Collaboration Toolchest (1)

I’ve been looking at collaboration tools for a long time and of course everyone knows the obvious ones. But I keep an eye out for new ones, and here’s an update you may find useful.

Business, for independents like me, is distributed anyway. I don’t have an enterprise to be part of any longer. But even if you work for a large company, as I used to, increasingly your business crosses the boundaries of your organisation. Planning, scheduling and managing meetings in that environment is easier than it used to be, but still not that easy.

Well, here are a couple of online services that might help.

First of all, I’ve just discovered Tungle. Tungle is an online meeting scheduler that works with most calendars you’re likely to be using such as Outlook, Mac calendars (iCal or Microsoft Entourage) or Google. I’ve only just signed up, so no experience yet, but if it lives up to the publicity it will be great.

Think of scheduling a meeting with Notes Calendaring: Notes allowed us users to see the availability of people we wanted to meet with, pick a time, and send an invitation. You do all the work up front.

Tungle has a different approach. If I want to meet with Anne, Charlie and Kira then it sends them an invitation linking them to Tungle’s site (they don’t need to sign up). It offers multiple slots based on my availability, and asks them to pick all the ones that they can make. If my calendar changes while the invitation is doing the rounds, that’s taken into account too. The last person to respond gets to pick a time from the ones still available, and schedule the meeting in my calendar; then Tungle sends everyone a confirmation.

So you’ve scheduled your meeting, your project is under way … there are a variety of meeting platforms out there, like DimDim for example. Though anything using Internet voice streaming may be ropey for more than small numbers, and a conventional phone conference may be needed alongside.

But experience strongly suggests that you can do almost everything you need with good agenda management, shared documents (ahead of the meeting) and a telephone conference. You don’t need real-time presentation, with its attendant risks, in most cases.

I’ve started using GroupSpaces for this: it puts everything under one roof instead of needing several applications. GroupSpaces isn’t a platform for actually holding meetings: it’s for sharing information and managing them. Under one roof, there’s an events calendar, a wiki, a file upload area, and a news area; and you can send group emails and manage the level of access that team members have. Any Wiki document (such as the project action list) can be promoted to being a tab on the menu bar in its own right.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the GroupSpaces calendar had Tungle capabilities?

A couple of great new tools. Thanks to Basex for alerting the community to Tungle. I can’t remember how I came across GroupSpaces!

• GroupSpaces
• Tungle
• Tungle Accelerate: Basex Editorial, 10 Jun 2009

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