Online collaborative whiteboard (OWB) review

Online WhiteBoards (OWB) aka collaborative whiteboards are a new class of web tool, which let remote users interact over the web in real-time using a shared virtual whiteboard. I have reviewed 5 of them and believe, that whilst they are not yet fully mature, OWBs could become valuable support tools for virtual brainstorming or open innovation activities.


tImagination Cubed Screenshot

The 5 OWB products I reviewed were:
1. Twiddla.com
2. imaginationcubed.com
3. skrbl.com
4. dabbleboard.com
5. webnote

Don't take this as a comprehensive list - there are at least half a dozen other OWBs out there which I did not review - I just picked the most prominent ones.

First lets understand what online whiteboards are they are and are not


OWBs are not Wikis!

Whiteboards are more geared to drawing and noting ideas - rather than working on a document in a web page. Also with a wiki you generally don't want allow two users to be editing in the same document exactly the same time. Or if they are they are taking turns to do it.


OWBs are not interactive whiteboards (IWBs)

According to wikipedia, an interactive whiteboard, or IWB, is a large interactive display that connects to a computer and projector. A projector projects the computer's desktop onto the board's surface, where users control the computer using a pen, finger or other device. The board is typically mounted to a wall or on a floor stand.


OWB Requirements

To me the basic requirements for online whiteboards are fairly simple:

1. support a shared concurrent real-time online workspace for posting of text, pictures and drawings across any number of whiteboards
2. automatically save the whiteboards online or allow offline copies to be made
3. have a dedicated URL associated with each whiteboard which can be used to invite others to join - don't require people to be invited by email
4. the whiteboard owner should register but the system should not require people to login or register to access a whiteboard - it must be instant access
5. allow users to put in their names so that you can see who is contributing (obviously not authenticated)
6. allow an optional password to be associated with a whiteboard to allow open and private access


OWB Product Reviews

The 5 OWB products I looked at are all relatively new and listed below with my comments

Rather surprisingly although they are all (excessively) feature heavy (aside from webnotes) none of the OWBs meet all of my 6 simple requirements listed above!

Twiddla
I have used Twiddla the most. Loads of features but user interface is a bit complicated and non-intuitive. Does not handle text or documents very intuitively. Has a nice API facility for embedding in other products and white-labelling.

Imaginationcubed
From GE. Very cute tool and the most fun OWB by a long way. Could not find a dedicated URL to associate with each whiteboard.

skrbl
Comprehensive tool - unclear to me how to share the whiteboard with others.

dabbleboard
Possibly too much functionality. Found the chat box distracting.

Webnote
A different type of tool altogether - a shared workspace for posting virtual sticky notes. Not really a whiteboard but might meet many peoples requirements. Beautifully simple. Does one thing really well. My favourite tool out of the 5!



About Ken Thompson

Ken Thompson is an expert practitioner in the area of bioteaming, swarming, virtual enterprise networks, virtual professional communities and virtual teams and has published two landmark books:

Bioteams: High Performance Teams Based on Nature's Best Designs

The Networked Enterprise: Competing for the future through Virtual Enterprise Networks

Ken writes the highly popular bioteams blog which has over 500 articles on all aspects of bioteams (aka organizational biomimicry) - in other words how human groups can learn from nature's best teams.

Ken is also founder of an exciting European technology company Swarmteams which provides unique patent-pending bioteaming technologies for all shapes and sizes of groups, social networks, business clusters, virtual/mobile communities and enterprises. Swarmteams enables groups to be more responsive and agile by fully integrating their mobile phones and the web with bioteam working techniques.

The latest Swarmteams implementation is SwarmTribes which helps social object owners (e.g. musicians/bands, sports teams, film-makers) and good cause sponsors (e.g. Volunteering, Environmental, Public Health) to form unique collaborations with their fans/supporters for mutual benefit.


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9 Comments

great summary.

with so many new startups it can be a pain just to find them !

I would like to offer my whiteboard to the list. www.colabry.com has several advanced features. In addition to a classic scribble board, I've brought GUI components onto the whiteboard. Building with these components, windows are created which can be positioned, sized (esp. iconified) and nested. This unleashes vast virtual real estate and delivers a collaborative version of the desktop metaphor.

There are three versions, one uses Adobe LCCS fee based service, the second uses Adobe Stratus peer to peer, and the third Adobe Stratus multicast.

What's particularly intriguing is the potential for using multicast swarming for bioteam swarming!

You might also want to check out http://www.groupboard.com for a powerful, reliable online whiteboard which can be embedded in a web page.

I'd also like to add my personal side project, Fooboard, to the list. While it may not be completely finished (yet) and lacks some of the super-advanced features found on other boards, it's very easy to use and has a familiar interface. If you can use Office, you can use Fooboard!

Please, if you try out my board, leave feedback. I need to know what people want!

What a tool! It lets remote users interact over the web in real-time using a shared virtual whiteboard.Hay techphets I like your whiteboard,very nice to use.

You might also check another nice collaboration tool called kpi.com This is the result of my gained experience during the past two months :)

Check out this new white board – http://whiteboard.megascopes.com/. It is lightning fast, many people can use it simultaneously and it is evolving quick. The only thing you need to use it an HTML5 compatible web browser. No login or registration is necessary and it is completely free.

I would like to offer our online whiteboard software to the list. CUMeeting is a web-based online classroom software, it has several advanced features. With it, instructor can draw something/add annotations on whiteboard, upload content, video/text chat with students...

Hi I have been using ivocalize for 9 years to tutor students who have learning difficulties. I have now been informed that in 2 weeks they are changing my classroom to a different version with different features.

I am looking for a new virtual classroom that needs the following features: text editing; uploading PDF files; highlight text; laser pointer; and web-cam.

I have had a look at all the classrooms recommended here but non of them have all the features I am looking for.

If anyone is able to help me please let me know.

Thank you.

Regards
Kelly

 


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