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Samepage wants to get us on the same page: very 2010

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Samepage is an emerging work-media tool based on the design metaphor of shared “pages” that are made up of widget-like elements: text regions, files, images, maps, events, tables, tasks, maps, videos, links, and HTML. There are associated comments for each of the objects. Its parent company, Kerio, has developed the product as a way to help cooperating teams see eye to eye, but it’s unclear that we need this in the workplace. In reality, we need to get our work done, and that requires a great deal of integration with existing tools rather than the approach Kerio has taken.

In a way, the tool reminds me of a better-structured wiki, partly because each page can have many sub-pages and the fact that pages are composed of structured elements.

Here’s the basic view of a Samepage page:

Screenshot 2014-11-30 14.32.04

As you see, the various widgets can be added to the region on the left while comments are shared in the right margin.

Here’s sharing options:

Screenshot 2014-11-30 14.33.41

Users can invite people by adding email addresses or by making the page public, allowinganyone with the URL to view the information shown.

Here’s a more elaborate page showing a calendar, images, and table:

Screenshot 2014-11-30 14.33.11

The Bottom Line

I understand that some contingent of social-collaboration users may want the flexibility that Samepage offers — namely the ability to integrate information elements of various types into a shared page. This is much like the desire to build custom websites or to tinker with presentation formats.

However, I am convinced that there is a social cost that comes from using solutions where each new page can have a unique layout: The invited participants must learn the layout of each one in order to effectively use them.

Just as important, each of these widgets is a simplified version of their counterparts in other tools. The table widget is something like a Google or Excel spreadsheet but much less feature-rich. Likewise, the task features are less rich than counterparts like Asana, Todoist, or Trello, and Samepage doesn’t support their integration as it does with cloud-file solutions.

And there is no way to convert a Samepage page to a Word document, which is a widely used format convertible to Apple Pages and Google Docs, and something that is easily distributed. Yes, you can publish to the web, but that’s not the same experience.

The fundamental question is this: Do people want all their shared information in a single, proprietary silo or do they want to distribute and integrate information in a collection of best-of-breed tools? The all-rolled-up-in one mantra seems very five-years-ago. In 2014, my bet is on the best-of-breed approach. Witness the rise of Slack as an exemplar of this.

Slack is largely a collection of chat rooms with a great search and user experience, built on the notion of being a central integration point with a network of cooperating applications. In this way, the user can converse with coworkers in the context of what is being discussed, like design documents, trouble tickets, customer support reports, and sales stats. However, that content is created and managed in best-of-breed applications that play nice with Slack. So Slack doesn’t have to manage all that content itself but simply presents it in context and provides deep indexing so everything can be found again.

So, the The San Francisco Hiking Club example page above might wind up being the sweet spot for Samepage: loosely connected groups that interact infrequently and that do not rely on a battery of mission-critical enterprise apps. But tightly connected coworkers communicating frequently about information produced by mission-critical enterprise apps will be unlikely to gravitate to Samepage.