Best online collaboration tools 2009

Robin Good has published Best online collaboration tools 2009.  It’s an enormous mindmap, difficult to read even if you shrink it.  If you hover over the central title you get two links. The first is a note which says

Collaborative map idea by Robin Good of realised during the Learning Trends 2008 event with the cooperative contributions of over 150 people on November 16 2008 and during the following weeks. You can email Robin if you want to add to it.

The second link takes you to Robin Good’s website.

In an attempt to get an overview, I looked at the mindmap as a linear text in a word document; it’s enormous.

Here are the headings:

event-scheduling; chat; instant messaging; audio-conferencing; screen-sharing; video-conferencing; large audience webinars; web conferencing; co-browsing; whiteboards; web presenting; multimedia presentations; work grouping; document-sharing wikis; file-sharing; mindmapping and diagramming; collaborative reviewing; collaborative writing; project management.

The tools for each of these headings are hyperlinked. I’m overwhelmed by the number of tool here. Still, only one way to explore them – one at a time.

Here’s one of the many tools under the heading of Workgrouping. I wasn’t sure what that was when I read it, but the first tool listed is a ning, and I know what that is – an online platform for the creation of a social network. I chose randomly, and here’s what I found out about Yammer.

Yammer is a private communication tool for a company in which you can control privacy settings (very much like a ning).  The formatting reminds me of Twitter and Facebook: there are status updates, information shared on a discussion board, groups formed, and members have profiles/bios with layers of background information. Its attraction to commercial companies? The same as what would (or should) attract nings to schools. It connects people within the company in one place, allowing this to be divided into the required spaces within that company. Members share news, information, questions, links; bios provide valuable background information, such as the information provided in Facebook and nings. You look up a person, and you can follow them, as on Twitter. That means, if you think someone is interesting, you can keep updated about what they’re working on or what they’re reading (as on Twitter, Facebook). This kind of knowledge sharing reduces redundant questions asked by people. I think it also gives a good measure of control to the individual member, allowing independent research into people or projects, and allowing them to take the initiative of forming public or private groups.

I wonder if commercial companies will embrace these online tools before schools do?  And if so, will schools finally sit up and take notice when they see that the world of work is taking them seriously? Or will schools become the innovators?

By the way, for a while now, when I mention a ning, I get some sort of guffaw as a response, and then the inevitable question: ‘Why is it called a ning?’ Well, I decided to look it up. According to Wikipedia, the word ‘ning’ is Chinese for peace.

Ning is an online platform for people to create their own social networks [2], launched in October 2005.[1] Ning was co-founded by Marc Andreessen and Gina Bianchini. Ning is Andreessen’s third company (after Netscape and Opsware).

The word “Ning” is Chinese for “peace” (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: níng), as explained by Gina Bianchini on the company blog, and it is also a surname in Chinese.

Still, I think, to attract more credibility, they could have gone with a name which didn’t allude to a nonsense poem by Spike Milligan.