Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sococo: Real Teamwork in Real Time, in the Cloud

When Gene Roddenberry created the original "Star Trek" television series, he was adamant that the starship Enterprise be big enough to hold hundreds of people. Why? Because then it would be like a street, a large dormitory or an office. A random walk could lead to an unexpected adventure, conversation or great idea.

That's really the only remaining justification for making people come to a common workplace anymore. But it's a powerful justification -- one that's been impossible to replicate faithfully online until Sococo.

I could spend thousands more words, most of which you'd probably skim or skip, trying to explain what makes Sococo so cool, special and fraught with implications for cloud computing and collaboration. Instead, let me try to summarize just enough to get you to try it out.

With Sococo, your computer screen, and that of each of your teammates, is transformed into what looks like an overhead view of the layout of a set of offices, complete with a lobby, conference rooms and common areas, if you want. You can see everyone, know their status, arrange and hold formal meetings and engage in informal spontaneous collaborations. You can also share computer screens and put other applications from the Web, the cloud or elsewhere up on "walls" visible to everyone at your meeting. Oh, and you can communicate via voice or typed on-screen chat, public or private. All within a single interface you can learn well enough to teach others in about the time it'll likely take you to finish reading this blog post.

Neither too many more words nor even a screen shot can do Sococo justice. A poke around the company Web site will help, but only a little. What you need to do is to sign up for the free trial, download the Sococo client software and invite two, three or more colleagues to join your "team." Doesn't matter where they are as long as they have Web access. In less than 30 minutes, you'll start thinking about more and more ways you can use Sococo, in concert with and instead of almost all of the communication and collaboration tools you're using right now.

Sococo adds to online, location-independent collaboration almost everything that's good and useful about collaborating in a shared physical space in real time. Especially including opportunities for spontaneous, ad hoc collaboration, idea germination and cross-pollination. And it enables a level of social interaction among collaborators I've never seen done quite as well online. And I'll wager it looks almost nothing like any cloud-based collaboration tool you're using now. Check it out, and do let me know what you think.