Lines and Angles

What's the least you would need — in terms of equipment and in terms of software/apps — to collaborate effectively? In other words, “how low can you go?” without losing necessary functionality? 

I decided to take the challenge in part after attending the GetGeeked event on June 11 in San Francisco.

As an analyst who tests hundreds of collaboration tools/software/apps, I need a little bit of everything in terms of hardware and operating systems. My current toolbox includes: a desktop PC (running Windows 7), an iPad 2 running IOS 8.3, An Android tablet running ?, Acer netbook running Windows 7, an iPhone 6 Plus running IOS 8 and, if I need it, access to a Macbook Pro. My iPhone holds over 260 apps, and I continually try new collaborative apps, and try to remember to clean off the old or unused ones.

The Minimalist Challenge: Hardware

I set myself a goal to see if I could collaborate for one week only using my iPhone 6 Plus. (I should note that I am writing this story on my desktop PC, but using a Bluetooth keyboard from Logitech K480, which allows me to switch through three devices — desktop, Android tablet and iPhone 6 Plus.)


Logitech K480 Keyboard

The Bluetooth keyboard is my regular keyboard — I could travel with it. The drawback is it's loud, so that in online meetings or video conferences, I have to mute myself, or my compulsive note taking bothers everyone else.

Instead I travel with an inexpensive Comika Bluetooth keyboard, and put my iPhone on a small stand, which allows me to take notes in Evernote at conferences or events (See Pictures). The keyboard is rechargeable, and as I switch it off when not using it, it hasn't run out of power in the middle of writing a blog, article or tweet during a conference.


Comkia MobiKeys MK-B400 Ultra Slim BluetoothKeyboard             


Smartphone Support device

I recently found a more elegant solution in a new Zagg Pocket keyboard that not only folds up smaller than my other Bluetooth keyboard (it fits in a suit jacket pocket), but has better haptic feedback, and includes a place for my iPhone to rest, so I only have one piece to bring instead of two.


Zagg Pocket Keyboard for Smartphones and small tablets

So this is currently my minimum hardware set up for collaboration. 

The Minimalist Challenge: Software

Apps take up about 50 percent of the 118GB data space on my iPhone 6+, and I have a total of 407 apps (with those that were tested backed up on my laptop). Here's a list of some of the collaboration software I use in this minimalist set up:

  • Skype (Microsoft) Messenger (iOS) — I use this quite a bit, currently to communicate in real time with my VA (virtual assistant), but we are looking for another tool that does not require us to switch context between real time or asynchronous communication
  • Messages (iOS) — Came with the phone, often used
  • Gmail (Google) — My preferred email, because of its filtering capabilities, and extensions I added to Chrome to enhance the filtering. My goal is to cut down my email to a manageable level, and wean myself off of it by using more in-app communication
  • Google Calendar — Good for coordinating, can do an invite to a meeting, can have a separate calendar for work and home
  • Facebook — Have a CSI site, my blog gets posted there, people comment and I respond. I started with Facebook a long time ago. At the time I didn't know to set up separate accounts for family/friends and another for business. I instituted this only a few months ago, but the process is very awkward, I had to uninvite all the business people from my friends network, and ask them to join on the CSI business site. But even with several emails requesting the move, only a small fraction did. There has to be a better way to do this
  • LinkedIn — This is my major business social network (see above re: Facebook)
  • Evernote — I am a compulsive note taker and use Evernote on all platforms to take notes as they sync. These notes often get shared prior to a meeting or conference call
  • Google Docs/Drive — Not my favorite shared space or co-editing tool, but my virtual assistant likes it so we post and edit documents using this tool
  • Google Hangout (not used often) — I sometimes have audio/video calls on Hangout, but it is not a service I use often due to the time coordination required
  • Twitter — Less a collaboration tool (except for DM, which as of July will remove the 140 character limit) and more of a specific person channel broadcast. Research shows that most of the people on your Twitter list do not have you listed on theirs. However, I have found it very useful to keep up with things my colleagues or those in my industry are doing or saying
  • UpWork Messenger — Used to be e-lance, and since hiring my VA through the site, is now called UpWork Messenger. We often use this to communicate or share files
  • Voxeet Conferencing — A great audio conferencing service if you want HD sound. Has the ability to separate the sound so that people seem to be talking from different parts of a room
  • Fuze for iPhone — I also use Fuze on my desktop. It has been a client, and I have been particularly interested in it since it acquired LiveMinutes (an asynchronous side), and look forward to being part of the beta for this. One of the professional groups I am part of HiveMindNetwork will also be doing beta testing
  • GoToMeeting — More than any other conferencing service, this is the one used in my analyst briefings. I also use it in a number of professional group meetings I am part of
  • — A service from LogMeIn, and a good move for the company. If I am already on the phone with someone, I can create a meeting on the fly, share my screen, presentation or an app with the others on the call. The problem I have with Fuze, GotoMeeting and is that they are using old technology, where you have to download the latest version of the app (desktop), have it up and running, have a meeting ID number to get into the meeting, etc. It is even more painful with WebEx. I worked with a start up last year (since acquired by Cisco), that was WebRTC- based technology (only) and had the concept of a “no clicks” meeting. Send an invite via email, click on the link and you're in. A much simpler idea I hope that other conferencing services will adopt
  • Free Conference Call — Old standby. Used many times for conference calls, good quality audio, and it has also branched out into Video calls and Webinars
  • Ring Central — My virtual phone company since giving up the land lines. It offers many services, and if I ever miss a phone call, I can usually find out who called through my account
  • LucidMeetings — The closest tool I've seen for supporting meetings that has some behavioral metrics (so people can see their behavior quantified, and change it for the better). They use many of the other services (WebEx, GotoMeeting, etc.) and deal with all other parts of the call: pre-call (agenda, pre-work), the content in the call (notes, tasks, etc.) and metrics for the meeting that offer some value (not how many times the call has occurred, or how long it was). Tools like Worklife also allow you to export meeting notes to Google Drive where they can be group edited
  • Powernoodle — A good meeting tool, to not only keep people anonymous, but to drive a meeting to a decision

This list is not perfect. I omitted the tools for negotiating a meeting time (Doodle), and many other functions I feel also help to support collaboration, but may not necessarily be considered collaboration apps. I also use things like Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) which I don’t generally use to create content on my iPhone 6+, but can review, change and comment on the content I am collaborating on.

This minimalist collaboration setup is just a stepping stone to collaboration through new and better interfaces. We saw some of these in my recent 3D collaboration article, and will explore more future collaboration questions (both hardware and software) in upcoming articles.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Magdalena Roeseler