Tools for Remote Collaboration and Interaction
Over the last two years I’ve been doing a lot of work with folks who are geographically dispersed. My second book is being authored with a colleague in upstate NY, my boss at LISHost is in NY as well, I been working with and helping folks in KY, OR, and CA.
To accomplish this I’ve amassed a collection of tools for communicating and collaborating across distance. Below are some tools, tips and tricks I’ve learned:
- iChat – Yes you can chat in iChat but did you know that you can video conference and screenshare? I’ve used iChat several times with other Mac users to demonstrate something I’m working on or look at a problem someone was having with a system. Because its built on technology that actually let’s you take control of another persons screen its very helpful for troubleshooting
- GoogleDocs – I really don’t know what I’d do without GoogleDocs. I used it with my co-author to write my first book and it really helped us edit each others work. I’ve used it to draft articles and share them with my editor. I use it to collaborate on functional requirements, presentaiton proposals, spreadsheets of info, and lots of other stuff. My second book chapters are also all in GoogleDocs so my co-author can edit and make suggestions. Its my go to when I need to create docs and use them across computers or share them with other people
- Skype – I’ve been on the road a lot the last year. Several times in places where my cell phone with my current plan didn’t work. Whether in Hamilton Ontario, Bratislava, Vancouver, or visiting my folks in Maine. Skype always works. Plus you can conference call folks on regular phones and those in Skype. Its been invaluable in collaborating with folks. Plus its cheap, I put $10 in my account last fall and I still haven’t used it all.
- Ustream – An easy way to stream video to the web. Love the fact that I can use the camera in my iMac or Air to easily stream a video. Another plus is that you can record the video and pull it down to put elsewhere, like Blip.tv
- Ustream + CamTwist – CamTwist is a great Mac freeware program that allows you to make your screen be the video source. Using this and Ustream you can screencast live what you are presenting. Very cool.
- Blip.tv – My go to place to put video. I like it because it allows you to license via Creative Commons, keep the original format of the video you uploaded, and has a great API. Enough said.
- TalkShoe – Another tool for conference calling with the added benefit of built in recording. TalkShoe is very cool. Greg Schwartz used it for his podcast show, which is how I learned about it. Good way to hold a BIG group discussion because Skype has gone to pieces on me in the past with more that 4-5 people.
- Box.net - During the writing of the first book Jason and I thought we’d share screen captures in Flickr only to discover that our TIFFs were too big for Flickr. Sigh. We needed another way to share files. Thus my Box.net account came into being. Jason likes Dropbox and I know others do too. While each has its pros and cons, we seem to use them in similar ways. Sharing documents seems to be a big one. I also use it as my “what if someone steals my laptop with my presentation on this trip” space. I like Box.net because I can get to it without installing anything. DropBox seems to have the added plus of allowing you to mount it like a drive and sync stuff to it, which is nice. I’m still going back and forth about whether or not I should switch.
- Amazon S3 + Jungle Disk – I started using S3 when I decided that losing my professional files was unacceptable and I didn’t want to have to take a hard drive with me when I fled from a hurricane. While S3 certainly solves my backup problems, it also has the side effect of allowing me to pretty much get to anything: documents, presentations, screen captures, photos, MP3, ebooks; from anywhere. I’ve stopped freaking out about did I remember to put everything I needed on the laptop for a trip or will I accidentally erase my iPod if I try to charge it. If I want to show someone something I don’t have with me, I just download it. I cannot even begin to express my love for S3. Jungle Disk has changed a bit since I started using it. I bought it when it was a desktop product that was a one-time fee. Now it is a monthly fee and works with other cloud storage options.
All these tools are really important to me as I collaborate with people across the country. My book co-author and Blake are in NY, I have article collaborators in VA, and workshop co-presenters in NE, and MT. Thanks to them I haven’t gotten into a situation where I couldn’t get work done remotely when I need to.