Yesterday I posted about different tools where you can still use your email client, but at the same time the email discussion is threaded on a public page…this of course is to overcome the incapability of the email client in handling threaded discussion (I can’t see why Outlook doesn’t add this feature as a module). Anyway the services I discussed were, 9cays, Grouptivity and QuickTopics.
In my post, Where does email fit in document collaboration, I touched on a a few ways where you could make email very minimal in this process, more as a notification tool.
This post will focus more tightly on the collaborative aspect of document review, in the earlier post I mentioned a forum, but this isn’t really document review in the document itself, what you can do is use a forum to comment on the document.
Another choice was a wiki, now this allows comments and also has a controlled version history, plus it compares versions to show the chunks of text that have been changed. This is an ideal tool for document review, but your document is the wiki itself, which is not helpful if you are wanting to review a word document.
Next was a DMS (Document Management System), which is great for controlled version history, but there is no metedata space to leave comments or to be able to mark up the document.
In this respect you have to combine the features of MSWord Track Changes feature or the Compare and Merge Documents feature.
Next were some online word processors, these enable to share and have a controlled version history, I haven’t looked into these much so I don’t know about markup such as redlining but they do have a comments feature.
Some of these also have communal real-time editing, and chat…see more, actually see more at wikipedia.
I guess IM or group voice/chat services like Yakpack and collaborative conferencing services like webex come into the real-time or synchronous space…if you don’t have IM just use a chat like Gabbly or Chatsum. Also see DocSynch for IM document collaboration.
Another type of service is group management content systems like Foldera (others are Wild Apricot, centraldesktop, Basecamp, cyn.in, etc…).
I haven’t looked into any of these sytems, but I know Foldera has a Document Manager with controlled version history, sharing, and a separate comments stream.
Koral is a web 2.0 DMS, not sure if it has a collaborative document review feature.
I also mentioned a file sharing service called Tubes, which allows basic document sharing and automatic updates.
I suppose another way is using annotation from a bookmark service, diigo allows you to annotate a web page, so you would firstly have to webify your document. Then your friend can annotate (leave comments) that webpage, you can also see all these comments aggregated by expanding where it is bookmarked in diigo.
NextPage2 falls into the DMS scenario, and PleaseReview is a standalone specialised document review collaboration service, it is by far the best choice so far. Some others I came across are editdocument and QuickTopics.
All these services full inline with document collaboration to the full extent as it includes a review process and infrastructure, similar to a wiki and MSword track changes comboned with a DMS.
A kind of light-weight DMS, as it seems it only manages the document collaborative review part, once finished I’m not sure if the document lives in a DMS.
The Activity window displays an audit trail, who is editing, and version history.
It seems it doesn’t have locked off editing, as new versions can be created at the same time, and these versions need an additional step to be incorporated into the master document (prior to this you can do version comparisons).
So to me it seems that people don’t take turns in marking up the same document, instead everyone creates markups on their own version, and then these versions are compared and changes implemented into the master document. The master document may be created by using MSWord’s merging/comparing feature, this then becomes the new version of a document.
This seems a powerful product as you are notified by email about any part in the process, you can see what is the status of a document at any time, and you can even share a document with people that aren’t subscribe to NextPage2.
From my experience a typical DMS used with MSWord Track Changes feature works the other way, where a document is created and someone checks it out for editing (this means no-one else can edit at this time), they make changes and comments.
Once they check it back in (this makes version 2) then the next person can check out the document for editing, and so on.
Each version includes one more person’s markups, in the end the current version of the document displays edits made by everyone. (You could go back to version 2 and just view the first persons mark-ups, then version 3 and view both the first and the second persons markups, and so on).
From what I see, every version in NextPage2 only contains one persons markups (ie. in isolation from the other peoples markups), then these are all compared and considered for the master version.
Whereas in the DMS’s I’ve used, every version aggregates the markups of the previous version, this is all colour coded but to me seems very messy.
That is, person 1 may check out version 1 and cross out some text, add their own text and check in the document as version 2, then person 2 may check out version 2, do the same and even cross out some of Person 1’s text and check in the document which becomes version 3, and so on.
Once the responsible person reviews the document, they may make one more version which becomes the version to perhaps publish, this can be signified with an icon so we know which version was published, or you can use a revision system.
This Published version can perhaps be printed as a PDF and kept in another folder.
See Appendix on using revision numbers as a version control.
So the difference in NextPage2 is that once all the document versions are compared this can be made into a new master that becomes the official 2nd version. Whereas in a typical DMS versions are made throughout the whole process, the latest version contains everyone’s changes.
Basically NextPage2 is an extended feature of the MSWord Track Changes feature, where it manages the review process.
In saying all this a DMS doesn’t have to work the way I mentioned, the original document lives in the DMS and various people make copies of this document and using Track Changes make their edits visible. Then the responsible person is emailed all these variations of the same document, then creates a final document which is then put into the DMS as version 2. A DMS can simply be used to store the documents, whereas NextPage2 can be used purely to manage the review process in a more social and central way, instead of people working in silos and emailing attachments.
PleaseReview is different to NextPage2 as the document review happens in a web view, similar to a wiki, online wordprocessor, and MSWord Track Changes feature (not a web view), in that only one document exists and all markups are made on the same document (even in real-time). Reviewers can see each others changes and comments and reply to comments (these can even be displayed in it’s own threaded view), current status, and notification by email and much more.
Basically this can be an alternative to both NextPage2 and MSWord Track Changes feature, the difference being only one document exists, and it is also has its own markup feature. Even though NextPage2 has people working own their own version, this is not total isolation (silos) because these are kept in a central location to be viewed by anyone. So both these services solve the email isolation issue, only in different ways.
Seems a more simple version of PleaseReview, in that all edits are made on the one page, but it seems it is limited to just comments and not inline changes.
From the website:
“You’ve authored a document and you’d like your peers to review it. Quick Doc ReviewSM gives you an instant private space for gathering comments on any HTML document (Microsoft Word documents too). Your group can comment on each paragraph, directly within the document, and you can also display, sort, and print the comments separately. Comments are all in one central place. This is true collaboration, much better than mailing documents around and having people make comments in isolation. And it’s private, but still easy to access.”
Here is an example.
It seems there are 3 ways of collaborative reviewing a document:
1. each person marks up a separate document, then they are merged into a master document
2. a person marks up a document making a new version, then this version is marked up making a new version, and so on (where the final version has everyone’s markups)
Online word processors also allow multiple people to update the same version in real-time
3. everyone marks up the same document in a web view (even in real-time)
Here is the different ways to collaborate on a document, whether it is document markup, comments, version history, or just talking about it electronically:
DMS (Document Management System)
CMS (Content Management System)
Sticky note annotation
Document review service
Version Control using revision number metadata.
Ver = version
Rev = revision
Ver 1 Rev 0
Ver 2 Rev 0
Ver 3 Rev 0
Ver 4 Rev 0
Ver 5 Rev 0
Ver 6 Rev 1
Ver 7 Rev 1
Ver 8 Rev 1
Ver 9 Rev 1
Ver10 Rev 2
Ver11 Rev 2
Ver12 Rev 2
Ver13 Rev 2
Ver14 Rev 2
Ver15 Rev 2
Ver16 Rev 3
Ver17 Rev 3
Ver18 Rev 3
…and so on
When adding a document to the DMS, it automatically becomes version 1, and you can enter revision 0 in the metadata.
Now just say you want 3 people to review this document.
Person 1 edits the document and checks it back into the DMS it automatically becomes version 2, and stays at revision 0.
Person 2 edits the document and checks it back into the DMS it automatically becomes version 3, and stays at revision 0.
Person 3 edits the document and checks it back into the DMS it automatically becomes version 4, and stays at revision 0.
Then the responsible person looks at version 4 and may make some minor changes, when they check it back in to end the review process it becomes version 5, at this stage they also place an icon next to version 5 eg. a star
NOTE: there is a status box on the document that states revision 0
Then this starred version 5 is created into a PDF and kept in another folder, eg. Published folder.
This PDF may be sent to a client, the document PDF comes back with lots of markup, this document is kept in a separate folder, eg. Client markup folder
Person 1 edits version 5 of the working document and checks it back into the DMS it automatically becomes version 6, and then they change the metadata to revision 1. IMPORTANT: this denotes it as the first version of the new review cycle.
NOTE: Before checking in the document to become version 6, the status box on the actual document has to change the text from revision 0 to revision 1
Person 2 edits the document and checks it back into the DMS it automatically becomes version 7, and stays at revision 1.
Person 3 edits the document and checks it back into the DMS it automatically becomes version 8, and stays at revision 1.
Then the responsible person looks at version 8 and may make some minor changes, when they check it back in to end the review process it becomes version 9, at this stage they also place an icon next to version 9 eg. a star
Then this starred version 9 is created into a PDF and becomes version 2 in the Published Folder
This PDF may be sent to the client again, the document PDF comes back with lots of markup, and becomes version 2 in the Client Markup Folder.
Person 1 edits version 9 of the working document and checks it back into the DMS it automatically becomes version 10, and then they change the metadata to revision 2. IMPORTANT: this denotes it as the first version of the new review cycle.
NOTE: Before checking in the document to become version 10, the status box on the actual document has to change the text from revision 1 to revision 2.
Person 2 edits the document and checks it back into the DMS it automatically becomes version 11, and stays at revision 2.
Person 3 edits the document and checks it back into the DMS it automatically becomes version 12, and stays at revision 2.
Then the responsible person looks at version 12 and may make some minor changes, when they check it back in to end the review process it becomes version 13, at this stage they also place an icon next to version 13 eg. a star
Then this starred version 13 is created into a PDF and becomes version 3 in the Published Folder
This PDF may be sent to the client again, and perhaps the client may be happy, so the lifecycle of this document might end at Version 13 Revision2
As mentioned earlier in this post the starred versions in the working documents equal the PDF’s in the Publish folder:
Starred Working Document Ver5 Rev0 = PDF Ver1
Starred Working Document Ver9 Rev1 = PDF Ver2
Starred Working Document Ver13 Rev2 = PDF Ver3
The reason the document is starred when it is ready to be published is a safety mechanism.
Just say the document is not starred:
The document was sent out as Ver9 Rev1, when it comes back the first person makes an edit and checks it back in and they forget to change the metadata to Rev 2. This will mean it is Ver10 Rev1, then someone else makes some changes and it becomes Ver11 Rev1.
Someone may notice that the Rev has not been changed, so they wonder which working document equals PDF Rev2; is it Ver9 Rev1, Ver10 Rev1, Ver11 Rev 1, or what about Ver8 Rev1, or Ver7 Rev1, when exactly was this mistake made.
Utilising the star icon will solve this problem.
[ADDED 06/03/07 : Approver : blog draft collaboration]
[ADDED 08/03/07: Coventi for document collaboration and review]
[ADDED 03/07/07: Taskee - visitors can leave comments on a blog, refering to the URL they are commenting on]
[ADDED 03/07/07: Lunarr]
[ADDED 20/04/09: DoingText]