Threadbox: All-in-one, e-mail-less collaboration

Threadbox moved on to the dreaded DeadInternetSite-box. They realized that their profit margins were unrealized and pulled the site down.

There’s an old adage, “Never trust a man who’s weeping in clown make-up.”  That has no bearing on this SlapStart review, but hey, did you hear about this other adage?  It’s this: if you drink alone at a bar, you have a problem.  But if someone joins you, it’s a party. Never heard that?  Hmmm…Anyway, parties are fun, but the bigger the party, the bigger the chance for, say, ruined carpets, shouting matches, and unrelenting shame.  Workgroups are like that.  Getting more than two people on a project is great in theory, but the bigger the workgroup, the greater the confusion.  Conversations, files, tasks, dates, opinions, ideas: it can get messy.  How to harness it all in a simple, cohesive manner?  Enter Threadbox.

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Threadbox is a “real-time discussion tracking, file sharing, schedule coordinating, project management, decision making tool that works along side e-mail.”  It also claims it can replace e-mail, and I can say, at least in the context of a specific project, it certain can, and probably should.  Threadbox addresses an interesting dilemma: we have at our disposal, some nifty tools in which to communicate: e-mail and IM-ing particularly come to mind.  But – call me crazy here – these tools can only go so far, particularly in a collaboration environment.  And conversely, why can’t collaboration tools be as easy and intuitive as IMing and e-mailing?  For example, project management platforms can be cumbersome and a pain to manage: who wants to upload or track every project-related IM or e-mail in project management platform?  (Answer: not me.)  People like short cuts.  People don’t like extra work.

“So,” you say, “why not just put everything in one place?”  And that’s exactly what Threadbox has in mind.  They even call it a “thread” – a shared conversation workspace.  It’s a single web page which tracks and organizes everything related to a conversation – messages, documents, links, comments, tasks, votes, events and the people involved. Unlike email, threads are organized and easy to follow so that everyone is on the same page.

I signed up and was prompted to invite someone else to join my first thread.  Then I entered information on the thread (e.g. a project entitled, “Threadbox Review.”  Deep!)  I posted some information, and quickly saw my thread unfold before me (below.)  (Actually, that brings up my only – minor – qualm.  The first step was to invite someone else to join my thread; this is nitpick-y here, but it felt more logical to create the thread first, then invite others.)  Anyway, the thread itself.  It was a clean, crisp page, scrolling vertically, with of all thread-related messages.  I could simply enter a message or add media and/or content: a file, an event, an address, a task, a conference call, and a option called “Allow Voting.”  The latter is particularly intriguing, because it can facilitate swift decision-making, particularly over small matters, such as sign-off of a PDF file.  (That said, I’m slightly dubious about the merits of majority rule; remember Prohibition?)

I’m not the most sophisticated user of these types of platforms, but Threadbox felt eerily familiar, as it combined the usability of Salesforce (e.g. adding events) with the simple interface of WordPress.  And of course, the familiarity of IM-ing, which goes without saying.  I like Threadbox’s real-time scrolling vibe, which is just more comfortable than clicking through a CRM tool, screen by screen; and reading stuff top-to-bottom is more intuitive than going left-to-right (that’s why newspapers go top-to-bottom, someone once told me.  And when have newspapers ever been wrong?)

I also like the fact that it creates an instant-audit trail which tackles some of the biggest problems across the project workflow: accountability, ownership, segregation of duties, etc. “Oh, but Tom told me at happy hour that Jim was doing it now” — that finger-pointing, he said/she said stuff can be a thing of the past.  From now on whenever you say, “Oh, I didn’t get that memo,” it’ll strictly be in a sarcastic (and over-used, grounds-for-firing) context.  And after spending time in Threadbox – a heck of a place to put your hat down – it makes perfect sense that all project-related communications take place within the thread.  E-mail is so 2009!  Peace out, e-mail!  Whatever, grandpa!