LearnTwo essential real-time colaboration tools


writes on April 21, 2011

We use Google Docs for everything here at Carsonified. Recently they rolled out updates and it’s becoming insanely useful for long-distance real-time collaboration among our Team. The two tools we’re using the most are Google Documents and Google Drawing.

1) Google Documents

Google has added a commenting feature in Documents that is tremendously useful for discussing various ideas and recording the comments. Once a decision is reached in the discussion, the thread can be closed. This removes it visually from the right margin, thus removing distraction.

In addition to this handy discussion feature, you can also see the real-time edits of your Team.

Screenshot of the discussion feature in Google Docs

2) Google Drawings

Google has added several features that make creating diagrams very easy, including snappable arrows and real-time multi-person editing. If you create a flow diagram and decide to move the nodes around, they stay connected automatically, without having to re-connect all the arrows and nodes.

The real-time editing is super helpful when discussing wireframes or User Flow Diagrams live over the phone or Skype.

Here’s a diagram that Alan made demonstrating the new hosting infrastructure for Treehouse …

Diagram showing the cloud hosting solution we'll be using on EC2


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10 Responses to “Two essential real-time colaboration tools”

  1. @Adam – Not sure what this has to do with Google and Collaboration, but I have to agree with Ryan on this. Rather than take the snarky (just wanted to use that word today) approach I think it’s better to look for ways to improve upon the current mode rather than only criticize it.

    Like Google’s Docs and collaboration tools, the whole cloud idea and infrastructure is still in it’s infancy, yet still very good. Google’s new features that Ryan highlights here are actually what pushed us to move everything into their system, and so far this has been very positive improvement with the occasional “i wish it did..” scenarios that come up. We use a Basecamp competitor (Mavenlink) as the complimentary project / file management piece.

    I think it’s important to realize that these cloud services aren’t perfect and it’s silly for us to expect them to be. There will be problems and we should expect it not to work 100% of the time, however, like Ryan mentioned above it’s better to continually invest in improving solutions than to just criticize when things go wrong.

  2. Thanks for sharing – I didn’t know Google docs did diagrams, look sweet. We’ve been looking at a number of solutions for collaborative work and for the moment have settled on Open Atrium – simply because we use Drupal a lot and it’s easy for us to extend OA.

  3. We also find that campfire by 37signals is a super great & easy way for our team to collaborate.

  4. Hey Ryan,

    I wondered if today’s downtime with Amazon will make you rethink the infrastructure at all?

    — Andy

    • No, we’re just going to pay a bit more to use multiple data center locations in EC2.

      • Hello Mr Drain, my name is Ryan. May I please throw some money down you?

        • Instead of being snarky, why don’t you share something valuable? Got a better solution? Share it.

        • Anonymous on April 25, 2011 at 12:31 pm said:

          I’m assuming that you’re commenting on the fact that it’s hard to understand the economics of hosting with a Platform as a Service. If so, you’re absolutely right. Architecting medium and large sysstems is just as much about understanding the economics of your decisions as it is about understanding if the solution will work from a technical standpoint.

          Even with good redundancy, we’re going to save a significant amount in hosting on Amazon compared to our current setup. Outages or none, we’re ready for the challenge and are excited about needing to grow our infrastructure.

    • Anonymous on April 25, 2011 at 12:25 pm said:

      Just to kind of back things up from what Ryan said, I designed a similar infrastructure to what we’ll be using on Amazon for Carsonified for another company, and that company didn’t experience any downtime during the Amazon outage. They even had things going on in the affected availability zones.

      Nothing happened in Amazon’s outage that shouldn’t have been expected by companies using the service.

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