The coming boom in collaboration tools

Until recently, the collaboration tools that I use to communicate with my crew have had one critical failing: none of the free screen sharing options on the market can be used with any kind of reliability.


We tried VNC, we tried RDC, but the tools that work fine for remotely controlling a server break down when used to share the screens of a client. A solution that worked one day failed the next, some solutions required tweaking of network equiptment, and in general a lot of time was wasted.
After months of being exposed to advertisements to gotomeeting.com in my Eudora add window (yes I use the free version, I am a cheapskate), I finally opted for a free two-week trial. For 49$ a month, it completely solved our problem. Gotomeeting is positioned as a sales tool, for external communication with potential clients, but we’ve found that it works just as well for internal use. At this point I can’t imagine working with a remote team without a robust screen sharing solution in place.
My last software subscription purchase was of basecamp, which had a similarly big impact on the productivity of the Uzanto dev team. At this point, my collaboration suite looks like this
GoToMeeting : $49 /month
BaseCamp : $24 /month
Skype : FREE
Mantis : FREE
Yahoo Doodle : FREE
Subversion : FREE
Notice that the paid subscriptions are new, and are for decent amounts of money. I’m seeing a trend, and I’m calling it. The next big software boom will be in collaboration tools that allow remote teams to work together seamlessly. Pricing will be by subscription, and the market will be huge. If I was starting over, I would make Project X be a collaboration tool. My next project will _definitely_ be in this space.
Flash hackers should pay particular attention to this trend. The only decent zero-install technology that allows the server to push content to a client is the flash communications server. That ability is crucial to real-time collaboration (as opposed to the asynchorous collaboration you see in bug-tracking and project-management systems). If Flash developers can stop working on elearning projects for a few months they could easily build some great tools for this space, tools that would be valued at a premium in the current market.
Update: brajeshwar agrees, Flash hackers should be building more applications and less low-value crap. Why is Flash such a ghettoized technology? Does it have to do with the perception that Flash is not a “real language” (the way people used to feel about javascript)? Or does it have to do with the technology limitations of flash? I’ve got some ideas, and will be blogging them in the coming weeks.

9 thoughts on “The coming boom in collaboration tools

  1. hiya jonathon
    i’ve had similar thoughts – although analysed in much less detail and never shared with anyone (lol) – periodically over the last 12 months. i’ll be interested to see what your next entry relates.
    r.

  2. hey jonathon
    this:
    “The next big software boom will be in collaboration tools that allow remote teams to work together seamlessly…”
    i’ve been having similar thoughts this year, although admittedly not nearly in as much depth or detail as you have, just idling musings.
    i think you’re right. i look forward to seeing what you will write on this subject next.
    richard.

  3. Macromedia beat us to the punch:
    http://www.macromedia.com/software/breeze/
    Additionally, they have ScreenSharing in their player, but we regulard developers (and the one you probably have installed for IE/Firefox/Moz/Safari) do not.
    Yes, yes, yes… we can do real-time video, audio, and data… but using either Convog’s ASAP, or Breeze makes the only point of me building collaboration tools for niche markets or targetted projects. For example, past Flashcom work was utilizing Flashcom for already existing CMS or collaboration systems; since you can you shoehorn a SWF anywhere, it makes it simple to add such things in phases, like audio-conferencing, etc.
    Anyway, I agree, collab tools rock; bringing people together is fun… like playing D&D for instance, hehe!
    http://dev.jessewarden.com/dnd2/

  4. Macromedia beat us to the punch:
    http://www.macromedia.com/software/breeze/
    Additionally, they have ScreenSharing in their player, but we regulard developers (and the one you probably have installed for IE/Firefox/Moz/Safari) do not.
    Yes, yes, yes… we can do real-time video, audio, and data… but using either Convog’s ASAP, or Breeze makes the only point of me building collaboration tools for niche markets or targetted projects. For example, past Flashcom work was utilizing Flashcom for already existing CMS or collaboration systems; since you can you shoehorn a SWF anywhere, it makes it simple to add such things in phases, like audio-conferencing, etc.
    Anyway, I agree, collab tools rock; bringing people together is fun… like playing D&D for instance, hehe!
    http://dev.jessewarden.com/dnd2/

  5. I think that there is a tremendous future in web-based collaboration. Which is why, when we built the Radical Concept Server, we provided the real-time collaborative functionality. However, until Macromedia puts the screen capture functionality that is in the Breeze-enhanced Flash plug-in into Flash, then any Flash-based collaborative application is going to be crippled.

  6. Macromedia beat us to the punch:
    http://www.macromedia.com/software/breeze/
    Additionally, they have ScreenSharing in their player, but we regulard
    developers (and the one you probably have installed for
    IE/Firefox/Moz/Safari) do not.
    Yes, yes, yes… we can do real-time video, audio, and data… but using
    either Convog’s ASAP, or Breeze makes the only point of me building
    collaboration tools for niche markets or targetted projects. For example,
    past Flashcom work was utilizing Flashcom for already existing CMS or
    collaboration systems; since you can you shoehorn a SWF anywhere, it makes
    it simple to add such things in phases, like audio-conferencing, etc.
    Anyway, I agree, collab tools rock; bringing people together is fun… like
    playing D&D for instance, hehe!

  7. Wow, I had no idea this was a contravertial topic. If anyone has links re: the “secret” flash client that has screen sharing please post!
    JesterXL, I’m ambivilent about your application. On the one hand, it’s pretty cool. On the other hand, I HATE D&D.
    Oh, and sorry for the multiple duplicate comments. Seems like my blog software pitched a bit of a fit.

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