Web Applications with Real-time Interaction

In the last few editions of NewsFeed we’ve highlighted Google Wave, Google’s new platform which enables users to have real-time interaction when collaborating on documents (see Google Wave in Two Minutes and 7 Things You Should Know About Google Wave).

Whilst Google weren’t the first to publicise the potential of real-time collaboration they have grabbed most of the headlines and we expect a number of new sites will appear in 2010. In the meantime readers might be interested in three existing sites which allow real-time collaboration with text, mind-maps and diagrams highlighted below:

Word processing - Etherpad

etherpad Etherpad.com is a real-time collaborative text editing site, which hit the headlines recently when it was bought by Google and their entire team co-opted to the Google Wave project. Fortunately Google decided ‘to do no evil’ and quickly announced that people could still use the site until March 31st 2010 and that the code for etherpad would be made open source. The code for etherpad is now available for download and other users have already started hosting their own etherpad sites. This might be particularly appealing to institutions as they can take responsibility for logins, backups etc.

If you are interested in going down this route a couple of posts you might find useful are a very detailed installing etherpad guide and a discussion thread on ldap user authentication.

Mind mapping - Mindmeister

Mindmeister is an online collaborative mind mapping tool. The interface is very easy to use. Like mainly other web services it uses a ‘freeium’ model so the downside is that students will only be able to have 3 mind maps on the go at one time (but these can be exported as image, PDF or RTF). Below is a great video by Thomas N. Burg which highlights mindmeister’s basic functionality (nodes which flash red have been created by a co-collaborator).


Diagrams - Cacoo

Cacoo looks like it would be a great tool for computing students with ready made icons for networks, office equipment and design wireframes (and UML if that is your thing), the site may also have wider appeal with more generic shapes. As well as enabling real-time collaboration Cacoo also has some very useful other features like snap-align and connecting shapes together. The video below has a nice overview:

[Text from this post was taken from the RSC Scotland North & East Higher Education blog MASHe]