Online collaborative software
March 19, 2005 5:25 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have any experience with online collaborative spaces, i.e., websites that allow users on different computers to work on the same document, whiteboard space, etc.? I've found links via Google and will be trying to explore, but if you have a favorite—or not!—it would save me some time.

During the summer, I'm in charge of the instructional part of the Georgia Governor's Honors Program, a six-week residential program for gifted and talented high school juniors and seniors. This summer, we have the incredible opportunity of a wireless laptop for every single student and teacher (950 laptops!). I'm interested in extending the ways we use this kind of technology in the classroom (and out). It seems that collaborative kinds of software is a frontier we have yet to explore to its fullest potential, but money is tight, so "freebie" is essential.
posted by ancientgower to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, I set up a wiki for our dev team at work, which allowed anyone on the team to add web pages as simply as putting a square brace around a [word], and anyone could edit the pages after. Not sure if that's what you wanted, but it was successful enough that it became our knowledge base for QA and Support and it spurred a clone in the professional services department. I run a similar one concerning JavaScript for an irc channel (self link, duh!) if you'd like to get a better idea.

I happen to use JSP Wiki simply because it's Java based and doesn't necessarily require a database. There are plenty of other options out there.

Others can probably suggest whiteboardish types of software.
posted by furtive at 7:30 AM on March 19, 2005

I think you should check out because it fits your description up to the point of it needing to be free. Yet I might suggest that after you fall in love with intranets that you call them and explain your situation and since it seems to be a very noble cause they might hopefully let you use it for free if not at a substantially discounted price. I used it for a while with my family business but we worked in a close enough proximity that it wasn't worth having a virtual private network. Id say the most attractive part about it is that you only need to login to the intranet, there is no need to download or install anything. Check it out!
posted by pwally at 8:41 AM on March 19, 2005

I've installed it, but never really used it in a production (or even semi-production) environment, but if you have a few machines kicking around that can be used as Linux servers (MySQL etc.) then the MediaWiki is probably your best bet.

It's what Wikipedia is built on, so if that is the type of environment you have in mind, everything you need is included in the software.
posted by purephase at 8:42 AM on March 19, 2005

A bit of a data dump, but I've culled these references from my notes taken during the recent online conference Online Social Networks 2005. You may find some helpful info at these sites:
Wiki In Education

Educational MUVEs—Virtual Learning Communities

Building 21st Century Collaborative Learning Communities

Collaborative Technology for K-12 Educators


RSS Quick Start Guide for Educators

Open Source For Educators - Collaborative Tools
posted by ericb at 9:01 AM on March 19, 2005

Also, LaSalle College High School (Wyndmoor, PA) has received alot of attention for their use of laptops and wireless access for all of their students. Check out their Technology Overview.
posted by ericb at 9:03 AM on March 19, 2005

Wikis are a great first step in collaboration. Software also exists to collaboratively edit documents in real time. If you're on Macs, use SubEthaEdit. If you're on Windows machines, use MoonEdit.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:05 AM on March 19, 2005

I used Groove ( in two of my college classes and it does what you want...and more. Document sharing/control. Whiteboard. Chat. File sharing. Meeting agendas. Even games. Definately worth a look. Free 90 day trial Only caveat: I heard recently Micro$oft bought the company.

posted by SparkyPine at 11:30 AM on March 19, 2005

GE's free whiteboard has a very clean design: Imagination Cubed
posted by Tufa at 2:16 PM on March 19, 2005

I'd suggest webcollaborator. Used on many college campuses.
posted by pwb503 at 3:14 PM on March 19, 2005

If it doesn't have to be a website, I'd strongly second monju_bosatsu's recommendations (the newest release of MoonEdit now also runs on Linux and FreeBSD, so check with the author to see whether there might realistically be a Mac version in time for your summer session). Real-time collab leaves HTTP collab in the dust.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 3:37 PM on March 19, 2005

A new company that's doing something slightly more advanced than your everyday wiki is Jot (technorati universe). I've been using it myself for about a week. It's free in beta, but won't be in the future -- although they are trying to mend fences with the free software movement (which doesn't like them because they've taken wiki technology proprietary) by offering free spaces forever to open source projects. For what it's worth, this is definitely a burgeoning field, even a bit of a fad right now. Whether it will be deprecated later on as social software has, it's hard to say, but yes -- Microsoft not only bought Groove, they made Ray Ozzie (the creator of Lotus Notes) a co-CTO. This probably signals something about their technology direction.
posted by dhartung at 1:36 AM on March 20, 2005

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