Archive for September, 2011

Google Hangouts for Collaborating with Colleagues

September 26, 2011 Leave a comment

I (used to be) in a team which worked mostly remotely, and so collaborated mostly online. We were all techs, all worked pretty independently, but to share information, chat, and keep a team spirit, we keep in touch via an XMPP server (ie. Jabber). It’s pretty much like walking into an office; you start your day at your laptop, the XMPP client automatically boots up, logs in, connects to the conference room, and sits in the background as you work away.

As team members start their own day, they also automatically log in, and pop up. We greet each other. Sometimes chat. Might make a remark as we work. Gripe. Occasionally help each other troubleshoot. Basically, like working in an office.

The important bits of this – compared to any number of collaborative tools – are:

  • Secure – confidential company information is discussed
  • Automatic opt-in – with the system-tray-dwelling client, we’re logged into the room automatically. No need to remember to do so
  • Persistance – the room remains open on the XMPP server, even if no-one’s logged in. Christmas, Sunday midnight, it’s always there, with the conversation history of the last 100 lines
I have tried alternatives in the past. A Skype conference showed promise (voice and desktop sharing on-demand is handy), as did MS Communicator 2007 R2. However.. all these have one problem. They don’t persist. Once everyone’s logged out, the room vaporises.
And after trying Google Hangouts… it seems it is unfortunately the same. Reopening a Hangout with Extras with the same name shows no trace of the previous conversation. And it appears impossible for a named hangout to be private, let alone truly secure.
We’ve been running the basic XMPP chat server for 5 years, cloud and social media have exploded since then, but it seems there’s still no better option.
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