Artist groupware. Please find enclosed a list of requirements.
August 4, 2009 9:31 AM   Subscribe

We're a group artists in a non-profit and are currently using Facebook to organise ourselves. I find it lacking - it's not a platform with collaboration in mind, so I'm researching alternatives. Hlep!

The ten of us are spread out globally and try to run projects, apply for grants, inform each other of work or other opportunities, and plan exhibitions and publishing. The usual stuff, with a mix of people both tech savvy and digitally challenged.

We're using a closed Facebook group at the moment, but there are some limitations that we've run into already. Most notably there's a limit on how many threads and uploaded photos/videos you see at any time, so the lack of overview is annoying. Notifications on updated threads and such is missing (or I've missed it) and there's no tagging / categories of threads. A calendar tied to the threads would have been nice.

Also, we're recruiting underwriting members and would like to give limited access to our material (say, an exhibition schedule and invites to parties) and if we could have the members registry in the same db as the regular work db there would be less risk of messing stuff up. So a tiered membership option would be awesome, although it's not a dealbreaker. (As long as we can export a members list and dump it somewhere else, we'd be set)

The motivation for learning a new tool is very low for most members, so "painless and pretty" is my approach right now. I can host it myself but don't want to spend too much time being codemonkey if I can help it.

I've looked at Basecamp and Goplan, and the latter in particular seems worth pursuing, but the there's no chance in hell our team will have time enough to evaluate or settle in during a 30-day trial. I'm thinking that many of you have been in the position of hearding cats and might offer suggestions.

Oh, and "non-profit" translates into "we eat bark and pay with pebbles and hugs" so there's not too much money.
posted by monocultured to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Check out ning.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 9:34 AM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

You might also want to check out PBworks. It's a wiki, so somewhat different, but it has change notifications, page tagging and folders, page-and-folder level access restrictions, and some other stuff. No hosting necessary. Unlimited users, even on the free plan. Unlike Goplan, you can start out for free indefinitely, then decide if you want to upgrade for some fancier features.

The downsides: switching from a thread-style format to a wiki might be jarring for some people, although the pages also include comments sections, so you can get some dialogue in, too. The major limitation that I can see for you is that there's a 2GB limit on file uploads, which is pretty tight for photos and videos. Depending on the volume you're talking about, you might have to host that sort of thing elsewhere.

It's definitely not perfect for your purposes, but it could definitely work - and it'll let you save your pebbles and hugs for other things, like art. Just remember that the Front Page and Sidebar are essential for sane organization, and you'll be all right.
posted by McBearclaw at 9:59 AM on August 4, 2009

Getting something that is free, easy, and either full of features or having exactly the feature set you want is a tall order. You're probably going to have to sacrifice the "easy" part. Also, getting something that will function as an outward-facing site and and internal groupware tool would be tricky. You could cobble something like that together using Drupal, but that would take some doing.

I was just checking the Drupal website to see if it has a basecamp-like module, and no, it does not (although it does have to-do lists, wikis, private messaging, file storage, etc); in fact, someone suggested it, and someone else replied that he uses basecamp to coordinate his drupal development work. So there you go.
posted by adamrice at 10:01 AM on August 4, 2009

Best answer: 2nding ning. It's what a non-profit I do work for uses, and they really like it. Although I personally haven't used it so actually I don't know how many of the additional features you want (tagging, notifications) it offers.

I personally find pbwiki a bit frustrating and it really is only good for wiki-style collaboration. Also, I think it's best to use the right tool for the right task. If you are doing things like threaded discussions, a wiki is not the ideal tool.

I tried Basecamp for a while and I think it's actually waay too simple. They trot this out as a feature, but you can't even do things like sort items by different criteria. It doesn't even show the date completed for a task, and you can't add comments to a task (which is why in that situation we transitioned to Bugzilla, which is too complex but at least can store useful info).

I know you have no money but you could certainly explore finding someone to build a site for you. There are people out there who will do this for fun, and it sounds like it would actually be fun to build a site like that. I was almost tempted to tell you to MeMail me and maybe I could whip up something for you, but I realized that I kinda already have enough on my plate. If nothing good turns up after a month or two, though, get back in touch.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:03 AM on August 4, 2009

Response by poster: Cheers all and thanks for your help.

I'll try Ning as per recommendations. PBworks and the like would never be used by most of our group; it needs to be simple and have an "ooh, ponies!" quality. Drupal seems promising but would require me to cry blood for a while and even then I fear it'll end up a grotesk mutant praying for deliverance. Ning has most stuff on one page, and looks pretty enough too work.

As far as being poor; If Goplan would actually work for us it wouldn't be too much to pay, it's just that I know it'll take six months before some of our members will be using it and I'd rather not pay in the meantime.

We only generate maybe ten-fifteen threads per month, and as long as there's a seperate calendar function or something similar we'll be set with Ning. Thanks for you offer Deathalicious, I'll be sure to guilt–trip you into a monstruous project if this one tanks.
posted by monocultured at 2:53 PM on August 10, 2009

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