December 17, 2006 |
I’ll be honest. I didn’t like CollectiveX when I gave it a glance. It looked like one of those businesses you come across and think: “They don’t quite get it.” And that feeling hasn’t completely gone away, but it’s diminished after a decent look-see, and it’s certainly due some respect for punching out a product that does what it’s alleged to do. This is particularly good when the main audience they appear to be after is the small to medium-sized business breed.
The CollectiveX interface looks equal parts Digg, weather forecast, and blogging software. It’s bound to remind you of something or other. I can also see how it might do the job for some, but despite its navigable layout, it looks like a time consumer, and unless you’re YouTube, you want your web app to be as much a carefree wonder as possible. Whether it’s a good thing or not that CollectiveX is a slight chore, you can decide yourself, but if CollectiveX is appealing to everyone from private clubs to a company board to use them as an organizational tool, they might like to simplify and expand the powers their software wields. Call that a feat if you must, but I’m certain such efforts would be rewarded.
I was hesitant to sign up for the service, if only because I didn’t have the manpower to test its multiplayer strength for myself. Fortunately, CollectiveX provides a video tour, and after giving several minutes to the explainer, I came away with both good and bad impressions. I don’t want to be giving you a run-of-the-mill pro/con list, however. I think it’ll give you a better feel for how CollectiveX will behave and what it will do (and won’t do) for you if I mould this thing into one coherent report.
I’ll say this. If you’re a project manager and you’d like to get your business associates all together in a tidy group, CollectiveX may very well be right down your alley.
Managers are availed plenty of customizability options when it comes to permissions, allowing you to dictate what members are allowed to do, but something tells me a dictator or two will sprout after using this software. What gives me such a hunch? You can – however professionally courteous such actions may seem – shun folks from the goings on in “Project A”. All you power hungry bosses out there, take it easy now. If you’re on the receiving end of things, this managerial superiority might not bode well for you. Collaborate at your own discretion.
If you like having the ability to go back in time and revisit a conversation you had with one or several to freshen up on a subject or simply to reference things said, then you’re a fan of forums. CollectiveX must’ve thought about you and people like you when they put together their collaborative space, because rather than go ahead and include a chat function, they’ve offered a tab dedicated to the art of the symposium, where, say, members of a group can talk with administrators, vice versa, and a post history is retained for the odd backtracking folks do.
A few things about CollectiveX’s calendar upset me. I can see why CollectiveX chose to present the calendar the way that it has, but one word came to mind when viewing the video tour: bare.
Firstly, there’s something not right about the placement of certain items. For one, the current month is placed at the top left, while the names of the preceding month and the month ahead are shown near the center. The inverse would be the more logical arrangement. Also, you can enter items as you would normally do, but there’s a caveat. That caveat is part and parcel to the permissions system.
Again, if you’re a business manager looking for some simple organizational software for your team, forget what I’m saying here, but it just seems a little too much trouble to fiddle with so many trivial hoops and ladders in order to get everyone situated into their “appropriate” roles. The calendar itself is lacking in editing powers. Only date, time, and a label of ‘private’ or ‘group’ can be added and altered. That’s it. Okay, you can also export the calendar as an iCal- or Outlook-compatible file, but the calendar as a whole could surely use a big update if it’s going to be used for anything other than keeping the most basic of schedules.
CollectiveX will find its niche. Perhaps it already has. But it reminds me of one of those startups back in ‘99 that made a product and later looked to see how people could use it, rather than build a product around a need. CollectiveX’s creators would do well to shave “Permissions! Permission! Permissions!” from the demonstration provided. When dealing collaborative software to the public, I’m fairly certain clients don’t want to see ‘firewall’ tags throughout. I can envision a segment of the non-commercial market that might find a use for CollectiveX, but if you want a whole package, whiteboard and all, something like Basecamp, from 37signals, will deliver the usefulness and none of the hassle.