Robin Good has an excellent presentation about free / low-cost collaboration tools. He frames them as “Grassroots collaboration tools“, in opposition to “Enterprise Collaboration Tools” like Webex that have been around for years. He sees the primary value of these tools being price, features, and usability (i.e. usable by non-technical people). Anyone interested in the space should watch the presentation…it’s that good.
Below is a list of the product categories and products in the “GrassRoots Collaboration Tools” space. Most of the tools are from Robin’s presentation, with edits and additions by me. This list will change over time as new tools come to market.. feel free to suggest options that are missing from the list in the comments section below.
Web-based project management
Sharing todo-lists, project plans, and files with team members and clients.
Voice over IP
Skype is the gorilla in this market, but there are other products as well that anyone who isn’t satisfied by Skype should try.
WebConferencing is the ability to give run a powerpoint-driven meeting on the web. Screensharing solutions can be used for this application as well, but if you only need to run meetings (as opposed to control a desktop remotely or view arbitrary applications) than a web conferencing application is a simpler choice.
iVocalize (supposed to be very good)
VoiceCafe (seems dodgy)
<a href="http://www.presenternet.com/"PresenterNet (upload ppt, convert to flash, verify, and share online, participants can mark up slides! interact, collect data!!!!!!)
Recording meetings, usability tests, etc for later use is a good way of doing Tivo-like “timeshifting” in a business context. Applications that record the screen output for later use fill this need.
Techsmith Camtasia – this is what Uzanto uses
FlashMeeting (recording / conferenceing solution). Record, annotate, reference section of recording with unique URL (<strongFREE)
ScreenSharing is a cornerstone of any effective remote team. A lot of problems that would take 10 minutes to solve locally take hours to solve remotely, because you can’t see what the other person is seeing.
RealVNC – too hard to use by non-engineers
glanceNetworks – simple and effective screensharing. No download for guests.
GoToMeeting -remote control, invitation features make this the best choice from my perspective. This is what Uzanto uses.
This is the ability to work on a document with someone else. Not share a screen, but literally be able to edit (word, excel, powerpoint) documents.
File Sharing (private)
This is the ability to distribute files within a distributed private network.
Dropload – online place to upload files for later downloading by team members. Files are deleted after 7 days. (FREE)
Shinkuro -secure, automatic file sharing and distribution within defined teams. Possibly Free…hard to tell from site.
Grouper P2p private file sharing, marketed to teens but also suitable for business use (FREE)
File Sharing (public)
Ourmedia -publish and share any size of rich media content (in partnership with the Internet archive) (FREE)
BitTorrent – p2p software that makes it easy to serve large files to large numbers of users (FREE)
3wVP Embed code in web page/email. Provides presence, allows users to open live audio / video communication with 1 click. The Skype of VideoConferencing! (6 MONTH FREE TRIAL).
SightSpeed – cross-platform, video/text chat.
Microsoft Portrait (FREE)- works really well on low-bandwidth connection
Full Collaboration (defined as intergrating all / most collaboration facilities)
QNext – audio, video, document sharing FREE
Convoq ASAP Express – video, audio, screen sharing, presentation, IM,presence, uses Flash
WebEx – needs no further introduction
Instant messenging Tools
These tools are basically IM clients that allow you to communicate with anyone using any of the standard IM platforms (yahoo, AOL, MSN), while protecting you from any distracting advertising or non-business oriented features. I don’t see that much value in this category, since the IM clients are adding useful collaboration technology (like whiteboarding and voice) to their own clients all the time, and filtering through a third-party client cuts you off from these useful features. Just as an example, Yahoo whiteboarding is very useful, and Yahoo voice is probably going to be a major player in the VOIP space. Both applications are built into the IM client.
Anyway, here’s the list:
Upon reflection, one really interesting thing is how many of these products are built on top of the Flash plugin. Of course I’ve already been blogging about this potential. It looks like while I’ve been blogging, others have been coding! It seems like the first round of flash-based business applications will indeed be in the collaboration space.
More to come. I’d love feedback on any products that are missing from this list, or any inaccuracies in the list. That’s what the comment section below is for…