The website is the latest communication device
Let me explain:
Most popular opensource CMSes (content management systems) and blog tools (like WordPress here) have an architecture that supports addition of plugins. And most such have plugins for the following:
- VOIP tools integrated with the site based on APIs provided by SIP/VOIP Phone companies like Skype and Gimzo. Since Skype seems to be most popular, I”ll give the example of SkypeIn, Skype Voicemail, Skype SMS. So, people can leave voice messages on your SkypeIn mailbox by following instructions on your *website*!
- Forums – phpBB, punBB, Invision Power Board, Community Server(ASP.Net), …..
Forums are a really good means to allow hundreds of users to interact with each other, even in real-time. But they are slow to load, don’t have a zippy effect. More clunky and cumbersome. The newer AJAX-based forums are giving a really different meaning to the concept. See the new Google Groups interface.
- IRC – If you know as much of web technology as to host a decent site yourself, you can set up an IRC server yourself – which is the best, time-tested tool for multi-user communication. If you’re not the techie types, you may as well start yoru own IRC channel on a free server like Freenode (irc://chat.freenode.net) It’s a free, one-click procedure that does not require either time or effort.
- Then of course, there are mailing lists, the slowest of the lot, but most reliable and least bandwidth consuming. They are also very retro.
- Blogs and blog comments act just like forums and are equally effective. These are generally used as places where people comment on posts, thus hovering about a particular topic. But there’s no rule that says you cannot use the technology as a mini-forum for small topics with a few users
- There are wikis that can be used to collabortively prepare documents in real-time and can allow *anyone* on the www to participate. However, generally, there is a limit to the type of content that can be put up on a wiki – generally it is just text that can be collaboratively edited, and pictures, flash and other graphics must be edited locally and only publiched to the web
- The limitation of content/media type that is inherent in most wikis can be overcome by shiny new web2.0 collaboration applications like Google Spreadsheets/Docs, ThinkFree, ZOHO Virtual Office, etc.
- Finally, there are *online* “intelligent” AI bots and *talking* characters which can even act as stand-in helpdesk operators replacing telephonic Interactive Voice Response Systems (IVRS/EPABX). You really should try out one such at http://jabberwacky.com/
- Finally, the friendly helpdesk person who came to your PC to fix some software issues now stands to be replaced by the downloadable single-session throw-away VNC application through which will remove the need for the helpdesk person to be in geographical vicinity of your computer.
With all these tools around, we really need to look at the way we perceive the term “website”. It’s more of “Online dwelling” or “Online Desk” rather than a hi-tech advertisement for a company and its products. It’s a communication medium far more powerful and richly varied than the standard communication tools we have come to accept. The revolution as already begun. Wanna join in?