I don't know how many of my colleagues and teammates have had to recur to re-install Groove from scratch as a consequence of the difficulty of storing or retrieving access codes once they are created. I myself have just lost my laptop, who died of over-resistance to being patched, and I am at a completely loss as to how I will be able to access again my account on Groove. I know I am not alone in this and I have duly reported my frustrations to Groove in the past. What I am asking is the provision of an option that allows the end user to select the level of security that she wants to enable at installation, while providing the ability to safely store and later retrieve one's own username and password with ease.
On Yahoogroups this is never an issue as, like most web-based systems it allows registered users to safely retrieve their username or password with a few steps that are easy and now familiar to many Internet users.
But, and really I am just speaking of my own experience, I was never completely happy with either one of these systems.
As said, Yahoo annoyed me with too much advertisements both on its online facilities as well as in my inbox.
With Groove, I am never sure who I can safely invite without getting them in a complete nightmare. The issues that most frequently annoy my potential teammates are:
a) the need to download a large application
b) the fact that Groove demands a pretty recent hardware setup with a fast processor, lots of RAM memory and possibly a fast connection to the Internet too.
c) issues dictated by its complexity and richness, whereby not everyone can easily and promptly understand or find out how to achieve something.
d) the fact that Groove works only on the Windows platform. Like for all collaboration tools to be used in cross-enterprise teams, being limited to interoperate only with people having the same type of operating system is a great limitation today.
Happily, Groove can now be utilized also from ANY other operating system, thanks to the great work done by the PoPG team in the UK, who sells access to a supercool service called Blended Groove ($30/user/month) and which provides web-based access to your Groove account from anywhere and with ay type of OS.
But, as you can imagine this doesn't come for free. The Groove full version costs in excess of USD 170, (price actually varies depending on where you are located and in relation to the version you choose).
So, when I headed out to test Ross Mayfield's SocialText wiki workspace, I didn't expect much, as I thought wiki spaces allowed yes for collaborative posting of notes and files but not for much more of what I had become accustomed to find in these more established and popular collaboration solutions.
I was wrong.
As you can find out yourself by accessing the free 30-day try-out offered by SocialText, wikis can provide a very effective collaboration workspace that is both easy-to-use and rich enough in features to support many teamwork-based projects.
While each wiki (there are tens of different types of wiki technologies out there) can be rather different from another one, all wikis share one thing in common: they let users edit web-based content in a very simple and straightforward fashion providing great support to those projects where you need to post, comment, annotate and update information with other team members on a daily or even hourly basis.
Access is as fast as to getting to any standard web page. No software needs to be downloaded, no plugins need to be installed.
Navigation is immediately simple and once you understand how to do two things (create a new page and make a link to it) you can do most anything you want.
You can create pages with assignments, references, attached files and images that your selected teammates can access privately and update, extend, re-organize at any time they wish.
It is as simple as working inside a normal text editor. Text can be formatted very easily, and making a change to an online document requires only a few seconds.
Weblogs and RSS are integrated from day one. You can also create as many "workspaces" as you want and utilize each one of them to manage a different project or workgroup. Each workspace is in fact associated with the people you select and it is extremely easy to remove or invite new team members.
SocialText wiki workspaces generate email notifications, RSS feeds and Update pages that allow any team member to easily monitor and rack any progress and changes to the workspace without needing to access it directly.
Everything that is composed, edited and written in the wiki maintains a full track record of the changes made, and the administrator(s) can easily revert any document /web page to any previous state it was in.
Workspaces in the SocialText wiki can also receive emails from any of the team members, which are immediately organized and made available to all the other workspace members.
For my own experience, this is indeed a great collaboration technology that can be extremely useful to virtual teams of non-technically oriented people. It bridges ease of use and access with all the advantages of being web-based and open to any operating system.
If I were to recommend an alternative solution to the likes of Yahoogroups (and similar ones), Groove and other asynchronous collaboration spaces I would have no hesitation in indicating a wiki, and the Socialtext implementation in particular, as a great alternative to such other approaches.
Having worked daily on the SocialText wiki workspace for a few weeks now, I only have a couple of issues that I personally look forward to see improved:
a) Speed. For a web-based solution like the SocialText wiki, speed is of the essence. I mean, if I click on a Web page to edit it and I need to wait for 20 or more seconds while being on a T1, I may as well go back to Groove.
b) Cost. The SocialText wiki workspace is presently priced at $30/month/user. At this price level Ross is cutting out all of the professionals, SOHO companies and non-profit institutions out there, including a great deal of academic organizations. Not that the tool isn't worth that money each month, but being totally innovative collaborative technology, at least for the mainstream, a much lower entry price would positively guarantee much wider adoption. What is most ironic to me, is that those customers groups are probably the types of organizations that can take best advantage of this new technology, as large corporate accounts take a much longer incubation time to comprehend, test and certify such innovative technologies for adoption. My suggestion therefore is for greater diversification of the price offering and for a substantial lowering of the cost to professionals or small business teams (1-10) like the ones I often operate with.
To those of you that already use a wiki with productive results, I wish to ask which are the true alternatives to Ross' system and what are the differences in terms of costs and features?
For independent publishers, professional consultant, small virtual teams operating online is money spent on the SocialText wiki workspace well spent or should we be looking elsewhere?