Google Drive Activity Stream :: A Great Idea in the Wrong Place

Today, Google announced an activity stream to Drive which will allow users to see what changes are happening to documents in Drive from the Drive home page.  While it might be a good step forward for the product, its hardly a ground breaking feature.  Box has had an enterprise activity stream for years now.

I love Alan Lepofsky’s take on it:

While streams are an effective way of helping people discovering information, the problem is you have to be looking at them to see it. So where does Google want people to focus their attention? Should people be looking at their Gmail inbox, the Google+ stream, or this new Drive stream? I’d rather see the events from Drive broadcast into the Google+ stream, with the assumption that there would be appropriate filters so the stream does not become unmanageable.

via In the Next Version (Emphasis is mine)

Spot on.

Here’s the thing – I have used Box in a professional context for over 2 years now.  It’s a great product and the in-built activity stream is a great feature.  But, I hardly use it UNLESS I specifically go looking for something.

We also have Box integrated to Google apps for user authentication so we had the bright idea to synchronise some of our Box updates over in Google+ (restricted to our organization only) to provide a more vibrant activity stream.  The idea over time was to bring more of our activity streams together in one place.

We are chiselling away at this objective but the Google+ APIs have not made it easy on us.

Where Google should go next …

Here’s what Google should do with activity streams to make itself move attractive to the enterprise market:

  1. Improve the Google+ API and the documentation to explicitly and elegantly deal with activity streams from other systems.  Yes, I know that this is currently possible but it could and should be made easier.
  2. Gmail and Drive should embed the Google+ activity stream.  Filters should be portable between all Google properties and the settings need an upgrade from the current capability.
  3. Third party systems (with the correct user authentication) should be able to display the same Google activity feed as Google does themselves.
  4. Google should eat its own API dog food:  Drive should use the same API that is available to third parties to update Google+.  Gmail should use the same API as third parties to retreive and display an activity feed from Google+. You get the picture …
  5. Google Apps admins should have better and more granular control over which updates can made be public or re-shared publicly.  Again, I know that the beginning of this capability exists but it’s not sufficient for a many conservative organisations.

Those changes would provide a developer ecosystem with all the raw materials to innovate in new directions and would probably make the core product a competitor to Yammer, Chatter and Tibbr in the enterprise space.

Perhaps, if you add a clever bundling strategy where organisations can acquire Google+ activity streams at a lower price than the full bundle of Google Apps, then it might even be a customer acquisition tool.

Importantly, all of those changes would probably also make the Google+ and Google apps ecosystem more attractive in the consumer internet space as well. The only challenge in there might be monetising activity feeds in third party systems but Twitter can probably point them in the right direction on that one …