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Now Available: PBworks (the next generation)

24 May

The following is a message from our founder, David Weekly, regarding the launch of PBworks’ next generation business product.

After having grown the product for a number of years beyond its workspace roots (and renaming the company two years ago), towards the end of last year we took stock of what we had accomplished and decided we needed to take what we had grown into organically and make it one cohesive whole.

I hired our Creative Director Dann Ledwick – who had been CEO of a technology and design company – to work with me to offer a modern and consistent look across the product. We went back and forth with dozens of ideas and mockups, trying to find an overall layout that would clearly showcase users’ content, show them where they were in a potentially vast sea of information, and give them clear visual affordances for browsing and modifying people, workspaces, files, and pages.

A lot of the problems of visual scale we’re trying to solve are pretty excitingly vast: making readily available millions of permissioned objects to corporate deployments potentially spanning hundreds of thousands of employees and keeping it all sane for the end user. We referenced operating system file navigators, the visual information hierarchies of modern websites like Facebook, the excellent work of Edward Tufte in minimizing cognitive distraction, and thought hard about the ways we could really make the user’s content shine and make the interface just get out of your way.

This work ends up being reflected in lots of small touches – like a little gear icon that shows up when you hover over a folder: if you click on the gear you get a menu that allows you to manipulate the folder, renaming it, deleting it, changing its permissions, etc.

We’ve tried to make the common actions really in-your-face easy (the file browsing interface now has a HUGE button that says ‘Upload’) and the more complex action clearly discoverable but not distracting. So when you need to do something more obscure, like modify a folder’s permissions, you know how to find it, but it’s not in front of you until you need it.

While we’ve left no pixel untouched in this visual refresh, what you’ll see in this first revision is just the beginning of a process of refinement to explore how people can work together joyfully and effectively. Stay tuned!

Sincerely,
David Weekly, Founder and Chief Product Officer

P.S. If you’d like to get a demonstration of the new PBworks, attend one of our webinars.

Attend the Crossroads Film Festival this weekend on PBworks

13 Apr

One of the major was people use PBworks is to help them manage events.  Certainly there are a lot of techie events like BarCamp or TEDx that use us, but we also see non-technical events as well.  One of these events is the Crossroads Film Festival in Jackson, Mississippi, which is taking place this weekend.

We’re glad that Crossroads is using PBworks to help them manage this 70-film festival.  Even better, Crossroads is offering two complimentary passes to PBworks users for the event!

If you’re going to be in the Jackson area this weekend, and would like to claim a pass to the 11th annual Crossroads Film Festival, please leave a comment on this post.  First come, first served!


The 11th annual Crossroads Film Festival is set for Friday, April 16, through Sunday, April 18, at the Malco Grandview Cinema in Madison, Mississippi and other locations around Jackson. The festival will screen over 70 films in three days, in addition to hosting workshops, filmmaker Q&A sessions, receptions, music, parties, and more. The complete schedule for the Festival is at www.crossroadsfilmfestival.com.

Crossroads uses PBworks to organize all its online files, including records, filmmaker lists, photos, and other archival materials from its decade of festivals. The Festival posts film and festival images to public pages (this year, http://crossroadsfilmfest.pbworks.com/Festival-Images and http://crossroadsfilmfest.pbworks.com/2010-Film-Press-Images) for media and volunteers to access the latest collection of photos and information on Crossroads films, musical guests, and other information without having to swap endless e-mails of lists back and forth.

Riding the Wave: A History of Real-time Collaboration

23 Oct
Courtesy of thelastminute

Courtesy of thelastminute

Now that I’ve started to talk with analysts and other early adopters about PBworks’ upcoming Real-time Collaboration update (more on that later), one of the very first questions I always get is, “Is that like Google Wave?”

Many people, even industry experts, are under the impression that Google Wave is the first product to offer real-time collaborative editing.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, real-time editing has been around for decades.  So in the interests of the common good, I’m offering this brief history of real-time editing.

While true industry pros will tell you that real-time editing has existed since the PDP-10 era, the first citation that appears on Wikipedia is Instant Update for the Mac, circa 1991.  More recently, the primary real-time editor that people cite is SubEthaEdit, though this product remains relatively unknown outside of developer circles.

In the wiki/collaboration world, real-time editing has been around since JotSpotLive…which, ironically enough, was acquired by Google (and then dumped in the dustbin).

More recently, Etherpad (disclosure, I am a personal investor in its parent company, AppJet) launched its web-based real-time collaboration tool in November of 2008, and has built up a tidy little following.

So by the time that Google Wave emerged in May 2009, real-time collaboration had been around for nearly 20 years, and had even existed as part of the Google family (prior to JotSpot’s burial at sea).

That’s not to say that real-time collaboration, being old rather than new, isn’t groundbreaking.  In fact, we here at PBworks believe it has a ton of potential…the key is figuring out how to apply it to the all-important task of getting work done.

We think we’ve done so, and will be unveiling the PBworks take on real-time collaboration at the Enterprise 2.0 conference (which you can attend for free!).

Those of you who are PBworks customers and users, stay tuned next week for a special sneak preview….

PBworks Launches Its Social Collaboration Update

22 Sep

If you’ve ever wondered how the functionality of Facebook and Twitter might be able to help you get your work done, the PBworks Social Collaboration Update gives you the chance to find out for yourself.

Starting today, PBworks Project Edition (and PBworks Legal Edition) now includes social networking-style user profiles, Twitter-style microblogging, and the ability to create wiki pages (with file attachments) just by emailing a single email address.

We encourage you to try out these new features (which are included in every 30-day free trial of Project Edition) and let us know what you think in the comments for this post.  We’d love to hear your take!

If you want to learn more first, check out the Social Collaboration Update page, and the frequently-asked-questions below.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is this different from all the other social software products out there?

  • PBworks isn’t a social software product.  Our focus is on helping people get work done.  We look at individual business problems, and then try to find technology that solves that problem.  We’ve tweaked each of the features to reflect this emphasis:
    • Our user profiles allow the corporate administrator to specify the fields and choices, so that you can create a searchable database of locations, skills, certifications, or anything else the company deems relevant (PBworks’ own employee profiles include Myers-Briggs personality type)
    • Our user profiles also include activity history (edits, uploads, comments, task updates, etc.) and tasks so that you can tell what a person has been doing, and what they’re planning to do.  This combination of static and dynamic information presents a clearer picture of each user for the purposes of getting work done
    • Our microblogging solution is integrated into our overall activity streams.  This means that you have real work context (what they’ve been doing) for each person’s posts.

What good are social networking-style profiles in the enterprise?

  • We found that our customers with geographically dispersed workforces needed a better way to identify the relevant people within the organization to turn to for everything from social media experience to the most granular of technical certifications.

What good is microblogging in the enterprise?

  • Our users told us that microblogging was really good for unstructured, real-time collaboration like brainstorming.  The ideas the generated that way could then be put into more structured collaboration tools like workspace pages or project workspaces and tasks.

How much will this update cost?

  • Nothing!  It’s a free update to our Project and Legal Editions.

Do your user profiles integrate with Active Directory?

  • No, but that’s a great suggestion.  You can use AD and other LDAP solutions to log into PBworks, but we don’t currently carry over user profile data.  Definitely on our roadmap.

Where can I see a demo?

Welcome, PBworks Project Edition!

3 Jun

For most of us, work is a series of projects.

We’re always drawing up plans (some more formal than others) and trying to carry them out, usually as part of a team.

That’s why it’s not surprising that so many people use PBworks for project management.  After all, if PBworks is a great solution for improving team productivity and work performance, shouldn’t it be great for project management?  And when we asked you what you were using PBworks for, “managing projects” was the #1 answer.

But in reality, while PBworks was helping a lot of people manage their projects, it was far from ideal.

Even within the company, where we use PBworks for pretty much everything (including project management), we felt the limitations of the product.  When I create a task, I want to be able to assign it to someone with a due date.  I don’t want to be forced to try to remember where I wrote down the task.  I want notifications to go out when the status of the task changes.  I don’t want to forget when things are due.  Yet manually managing projects with the old PBworks product had all of these drawbacks.

It’s a testament to the power of the product that despite these issues, so many were getting so much productivity out of it!

So over the past few months, we went back to the drawing board and started talking to our users.  We conducted dozens of interviews with consultants, PR firms, designers, marketers, and other project leads, including in-depth follow-ups.

As a result, we were able to design PBworks Project Edition, which represents a major leap in project functionality.  In our opinion, it’s the best tool anywhere for managing the vast majority of projects.

What makes Project Edition special?  Certainly we’re very proud of how we’ve created task and milestone functionality that is simple, elegant, and flexible.  But the real key is in combining project management with collaboration in a neatly integrated package.

Historically, project management separated the “management” from the real work.  Picture a Project Manager walking around with a clipboard, collecting status reports, and fiddling with Ganntt charts.  Great for putting a man on the moon, but not appropriate for all the informal, fast-moving projects that make up the bulk of our working days.

The first Web 2.0 project management tools broke the monopoly of the project manager, and put the ability to view and manage the project in the hands of the entire team, but they still didn’t help you do the real work.  You would log in, pick up your next task, then switch to another application or window to do the actual work.

Project Edition combines “management” with a collaborative platform that lets your team do their work faster and better.  Sometimes as much as 10 times better.

That’s the breakthrough we’re calling “organic project management,” since the management is a natural and organic result of doing the real work.

Our goal isn’t to displace the project management tools that people use for the 0.1% of projects that are formally managed (though you can certainly do that with Project Edition).  It’s to radically improve performance for the 99.9% of projects where the most sophisticated management tool is the Post-It pad.

You can try out Project Edition for free for 30 days and see what consulting firms and agencies like Deloitte and Ogilvy are raving about.  We’re confident that you’ll like it, even if you’ve never used any other project management tools in your work.  And if you have used other tools, we’re even more confident that you’ll find our product easier, faster, more flexible, and most importantly, more productive than anything you’ve used before.

Don’t just believe us…here’s what other folks are saying:

“Simple project management functionality, like workflow management, task assignment and milestones, is built right into the tool, so there’s no need to use a separate app like Basecamp to handle simple project management. This makes PBworks an attractive option for teams looking for a tool for collaborative project tasks, like document authoring, requirements gathering or design review. Task management is kept together with the actual task itself, which makes a lot of sense.”
WebWorkerDaily

“A busy manager could check the new project coordination workspace to get a quick status update, use the discussion feature associated with each task to communicate with a team member, or add a new task and assign it to someone – all without ever sending an email. This feature alone makes the new PBworks Project Edition very attractive.”
Future Changes

Get the scoop on Project Edition by visiting our Project Edition minisite.

PBworks, Passion, and Sarbanes Oxley

8 May

For those of you who missed it, the podcast of our founder David Weekly’s interview with Amber MacArthur and Leo Laporte of This Week in Tech is now up on the Web.  You too can listen in and see if Amber is right in describing David as “passionate.”

But the passion doesn’t stop there, as Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Journal runs a piece on the launch of Legal Edition, complete with quotes and picture from our CEO, Jim Groff.

Hey Oprah, when are you going to start showing us some love?

A business perspective on the evolution of PBwiki

24 Mar

Gil Yehuda, the Enterprise 2.0 industry analyst (formerly of Forrester Research), has a great post up about his perspective on how PBwiki has evolved over time.

Here within PBHQ, it’s easy for us to forget what the changes to PBwiki look like to the outside world.  New features like the Mobile Edition seem like old hat to us, since we’ve been talking about them for so long.

That’s when an outside perspective like Gil’s is valuable for us.  While we love the feedback we get from you, our valued users, the fact is, you’re biased.  You use PBwiki, so you probably like the product and us.

Someone like Gil, who covers the whole industry and speaks with alternate companies and their customers is much better positioned to judge PBwiki objectively.

Here’s what Gil had to say:

I have been watching as PBwiki adds more business-focused features and services.  One important feature was the inclusion of lightweight document management features. You can upload, share, and download files (document, images, etc.) with others.  The document management features are not too fancy, but they are good enough for most.  When I first saw these features, I thought of the way most people use SharePoint as a simple document management server with some lightweight page markup capabilities.  In reality, SharePoint provides a powerful platform that includes much more than document management.  But most companies I have spoken with don’t use a small fraction of SharePoint’s features.  For many, SharePoint gives them more than they will use, but less than they need.  And this begs the question – would you be better served with a hosted wiki that provides simple document management?  If you are like many who just use SharePoint for doc management and page markup, but you need to collaborate with partners outside your firewall, then PBwiki becomes quite interesting.

Then PBwiki added a 24/7 end user support service.  For just a few bucks more per user, you can get the assurance of online support, anytime.  I don’t know how many of their business customers use the support feature, but I’m sure they all like the message that PBwiki is sending by offering this service.  Business Wikis are about business – and PBwiki gets it.

And now to this week’s announcement: You can take the wiki with you on your mobile device.   Although you don’t get full editing  capabilities on the mobile device, you can read wiki pages, search for content, create new pages,  and add comments to existing pages.  And there’s no fancy URL to remember since PBwiki’s servers detect if you are using an iPhone or BlackBerry and provide you an experienced optimized for your device automatically.  This is critical for those business needs that arise when you are not at your computer.  Like when you are in a meeting, with a client, a patient, or vendor.  On the road, working from home, or on the shop floor.  Information availability is critical to agile businesses.

I had a chance to speak with a very satisfied PBwiki customer, an investment holding company that is involved in a bunch of businesses — ranging from aerospace engineering, personnel services, telecommunications, casinos, real estate, you name it.  Each business manages their own affairs and technology infrastructure, but the central businesses group collaborates with each of the satellite businesses.  The central group is relatively small, and they have no need to spend lots of money on technology infrastructure.  but they do need the flexibility to work with their contacts in each of their affiliates.

There are many business with similar profiles — like PR agencies who interface with multiple customers.  I spoke with one who expressed the same pattern of need.  They need an easy to use, SaaS based, secure platform to co-create and share documents with many partners.  They know that email is the wrong tool for fluid collaboration. And they want to keep things simple and cheap.  They can handle monthly per-user charges, since they operate that way with other vendors too.

PBwiki provides a compelling option for these Enterprise Wiki buyers.  I don’t believe they are the best option for everyone – sorry, but no one offers that silver bullet yet.  But I do believe they should be on your short-list if you are looking for hosted wiki solutions.

(click here to read Gil’s entire post)

In the end, it’s easy to get caught up in the individual releases and updates.  We live in an attention-deficit world, and it’s just as tempting for companies to try to “win” the news cycle as it is for politicians.  But it’s the big picture that matters in the end.

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