Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Groove: Ten Good Reasons Not To Buy

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Groove is a unique, powerful, almost supernatural collaboration tool, for which I have spent many words of praise, as it does represent a great breakthrough in terms of integration of facilities and vision for what may be the road of killer apps of the near future.

I like the tool, I use it and I have been studying and looking at others that use it as well.

It is interesting to note how some specific limitations and wrong-thoughts around the tool design make it somehow unnatural to pick up the tool once a project is over.

Groove is great once you are inside it, as it allows to preserve, edit, archive, exchange and communicate so much of what is relative to a project, it just seems unreal. Flexibility, variety of tools, some good integration and many see-ahead ideas make the environment quite great for all those of you who enjoy technology at its best and have the means to support it: recent hardware and good Internet connectivity.

Groove shines under those auspices.

But do you see me, poor secretary, assistant producer or field monitor, starting a space in Groove all by myself?


Wonder why it is so hard to make Groove beyond an historical technology milestone and into mainstream use?

Here are some answers to ponder upon.

Groove: Ten Good Reasons Not To Buy

1) Groove wants lots of processing power, the latest CPU, plenty of RAM and not too many other applications running along. This is a tool for the geeks, the technology nerds and those of us who can afford and want to try the best in cutting edge computing.

2) Groove is not user friendly. Groove offers so many options and tools that many features and facilities become ambiguous or unintuitive to access. For example among Navigate Together, Co-Browse and Conference would you know of the top of your head which one does what?

3) Groove has one of the worst Voice-over-Ip implementations you can find around. Basically useless. Bandwidth wasted. Though I am sure some people in the US with broadband can make some good use of it, for us mere mortals around the world this is just not working. The triple chirp of the digital bird emitted each time you press the Click to Talk button is scary, screechy and unfriendly too. There are tools out there that do Voice-over-IP with crystal clear voice and no-drops even on 28.8 Kbps lines and you with the backing of Microsoft offer us this bad photocopy of what VoIP was 5 years ago? Buy one of those companies for a million dollars or less and shape up now.

4) Groove slows down your work. Groove has implemented a great P2P data-centric approach to the access of the data being shared, making it possible for all the users of a shared group to have a full copy of each document replicated on their hard disks. To make this possible Groove has to do a lot of file synchronization on top of all the many "dirty tasks" it has to carry on its own to keep everything running smoothly. Frequently such processes slow down and handicap your access to other functions and speedy completion of the operation you are undergoing. If Groove would only schedule his laundry when I am not having Prince Charles in my living room that I would be so much happier (and productive).

5) Groove is redundant. Everything I manage through Groove has a double life. One inside Groove and outside Groove. That is, if someone is sharing with me a document belonging to a certain project, I may want to save this document outside of Groove and pass it on to someone else in my line or onto my laptop computer. After a while it becomes a nightmare remembering what you have inside the Groove universe and what outside of it and understanding how to best synchronize these two complementary universes.

6) Groove has no annotation and mark up tools. Notwithstanding all of its great presentation and collaboration features, Groove seems to forget that to collaborate online or off we humans are used to a lot of marking up and annotating. No tool or facility is provided inside Groove extensive array of facilities to annotate slides during a presentation or a Word document being viewed together. Yes, I need a document-independent annotation tool that also allows me to point out to my fellow Groove mates where to look on the screen or which function to activate on their screen.

7) Groove has no ability to show me what is going on on someone else screen. I can hear Groove saying: "But we never meant to be everything to everyone!! Why then did stuff there all of these tools that serve real-time conferencing and collaboration? You hoped we wouldn't see them?
So going back to the main point here, there is no so called "application sharing" facility in Groove. Though the tool doesn't shame itself for the amount of resources that it hogs up and for the solid bandwidth it commands, it seems that Groove has shyed away from integrating what is today one of the most essential functions of effective real-time collaboration: seeing what is going on your piece of paper, desk, monitor or whatever. If I can't see what you are doing how can we do anything together?

8) Groove has no co-scrolling. OK, I understand that not other co-browsing tool can do this, but then why not offer some from of app-sharing in the first place? And with another million dollar or less Groove could snatch up PageShare which does indeed Co-scrolling, co-pointing and co-filling with quite some success. It is not a perfect tool but with Microsoft money you can do a lot to improve things.

9) Groove has no video. Here I am just baffled. Having a little webcam feed with maybe only a stop-frame displayed every few seconds would have been just terrific. Every other web conferencing tool from all prices and markets offers some form of video conferencing and some of the solutions available today are just outright impressive. For a tool that caters anyhow to a market of power users why not integrating some of these great videoconferencing technologies?

10) Groove text chat is shameful. If there is one thing that I want to do when I text chat with others, is being expressive and immediately understood. So, yes, I enjoy emoticons, sound alerts and other means that facilitate my need to be expressive only through a text chat window. So when I do not have emoticons I often fall back in using formatting to style my txt in ways that add more meaning tone and significance to what is being said. Try doing that with Groove. Try formatting a piece of text inside the chat window for Verdana 18pt bold in red and then come back and talk to me. Unbelievable!

I could actually go quite a bit more with these more or less unacceptable compromises one would have to accept to really marry such a tool inside a professional environment. But I wish not to be unfair to a tool, for which, as I have mentioned and written before, I have great of esteem and from which I learned a lot about the what and how an ideal web conferencing environment should be.

I had also some good acquaintances working at Groove and though I have somehow lost track of such contacts I am wishful for them and for the great efforts they are putting through. I take the opportunity to be reminding of the Good solutions I have outlined and recommended to them in the past, when informally discussing where and how Groove could and should have been improved.

Here they are:

Suggested Solutions

a) Groove is a visionary tool. To proceed further you need to keep its vision unobstructed. The vision is one of people collaborating effectively through virtual spaces. Keep that vision sharp and vivid in spite of what the technical, marketing and sales department say.

b) Stop this Babel of technical terms: we only want to collaborate. You are not the only guilty one in this, but you are a visionary so it should occur to you first that when we collaborate we never pronounce the words co-browse or conference. We just do it and we label it with everyday language: "Show me what you have got; let's talk about it all together now.!" Groove stop thinking about "functions". Start thinking of "actions".

c) The interface is everything in a collaboration. Think about it. What is this Outlook dressed for a convention? Interface design should be transparent, intuitive, effortless.

d) You are in a different industry than webconferencing and collaboration. You are in the virtual real estate industry (as identity-pundit Wes Kussmaul would say) and you should really think and design in terms accordingly.

e) Groove you need to look at what your best competitors are doing, and need to clone and refine their best ideas to your advantage. You can't develop inside your own bubble and vision. It shows from a mile away and it doesn't look good.

f) Modularization and diversification could be two extremely meaningful words in the future of a tool that has so much to offer. Suffice for now to say that you need not look very far away to see what mechanisms work best when you have a rapidly growing market with many diversified customers and application needs. You just can't be EVERYTHING TO EVERYONE.

g) Having the pervasive ubiquitousness of Microsoft to support its development I really wonder what prevents Groove from disappearing behind a button inside Word, Outlook, Powerpoint and Excel. Wouldn't that be easier than firing up again another mammoth application?

Also on this side there is a lot more that could be said, but for now let's leave it at this. I am sure Groove too has valuable staff and strategic consultants that can do the rest of the job without, like me, publishing it for the rest of the industry to read it here.

Good luck Groove.

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Readers' Comments    
2004-02-08 18:53:55


Reasons why people prefer using Microsoft Excel to carry on accounting

2003-11-18 23:33:14

Robin Good


thank you for posting your comment about Groove.

It's good that there is someone that says it from trenches like you.

My goal in bashing Groove is to have Groove become better than what it is.

I have had friends in remote places carry very heavy equipment to guarantee themselves pure and drinkable water. They too didn't enjoy comparing products and features. Nonetheless the above, they didn't like at all to find out, after everyone else , that there existed capsules that immersed in the water could purify better and faster than their great equipment.

So, up to you!

It was a pleasure have you sign your thoughts anyhow.


Robin Good

How To Collaborate Online With Cutting-Edge,
Easy-To-Use, Highly Cost-Effective
New Communication Tools

Check Out The New ONLINE Guide
to Web Conferencing and Live Presentation

Authoritative, clearly written and accurate

"My first response is, WOW. I'm overwhelmed.
This is a magnificent document, authoritative,
clearly written, and based on my own experiences, accurate.

...This really is outstanding work.
It will save people hundreds of hours of research."

Stephen Downes ~ Senior Researcher ~
National Research Council Canada
Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

2003-11-18 19:48:20

Neil Martinez

I am a consultant working with a large pharma firm and I am managing the pilot deployment of Groove software. I have experience deploying various collaboration products at other large Fortune 500 firms.

While I agree with Robin's comments around the UI and real estate the teams we have been working with have found real value over traditional asynchronous collaboration using shared drives and email.

The mantra Groove often repeats is that Groove is a "platform" as much as an application. The various tools bundled with Groove are not "world-class" by any stretch of the imagination, however it's hard to find one application that manages to do ALL of what Groove does within it's price range.

As a small-business owner what makes Groove rather exciting is my ability to set up a secure P2P "infrastructure" with my clients and associates without the headache of setting up servers, etc.

If I were a developer, I'm sure I would also find value in its extensibility, but I have not managed to get that deep into the product.

It all boils down to what your expectations are. My pilot teams are not interested in comparing features.

They are interested in getting their work accomplished. They are able to do this very efficiently using Groove.

2003-08-10 13:44:43

andyswarbs (PopG)


You make some constructive suggestions but start with a misanswered opening statement. "But do you see me, poor secretary, assistant producer or field monitor, starting a space in Groove all by myself?" The real answer is that is an emphatic "Yes" since this is exactly where groove scores. The ease, intuitiveness and effectiveness of space creation - and consequential growth in terms of space membership, content and sructure is without parallel. Any reticence is more to do with the new collaboration paradigm rather than the solution.

Please show me someone who has done it once who would feel uncomfortable doing it again, and again. Whilst it may be possible to unearth perhaps one exception, the rule is rather the opposite.

2003-07-31 13:54:55

Dennis Gerik - COO of Voxwire


I have been evaluating Groove for a couple of weeks now... and I have to say, your impressions and comments about this incredible tool ring true.

While I have found it to be technologically advanced and interesting to use... I also have to admit that the sheer complexity of this tool is one of its greatest detractors...

Now, I do not consider myself a newbie, but I have been struggling for two weeks just trying to make heads or tails of all the different options.

I hope that Groove can take some of your constructive criticism and put it to good further improve and simplify their tool...

Dennis Gerik

2003-07-25 03:06:17


re: "I have been using Groove for approximately four years"

A neat trick, since it's only been around since fall of 2000.

2003-07-25 01:17:03

Dr. Rick Lillie (California State University at San Bernardino)

I read your article about reasons not to buy Groove. While I agree with some of your comments, for the most part, I disagree with your conclusions.

I am an accounting professor at California State University at San Bernardino. I have been using Groove for approximately four years both to support traditional classes and to deliver distance-learning classes. To date, I am very pleased with what my students have been able to do with the Groove workspace.

I teach a variety of online courses for CalState - San Bernardiono and for UCLA Extension. I use Groove at CalState and Blackboard at UCLA Extension. In my opinion, "featurewise" Groove stands head and shoulders above Blackboard.

I can make both programs "sing for their supper." I do this by using the strongest features of the program, and then supplementing the program with other resources.

For example, I agree with your comment about Groove's Voice-over-IP. I prefer to use "Net2Phone" with my students. We can talk "live" PC-2-PC for free while working together in the Groove workspace.

Your comments about use of bandwidth and computer resources are true to a point. However, I think that you ignore the fact that personal computers are becoming stronger and are much more capable of handling the technology demands of programs like Groove.

I tell my students that their distance-learning experience will be much better if they have a fast internet connection, lots of RAM memory, a fast computer processor, and a large-capacity hard drive. With this said, I have been able to successfully use Groove with students who use AOL as their 56K dialup ISP, so long as, their computer has at least a Pentium III class processor and a minimum of 128 MB of RAM memory. Experience has proven that 256 MB of RAM works better with a 56K dialup user.

For me, using Groove is like having a personal assistant. Groove comes to me with information. I do not have to go to Groove to discover that something has changed. Blackboard and similar LMS programs cannot say this.

Like all programs, Groove has its technical strengths and weaknesses. However, it has a very significant financial strength that the major LMS programs cannot claim. Groove is inexpensive.

Part of my research work is looking to see if Groove can be used as a low-cost alternative to the high-priced LMS programs. If this can be demonstrated, then in the world of tight academic budgets, Groove (or something similar) could become very popular.

As a result of the work that I have been doing with Groove, I was invited to be a speaker at the upcoming "19th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning" at the University of Wisconsin - Madison (August 13 - 15,2003). I will be one of the speakers in the "New Directions Forum."

My topic is "New models of learning: blending asynchronous and synchronous formats." I will be talking about how I use Groove to deliver distance-learning courses.

I do not believe that any software development company holds the keys to technology heaven. Nor am I a fan of the companies that offer what I call "Doc-in-a-box" programs (i.e., this program does everything, so long as you do it my way).

Your article voices your opinions about Groove. I have replied with a few of mine. If you would be interested in learning about how I have used Groove, please contact me.

I look forward to chatting with you.

Best wishes,

Dr. Rick Lillie

posted by Robin Good on Wednesday, July 23 2003, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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