Real-Time Collaboration Server

On January 3, 2012, in General, by LuCuS

Team CollaborationAs most of you have pointed out, I haven’t been actively posting articles on this site like I use to. You may also have read that’s because I am currently working on yet another startup. I can’t go into details about that startup just yet. But, I can tell you about one small piece of it. In fact, it’s a piece that has actually spun off into its own side-project.

One of the things that my new startup will be utilizing a great deal is real-time collaboration. If you don’t know what real-time collaboration (RTC) is, you should checkout Google Docs. Basically, RTC is a system that allows multiple users to work on the same document at the same time over the web from anywhere in the world. For example, I could be typing this very article into an RTC app and you could also have this same article pulled up at the same time. As I type, you would see everything I type within your screen. Plus, you could make modifications to this same document while I’m typing it. If you’ve never messed around with RTC, now would be a great time for you to as it’s a fast growing phenomenon that I believe is going to be the future for all of us.

If you’re interested in starting your own RTC server & site, you should checkout Etherpad ( Etherpad is an open source RTC server and client that provides everything you need for collaborating on documents in real-time. However, that’s where the buck stops. Although it’s great for editing text documents in real-time, it doesn’t provide anything more than that. Google Docs on the other hand provides support for collaborating on text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and drawings. For my new startup, that’s not enough.

So, I’ve decided to build my own RTC system, but with more power. My new RTC system is more of a platform than an basic RTC system like Etherpad. However, it does allow for the same functionality that Etherpad and Google Docs have. A couple of days ago, I began creating a platform using Python and jQuery that allow you to build and bolt-on any type of collaboration mechanisms you want. The platform provides you with a fast and reliable server that can handle pretty much any time of multiple user collaboration. For example, to test the system, I built a plugin that does basically what Etherpad does. It allows you to create and edit text documents in real-time. But, I didn’t stop there. I also built a plugin that allows you to collaborate on spreadsheets in real-time just like Google Docs. I even took things a little further by creating a plugin that allows you to quickly and easily build a real-time chatroom complete with video conferencing. Heck, I’ve even taken it one step further and began introducing a plugin that allows you to open and collaborate on drawings in real-time, again just like Google Docs.

Even though I’ve only spent a few days working on this real-time collaboration platform, I still have a lot to show for it. And, hopefully, I’ll have something stable to release into the open source community within the next couple of weeks. I want to iron out as many bugs as I can and build several more plugins before I release the platform into the wild. Once I do, the system is flexible enough that anyone can quickly and easily build more plugins to run on top of my platform that can handle any kind of real-time collaboration needs that users may require. For example, some of the other plugins I plan on building include a software application development module for any type of language (Java, C#, Javascript, Opa, PHP, Perl, Python, etc…) complete with compilers and version control. I also plan to include a web site designer / collaboration plugin.

Anyways, enough mumbling. I’ve gotta get back to work on the new project. Once it’s ready for the world, I’ll come back here and post a full article about it. So, stay tuned!

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2 Responses to Real-Time Collaboration Server

  1. thedonflo says:

    These sounds like a great project! Are you going to provide details on how you did it when you release a stable version?

    • LuCuS says:

      Of course. I will even be releasing the source code for the platform itself so that others can help me grow and / or fork the project. In fact, I am already working with a few others that are working on a multi-player game that will run on top of my RTC platform. They will be using the platform to handle all of their multiple-user needs while they focus on the actual game play and experience.

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