Tag Archives: collaboration

Love Your Librarian!

I do–they teach me about things like drop.io

Did you know you can call from your cell phone and leave an MP3 file for someone?!

For those without readily available internet or computer access, but with ubiquitous cell phone access, this can be away to interact online with peers and colleagues. I imagine there are other uses, but a school librarian who shared this with me is having her students call in their original poetry for National Poetry Week.

And this may yet add to my VOIP iTouch cell phone toolbox!

While built for larger collaboration ideas, drop.io is one of those ‘no way!’ amazing internet tools. Wonder how else we can use it??

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Web-Based Meeting & Presentation Glom

Over the past six months, I’ve experiemented with a number of tools for both web presentations and virtual meetings (and even learned to think about the difference between the two!). I’ve used ReadyTalk, GoToMeeting, AdobeConnect and Skype (with a plug-in).

GoToMeeting was dismissed in one instance in favor of ReadyTalk’s larger capacity, recording capability, and integrated voice and presentation link. In another instance, the audio only connected via phone and not online.

ReadyTalk has a great low-cost subscription on TechSoup (and a free trial online). Plus, they have free webinars available to anyone, awesome customer service, and they are a Colorado-based company. What more can you ask for?

Being the Luddite I am, though, I’m going to hang with Skype for the time being.

Mostly, I need an online meeting tool, but since those can drag on, it’s nice to be able to share screens and chat. Unyte is a plug-in for Skype that does just that. So does Mikogo, apparently. I haven’t tried either, but as a comfortable Skype user, they are next on my list. This dual-solution is not going to be the best for formal presenations like trainings, or recordings.

My other favorite tool for sharing info online, though it doesn’t really count as a presentation tool per se and it doesn’t have audio, is the free, recordable ‘chat’ function of CoverItLive.

Other tools I’ll try:

  • Wiggio 10 participants, dial in only via long-distance #. Good ongoing collaboration tool, as it calendars dates, has a chat and a message function, and allows file upload and management. No cost (September 2009)
  • Jing is a lot more hip–it’s more into instant sharing, and you can also record a training on your computer via screen shots, e.g. going through a PowerPoint. It’s currently free and the site says it plays well with other upgrade plug-ins.
  • Vyew has options for both phone and VoIP audio, and lots of control feature like hand-raising and polling.
  • Plus–I’ve heard these are worth investigating: dimdim, vimeo, moodle, yugma, audacity, google moderator, and glance…
  • Idealware covers some of the web conferencing tools out there. Today, many are full-featured enough to fulfill needs for online meetings. So, if you’re holding meetings rather than conducting trainings online, check out some of the free online conferencing tools–they may just meet your needs and are overlooked when you think about webinars and online training.

    Lastly, TechSoup is the best resource for any kind of tech comparison or reference for non-profits seeking software solutions–and they recently held a webinar on producing webinars. Listen to the recording and find lots of helpful ‘how-to’ info here.

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    Wikis (vs. Blogs)

    Wow, this can’t be that unusual of a post–there’s got to be tons of info already out there. Just catch this Kennedy-Nixon debate on the subject:

    groupnon

    A dear friend called me–she must’ve been really lacking for tech info!–to determine if she should use a blog or a wiki on her project. She knew a bit of blogging from her travels, but had also heard me talk about managing some wikis with The Librarians. She wanted a place where an environmental coalition could track progress on their mutual goals.

    Not only that, she wanted to post info for the public that wasn’t available elsewhere and needed a cost-effective means of communicating for the coalition’s partners–a mix of non-profits, government agencies and private industry. On top of that, there is no one on the team with web experience or funding for such.

    I recently sat down with her to ask, as a neophyte, how she made her selection.
    KT: I chose a wiki over a website since websites invoke a connotation of needing to be ‘polished.’ A wiki puts a more grassroots face on an issue, making its information accessible by all types of people. Our purpose was truly to share information in the simplest, easiest, fastest yet long-lasting way. And I chose a wiki over a blog because we needed a collaborative communication tool rather than a place to share news.

    JW: There are so many free wiki building sites out there. For example, PBWiki provides free educational or personal pages. I also have used wetpaint. How did you choose which tool to use?
    KT: A asked a few people I knew which ones they were using and I also did a little internet research on my own. Many of the wiki tools I found were overly formulaic but they also weren’t flashy and had a low entry level for new computer users.
    Wikidot: 100MB, no ads, not good with Internet Explorer (IE) 6.0 or less
    Bluwiki: no ads, very basic, mainly german sites
    Intodit: questionable compatibility with IE
    Wetpaint: unlimited MB?, image gallery, plain text editing

    I went with wetpaint–despite its generic template–as it met our criteria: free, easily accessible by different browsers and users.

    JW: Aren’t you a bit afraid to introduce the wiki to your collaborative?
    KT: At first, I had the privacy settings open to anyone but after I remembered some public meeting participants who really sidetracked the issue of lead-poisoning, I decided to restrict who could create new content on the site. Comments are still open to everyone; I at least wanted to start out showing our collaborative how we could communicate with each other effectively at the wiki. I’ve taken the initial stab at collecting and posting info, and soon I’ll do a ‘show and tell’ at one of our meetings. I’ll then be able to train the non-techies, and I can easily explain that a wiki is simply a tool for communicating. I know that not everyone in the collaborative will become an avid wiki user or advocate.

    JW: But maybe someone will adopt, and get excited about promoting the wiki or adding content.
    KT: The end product is owned by the coalition, not the me or my organization as the creator. That’s the advantage to using a wiki over a website or author-connected blog. And there’s an added bonus for us, modeled after another wiki I found in my research, one that collected public comments as a tool to promote advocacy for their issue. I’m hoping we can move to that level of usage in the future.

    Now, see the finished product (well, by nature, wikis are always a work in progress) from the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning in Denver.

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    Collaboration Tools

    Need to work with a team, committee, or your staff? Want to keep a public calendar or set up a simple website?

    These sites can do this for you in a matter of minutes, all with functions you can add later. All had video tutorials, and I had a good understanding of their features in about 10 minutes per.

    Backpack – At $24 per month, this is a hefty expense compared to free, but is more intuitive and easier to use. A singleton can use for just $7 per month, and prices go up from there. Compared to Basecamp–more of a project management host–Backpack is more about team and task tracking. As I’m exploring, I think I’ll move on to something free.
    Ning – More of a social networking site for adults (my description), I’ve used Nings before and they have so many features and require log-ins (as new members join) to use the functions or join subgroups, I think they’re kind of cumbersome for a small group collaboration.
    Google Sites – Free but looks clunky, which has been my experience with GoogleDocs–performs the function and requires some poking around to fiind what you’re looking for.
    GroupSwim – I found this by an online search for collaboration sites, and it’s free for 1-3 users (much more expensive for larger groups). It groups things on pages or tabs by type–files, groups, discussions–but you can set up groups who then can post files and have discussions. Seems like this might work for ongoing discussions and collaborative work, but without more features, not sure how this would be much different than a wiki or document posting site
    Big Tent – A friend who uses Basecamp turned me on to this site, which offers free membership management tools–it’s pretty robust and could be used to ‘organize’ groups like volunteers or committees who then collaborate.
    Central Desktop – Ooh, this looks better–has a calendar, document whiteboard and discussion pages, and it’s free for 5 users (well, actually, 5 users for each of 2 projects). Plus, it has some interesting external features–links to Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, RSS feeds, and includesa lot of functionality regarding setting milestones and calendaring.

    I’m going to try it out. Set up account, a project, uploaded a file and inserted tasks and events in 20 minutes. Now to try the collaboration.

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