I use the 37signals product suite quite extensively on a day to day basis, and make use of all their products. One of these products is Campfire.
Described by it’s makers as “Team collaboration with real time chat” it does just what it says on the box. Initially our team was using MSN and then later Skype, but Campfire has a few features that lead me to move off these open (and free) platforms to the 37signals product.
1. It’s secure.
Security might not be a big deal when you’re chatting about what to get your friend as a birthday gift, but when the content of your conversation is a little more sensitive, it’s nice to know that you’re chatting on a secure platform. (note – I’m not saying Skype/MSN/whatever is not secure, just that Campfire is).
Like the internet chat rooms of old, Campfire works by creating Rooms. I’ve created a room for each of my team members as well as one for the whole team. That way I can chat one by one (without pissing everyone off) and chat to the whole team (and piss everyone off). Team members can drift in and out of each others’ rooms if they need to be a part of a conversion.
Rooms also have Guest Access, which makes it super easy to invite a client to a room to join in a conversion. Last week I was able to invite our email delivery provider into a room with a brand manager to discuss delivery issues. No email chain to worry about and everyone was able to chat very easily.
My team chats alot. I try and stay away from email, so chat becomes the primary means of communication for us. And sometimes I need to go back to a previous chat to see what was said. The search functionality in Campfire makes it a breeze for me to find a previous conversion and follow what happened in that thread.
4. File Uploads
Campfire makes file sharing a breeze – drag and drop a file into a chat window and it gets uploaded. Everyone in the room can now download it. Images, urls and files are displayed inline, which means there’s no need to download them from the client – they can be viewed right in the room. This sounds like a small feature, but it’s great not having to save an image every time a change is made to a button – I can simply view it in the room.
Skype’s messy copy and past facility is one of the main reasons I made the switch to Campfire. We share loads of copy and email subject line ideas on chat. And everytime I copy some text in Skype it adds the user name as well as the time and date. Not ideal for copy heavy conversations. Campfire makes this task simple, and if you paste text into it, it’s even got a “View Paste” link which will show only that text in a web browser, making it even easier to select.
I think Skype is just fine for most people and even companies, but if you and your team live on chat, Campfire is definitely something you should look in to.
Here’s a short video tour from their website