Collaborating Outside Second Life

Saturday, October 17, 2009 Saturday, October 17, 2009

Like most virtual designers, I am often collaborating with other designers or clients in efforts to build something or other. Initially this was pretty easy, as Second Life is a pretty decent environment for collaboration: You’ve got voice, text and can exchange images via textures, or even build small prototypes for visual demonstration. Often I’d use email to send material to and fro. Nevertheless, I’ve found the SL environment is often insufficient for certain types of collaboration.

So what do I do? Simple: I make use of several free or low-cost web services. There are the obvious choices for sharing information, such as Twitter, Plurk, Flickr and YouTube, but there are several other highly useful services you might not use:

Google Apps: If you haven’t tried Gapps, you should. It’s free and provides some amazing services. Imagine being able to build and access a spreadsheet from anywhere you can access a web browser. Further imagine being able to invite others to “participate” in the spreadsheet, and watching them changing cells in real time. Now try that with documents and presentations, too! Gapps is well thought out and indispensable.

Skype: The ubiquitous voice service now provides more than just voice, but now includes video, file transfer, instant messaging and other great features. Get it now if you haven’t already! You’ll find it most useful for discussing projects with team members when you are not in-world.

Dropbox Dropbox is a wonderful tool that provides a completely free 2Gb virtual disk. What’s the big deal? The disk appears just as if it’s installed on your machine, but is in fact somewhere far away on the Internet. You can put this virtual disk on several machines - I use it to share files between my laptop and desktop machines. The best part is the ability to add others to your disk - and thus you can seamlessly share files between people simply by drag & drop into the shared folder and it’s automatically updated on shared dropboxes. Indispensable! If 2Gb is too small for you, you can certainly buy more.

DeliciousThe biggest social bookmarking service is Delicious, where you can share a stream of URLs with others. There are also several browser plug-ins that make creation of bookmarks a breeze.


Etherpad: It’s an incredibly simple multi-user shared text editor. What’s that mean? A page you can edit with others in real time. Different colors show you who’s changed what, as everyone types at the same time. Cut and paste the resulting text into a notecard and get your collaboration done much faster. 

YouSendIt: Files too big for email? YouSendIt will come to your rescue, as it enables direct sending of bulk files. It’s not quite instant, but one of the best ways to get a lot of data moving.

Tinypaste: It’s another instant service for storing a chunk of text. Again, very useful for keeping notecard-style information in a semi-permanent state. As long as you can remember the obscure URL, that is...

Are these the only services to use? Not at all - there are dozens, perhaps hundreds more, and those above are simply the ones I use. Which services do you use? Tell us in the comments below.


Stuart Warf said...

All of the tools you mentioned are perfect for collaborating on projects. My personal favourites that I use are Dropbox, YouSendIt and Google Docs. Once I can get into Wave, I think there is a fantastic collaboration tool there as well.

Peter Miller said...

Maybe worth noting that Etherpad displays live on a web prim in SL if you use an external browser for writing. and Solvr ( work similarly and I believe Google Docs can auto-update on a prim too. I've no idea how that impacts the 8 user limit on Etherpad (does one user viewiring inworld and via browser count as two?).

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