Story 2014-11-17

Ask Pipedot: small office collaboration/messaging

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in ask on (#2V33)
Here's the situation: you've got a small office of 8-20 employees who work in a consulting business and whose main products/deliverables are reports, spreadsheets, occasional CAD drawings, Gantt charts, project plans, and the like. Not only do they produce those things, they receive reports for which they produce comments/observations. Much of what they produce is collaborative or iterative (ie, not necessarily 'live editing' of spreadsheets, but several people must all contribute to a doc over the space of a week or so). To do so, they need efficient means of communication, discussion, versioning, etc.

Needs: document repository, shared editing of many types of documents, a messaging system for internal office communication, "sharing" system that permits clients to upload or download large files, a managed-content "front page" web site, an internal intranet, shared calendars, contacts lists, some sort of system to produce and maintain office policies and procedures, and otherwise manage internal communications and office admin. Some considerations for discussion, so I'm intentionally not specifying: (1) ideally, systems are usable by different OSes. Obviously there are going to be problems ensuring total OS independence. (2) ideally, the system doesn't require full-time online presence. Should a consultant wind up in a basement office with no internet, he won't be totally lost (again, not perfect). Note: no obligation for Free/Open Source software, although they are preferred. The goal here is an office that communicates and collaborates efficiently.

Ten years ago, you'd be sitting in a cube farm, using Microsoft Office and a shared drive and emailing documents back and forth. Later they'd have added Sharepoint. These days, there's been a ton of innovation in these areas, and there's consensus that collaboration-by-email is not fun. And there are lots of new approaches to these age-old problems.

So, how would you do it?

Google Glass future clouded as some early believers lose faith

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in hardware on (#2V2X)
story imageReuters is reporting a drop in usage of Google Glass. Turns out:
After two years of popping up at high-profile events sporting Google Glass, the gadget that transforms eyeglasses into spy-movie worthy technology, Google co-founder Sergey Brin sauntered bare-faced into a Silicon Valley red-carpet event on Sunday.
Google Glass may be losing its mojo as users struggle to accept obviously creepy spy aspects of the new technology. A quick Google search turns up things like:
  1. TechCrunch: MPAA Bans Google Glass And Other Wearable Cameras From Movie Theaters
  2. Mew York Post: The revolt against Google ‘Glassholes’
  3. Gizmodo: Is Google Glass Dying?
That's an inauspicious start to a new technology, and certainly the price tag doesn't help either: the test version of Google Glass comes with a $1,500 price tag. Says Reuters:
While Glass may find some specialized, even lucrative, uses in the workplace, its prospects of becoming a consumer hit in the near future are slim, many developers say.

Of 16 Glass app makers contacted by Reuters, nine said that they had stopped work on their projects or abandoned them, mostly because of the lack of customers or limitations of the device. Three more have switched to developing for business, leaving behind consumer projects.
[Author note: My personal experience? Google Glass is a difficult market even for business developers. As freelancing software developer I asked several of my customers what they think about possible Google Glass solutions. I pointed out some ideas how Google Glass could be used to benefit their business. Though the ideas were generally well received, they usually were answered with: Sounds very good, perhaps in the future. We are watching Google Glass. We thought about it ourselves, but don't think that at this point the necessary investments will pay off.

My advice to Google? Cut the price. For $150 I'd take the risk. Many nerd developers would. Google Glass needs a better reputation and a few killer apps. Only Google has the money and interest to improve the reputation of Google Glass. To find a killer app, it needs an as large as possible developer base. One does not get the latter with a $1500 product with a questionable future.]

[edited 2014-11-17 15:01 GMT: inauspicious, not auspicious]