secret leaks at worst.
But there’s a lot more to Web 2.0 interactivity than Facebook and
Let’s not forget the widespread popularity of blogging and wikis, tools
that allow users to create, edit or comment on online content. For most
businesses, however, Microsoft Office and email remain the tools of
Vancouver’s OpenRoad hopes that its ThoughtFarmer social intranet
software will help bridge that gap by providing businesses and
organizations with better ways to manage documents, share information
and enable employee collaboration.
Founded in 1995, OpenRoad started out focusing on custom software and
It worked with early local web adopters, including the (then) Workers
Compensation Board and Business in Vancouver. It launched ThoughtFarmer
in 2005 and has recently released version 4.0 to customers such as the
Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, the Guardian newspaper, Mountain
Equipment Co-op, Oxfam and the District of Columbia court system.
OpenRoad president and co-founder Darren Gibbons told me that
ThoughtFarmer expands on traditional corporate intranets.
Many organizations have used intranets to share news, key documents and
policies internally with employees.
OpenRoad describes ThoughtFarmer as “an intranet for intranet-haters”
that reduces the complexity of managing traditional corporate intranets.
Moreover, by adding Web 2.0 tools like blogs, wikis and social
networks, ThoughtFarmer gives everyone in the company the ability to
post information to the intranet.
The new version 4.0 adds connections to Microsoft’s widely used
SharePoint server, combining ThoughtFarmer’s ease of use to SharePoint
document management features. While supporting all versions of
SharePoint 2010 including the free Foundation version, a SharePoint
server is not required to use ThoughtFarmer.
Gibbons noted that many employees send draft documents as email
attachments. The result is multiple versions of documents floating
around the network. ThoughtFarmer replaces that with links to a single
copy of the document on the network. The product’s new desktop
connector feature allows collaborative editing of intranet-hosted files
while maintaining a full revision history.
The new ThoughtFarmer version makes it easier to convert complex
Microsoft Word documents into web pages for Internet or intranet
posting, while preserving word processing formatting and features.
It can also be used to quickly generate PDF documents from Internet and
intranet pages, and includes a statistics package for intranets.
Gibbons pointed out that many organizations are apprehensive about
opening their corporate intranets to all employees, but said that
clients who have done it have grown to appreciate the benefits. He
noted that ThoughtFarmer does not allow anonymous posting. Blog
postings are accompanied by the poster’s name, photo, job title and a
link to their personal page. As a result, employees take responsibility
for what they post to intranet blogs and forums.
Along with reducing the cost of managing organization intranets,
Gibbons suggested that ThoughtFarmer makes documents on these networks
more searchable, which makes it easier for employees to find
information and people within an organization.
By combining new-generation social software with more traditional
intranets and document management, OpenRoad hopes that its social
intranet software ThoughtFarmer will bring clients to “Enterprise 2.0,”
improving productivity while helping to build a sense of community