Virtual Collaboration Methods and Tools

Let’s talk….

The world was turned upside down at the beginning of this year. There were already remote work positions going on before this, there were already online students before this. Now, more people are being forced to communicate professionally online in order to compensate for not being able to in person. So, how do we accomplish this professionally and still maintain the security that doesn’t risk as much as the old days of ICQ or AIM?

We’re not talking about communication you use for those World of Warcraft raids (although they could be used for that too!). I’ll share with you a few methods that I’ve used that have been effective for chats, video conferencing, screen sharing, and collaboration that have been free to use so that you can get your creativity on for work and school and stay in touch with co-workers and school mates.

Chat Tools

  • Slack – This one makes me a bit nostalgic for the olden days of IRC! It allows for multiple channels by topic, file sharing, has a built in voice call that I haven’t had any success at getting people to answer on yet, private groups, direct messaging, and plug-ins for days.
Slack Interface
  • Discord – Okay, some people love it, some hate it, some have no opinion at all here but, Discord actually has quite a few nice features that come in handy for collaboration and communication. Let’s start with the servers having the capability of voice, text, and video chats. It also has great moderation via roles and file sharing.
Discord interface

These are the two that I use most often and I use them interchangeably, so that I have a backup if one goes down.

Video Communications

  • Zoom – Those virtual backgrounds though 💝. I have been in too many Zoom meetings to count at this point. What I like: breakout rooms, quality, and of course the backgrounds!
  • Google Hangouts – I love pretty much all things Google, this is just a simple video / audio chat that allows screen sharing. They also now have Google Meet, which appears to be their answer to Zoom. I have not tried Meet yet, but fully intend to. If you’re looking for more features this isn’t it for you, but if you need a fast meeting that is, simplistic Hangouts is your friend. Mostly I’ve used this for team meetings such as preparing for National Cyber League (NCL) with my cyber-league teammates. Like most of the applications here, it has a web interface so we could get rid of the need for downloading anything and meet fast.
  • Skype – I’ll admit that I didn’t realize people still use this one. I can confirm that there are quite a few companies and individuals that regularly use Skype for video conferencing though. It has been around for a few years and, in my personal opinion, lacks some of the options and features that a few of the other applications have. I also feel it to be too sluggish and resource hoggish to accomplish anything of substance from a professional angle (or a gaming one).

Collaboration Techniques and Tools That I Use A Lot:

  • Google Tools – Okay, unless you’ve lived under a rock (no offense if you have), you’re already familiar with Google. When I need to collaborate on spreadsheets or documents, I use Google because it’s straight forward and can handle popular formats, as well as letting team members view and edit the content in real time. Docs and Sheets both can be made private allowing you to choose who has access and what permissions they have. Docs is any documents you would typically compose, for instance, in MS Word, but with the ability to do so as a team. Yes, Microsoft has the same capabilities, but I prefer Google for speed and because the learning curve is better. If I’m competing in a capture the flag (CTF) event, time runs short so it’s important that I am able to focus on what task I’m performing without having the added time consumption of training whomever is on my team on how to use the tools. So, check out my screenshots below on the Google tools available and see for yourself:
Google Slides
Google Docs
Google Sheets

There are far more tools than I have listed here for staying in contact and collaborating with team members for work or school. The ones listed here are my personal favorites, but you may find some out there that you prefer more. Got some tools you use most? Great! Leave them in a comment below!

And while your researching please check out another great view on this topic by my team mate Webwitch’s take on this here!


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