Groove - A good product for beta testers (and believers)

by Volker Weber

Carlos Griell sums up his Groove experience:

After three months using Groove for several scattered teams, working in different countries, with different time zones, I dare to say that the product is not yet completed. It lacks important features, that everybody here knows too well (print, email integration, backup...). Other drawbacks (such the huge amount of Computer Power to use Groove) are more difficult to quantify, but exist nevertheless.

We use Groove, because its advantages are bigger than its inconvenients, but in my opinion, it can only be used by "believers", aka. people which, for any reason, are willing to use it, and accept Groove it as it is.

I know people, who live inside Notes as their primary application. They have mail, calendar, to dos, addresses, right out of the box. And specific applications built with Notes-tools into "databases". Later versions brought awareness and instant messaging right into those applications. And Notes blends in with the rest of their stuff: Information gets synced with handheld devices and mobile phones. It does not only work with IBM stuff (the equivalent of Groove's message that they will integrate with Microsoft this and Microsoft that). I know this comparison is not completely fair: Notes has had a lot more time to mature, but on the other hand it also has a huge legacy to serve.

Groove needs to improve a lot until people can live in it. I don't want to go back and forth between Groove and other collaboration environments to check my mail or calendar. I don't want n+1 calendars that I manually need to sync with cut and paste, let alone pencil and paper. There is some very important piece in the architecture missing: A universal sync engine that connects stuff. And while we are at it: I don't need another instant messaging infrastructure that does not connect. AOL and Microsoft are already fighting enough battles on their customers backs.

My current center of gravity is a Domino server. I connect everything there. That could be Mozilla, Notes, my handheld devices, any mail client, spam filters, basically everything. Why is that so? Because it supports open standards that everyone writes to. Although it currently runs on a Windows 2000 Server, that Microsoft generously gave me, it does not rely on it. I can dump it any time for a Linux platform, which I intend to do if there is a need to set up a new box.

I will continue to use Groove for it's special capabilities that let me connect people through firewalls. But this unique selling point could go away quickly.

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Comments

I have to agree in every single topic. For corporate usage - that´s interesting me - I'm missing a more granular access control to and within spaces: define access for users and not just 3 predefined roles, define r/w access on a per record basis similar to readers / authors fields of Lotus Notes. In the current version I must create several spaces for one project if there´s a need to differentiate record access and there´s no sync between these spaces.

My current opinion is that Groove is a charming and nice tool for communication between friends or family members who normally have no Domino infrastructure - but it makes only little sense for corporate collaboration needs. Let´s wait for v2.5 !!

Otto Foerg, 2002-12-01

I respectfully disagree. I work for and with a fairly large number of other people in my company on both coasts of the US and we use Groove every day to do all our work - communications, editing presentations and files, software development.

There are a large number of warts and problems with Groove but it is no way just a "charming and nice tool for communication between friends or family members."

Sam Gentile, 2002-12-01

Is ANY major program "complete" before version 3.1?

Anon, 2002-12-02

So, Anon from anon@anon.anon, you really think the internet is anonymous? :-) Hold on to your hat. You are coming in from 207.244.116.73. Registrant for that address is Groove Networks, 100 Cummings Center, Suite 535Q, Beverly MA 01915, USA

That is a somewhat longer trace you left:

207.244.116.73 gn-pop.groove.net
209.58.192.198 groove-gw.cc.shore.net
207.244.96.226 bvrl1-br1-h1-0.wharf.shore.net
207.244.95.229 lynn2-ar2-fe6-0.wharf.primushost.com
209.227.134.130 atm-3-1-0-111.lynn2-br1.wharf.shore.net
209.227.134.2 g1-0-10.cr1a.dca.primustel.com
4.24.144.66 mae-east-atm-gtei.primus.com
4.24.4.110 p1-0.washdc3-cr5.bbnplanet.net
4.24.11.249 so-6-0-0.washdc3-nbr1.bbnplanet.net
4.25.153.49 so-2-0-0.asbnva1-hcr1.bbnplanet.net

Nice shot, Groove Networks. When is 3.1 due?

Volker Weber, 2002-12-02

I agree with Volker. Some observations:
1. Groove Networks took a long time (too long)to find a business model (and to my opinion GN still hasn't found a valid one). Are they a service provider, do they sell licenses and to whom, and what the heck is Groove for...
2. Collaborative tools are defined by the weakest link. If someone in the chain can't use Groove for whatever reason, people will not use Groove. Internet technologies have spread because their standards are based on the lowest common denominator.
3. Groove is proprietry and therefore by definition cannot become a standard.
4. The download and heavily demanding client software is simply a killer for the viral spreading of Groove.

And of course there's the killer of MS involvement.

I was one of the early adopters of Groove and wanted to build a business around that with my partner Andy Swarbrick. The early decisions of Groove and the MS investment have put me through constant questioning of the basics of Groove. I haven't even touched Groove for the last couple of months. A very good idea got screwed by the wrong technology decisions (all based on MS technology, .NET etc), wrong business model(s), a wrong partner and wrong strategy (what is Groove?) and a surprisingly amateurish launch phase which is still ongoing. Groove is now a niche product.

PS Isn't it funny that there a so many GN people including Ray Ozzie publishing their weblogs? Why don't they do it using Groove? Hugh Pyle, now working for Groove, designed the web publisher Groove tool in 2000 (ok, was an alpha, but worked). Isn't it telling that GN still uses Domino as it's backbone?

Moritz Schroeder, 2002-12-02

"anon": what product "complete v3.1" are you referring to? You don't mean it, do you? ;-)

Moritz Schroeder, 2002-12-02

Moritz, don't expect him/her to make the same mistake again. :-)

Volker Weber, 2002-12-02

Curses, I've been tracerouted! How l33t of you Mr. Weber.

Don't everybody get too excited... I'm just a cog in the GN machine sharing a personal observation based on such products as: Windows, Lotus Notes, Netscape, Internet Explorer... Joel Spolsky had something to say about this phenomenon...

Incidentally, the personal views of this lonely sentient firewall do not necessarily reflect those of Groove Networks, or anyone else.

anon, 2002-12-02

iPH $0M3ONE C4LL5 m3 mR. wE8er, 1 pI5$3D HIm oFf. 5OrRY @80uT +H@t. 5o Why DID j00 r4I$e MY 4Tt3Nt1oN By nOt u$iN9 Y0uR naMe? 1 4m 5URE, cO95 1n TeH GN MAcHin3 $h4RIn9 4 P3rs0N4L 0b53rV4t10n5 c4N 5T1ll U5E tHeIr NAMe5? HEcK, 50m3 eVen H4Ve A WEbL09.

Seriously, I would agree with Joel. So, what would be your expectation? How long does it take until Groove is good software?

Volker Weber, 2002-12-02

Hi Moritz et al, incl anon.

Are we talking barriers to adoption? Is time an immutable component? The Joel reference alludes to the ten year delay before Notes took off: will it be the same for Groove? 3.1 refers, imo, to the ubiquitous Windows revision. Groove has other barriers, but there are strong signs of them evaporating. The most important being orientation around lines of business.

Moritz and I, "parted" due to disagreements around the validity of the Groove model. My thesis is that the product itself has sufficient merit that what was important was to push the product forward, since its competitors were non-existent. If the company had a poor line of approach then that needed changing as well. That change has been happening and I will try to share a couple of insights that points to this. The groove website has/d a presentation, I guess it is still there - on X-engineering. At the time that came out I was shocked to my core: I felt it was a complete joke given the company's position. How could this company put out such rhetoric if they did not live the dream. That presentation, as much as anything, spurred me to fight.

So where are we now. Groove said they were doing an about turn on their business, and in my opinion they have delivered. Product changes are increasingly in line with community demands. They are listening, asking and responding. Let me refer to a partner conference call as an example. Most business partners were represented, with lots of tough questions. Lots of them. But at the end of the call most people had understood the message. Most partners had put very serious input into the call and as far as I can see their issues were taken on board. The call was a most startling experience. Groove the company opened itself to difficult messages. It was also an excellent use of the product. As time goes my there are more and more signs that they are listening - and reacting.

That can only be good.

Andy Swarbrick, 2002-12-03

Oh, I forgot to say - weblogs. IMO, they are an aside, albeit in some cases an excellent aside. Hugh's alpha tool has been superceded with, for example Suite75's blogger. If there are not from done within Groove does that deny the product? I have estabished a mailing list based on egroups/yahoogroups for people with a close interest in PopG technology. Does that mean that I am in denial of Groove! It means is that you have to use the right tool for the right job. It also means that you need to experience other perspectives, other ways of working. And although weblogs are not for me (at the moment), I applaud a company where its individuals have the confidence to speak out.

Andy Swarbrick, 2002-12-03

Just a short comment on Groove's market strategy.

We work in software projects in different countries, and we are testing Groove in a project splitted between Spain and Brazil.

We were at first using it internally, and finally, we decided to create a new shared space with the client (a big brazilian company). BTW, as Groove accepts three roles, now we have the information splitted again, not geografically (aka. information in Spain and in Brazil), but in Groove Spaces (public information that we may share with the client, and private). So, we are more or less where we were.

But this is off topic let me go back to the commercial issue(s)

When we gave several of our licenses to the client, I asked Groove twice if we can get a comission, should this client buy its own licenses. Until now, I had no response from Groove.

I may understand that Groove commercial policy may not unclude to pay a comission to users, but, at least, they should answer.

Now I have received a mail from Groove, new price for 2003 is up 50%....

carlos griell, 2002-12-03

What are you guys expecting? Looking for a functionality, stability and maturity that Notes now has with release 6 ??? Give GN at least one year more time to reflect on the input the Groove users gave. Notes had many years to ripe in a time nobody knew how it could revolutionalize the groupware market!

I myself life within Notes but I'm flexible enough to open my eyes to another potentially interesting collab. tools.

Daniel Düsentrieb, 2002-12-03

Extended from the Groove Forum posting at - http://www.groove.net/support/forums/messageview.cfm?catid=11&threadid=6550

For far too long, Groove or any other collaboration platforms have been hammered because of some lack of feature or functionality. I think the problem is more sinister - in most cases, the organizations do not have any incentive (in terms of policy & reward) for collaboration. Collaboration is a very alien mind-set in corporate culture - there are over 400 books a year on "team work" and "leadership" ! So it is definitely an issue !
SBC

Hi Andy, Volker & Co
Of course Groove hasn't been designed to publish weblogs, but if you look how most people seem to use Groove it is to organise their individual space(s) and to participate on temporary discussions maybe spiced with some extras like Hugh's Pinboard.
My impression is that Groove is used for ad-hoc collaboration, short term, spontaneous little projects , but NOT "sametime" conference style.
Much of the functionality however is aimed at sametime conferencing.
The more additional features appear, such as co-editing with "powerful" applications, they only seem to include MS Office and such. And of course, just the latest versions XPee and the like. Now, how many of "our" typical customers have the latest (fast) machines, how many of those run XP AND XP Office? And how many have the knowledge to use the add-on features with Groove?
Those "ifs" and many more restrict Groove to a very small market.
A combination of open source Content Management Systems such as Typo3 (www.typo3.com), web-based Groupware such as phpgroupware or PHProjekt and client software such as the future PIM of OpenOffice.org and "Chandler", the recent projct by the Open Source Applications Foundation (www.osafoundation.org) are showing where we might go.
Most of the participants of those projects are keen to be able to interact or collaborate with other projects. They all have in common that they are trying to build modular tools.
Reading the design specs (and the wishlists of the participants)of Chandler, I can't help thinking that much of that is what Groove should have been.
We are first and foremost individuals who want to interconnect with other people when necessary or possible. Groove is first collaboration and second personlisation. The vcard based address manager is fundamentally right, an interactive personal address book. But it's functionality is poor, same for other basic stuff such as the calendar and the "messaging" integration, and I certainly don't want to integrate Groove with shitty Outlook, or should I say "WatchOut".

Isn't it juicy that OSAF is funded by the very same old buddy of Ray Ozzie, member of the board of GN, good old Mitch Kapor? Ozzie seems to be pretty much in disagreement with Kapor on the value and commercial viability of open source software. Kapor might state that "Chandler" is not aimed at MS WatchIt, not even mentioning Groove (hello?), but hey, if Chandler will do only half of what it promises, I would go for it.

For the moment I am still using Domino, and slowly build business around typo3, which I will try to combine with phpgroupware. Typo3 has just introduced the extension manager whereby many of the app developers can quickle design and release add-on modules. It really is worth a look.

Moritz Schroeder, 2002-12-03

Typo3 great, but domino? Various people on this thread have posted that domino is in some senses a great solution. Perhaps that is more because it is more "the devil you know" rather than the right answer. To get the same functionality of Groove would take a few CDs not just 27mb.

Instead let's concentrate on the real question. What environments enable two, three or more people to talk easily, freely and securely - and then to capture that knowledge in an increasingly productive environment. Where can it be done and at the same time fight the ravaging effects of chaos?

Groove is great at getting going. But not so good at re-organising. It misses such things drag n drop - but such things are coming and when they do, then I suggest that any assertion of Groove being only used for temporary chat spaces will be well and truly filed.

Andy Swarbrick, 2002-12-03

Neither beta nor for believers only - but for a very small subset of users. Until now Groove works quite well - in my experience - for purposes where a) a small group of "equals" work together, b) the collaboration is relatively short, and c) the users are well equipped with RAM and hard disks.

The features provided and the restrictions mentioned make the product ideal for small, well-funded, dispersed teams communicating to solve specific tasks - and that's it. For everthing else you'll need other tools. Measured by the amount of communication Groove is currently probably more an add-on to Outlook than vice versa.

Following this I would recommend Groove currently for situations that fit the criteria mentioned above, not for general use in bigger organisations. When Groove will reach this state is not clear to me. But until then I will follow Andy's counsel ("It means is that you have to use the right tool for the right job"). There are lots of approaches to choose from.

Rainer Volz, 2002-12-03

Andy, yep, I agree, comparing Domino with Groove is like comparing an Elephant (Mammouth ;-) with hhmmm...
On the other hand many Domino people certainly played with the thought that Groove might become Next Generation Domino; I certainly did.
By the 10 year software maturity cycle that comparison might be unfair as well, but I don't think GN has another 5 years to mature.
I also believe that development cycles have shortened due to many standards, available technologies and so on , which didn't exist 10 or 15 years ago.
The strategical business and technology decisions define the success of a software such as Groove very early in this shortened maturity cycle. It'll be difficult for GN to chnage course, regardless of chosen direction.

Moritz Schroeder, 2002-12-03

Why we Notes/Domino users need Groove ?
1) Client to Client Replication.
2) Ability to createad-hoc a new "Discussion DB" or a new "TeamRoom" or the like without being the server administrator.
3) ?

What we have in Notes/Domino that we miss ?
1) Print. (not the best but is there.
2) Search. (not having this is a joke)
3) Subject in the Messages (IM has no subject, do you believe that?)
4) Reliability, trust. No misterious sync problems that make you loose your job because the info was not delivered...

GN has a great idea in hands, has a poor software in hands, are hearing impaired (believe they are also blind).
Seriously wish them success, but they have to move a bit.

Alexandre Schoch, 2002-12-03

Andy and I are still on best terms (in case you wondered), just had a lengthy phone discussion with him and we both had a good laugh continuing our argument.

But he is cheating here in this forum: Andy as well is still using Domino, the same server I am using from our good old days in Oxford, I checked the log, Andy ;-).

Next week however I'll get the super machine (based on this thing described below..) which will be put at a customer's location with infinite bandwidth...

And many thanks to you, Andy, for continuing to allow me to use our mammouth, caged and kept alive in his place.

Sorry, can't resist to abuse this forum to include links to the box with will be used to cage "my" next mammouth server:

http://us.shuttle.com/specs2.asp?pro_id=85
http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/28/27732.html
WOW, just got across this one in the register article, http://forums.sudhian.com/messageview.cfm?catid=33&threadid=22039


Hope you don't mind Volker ;-)

Moritz Schroeder, 2002-12-03

Nope. Don't mind at all. Thanks for pointing to this neat machine. Actually, I edited your post a bit to include "real" links.

Volker Weber, 2002-12-03

I think that there are still some big holes to be filled by Groove, but I suppose it is dependent on whether or not these are going to be 3rd party solutions or developed into the Groove standard tools.

For my main employment I only work in a small company, but a company that relies on the flow of information. I've used Groove for a couple of years, but implemented its full use at the beginning to the year, as I had the joy of taking some paternity leave for my new boy. Without Groove it would have been impossible to deal with the communications.

These past months, we have now removed our internal email server, because we all use Groove, and the advantages of it are such that we have better communication, more effective notification to new issues, and response to those issues, but there are still items that are a cause of concern.

At least with my archives of email I could index them with a 3rd party product in Outlook and have instant recall over any email conversation at any time - this is something that, to my knowledge, is so far impossible to achieve using Groove, which is a real shame.

We still use a separate contact manager, although I would love to be able to use P4CRM if it had a few fundamentals sorted out, and allowed the use of a definable SMTP server, rather than using a Groove Relay Server (which decides itself on whether you are sending spam or not when you are tying to send a "campaign" to your clients).

My main hope is that after a search tool (either Groove or 3rd party) is implemented, that some of us normal people with normal tools can start to manipulate the data in Groove, without having to shoot through Groove Web Services.

P4CRM does allow you to drag an email from Outlook and paste it into a contact. I would love to be able to do the same into a discussion tool, with the subject being inherited from the email, even if it embedded the header of the email to the start of the message.

I would love to be able to drag and drop items from a discussion onto different threads, even if only allowable by space managers.

I would love to be able to archive discussion tools and then delete items prior to a certain date, and for the hierarchy still to stay in place, even if it ended up looking like the info from a disjointed newsgroup that you hadn't subscribed to for a while.

In fact, I would love to be able to archive old messages similar to the way you can in Outlook, to a separate PST file, so that you can always have details of your previous information, but a clean, and usable day-to-day space that doesn't take up too much space and processing time.

I have loved Groove for its flexibility from day one, and have collected people that I know along the way to be part of my "Clan" and throwing away email in preference to a better way of working - so far I've managed to collect people in Europe, Africa, and Australia to work with me in this way - it won't be long until I deal with people on all the continents using Groove - but the thing I have to say to people, when they say "Why doesn't it do this", is that they'll have to bear with Groove until it matures.

Other people will have other issues depending upon their own priorities and how they work, but there are fundamental steps forward that will secure the uptake of the platform by all and sundry.

I'm happy to go along with the ride and be "wow'ed" by each new version that comes along, but there doesn't seem to be a specific roadmap of where Groove is going to go, and which features (demands) are going to be addressed first.

I'll stay with Groove, because there's nothing else, and I'm happy to pay for my license. I just look forward to being impressed and not underwhelmed with the incremental versions that appear.

raparrott.

Richard Parrott, 2002-12-06

Good thread. Posted something about it also in my weblog: http://radio.weblogs.com/0112769/2002/12/06.html

SBC

Hi, just came over this discussion while searching about Groove. Well, I have to say I'm not a big Groove user. I took a very look at it but IMO it's fatware and that's something I don't like.

Anyway, I would like to mention REBOL (http://www.rebol.com) to all of you because I'm sure you find it interesting. From the technology POV it's the best thing I got my hands on in the last years. And it's made from Carl Sassenrath, the guy who made the AmigaOS.

The base is a very powerful scripting language (don't flame me,just give it a look. FYI: I needed two attempts to understand the spirit...) and on top of this a P2P solution is build (called IOS). Fatware? Well, the client is 500KB, the server is 700KB and it runs on Linux etc. as well :-))

If anyone is interested get in contact with me, I'm looking forward to hear what you think about it. Robert

Robert M. Münch, 2002-12-10

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