OpenSource: Collaborative Design



After delving into the world of opensource I have found implementation is emphasised over design. Version control allows for a project to branch off in many directions, which projects may do; this suggests lack of consensus or direction amongst the participants.

What software or websites are useful for collaborative design?


Posted 2008-10-10T13:18:51.617

Reputation: 3 394



There are literally hundreds more collaboration apps out there and more keep appearing by the day, but these should get you started:

Source Control (Online):

  • Assembla - Public source is free, private repositories are paid
  • Source Forge - Open source only
  • Google Code - Open source only
  • Git Hub - Public source is free, private repositories are paid

Bug Tracking/Project Management

  • LightHouse - Unlimited open source, paid private projects
  • FogBugz - Full version is free for up to two developers
  • BaseCamp - Paid only
  • Trac - Not hosted (although Assembla hosts it), open source - Python
  • Bugzilla - Not hosted, open source - Python
  • Mantis - Not hosted, open source - PHP

Mind Mapping

  • MindMeister - Free for small plans, with options to upgrade



  • Aviary - I'm not quite sure how collaborative they are, but I think you can use their tools that way
  • Photoshop Express - Another Adobe product
  • Picnik - Free


Hosted Wikis


  • Acrobat - Part of Adobe's online suite
  • Zoho - Fits into a lot of categories


Posted 2008-10-10T13:18:51.617

Reputation: 21 141


I've been studying collaborative design early in my Ph.D. (contact me if you want a literature survey draft that I wrote about it a back in 2003).

Anyway, collaborative design applications (as in UML modelers) fall into three categories in terms of timing:

  • Synchronous - Two people or more editing at same time
  • Asynchronous - Check-in check-out model, a mess if multiple people edit at the same time.
  • Hybrid (can share certain things in real time).

In addition, they fall into three categories in terms of metaphores: - Desktop based - Essentially something like rationale rose with multiple user support - Whiteboard based - Free canvas, not necessarily structured, sometimes has support for UML recognition. Usually a mess to manage multiple models. - Hybrids

So this gives you a 3x3 "design space" of tools, and there are research tools inside every one of them.

The problem is that in switching to collaborative work there are many usability issues that are difficult to address. For example, access control, synchronization, awareness, shared viewports, etc. There are some academic advances on these, but they're not necessarily in tools yet.

If this is the topic you're interested in, comment, and I'll post some of the tools I'm familiar with.


Posted 2008-10-10T13:18:51.617

Reputation: 66 722

I'd like to know more about the design and development of synchronous collaborative tools. Do you have any pointers examples of how such tools are developed for the web? TIA – elviejo79 – 2011-04-24T19:46:31.297


I would suggest using a Wiki to document/explore the design.


Posted 2008-10-10T13:18:51.617

Reputation: 23 281

Agreed w/Bonoit - MindTouch is a leading wiki-type app that people use for content/doc management, and for kb's. – Mateo Ferreira – 2011-07-07T19:16:05.933


A mailing list. And opensource projects argue on enough of them. I doubt lack of collaborative tools is where the lack of design emphasis comes from.

Kim Reece

Posted 2008-10-10T13:18:51.617

Reputation: 1 132


I agree with the wiki answer. I'd suggest looking at MindTouch. Our company uses them for our Intranet and for other internal and external project collaboration/management.


Posted 2008-10-10T13:18:51.617

Reputation: 149


In no particular order:

  • A good email client (I use gmail)
  • Good wiki software (I use media wiki)
  • Github or an evolved source repository that allows for easy branching and comments on check ins
  • A chat room, plain old irc or that built in messenger one
  • A news group or mailing list (I use the free google one)
  • Skype

Sam Saffron

Posted 2008-10-10T13:18:51.617

Reputation: 88 171


I am somewhat skeptical about collaborative design. From Scobleizer: Why Facebook has never listened and why it definitely won’t start now:

My former boss, Jim Fawcette, used to say that if you asked a group of Porsche owners what they wanted they’d tell you things like “smoother ride, more trunk space, more leg room, etc.” He’d then say “well, they just designed a Volvo.”

also from the comment:

Apple never listens to its customers. In fact, it prides itself on not listening. If you listen to your customers, you will never innovate and you will never be ahead of the curve. You will always tweak and fix minor things on what is top of customer mind that day, week or month.

Eugene Yokota

Posted 2008-10-10T13:18:51.617

Reputation: 72 716


A wiki (such as ScrewTurn, or MediaWiki) is a good tool to document a project.

BaseCamp by 37 Signals

Microsoft Office Live Meeting

Mitch Wheat

Posted 2008-10-10T13:18:51.617

Reputation: 251 477


For us, all we use is Adobe Version Cue, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Gmail.

Design wise, Version Cue does the trick in terms of file management really well.

As for Google, well, it helps organizing all of my activities more than very well. I find most collaboration tools, like Basecamp, a tad too restrictive or just not exactly right. Google lets me organize my stuff just the way I want it to be.


Posted 2008-10-10T13:18:51.617

Reputation: 5 799


For collaborative design ... without a doubt, it's


Posted 2008-10-10T13:18:51.617