Lockheed Martin's Social Networking Platform's Not Rocket Science

Lockheed Martin, the giant defense contractor, is wary of letting its staff use social networking. Probably something to do with secrecy. It also knows its staff are people, so it's built its own social network structure, dubbed Eureka Streams, and is now releasing it open-source for ... well, pretty much anyone to use.

The idea first surfaced back in the middle of 2009, when Lockheed Martin began to talk about its internal efforts to develop a social networking structure. Writing in a July press release, the firm said "Lockheed Martin has placed an emphasis on social media adoption by finding innovative ways to integrate a social dimension into our existing process and tools while reducing total cost of ownership." The company's management had recognized that an internal social networking tool could have all sorts of procedural benefits for a large, and geographically disjointed organization. Essentially it lets "knowledge workers" inside the company find and talk with other experts who may have valid input to particular projects, but who would otherwise have zero oversight or input.

The resulting "Eureka Streams" code, which behaves a lot like commercially available social networking software (but obviously only costs LM the time of the few employees who coded it). It's a brilliant move, and an unusual one for the normally stultifyingly backwards and slow-progressing thinkers inside giant defense companies (or even compared to NASA, which released its Appropriate Use of Web Technologies memo recently), and it'll quite definitely help the 36,000-plus employees it's recently been rolled out to. But LM's innovation doesn't stop there. It's released the code behind Eureka as an open source project under the Apache 2.0 open source license. This basically means external developers can tinker with, comment on, and improve significant aspects of ES, without paying for it—LM, obviously, is then free to pick and choose among any tweaks the developer community crafts. There's even a plan for a commercial license edition in the future, which may well actually earn LM money.

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