When you’re working in any sort of time-sensitive environment, having real-time communication is paramount. Here at TNW we’ve tried a number of different options for working across distances while still keeping that face-to-face communication. For the past two weeks, and moving forward, our solution is Convofy.

Convofy is a work platform that will be very familiar to anyone who used FriendFeed and its group functions. But where FriendFeed groups were great for real-time communication, they lacked in providing much more than that. The market is picking up, with Chatter, ,Yammer and more, but Convofy has grabbed our attention for a few reasons.

Overview

At its heart, Convofy is a glorified chat room. Your administrator signs up and can invite others from the same email domain. Once invited, you’ll need to download the Convofy app, which is based on Adobe AIR (more on that in a bit). Logging in, you have a few simple profile options, and then you’re set to go.
Screen shot 2011 04 06 at 12.15.06 PM 520x305 Enterprise social network Convofy opens for business. Heres our full review.

Administrators can set up groups, making messages considerably easier to sort. Beyond the groups, you can also create lists, as well as calendar events to keep groups notified of upcoming events. Sharing content to your groups is supremely simple, and offers some rich options. To do so quickly, just drag a link, file or photo to a Quick Add (the green +, on the left in this shot) on your desktop.

Screen shot 2011 04 06 at 12.20.50 PM 520x353 Enterprise social network Convofy opens for business. Heres our full review.Digging Deeper

What really sets Convofy apart is what you can do with information that is shared inside of it. No matter the content that is shared, anyone who can see it can comment on it, annotate it and keep a progressive, flowing discussion about it. While each item does show up in your news feed, it is also given its own page on which all of the annotation and discussion can happen.

Screen shot 2011 04 06 at 12.26.38 PM 520x296 Enterprise social network Convofy opens for business. Heres our full review.As you can see in the shot above, Zee shared a link. By going to the page for the link, its webpage is displayed for me in a new tab, but I can do real-time annotation on it. Fortunately, the marks do not stay in place all the time. In order to get a mark to re-appear, you’ll need to click on the comment in which it was made. This keeps the entire thing from getting overly messy, while still allowing long conversations with huge amounts of mark-up.

Every time that you share something in Convofy, you have the option to do considerably more than just add some text. Choosing between Files, Links, Notes, Task Lists and Milestones is as easy as clicking on the appropriate action and adding any text that you want to be displayed with your post.

Screen shot 2011 04 06 at 12.30.10 PM 520x135 Enterprise social network Convofy opens for business. Heres our full review.Of course, if you’re only looking for some specific items in your feed, you can choose to apply filters that will show each of the above-named items.

Private messaging is handled just like any other IM client. Clicking on someone’s name takes you to their profile, and you can send a message to them directly. While you lose the ability to share rich media content, it’s great for holding conversations that don’t need to be seen by the rest of a team.

Posting to any group can be done via email, and the mobile version of Convofy is a web-based HTML5 site that works exceptionally well across Android, iOS and more. There are email notifications available, as well, but be forewarned that they’ll get very spammy if you’re working with a large team. Desktop notifications are a near-must for us, to make sure that we don’t lose messages. Fortunately, Convofy has implemented them and they work in real time.

Our Complaints

At this point, it’s safe to say that our complaints are…not many. We would love it if Convofy were web-based, rather than being an application you were forced to download. It seems strange to build native applications for a platform that is directed at web-based communication. Though it’s arguably easier to offer a more standardized experience for users with a native app, a web-based app would be very welcome.

The only other gripe that we run into on any sort of consistent basis is in how Convofy updates the timelines. We have 5 groups for TNW. If someone posts, then another person posts, and then the first person posts again, it will group the posts of an individual together, rather than having them display in a timeline format.

Screen shot 2011 04 06 at 12.54.59 PM 520x354 Enterprise social network Convofy opens for business. Heres our full review.In all fairness, the Convofy team has been exceptionally receptive to our suggestions and criticism, making changes swiftly during the two-week period. This is the only looming suggestion that we’ve had which has not yet been changed.

Worth the While?

If your business is deeply ingrained with Yammer or Chatter, then the transition to Convofy might be difficult. However, it’s still worth a serious look. The simplicity with which Convofy enables you to bring context to the entire Internet is absolutely unbeatable.

If you’re not yet using any sort of network, then you absolutely must look at Convofy. Doing everything over Skype? You’re missing the point. Nothing but email? Spammy and ineffective. Convofy is like having your entire workforce in the same office, no matter where in the world you might be.

The public beta for Convofy opens up today, at 12:30pm Pacific time. So go, load up the Convofy site now and keep hitting refresh until you can get in. While you’re at it, have a look at the Convofy promo video. It’s not fluff. It really is this fluid and robust.