NewsGator releases major upgrade

New version includes flexible, configurable interface

This week NewsGator announced a new version of Social Sites, its Enterprise Social Software, which includes a new flexible interface that lets users configure it to display the information that's most important them.

NewsGator is known primarily as a Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) SharePoint partner and in a case of interesting timing, before hearing about this release, I wrote about the impact of Microsoft's recent purchase of Yammer on its Enterprise Social Software partners including NewsGator.

It's no secret that NewsGator has close ties to the SharePoint product. In fact, when you conduct a search for it, the company refers to itself as "SharePoint 2010 Enterprise Social Computing -NewsGator" in the results. That's about as close ties as you can get.

This release, however, shows that NewsGator is apparently not intimidated by the Yammer purchase.

The latest version features the new Lookout interface. One of the big issues users complain about with social software, whether it's Enterprise Social Software or on the open web, is the amount of noise in the typical social stream. NewsGator has designed a flexible interface to enable users to select the elements that each user considers important to act as a social filter.

It actually works in a similar way to TweetDeck. You can create tiles, columns really, based on certain factors such as recommendations, people or subjects. There are several tiles available by default, but you can configure each one or create a new one.

Once you create a tile, it appears as a column inside the Lookout interface. You can drag and drop them to rearrange them as you see fit at any particular moment. For users who don't know where to start, such as who to follow or which communities to join, NewsGator offers recommendations based on your job, other people you follow and so forth.

Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst of Collaboration Software at Constellation Research, says people have been looking for ways to manage the social stream in this kind of software, and NewsGator has provided that. 

"With custom streams that filter posts based on author or topic, people can focus on the content they are most interested in. Additionally, the multi-column display (similar to tools like Tweet Deck or Hoot Suite) enables people to look at several streams at the same time, each showing a different set of content," he said.

The flexibility has the potential to be both a strength and a weakness for NewsGator. Just as people get overwhelmed by too much information in the activity, many users could be intimidated by the flexibility of the interface, which might offer too many choices.

But overall, this looks like a very clean design and a sleek approach to presenting the information. It provides a way to separate NewsGator from SharePoint and Yammer, and offers enterprise customers a clear and compelling alternative.

Lookout will be released on Friday. It will support SharePoint 2010 and 2013 (as soon as version 2013 is released).

For more:
- see the NewsGator press release

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