Skip the meetings and collaborate online

There are more and more reasons to skip meetings and collaborate online instead. Time, gas and traffic are good enough reasons on their own to stay put and meet online. I think the reason people still insist on meeting face-to-face for every little thing is because they don’t know what alternatives are available.

I don’t mean to say you should never meet with other people in person. Face-to-face meetings always have value, but they’re not always the best use of the time. Choose your meetings carefully and for the rest, try hooking up online.

Here are a few online mindmapping tools and collaboration systems I happen to enjoy.

Bubbl.us is a web-based mindmaping tool. They’ve had a 2.0 version in public beta for as long as I can remember. Both the current and beta versions are easy to use for mindmapping and sharing. In case you’re not familiar with mindmapping, here’s a video from techbites on mindmapping with bubbl.us.

Huddle.net has iPhone and Blackberry apps in addition to the web console. I’ve used this to track tasks on a project, share files and manage a project calendar. This service also supports web conferencing with screen sharing, discussion boards and a virtual whiteboard.

Google Docs is one of my favorite tools. You can create text docs, spreadsheets and presentation files which can be viewed and shared online. Give another person change access to the file and they can edit it as well. My Toastmasters group uses Google Docs for the club roster and I’ve used it to submit articles to magazines.

Freebinar is a recent discovery for me. If you’ve done a webinar, or watched one, you probably know they’re pretty handy and of course, they help you reach an audience that can be anywhere in the world. There are some other good tools out there that charge a nominal monthly fee, but I don’t do enough webinars to justify a monthly ding on my card. So far, I can’t tell why I wouldn’t use Freebinar anyway.

That’s a short list, but it works for me.

Do you have any favorite online collaboration tools? Share your discoveries in a comment below.

17 Comments

  1. Donna McCord on August 2, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Wow, there is so much out there to learn about! The Bubble.Us video was fun and I am definitely going to share this with people I think would enjoy knowing about it. The meeting software I have been most familiar with is GoToMeeting.com which has been a great way to meet online to share documents, webinars, discuss, etc. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, Dave!

  2. Scott Edington on August 2, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Excellent stuff Dave. Used to work for a large global corporation and it beggars belief the amount of planes, trains and automobiles that were involved in all these meetings. Like you say, sometimes it needs to be face to face, especially with initial meetings, but the amount of times I've sat in some distant city wondering what exactly I was doing there when it could have been covered with a conference call or video.

    Not only does it save time and money, but helps with reducing carbon emissions. Have you seen 'Up in the Air'? Great film, but I think George Clooney's character should have read your post!

  3. Doug Crowe on August 2, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    My team and I use google docs pretty well. I still have a hard time mind mapping online…seems that when I do a mind map COMBINED with brainstorming with others, many more ideas come into play.

    Additionally, when I am in the presence of my team, we get more tasks outlined and set up to execute (Important, as we always have more ideas than time!)

    I have been using the smart pen by Pulse to do my maps and sharing them as pdf's with programmers and team members. Cool product that doesn't require me to be in front of a computer to use.

    Thanks for the great information!

    Doug Crowe

  4. Louise Edington on August 2, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    I have been using google docs ever since I bought a netbook without Office on and didn't want to install it – I think it's a marvelous tool and never use office now. I like the look of the others also and can see that I may have use for them in the future.

    Otherwise my company uses a lot of webinars and conference calls to give us training as Coordinators work remotely running our own business. It's nice to get together in person at times though 🙂

  5. Candace C. Davenport on August 2, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    Amazing how information just appears when you need it! I'm ghostwriting a book and decided I really need to be mindmapping the concepts. And here is a great free resource for mind-mapping. Thanks so much.

    The other online collaboration tool which I use is the very familiar (and free) 'freeconferencecall'. I'm doing interviews for the book and just have them call into my number and record the interview. I can then send it out for transcription when I get the saved audio. Saves me from having to fly all over the country to personally interview my people!

    Thanks!

  6. KathyAlice on August 2, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing, I will be creating an account on bubbl.us soon

  7. Darcie Newton on August 2, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    Great tips…thanks. I'll check out a few of your recommendations. I hadn't heard of any of them except Google Docs, of course.

    I find one of my challenges is to manage all the tools that are available. Sometimes I feel like I spend more time learning about them than implementing the right tools.

  8. Heidi Alberti & Atticus on August 2, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    Really interesting stuff here, Dave. I have SO much to learn, and I like the way you embedded the tech-bites video. After watching the video, I'm intrigued with the mindmapping site. I'm definitely going to give bubbl.us a try. I think it will help to better organize my writing projects. Thanks for the good scoop! (Atticus added that part)

  9. JenniferBourn on August 2, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    Dave – I completely agree with you! I used to spend so much time going back and forth to meetings Monday – Friday that it was getting hard to get my work done … and that wasn't good because many of the meetings were from leads who ended up just wanting to “pick my brain” in exchange for lunch etc.

    In January I made a decision (that some don't like and have told me so) to stop doing the “pick your brain” lunches and the face to face meetings with people I don't know and have never connected with before.

    Now I do the majority of everything by phone and webinar and It has made a huge difference in my M-F productivity and it has helped shorten my workday, which my kids love. Plus, it makes getting out and meeting my clients face to face more special!

    I use google docs and love it too … hadn't heard ofFreebinar, so I'll check it out… THANKS!

  10. Julia M Lindsey on August 2, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Communicating online is essential with my business. Most of our authors do not live near me. I was thinking of doing a webnar and the Freebinar looks great.
    I love that mindmapping tool. It has been beneficial in many of my writing projects. Thanks for the great tips.

  11. Jennifer Duchene on August 3, 2010 at 3:00 am

    Always handy to have tools especially time saving and free!. Only one I had heard of was Google docs, and another one I recently discovered Mindmeister.com also mind mapping. Fantastic for getting ideas and methods sorted out. Thanks for sharing Dave!

    Jennifer Duchene
    The Home Makeover Mixtress blending cool and cozy style.
    http://home-decorating-makeovers.com/

  12. Lisa Ann Landry on August 3, 2010 at 4:45 am

    Thanks for the free tools they are most valuable. I'm very excited to look at the freebinar. THANKS!

    Lisa Ann Landry – Corporate Trainer – Unleashing the Genie!

  13. Jean Bentley on August 3, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Thank Dave! I had no idea those where avaiable! Awesome!

  14. Kerry Hargraves on August 3, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    Just spend a few minutes playing with bubbl.us. Very nice tool, easy to use and easy to sign up. Thanks. I'll be checking out the others as well.

  15. Rickey GOld on August 5, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    I love learning about new collab tools as well and will check these out!

    Working with a client on a new “team” project where I just discovered Doodle (doodle.com), which lets you survey team members to pick dates for conference calls or meetings. VERY convenient and easy.

  16. Bruce Barone on August 5, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    I do not have any suggestions.

    And I had no idea about these!

    WOW!!!!

  17. Matt Dunlap on August 22, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    It’s actually sad that Google wave was shut down, because while it was really, really confusing… It was also a really good collaboration tool.

    I have heard rumors of Wave getting resurrected by a group of rogue coders… hopefully will cut the fat. There is also a plugin for Eclipse (IDE for coders) called Cola that allows 2 coders to program on the file at the same time… It’s very cool.

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