Blog: Tools for virtual collaboration

Remote work is a reality for many people, certainly now more than ever. There are many different tools out there that can make this work easier and bring the physical to the virtual. Building on some of the discussion that took place during our March 25th open discussion seminar, we thought we might share the ways we have been using and experimenting with some of these tools over the past few months and how they might be useful for your work. This is by no means an exhaustive list or a definitive guide, simply a sharing of some early experiences that the Hub Secretariat has recently had with a few online tools.

As you have probably noticed, Zoom is our main video and audio conferencing platform, and definitely gets a gold star in that category. More than just a phone call or webinar, Zoom also offers a few other features that can be very useful in working with others remotely: breakout rooms to split up discussion groups, a virtual whiteboard for users to draw or type on, polls and results sharing, recording for future reference, virtual backgrounds, and a ton of settings to customize your meetings to best support your work.

The Hub team has also been using Slack quite extensively for communicating and sharing documents between the Secretariat and Leadership teams. This platform is a lightweight solution for instant messaging but also has optional features for polling, linking with existing services like Google Drive, and web integration. Imagine a central workspace where all your project communications and documents can be accessed rather than searching through emails, and an option for private messaging between team members. One drawback is the need to engage with ‘yet another platform’; in our experience so far, this applies to a small number of people and we supplement with email to accommodate their preferences.

Miro is a collaborative open workspace, accessed through your browser, that allows users to view, share, and organize ideas in real-time. For example, this is a great tool for a virtual group brainstorming session where ideas are added via “sticky notes” and then clustered or prioritized by the group. There is plenty of freedom in how text and shapes are displayed and lots of room for creativity!

Most recently used in our bi-weekly seminars, Mentimeter, or Menti, is a tool for gathering input and visualizing the responses. I first saw this platform used in a university course to quiz an audience of students, and it can also be used for voting polls, word clouds, and longer text responses to then be displayed for discussion in real-time. It could be a great way to engage potential project participants or stakeholders in helping to design or provide feedback on aspects of your intervention.

This is just a small selection of virtual collaboration tools we’ve been using in our work (all of which have free versions!), and we invite you to reach out to us to learn more about any of these platforms, or others, and how we’ve used them. We would also love to hear about other ways that you have been working virtually – check out our forum on the topic to share and discuss!

Virtually yours,

Eric d’Avernas
On behalf of the KDE Hub Secretariat