Writeboard, Backpack, and Basecamp Review

I saw the buzz yesterday about the new product Writeboard. When I started playing with it I ended up looking at the whole suite of products.

Writeboard (no aff) is a virtual white board that allows people to have a collaborative whiteboard across the internet. It’s password protected so only people you “invite” can see and modify it. However it is sitting on another companies servers, so use common sense about how much confidential information you put on it. You could always use code names like “project event horizon” but if your clients or other collaborators don’t get the cloak and dagger thing it would probably make things worse.

Backpackit
(no aff) is the next member of the suite aimed at standard consumers. You get “pages” where you can write notes, put pictures, have to do lists, hold images, and set up reminders. I also allows you to tie together multiple writeboard projects. Think of backpackit as wiki with a friendly “googly” UI. Yes I did use the word “google” as an adjective, and no I’m not changing it. If you’re a power user or looking to organize anything more complicated than the contents of your refrigerator, or kitchen table you’re going to lust for more power, control and organization, so you’ll need the next level product. Backpackit does have formatting and editing tools that are superior to the higher level product offering which begs the question … WHY? Backpackit also interfaces with Writeboard and the higher level product offering doesn’t, go figure.

Basecamp (no aff) is the highest level product offering and is aimed at small to mid level business, power users or anybody else who is anal about organization. At first glance this seems to be everything you could hope for. However when you take it out of lot for a test drive you get the impression the engine lacks any real horsepower and they left out the radio and back seat. I tried to do some things like set up recurring tasks or milestones as they are called in the application, no luck. I browsed throughout the help forums and I see people have been asking for this feature since May, no word from the developers. I also wanted to assign dates for “to-do” items again no such option. Back to the forums, again lots of requests, no word form the developers. Can I add notes or linkable URL’s to the “to-do” items, sadly no. I can relate “to-do” items to Milestones but not to “messages”. Additionally there’s no way to add Writeboard into the mix either. This is not to say the product is useless, just extremely underpowered and under featured.

Each of these products comes with a basic free offering and a tiered pricing structure for more resources. Now I’d love to be able to give each of my websites it’s own project, but seeing how pricing is tied into the number of projects, 50+ websites would cost me $99 a month and not worth it IMHO. You can go throughout the message boards and help forums (which seemed to be suffering under extreme stress today) and find some creative tips and hacks people have come up with, but it looks like the development team isn’t spending as much time addressing feature requests for basecamp users as it should be.

One of my fears about web based applications are what happens if the company goes belly up? How much mission critical information do I want on an application that’s not under my direct control. My second problem with web based applications is dependability, last night for example the product was offline for 10 minutes, continual outages like this are the reason I dropped bloglines.

So I’m going to monkey around with the application for now at the free level, but don’t expect m to become a paying customer until some of those feature requests become implemented.

**UPDATE: Writeboard is now integrated with Basecamp. You get 2 at the free level, unlimited at any of the paid levels

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