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Jun 10 2008   11:26AM GMT

What is a social spreadsheet? Dan Bricklin and SocialText combine wikis with workspaces at Enterprise 2.0.

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

Ross Mayfield, founder of SocialText, a maker of enterprise wiki software, announced the launch of a new social spreadsheet at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference. In his presentation to a packed hall of technology executives, developers, media and social media mavens, Mayfield first addressed the state of Enterprise 2.0 before asking a simple question:

How can you work with structured data in an unstructured way?

He noted that the killer app of the PC generation that came of age in the 1980s was the spreadsheet, pioneered by Dan Bricklin in the form of VisiCalc. That app was what led many early adopters to buy an Apple and tap into the productivity gains brokered by the IT revolution.

Spreadsheets are now used for communication, lists, tables and two-dimensional layout. Mayfield asserted that they’re the most common database on the planet.

Workers collaborated originally by using sneakernet and floppy disks to share spreadsheets.

Now, we play “email volleyball with attachments” — a descriptive and all too accurate summation of how files ping pong around a network, introducing version control issues, 90% error rates. As Ross sees it, reverse engineering a spreadsheet on a web page misses the potential.

For the past two years, Socialtext has been working with Dan Bricklin to combine the usability and collaborative power of a wiki with the organization and flexibility of a spreadsheet. Meet the social spreadsheet, a “multi-user wiki-based spreadsheet program that simplifies version control, reduces errors and increases productivity.”

The software is able to cross organizational, structural, geographical and temporal boundaries. In the short video below, (available on Viddler for sharing or on YouTube), Dan Bricklin explains what a social spreadsheet is, how it works, how he was involved in the project and what users can expect from the software.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/OXwIzqGs0Cs" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
The social spreadsheet is open sourced and will be used in XOs for the One Laptop Per Child project worldwide, providing access to a quintessential IT tool for farmers, village merchants, businessmen, teachers and thousands of other individuals in the developing world.

Thanks again to Dan Bricklin for taking the time to talk to WhatIs.com.

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