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Author Topic: Real-time online collaborative editing tools + FREE  (Read 2225 times)
IainB
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Slartibartfarst

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« on: August 19, 2012, 11:25:43 PM »

Real-time online collaborative editing tools + FREE
(I have posted this following on from discussion here: Is having everything available in "real time" where we really want to go?

Some of the FREE Real-time online collaboration tools mentioned below have been mentioned on DC Forum before, but I thought it might be useful to just give a quick summary to start to bring the subject up to date. I am not sure if this post is comprehensive, but it's a start. Maybe other DCers could contribute their knowledge and help update it.
You arguably couldn't have done this sort of thing easily - collaborated and communicated so interactively amongst disparate groups of people, and in real time - prior to the advent of the Internet.

A foundation system for such collaboration tools was EtherPad. In 2010, EtherPad was bought by Google and eventually shut down. The Etherpad "Saved Revision" and "Time Slider" features are amazing.
I gather that the EtherPad functionality was incorporated into Google Wave and/or Google Docs collaboration.

If you go to EtherPad.com, you get this message:
Quote
Google has acquired AppJet Inc. and its EtherPad collaboration product and technology.
The EtherPad.com servers have now been shut down, according to the timetable announced previously.
Google recognizes the value of the EtherPad code base and has released the code as open source. For more information, see:
  • EtherPad project on Google Code
  • EtherPad discussion group
This open source release has already led to many efforts to foster further development and provide EtherPad-like services. If you are looking for a service based on the EtherPad software, or want to run your own EtherPad server, see the following links (not affiliated with Google, use at your own risk):
  • PiratePad
  • TypeWith.me
  • Sync.in
  • EtherPad Foundation
  • iEtherPad.com
If you are looking for a Google alternative, the new document editor for Google Docs provides fully-real-time editing, chat, advanced formatting options, and commenting features.
For media inquiries, please contact press@google.com.
©2011 Google

The feature called "collaborative editing" is present in almost every other tool you are likely to come across - including Google Docs, Zoho and Microsoft Office 2010.
After EtherPad was closed down, I used Typewith.me, and it is a very powerful and useful tool. I think the Time Slider may still be unique to that service – you can use the tool to visualize how a contributor's contribution and writing style developed over time - it can display the entire writing session.
Some useful links:
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40hz
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« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2012, 10:04:55 AM »

you can use the tool to visualize how a contributor's contribution and writing style developed over time - it can display the entire writing session.

Just curious (being somewhat dense) ...beyond the "that's interesting" and scholarly aspect, what exactly does all that bring to the table? Most of what I've seen touted as the benefits of "collaborative" software is more the "just getting it done" and brainstorming aspects rather than the granular tracking of where we've been and who did what.

In some respects, tracking that sort of thing seems (to me) to be to be counterproductive for the general free exchange of ideas and contributions since everything now becomes "for the record."

Since most of this grew out of version control and software authoring environments (where it is absolutely necessary to have a full backtrack capability in order to aid in debugging and maneuver out of 'bad turns') I can see why it's been incorporated into other products. But I wonder how good (or even necessary) such a feature really is for the stated aim of collaboration. I'm sure some management types love it since it provides a certain Big Brother capability to the mix. But again, from the participants end, is this really of any value beyond possibly settling "he said/she said" arguments or counting coup for who thought of something first?

FWIW I've personally found most of what's marketed as 'collaboration' tools to be relatively limited in usefulness. Probably because most of what I need to interact with others in order to accomplish doesn't lend itself to the "free for all" approach due to budget and time constraints. Focused, carefully considered, and intense discussions are more how my world currently operates.

I've generally found a web accessible storage point used in conjunction with a modified Delphi method approach (plus a previously negotiated "tight" schedule) seems to work best for my groupthink projects. Email takes care of the rest.

But, as always, different tools for differing work environments - so YMMV. smiley
« Last Edit: August 20, 2012, 07:45:35 PM by 40hz » Logged

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IainB
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« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2012, 09:40:06 PM »

...what exactly does all that bring to the table?...
To answer that, I would recommend the "suck-it-and-see" approach. It was only by using the thing that I started to discover what its potential was for my group's peculiar needs, but, as you say, "YMMV".
We often may have no idea what our needs are in the first place, of course, so this is "discovery" in a quite real sense.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2012, 09:58:14 AM by IainB » Logged
40hz
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« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2012, 05:50:00 AM »

^Agree 100%. Which is why I've tried several at various times and still very much want to like these tools, despite (to date) being unable to do so. I guess it's more a function of the project - and the group of participants - than anything else. Maybe we've also become too set in our ways, having found a system that works extremely well (for our requirements) and have since become leery of doing anything that may screw that up.

Oh well! Hope springs eternal.  smiley
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IainB
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« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2012, 09:57:46 AM »

...I've tried several at various times and still very much want to like these tools, despite (to date) being unable to do so.
Yes, I my general experience is that it's very difficult to change one's own ways, or the ways of others, to make optimum use of the new tools - hence little or no take-up by the user community.
Google Wave was probably a recent example of this.
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40hz
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« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2012, 10:47:20 AM »

^FWIW Google Wave never made very much sense to me no matter how hard I tried to use it for anything non-trivial. Since I was far from alone (and that included people I respect who were big advocates for "all the possibilities" Wave would someday open up) I still think when it came to Wave, the clothes had no emperor.
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cthorpe
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« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2012, 12:22:58 PM »

MoonEdit was in development from 2005-2010 with real-time, collaborative, multi-platform text editing http://moonedit.com/



I have used it with students for collaborative writing exercises.

Apparently it can also do collaborative complex math expressions and multi-track music editing.


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IainB
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Slartibartfarst

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« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2012, 08:57:46 PM »

...I still think when it came to Wave, the clothes had no emperor.
Ahahaha! Very droll. Spot-on too.
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IainB
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Slartibartfarst

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« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2012, 09:12:41 PM »

MoonEdit was in development from 2005-2010 with real-time, collaborative, multi-platform text editing http://moonedit.com/
Wow! Great link/site. Thanks.
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