Have you heard? Yammer is Twitter for corporations. On Monday it launched. On Wednesday, it won TechCrunch50′s top prize. By this morning, Yammer was reporting it had signed up 10,000 people from 2,000 companies. This afternoon, the great Dan Fabulich of Redfin asked if we could start using it.
Of course, Dan was only being polite: the appeal of Yammer’s business model is that anyone can start using it (Redfin only has to pay to control it). And even if I’d said no, another Redfin employee would have started using it anyway.
So I said yes. And then thought: what does this mean? And what have we done?
What Does Yammer Mean?
What Yammer means to me is first that there’s a new model for selling enterprise software, and it resembles nothing more than George Soros’s efforts to undermine the Soviets by air-dropping fax machines behind the Iron Curtain: tools are downloaded and used, with executives & IT only later having to accommodate the facts on the ground. The whole question of whether Yammer is actually productive is beside the point, because it’s so easy and fun.
Yammer also means something more, that email is broken: overwhelmed with spam, cumbersome to open, with responses feeling like an obligation rather than an option. If you want to deliver a message to someone, almost any other medium is more likely to get noticed: IM, Facebook, Twitter, RSS.
What Have We Done?
But the bigger question about Redfin’s use of Yammer is what have we done?
While I am glad to try a new technology — Dan is such a fearless pioneer — I worry that Yammer might be worse than work, and worse even than no-work. At least when you’re browsing ESPN.com, you feel bad about it. Yammer happens at work, and it sounds like work — you can always tell when someone is writing an email, IM or Twitter, because their typing is so much faster and noisier — so people think it is work, with one crucial exception: it may not get work done.
I’m not sure I buy the talk about collaboration. I’ve seen passive-aggressive arguments happen over email and (less over) IM — Skype’s workrooms are the exception; they’re awesome — that could have been avoided or settled in a few minutes face to face; will Yammer be much different?
As it is, I have elaborate fantasies about outlawing the whole Internet for hours at a time, or even for an entire workday. When I marvel at how a historical colossus like Theodore Roosevelt (definitive naval history of 1812, four-volume history of American frontier, a staggering number of slaughtered animals, U.S. President) or Honore de Balzac (dozens of coffee-fueled novels, written from midnight – 3 in the afternoon, while standing up) had time to accomplish so much, I usually attribute it to talent, servants — and no Internet.
Staving Off a Coup
But whether a shot at greatness is in anyone’s cards, I don’t have the guts to pull the plug on email, IM or Yammer for even a minute: there would be a coup, and Cynthia Pang would mount my head on a stake outside the Dexter-Horton building by the end of the day. I think a lot of executives who are asked about IM or Yammer agree to it for the same reason: they don’t want to seem like Scrooges or Luddites, and they’re not sure they could stop anyone anyway. And truth be told, we want our Yammer too.
Gentle reader and Dan Fabulich (who is, by the way, mutantly productive and far less curmudgeonly than I am) what do you think? Is Yammer good or bad for actually getting work done? Once we actually start using Yammer, we’ll report back on the results. Right now I’m not sure — but I’m excited to use it anyway.
(Flickr credit: soldiersmediacenter on Flickr)