BLOGSCANNING by Robert Janelle

Janelle-92X185Flip.jpgThere’s one aspect that really makes them stand out from the rest of the crowd: they have a business model.

Ramius counts on experience to make way in crowded space
From SCAN's Print Edition

Here I am, signing up for yet another social network. A scary thought, given that lately I can barely find time to update my Facebook status and Twitter feeds.
That said, local tech firm Ramius’ foray into social networking, known as Sixent is a unique take on social applications that even major players will likely be paying attention to.
At first Sixent (the name is combination of “Six Degrees of Separation” and enterprise) looks similar to other social networks like Facebook or MySpace. It has features like status updates (“Robert is writing an article about Sixent”), photo uploads, blog entries and the ability to comment on all of this.
But the platform also adds some unique features. The one that stands out is the ability to create multiple profiles. By default, Sixent offers space to create a personal profile to share with friends, a professional profile to show business colleagues and a public profile that can be viewed by anyone. The comparmentalization approach means that photos of a user after a few too many beers shown in the personal profile won't be visible to her boss, who'd be there as a professional contact.

“It’s a good, safe place that respects privacy,” says Ramius senior consultant Simon Chen.
Profiles on Sixent also allow a for a fair bit of customization that strikes a good balance between Facebook's static look and the eye-searing flashing boxes that MySpace has become infamous for.

Ramius, which has been operating for more than a decade, first grabbed the technology sector’s attention with a product called Community Zero. CZ was an easy to use online community tool for creating discussion boards on whatever topic the users wanted to rally people around. The functionality would be popularized by both Yahoo and Google with their “Groups” applications, and Ramius managed to scored high-profile clients like NASA and Nortel.
While Ramius' history and Sixent's features are already making it a Web 2.0 application to watch, there’s one aspect that really makes them stand out from the rest of the crowd: they have a business model. The plan is to show off what they can do in the social networking space with the public version of the site and sell white-boxed version to enterprise looking to add more social and sharing aspects to corporate directories.

Beyond just creating profiles for a corporate Intranet, Mr. Chen points out that a company could create an internal network but open it up to customers to allow them to provide feedback on products and give employees an easy way to respond to them while still keeping the networks separate (again, an advantage of compartmentalization).
The social networking space may be crowded in late 2008 but Sixent adds enough to the experience to warrant attention. Besides, Mr. Chen says he doesn’t see Sixent as a competitor to established social networks but rather a service that can enhance them. “It's a platform that can co-exist with what's out there,” he says. “It's more likely that we need to play with other sandboxes.”

Bob Janelle is a freelance journalist who has plied his trade at the Citizen and Kingston’s Whig-Standard. A bilingual grad of Algonquin’s J-School, where he won awards for both writing and photography, he is a self-confessed video game addict.

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