OpenACircle: Online Collaboration + Social Networking

collaboration Nov 03, 2009

OpenACircle is an online collaboration and social networking site aimed at providing home-based and small-to-medium businesses with an affordable means to collaborate over the web. I was asked by them to review their service offerings. I am being compensated (slightly) for my efforts.

Using the concept of circles, OpenACircle seeks to combine social networking, desktop & file sharing and video conferencing into a simple, affordable service.

I signed up for the free account (which is more than enough for most home users) and after filling out my profile, I was present with several dialog boxes to invite all of my contacts to join — a la Facebook. Afterwards, I was presented with my dashboard which includes such sundry items as

  • an event calendar
  • connection/circle statistics
  • meeting scheduler
  • a document management system (including public and private “vaults”)
  • a messaging inbox

The usual trappings of an online collaboration suite mashed up with social networking. Think Go to My Meeting meets LinkedIn and you will have a pretty good idea of what is going on here.

openacircle.jpg

The software itself is Java based. You will need to install the latest JRE from java.sun.com in order to run it. Oddly enough, the system does not support Macs despite the fact that Java is supposed to be platform independent. As is usually the case in these situations, Parallels Desktop for Mac saves the day as the system works perfectly in a Windows 7 virtual machine (64-bit version no less).

I managed to setup some screen sharing and a video conference with some friends and family and found the system to be easy to use. I will perform more extensive testing and report back. At first glance, OpenACircle looks to be a very good value – especially with the free account.

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