A couple of days ago, George Siemens posted about Coventi Pages and it’s unique way of showing edits and comments as a sidebar, which makes for great editing and collaboration. What I like about Zoho’s product, first off is the prettiness of Zoho and the whole suite of apps, and now they just announced that their will be a chat feature added to their Zoho Writer. This is a good thing for anyone who has worked with either Zoho or Google Documents.
I could never figure out why Google Spreadsheets had a chat feature, but Docs did not. In my opinion, the chat feature should be a standard on any collaborative editing package out there.
This post also brought up another problem for me when I looked at it in terms of what is available in this area of Web 2.0. As more of my staff are beginning to see the possibilities of lesson design that utilizes Web 2.0, they are not ready to deal with the onslaught of choices. As a tech coordinator, I try to steer them in a direction that I think will minimize confusion, frustration or data loss. That decision often has a lot to do with what is recognizable to the user.
Branding is important. As someone who is actively involved in finding better options for teachers to use to create lessons, integrate technology and design curriculum, this is something I run into all of the time. A brand carries a lot of weight with people, often at the expense of functionality and efficiency. However, where is the line between what the teacher feels comfortable with and what is the more efficient product? This is where apps like Coventi and Zoho might struggle. Schools, like all other businesses, have been the victims of so many fly-by-night technology companies that have sold them something cutting-edge, only to have that bite them in the proverbial arse shortly thereafter. A solid brand like Google, though completely functional and usable in the online writing application genre, will win out among casual users every time because it is a recognizable name that isn’t going anywhere. With that comes an illusion of accountability to the user that is yet another feature that draws the user to their product.
So, while Zoho and Coventi’s products show promise, and in my opinion contain better features than Google Docs, I will be hard pressed to sell the use of Coventi or Zoho to my staff. That’s OK, because I think this is a win-win situation; if we are using these collaborative pieces, that makes me happy.
Photo from Morguefile.