March 02, 2012

Collaborative drawing: Is there a “there” there?

The $4 Sketchshare enables realtime collaborative drawing, complete with voice chat among participants. Here’s a quick demo:

Do people actually do collaborative, realtime document editing–and if so, under what circumstances? Painter tried it in the 90’s with NetPainter (which only I & John Derry, who worked at Fractal back then, seem to remember), and I’ve seen tons of tools come & go over the years. Drawing is, for most people, difficult; we feel weird being watched; and we don’t like to watch others draw badly (or maybe even draw well in realtime).

And yet, and yet… I remain kind of fascinated by Layer Tennis, Mixel, and other collaboration efforts. Are there specific, real-world cases where you’d use tools like these–e.g. when brainstorming/moodboarding with teammates? And if so, do you use such tools (and if not, why not?).

In a slightly related vein, Draw Something makes collaborative drawing into a game (sort of mobile Pictionary), and apparently 2 million people are using it every day (!!).

Posted by John Nack at 10:21 AM on March 02, 2012


  • Victor Noordhoek — 10:44 AM on March 02, 2012

    In my experience, at least some artists are quite willing to draw collaboratively. I run an art forum called ArtVoyagers, and it’s collaborative doodlepad is it’s most popular feature.

    On the other hand, there’s a great percentage of users that come into the doodlepad but never draw anything; perhaps intimidated by the art of the more skilled users.

  • Mono vox — 4:18 PM on March 02, 2012

    I remember NetPainter well. It was exciting in concept, though though in reality I had a hard time finding uses for it then other than virtual napkin… And then I had to find peeps with the software. Not easy.

  • abitofcode — 8:15 PM on March 03, 2012

    The idea is not a new one but we now have broadband networks, powerful mobile devices, accurate touch screens, the app store and a huge take up of social networks. Using a computer is not the solitary experience it was in the 90’s.

    We designed Sketchshare to allow us to work remotely when building apps, and focus on the idea rather than the technology used to deliver it.

    My own experience during beta testing and since going live has been that when connecting with someone I’ve not met before the session tends to start out with handwritten questions and responses, followed by doodles and then after a while the audio is activated and a voice chat starts. I don’t tend to worry about my handwriting (though maybe I should).

    There’s a group of artists that have really taken to the app and are producing collaborative works between the US, UK and Germany.!/Kercal/media/grid

    We’ve also had feedback from Architects, Medical students and Educators looking to use the app in a number of ways we’d never considered. The “there” is there, it’s the “what” that we’re finding interesting.

  • Jay — 11:13 AM on March 05, 2012

    I remember NetPaiter well, as well. I was just thinking about it the other day, for some reason.

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