Small Scale Online Group Collaboration

There is an immense amount of online group collaboration tools; so many that it becomes overwhelming trying to decide which one to use. On one hand, you have open-ended tools like wikis and email and on the other hand you have more sophisticated tools like Basecamp (external link) and Google Groups (external link). At Lowter, we have tried a number of collaboration tools to facilitate communication amongst our four-person team. Most of them nobody used because they were simply too out of the way and too time consuming.

When it boils down to it, we have an extremely small management team and most of the grunt work is done by myself. Generally, we only collaborate on feature ideas and publications, so pretty tools like Basecamp have simply too many bells and whistles for us. Intranet-style systems were never actually visited by anyone, so we needed to settle on communication methods right at our fingertips that we each already used often. We ended up using a forum located right on our own forums at, in addition to email and to MSN.

Now, there was no collaboration about which communication mediums to use. It was simply a natural progression until we found something that just seemed to work. However, it is easy enough to skip all the fuss and go right to what works, unlike what we did. If you have a small team, it really is not necessary to dive into the hundreds of applications for group communication. Just use what you already use for communication: email, IM, etc. To archive and to organise your emails amongst each other, you can create a mailing list through Google Groups. Forums are also nice to keep conversation organised, and if your website already has a forum it makes it convenient too.

In the end, for online group collaboration sometimes the best means of communication are right in front of you. Unless you are managing something major with lots of people, a software solution is not always necessary.



  • Heheh, "a software solution is not always necessary" sounds funny since email and instant messaging involves software big grin

    For a software development team, I would say that version control is an invaluable group collaboration tool, especially with descriptive commit messages.

    Posted by Eugene Wee on Tue 20 May 2008 at 7:48

  • I mean a separate software solution for group collaboration. I think that was pretty clear too. I also made it clear that I do all the programming basically and I have CVS and such for that personally (it isn't a group thing).

    Posted by Ethan Poole (external link) on Tue 20 May 2008 at 17:40