Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Wiki Collaboration Tools Evolve Into Fully Professional Shared Workspaces: Near-Time - Review Plus Video

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Wiki Collaboration Tools Evolve Into Fully Professional Shared Workspaces with Great Accessibility and Ease of Use.

I have now been using wikis for over two and half years, and frankly I couldn't do without them anymore. Their ability to facilitate my frequent needs to create shared workspaces in which I can easily add, edit and upload information and files of all kinds makes them absolutely vital to my highly collaborative workflow.


In this direction I must thank above all, SocialText and Ross Mayfield, which have very generously supported, encouraged and facilitated my exposure to wikis and to all of their potential inside professional distributed teams as well as in many other professional contexts.

Before becoming fully addicted to using a wiki for any new project I started, I was a heavy YahooGroups user. My needs were those of creating privately accessible online workspaces in which individuals belonging to a team could easily exchange information, add relevant documents and prototypes, set up shared calendar of events, and keep a good archive of all official communications that took place during project development. Outside of the annoying and highly intrusive advertising practices that Yahoo Groups used then and still now, the service offered most of what I wanted in a familiar-looking, easy to use online package.

So when I first saw SocialText and its wiki service, it all seemed too geeky and Spartan for my needs, and it took a bit of time for me to understand how to use it, and what all of its cool capabilities were. Once I did, I didn't have a day go by without using it. Immediacy, ease of sharing with others, great support for RSS and file uploading were the traits that captured me.

By now, I have created over 100 workspaces in Socialtext, and while many have lasted only a few days or have been long closed, the resourceful help and easy to access reference they provide for me has become a staple of my teamwork approach.

So, Robin, what's the fuss about?

The big scoop, for those of you who have still resisted the wiki attraction or who have given up due to wikis still too "geeky" interfaces, is that wikis are now entering a new phase in which, on top of the cool power of their raw tools and codes, a friendly interface and powerful features, resembling more what you would have expected from the old YahooGroups after a well planned mega-vitamin diet, give way to the larger public and companies of all kinds to take true and full advantage of such truly useful technology.


In particular, my focus today falls on one of the companies, that from my personal viewpoint, has best interpreted this transformation. The name of this company is Near-Time and I have already given coverage of their promising early steps a few months back.

Near-Time brings to the market today a very compelling wiki offering, which integrates the very best of wiki technology, while adding all of the user-interface friendliness, and the supporting presentation, organization and logistical features you would have come to expect from more traditional and well seasoned online groupware tools.

Near-Time gives today a spectacular example of how much more effective and accessible wiki technology can become, once dressed with a more familiar uniform.

Please note that I am not under any commission or advertising exchange with this company, and therefore I have no hesitation in saying that I am truly positively impressed by how effective their implementation is, especially if I compare it to what SocialText and similar existing wiki spaces have been able to offer me so far.

I highly recommend you take a look for yourself at the differences and advantages that this new breed of wiki service brings to the global online community and share with me here, or on your blog, your opinions and comments on it.

To facilitate your exploration, I have sent out executive editor and video producer Michael Pick to take a look at the latest version of Near-Time, its newest features and to report back with a short video a good tour of what you should expect to see in this evolved wiki-based work collaboration space.

Near-Time makes collaborating online painless and trouble free. Freeing users up from searching through endless email threads and attachments, Near-Time promises to bring everything you might ever need to collaborate to well organized, simple online spaces.

It's impressive features include the simple, WYSIWYG ("What-you-see-is-what-you-get") creation of Wikis, personal weblogs, file sharing, group emails and events management. Extended smart use of tags and categories, RSS and access rights.

The usability of these features is such that anyone familiar with office or blogging applications will be able to jump right in and get collaborating in seconds.

Photo credit: (c) Near-Time.Com

By bringing all of these features together in customizable online spaces, Near-Time is another positive move towards a less cluttered workflow, and one that allows non-technical users to quickly share (and embed) multimedia files, images, thoughts and important events, which can in turn be both imported and exported to iCal.

Businesses, Educators and the Public Sector alike could make excellent use of this straight forward collaboration space safe in the knowledge that it has a very fast learning curve and will not alienate its users by making them veer into the uncomfortable waters of using wiki markup or any other unfamiliar code.

Our video overview of Near-Time's key features highlights two great new features that have recently been added: the addition of a customized "dashboard" for each individual user, and a space dedicated to the quick and easy sharing of files.

Pricing of the service is very competitive, and begins at $4.95 a month for a basic package, making this affordable for both enterprise and amateur collaboration. The higher priced plans offer greater storage space, management and customization options in addition to secure encryption of data.

All in all, this is a service that will appeal to a range of users at a range of price points, in that it easily facilitates online collaboration within a secure, straight forward, but very good looking interface that will integrate well with desktop applications and take the hassle out of locating data scattered across your hard drive.

It is now possible to try the Pro version of Near-Time by taking advantage of their
free 30-day trial.

Read more about Near-Time elsewhere on the web

  • has a range of case studies and further information on pricing and applications of their product
  • has a good overview of an earlier version of Near-Time
  • Marketing Pathway discuss Near-Time's flexibility and attention to their users

N.B.: In the spirit of uncovering as much unbiased info on this topic, I had invited Socialtext Ross Mayfield to an open video confrontation with Reid Conrad of Near-Time to allow us a bit more insight and understanding on the true differences and reasons d'être between these two approaches directed at making wiki-technology more accessible and useful to the end users.

Unfortunately Ross Mayfield has turned down my kind invitation by advocating "cooperation" over "competition" (as if having a video confrontation people could not cooperate to understand better each other strengths) and by saying that, since Reid Conrad/Near-Time were totally unknown to him "the conversation wouldn't be as interesting". Go figure what collaboration and cooperation is all about... (Robin Good)

Robin Good and Michael Pick -
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posted by Michael Pick on Thursday, September 7 2006, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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