Asynchronous Remote Collaboration Tools

For years, the internet has been quite the mecca of online workers. These days, I find myself working with people I have not met personally. I can also work with friends deployed to different places because it’s easy to talk to them. There are now designs in project management web tools that allow for asynchronous or remote collaboration.

I must say that after generously wading in the vast spectrum of free online tools, I have my top seven tools for this year and these are the following, in no particular order:

1. Skype

This is the popular choice for virtual meetings and digital “interviews” for overseas clients. It’s easy, it’s free, and it allows for group chats, video calling and everything else you need to talk to someone. You can also monitor log in and log out hours via Skype chat availability. I used Skype so much since 2012 and I think that it will continue to be relevant in the future.

2. Slack / Flowdock

I lumped together two awesome but similar web applications. Because Flowdock has a fee and user limit, I opted to use Slack for my ventures.

It’s practically awesome in putting together people you hardly see but want to talk to regularly. Channels on the left side bar designate topics like project ventures, meetup schedules, skill upgrades or trainings, and many others. This is where we upload files and share resources (shown on the right side). This is where I find new things and this is where I share new knowledge, if I have any.

Screenshot of a Slack Chat Window

Screenshot of a Slack Chat Window for Data Science Channel

For example, I have around 15-20 minutes available this morning to discuss about a certain topic. I can leave a thread message in the web application and when my partner or co-collaborators have free time in the middle of their busy schedules, they get to check what I posted and pitch in their comments. It’s now possible to work on a single project and not be working on it at the same time. The ability to thread messages in a context-based manner allows me to go back to old conversations easily. Everyone just has to be mindful about deadlines but it’s pretty much spot on in helping the team work even if they are not working at the same hours daily.

3. Trello

Simplicity in project management through an addicting card-based interface is Trellos strongest suit. I put all my cards in the To Do pile, update them in the Doing pile when I have time to work on them, and happily mark them all in the Done pile. Install it on Android or iOs and you’ll be quite addicted to moving things around. 😀

Trello Basic Board

Trello Basic Board

4. Bitrix24

In complex projects with hierarchy and a vast scope, I sometimes find that Trello and Slack’s interface is too simple and unable to capture everything in a nice manner. This is where I tend to use the free account of Bitrix24. They have plans for large user cases but usually it’s free for a team of 10 people. It’s quite cumbersome at first; it’s not as user-friendly as the others but once you set it up, it’s powerful and it can save you so much time in delegating tasks or balancing work loads. This is ideal for supervisors who want to efficiently manage people and tasks. When I used this last year, I already eliminated the need for calling out for staff meetings with my team because we have already marked out their tasks for the next three years using this interface. It’s ultra cool and I have to thank a French businessman for introducing this to me.


5. Google Drive

I was about to consider Dropbox but there were so many security issues with it. Google Drive is seamlessly integrated with email and allows me to continuously collaborate with people on documents like Excel, Word, and flowchart making. It’s really handy when sharing files larger that 25 MB (the usual file size limit for email attachments).

6. Git Version Control via Github or Bitbucket

This is really God’s gift to man, coding wise. It’s like Dropbox for coding projects, if I may allow myself to be simplistic about it. Very powerful and versatile, I delight in using git and committing changes as needed for my web development projects. I don’t break my code with harrowing consequences because of the branching feature. Github published the code publicly. It’s good for advanced devs. I like Bitbucket more because it allows me to hide my code and share it only with a few people. And the branches are so cute and colorful when I have done so much work like this in one of my old projects:

Git Commit Branching!

Git Commit Branching!

7. Team Viewer

Sometimes discussing online is difficult when troubleshooting an error. Team Viewer allows another person to control my computer virtually and make changes if I am hitting a dead end, and vice versa. This requires a bit of a security compromise because you will have to allow another computer from the outside world to enter your firewall and make changes to your computer. A similar application was installed on my smartphone recently and I used it to access my laptop from my smartphone remotely. It was successful and fascinating. In theory, I can work with my laptop even if I do not physically bring it when I am out and about.