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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 Is Announcing Something Big at Enterprise 2.0 (and you can be there)

13 Oct
No, not that Enterprise 2.0

No, not that Enterprise 2.0

Join the PBworks team at Enterprise 2.0 in San Francisco (November 2-5), where we’ll be making a major announcement and giving live demos of groundbreaking new functionality.

You can meet the team, get one-on-one advice, and help us show those Enterprise 2.0 folks just how much we all love PBworks.

Best of all, you can get into the exhibit hall for free–just register using the discount code “EXPOPASS”.

As an added bonus (as if you needed one), every PBworks user who stops by our booth (Pod 22) will get a free T-shirt, and every customer will get a free massage from Kathy, our corporate masseuse.

Stay tuned for more clues about the big news, and see you at the show!

P.S. Think you know what we’re announcing? Leave your best guess as a comment, or better yet, Tweet it using the hashtags #pbworks #e20conf.

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?

Get unlimited wikis and users for your school district with District EditionN

4 Aug

In the beginning, individual teachers bought our Classroom Edition.  Then as word spread, entire schools bought our Campus Edition.  Now, just in time for the 2009-2010 school year, we’ve taken the next logical step and launched our District Edition.

PBworks District Edition gives each K-12 school district that signs up an *unlimited* number of wiki workspaces and users.  Now you can share PBworks with every single student, teacher, administrator, parent, and yes, janitor in your school district.

Already, districts like Baltimore County Public Schools and the Wake County Public School System have signed up…maybe you can convince your district to be next!  Here is our announcement.

Each time, we’ve been surprised by the enthusiasm for our larger Academic packages, but we think District Edition is probably the upper limit for size.  Unless….

Country Edition anyone?

Plan Your Next Event with PBworks

29 Apr

Mashable has a great little piece on how to plan and promote your next event with social media.  I particularly liked this paragraph:

PBworks: The wiki is an ideal platform for planning events – it’s easy to add notes, edit information, and organize content. Both mediawiki (the software that runs Wikipedia) and PBworks (formerly PBwiki) are good choices, but PBworks has been a favorite of organizers because of its business features, better document-sharing features, and RSS notifications.”

If you have an upcoming event, don’t forget to make PBworks part of it!

Around the Web with PBworks

28 Apr

Here’s a quick roundup of what the Web has to say about the the new company name and the Legal Edition:

Mashable: “PBwiki Rebrands as PBworks to Target Business Customers
“PBwiki, the popular wiki service targeted towards groups and educational institutions, is making some major changes designed to make it a more appealing product to corporate customers. First, they released PBwiki 2.0 a year ago, which gave it a more professional interface. But now they’ve taken their focus on business to another level by changing their name: PBwiki is now PBworks.”

Future Changes: “PBwiki Becomes PBworks; Launches Edition For Law Firms
“PBwiki, the popular, hosted wiki service is changing its name today to PBworks. The company wrote about the forthcoming change last week, and officially unveiled the PBworks name today.  Chris Yeh, PBworks’ Vice President of Enterprise Marketing, explained the rationale behind the changes in a phone call yesterday. He says the company wanted a name that reflects both the idea that its main product is heavily used at work, and that it contains more than just a wiki. The latter fits with the trend toward Wiki++: software suites with wiki at the core that Bernard Lunn of ReadWriteWeb discussed in December 2008.”

Silicon Valley Business Journal: “PBwiki becomes PBworks
“PBwiki Inc., a provider of hosted collaboration for business and education, said Tuesday it changed its name to PBworks.  The San Mateo-based company said its product line will also be rebranded from PBwiki to PBworks to reflect “how the company has expanded its collaboration solution beyond traditional wiki functionality.”

Knowledge Management Is Communications: “Congratulations PBworks!
“It’s the PERFECT knowledge management tool! Take a bite out of your workload with the new PBworks!”

ComPart Learning Blog: “From PBwiki to PBworks…for us it works!
“In the official blog of PBworks, David Weekly explains that the product his team offers has evolved well beyond the definition of a ‘wiki’. It rather is “an increasingly full-featured hosted collaboration environment, used by tens of thousands of companies around the world to get their work done.”

American Bar Association: “PBwiki Launches Legal Edition (And Changes Its Name)
“PBwiki, provider of the popular collaboration tool of the same name, announced that it was rebranding itself PBworks this morning. The name change is meant to reflect the company’s expanding focus on collaboration technology beyond simple wikis.  Coinciding with the name change was an announcement of more interest to lawyers and legal professionals: the launch of PBworks Legal Edition, a variation of their collaboration tool tailored specifically for the legal profession. The Legal Edition includes features for organizing legal research and managing cases, and also allows firms to set up client extranets, firm intranets, and even electronic deal rooms.”

Strategic Legal Technology: “Launch of PBworks Legal Market Wiki Raises Interesting Application Questions
“PBworks (formerly PBWiki) launched today (28 April 2009) a legal market version of their signature collaborative Wiki. I had a pre-launch demo and it looks very good. The company already has many AmLaw 100 firm users. A private group of large law firm KM professionals in which I am involved happily and successfully used PBWiki to organize a recent meeting.  For any law firm interested in wikis and collaboration, this product is worth considering.”

Webbyist: “PBworks Introduces Legal Edition
“PBworks, formerly known as PBwiki, announced the launch of PBworks Legal Edition, the hosted collaboration suite that responds to the unique business needs of law firms and corporate counsel.”

Technola: “PBwiki Launches Legal Edition
“Today ABA Site-tation reported that the popular wiki solution, PBwiki (now PBworks), has launched a Legal Edition. Specific features for the legal profession include the ability to organize legal research, manage cases, and set up client extranets, deal rooms, and law firm intranets.”

If you blogged about the change, feel free to add your own link in the comments to this post!

PBwiki is now PBworks

27 Apr

The beginning

Back in early 2005, I was helping a number of folks out by setting up private wiki installations on my servers. I got tired of setting each wiki up by hand and had a vision for a simple wiki service that people could set up themselves. In fact, I’d make it as easy to make a wiki as making a peanut butter sandwich. So at 1:00 AM on May 29, 2005, I registered PBwiki.com. By 8am, I had my first users testing the service, and within 48 hours over 1,000 groups were trying the service out.

Since then, the company has grown from just me to a staff of 29. We received venture capital financing, hired a professional CEO, and totally rewrote and improved the service and interface to be a powerful but approachable collaboration tool for individuals, groups, non-profits, educators, and corporations all around the world. Now we have some 3,000,000 users a month on well over 800,000 workspaces.

Why we’re changing our name

The product has evolved well beyond the definition of a ‘wiki’. What we have now is not just some user-friendly generic wiki; it’s an increasingly full-featured hosted collaboration environment, used by tens of thousands of companies around the world to get their work done. It became clear that ‘wiki’ was caging us in.

We went through a lot of different possible names, some of them dramatically different (Viscade) and some of them adorable but too long (Accordiance) and ones evocative of the wild west (Collabero). But we kept on coming back to the warm fuzzies that PBwiki seemed to give folks and the enthusiastic community built around PBwiki. While we knew we needed to drop ‘wiki’, we ultimately couldn’t find it in ourselves to get rid of the ‘PB’.

Introducing PBworks

After months of deliberation and consideration, we’re proud to introduce PBworks. All of your existing wikis have been magically ported over to PBworks.com thanks to the diligent work of our engineering team. Some things will change, like your URL, but the service still works and costs just the same. You can check out our FAQ on the renaming for more details about how your PBwiki will change.

Thanks for your support

We’re glad to have you with us as we go through this development. As I’ve remarked to many friends, it’s been a joy to watch my company grow and mature from a project I put together in a weekend into a real professional enterprise Software-as-a-Service offering, one akin to watching a child grow up, take its first steps, make its first friends, and go to school.

picture-23

For those of you curious what that first version of PBwiki looked like, here’s the first version’s front page, thanks to the magic of The Internet Archive.

Much Love & Collaboration,
David E. Weekly
Founder & Chairman, PBworks

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