Top 5 Ways to Collaborate

May 18, 2009sparxoo_admin

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Original photo by Julia Freeman-Woolpert from Stock.Xchng

By Ethan Lyon, Senior Writer

In July 2007, Mashable published an article outlining 60+ collaborative tools. They covered a lot of ground: discussing mind-mapping, business productivity, creative collaboration and family and social collaboration. Entrepreneurs are constantly adding to the collaborative toolbox by finding new and interesting ways of connecting people, whether it’s businesses, friends, or creatives, visual learners, etc. In the nearly two years that have past since Mashable’s 60+ collaborative tools was published, there have been many more additions to the 60.

At Sparxoo, we have an agile team is creatively stretching into new territory. We have tried several collaborative tools to collaborate on projects, but few have stuck. In this week’s top five, we will discuss collaborative tools that have worked for us:

1. Editing Docs and Spreadsheets
There are dozens of live editing software companies out there. Businessitonline, ProjectSpaces, eLoops are some of many file sharing and editing software companies offering the same basic service. Instead of choosing one over the other or wasting money for subscriptions, we went back to basics and stuck with what we know best: Google. Google Docs is software as a service (SaaS) for anyone, whether you have a Gmail account or not. Google Docs and Spreadsheets are the cloud computing version of Microsoft office. In fact, if you want to download or upload a .doc or .xls file to share with your colleagues, Google Docs can support it.

2. Video Conferencing
The major obstacle with many of the emerging software companies is use. Not everyone knows of, or wants to use the latest software.  That’s why most people download and use one or two software programs they’ve heard of—either highly recommended by a friend, colleague or a venerable tech site. For the same reason we use Google Docs and Spreadsheets, we use Skype. It’s easy to use and one of the most ubiquitous video chatting sites out there.

3. Visual Mapping
We are left and right brain thinkers. Our team strives to think strategically while being creative. We stumbled upon the concept, mind-mapping and fell in love with it. A brainstorming technique taught in elementary school, called thought webs or simply webs, has gone digital. In brainstorming strategy sessions we need to visualize how all the elements work together. Mind Meister is how we visualize. We can edit thought webs remotely or we can email them to review in a meeting. Mind Meister helps us visualize our strategy and helps us make the next step.

4. Group Calls
Skype and other video conferencing software might appear to have turned phones into a past-time technology, but we still find value in them. Often times, not everyone has the video conferencing software we use, so we rely on our mobiles. Conference call companies used to cost businesses a considerable fee for using their services. With websites like FreeConferenceCall.com—just as the name suggests—it’s free. Once you’ve signed-up, you can use your code for conference calls indefinitely.

5. Presentation Sharing
Sharing confidential information is sometimes difficult in an age where information distribution is easy and pervasive. We work on confidential projects. That means, keeping a closed lid on them is crucial. We’ve found GoToMeeting.com to be a valuable resource when giving presentations of a confidential nature. It has a tiered access system that allows the owner to designate specific individuals with custom permissions. Therefore, after the presentation is given, we know our information remains confidential.