Many people have a very social job, which requires them to connect and collaborate with other people. You may find yourself working on a large assignment or task where you need to share ideas and feedback effectively between a group of people. An example of this would be group blogging. At GearFire, we have multiple authors, these tips come from personal experience, and we use most of the services ourselves.
1. Organize Changes - When you are doing a project with multiple people making changes, keep an updated version of the document or a file up on the internet, along with some sort of signal that it’s in use. To let people know when it’s alright to edit it or not, because if two people download it and make changes at the same time, when they put their version back up one will be overwritten. Make sure you are changing the latest version and no-one else is using it. Alternatively you can set up an e-mail chain: Jack sends version to Emily, Emily edits and sends to Sue who edits and ads her content and then sends it back to Jack. Email chains are usually more complex and harder to set up.
2. Pen and paper – Although there are many tools out there to help you with your projects, don’t be afraid to crack open a note pad and draw out charts, brain storms or other tasks.
3. Get together – Organizing a meeting can be a hassle but it is much easier to organize ideas and share concepts when you are all working in the same room. Whether it’s commenting on other people’s work or trying to describe what you have in mind, being there makes it a lot easier.
4. Set up a forum – Responding to other peoples ideas and thoughts are difficult enough over the internet as it is, why not relieve some of the stress by setting up a free forum? Allowing you to post individual ideas and have pages of posts with ideas, concepts responses and constructive criticism all filed away neatly under it.
5. Manage Time Effectively – Use your time wisely and make sure you don’t waste other peoples time by lightly enforcing a flexible schedule just to keep everybody working. Try not to waste anyone’s time because no-one likes to sit there not doing anything useful when they have things they’d rather be doing. Also, try to get as much done while you are all together so you don’t have too much ‘homework’ in which you would be talking back and forth anyways. You can try giving each group member a task to complete each time you meet, assign small tasks and deadlines so everyone stays on top of their work.
6. Make Decisions – Having to always check to see if it is okay, or to find out if the others are receptive to the idea wastes time. Don’t be afraid to make some decisions as long as you think them through.
7. Keep Everyone Involved – People that tend to be shy or have trouble expressing their ideas need to be encouraged to share them. Encourage participation and praise people for what they have done.
There are many free services up today that allow you to work on group projects together. Here is a list of web applications or software you can use to get the Job done.
WriteBoard – One of the many project collaboration web apps provided by 37 signals, This simple application allows for a page of text and some basic editing features, all hidden behind a password and a unique URL. The key features are only one person has to make an account, and it keeps saved copies of every version for you to compare back to. Writeboard makes it easier to jot down group ideas, tasks or practically anything on the text only area and it lets you know if someone else is currently editing the page.
We use it at GearFire for jotting down our article ideas and assigning tasks along with blog goals.
Rarhost - Whether you are simply giving a document to a co-worker or transferring new versions of the software you are developing having a decent file host just makes everything simpler. Rarhost offers free hosting of .rar files up to 350 Mb in size. There is no restriction to the amount you can upload or download, and the file stays up on their servers for 30 days. ( 2 months if registered). Clean, simple, and almost ad free! Offers 3.5 times the maximum file size as rapidshare or divshare.
DivShare – Offers a free hosting service similar to rapidshare and rarhost, 100 Mb hosting, but it’s faster, and more user friendly. It also includes unlimited uploads, downloads and the files stay up forever.
I may add to this list in the future but for now, thanks for reading through.