Jaconda – A Great API for IM Group Collaboration

Collaboration Software is nothing new. As early as the 1990s big companies were developing cool programs that enabled people to work remotely, together. They were reserved for the larger corporations. Now web apps such as Basecamp have revolutionised the scene enabling any group such as college students working on assignments or AppStorm writers brainstorming for ideas to work together; no matter where they are in the world.

While this is all well and good there are limitations. A company called Jaconda realised that web development teams were often ignored when it came to collaboration software. What there was on offer didn’t amount to much. So they released their own app to allow motley crews of developers to code happily together. Upon my first glance it appeared to be nothing more than a glorified IM system. But when I looked closer I found a cool API that would surely impress team leaders.


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Functionality

The actual web app itself is a pretty simple setup. You create a ‘room’ or are invited to join one. This room will now appear on your Jaconda homescreen along with any others you’re part of. Rooms are groups of collaborators. Depending on your plan you’ll have certain limits on how many rooms you can have and how many people you can have in each room.

Layout of 'Rooms'

Layout of ‘Rooms’.

Rooms themselves are pretty simplistic too remaining true to the fact that Jaconda is effectively an IM service. The vast majority of the screen is dedicated to messages from group members. To the right hand side of the screen there are various panels, tabs and buttons which are for changing basic setting, inviting new members to the room and viewing files uploaded by members.
Along the top of the screen there are tabs for each room you have open.

The main function of the web app is not for actually communicating, rather administration of room and for archiving group discussions. Think of Jaconda as a silent server operating in the background.

Integration

Integrate using the API

Integrate using the API.

The API is what people really want. Put simply, Jaconda allows you to integrate their IM service with a bunch of other web apps that don’t have any. By keeping their service fairly simple Jaconda works with dozens of popular web apps for developers with more on the way.

Here are some of the services it can be integrated with:

  • Google Code
  • GitHub
  • Femtoo
  • Bitbucket
  • BeanStalk
  • Redmine
  • PivotalTracker
  • Lighthouse
  • Tender

To integrate Jaconda simply go to the settings area and find the API link for your service. You’ll be provided with a bunch of code that has to be pasted into the plug-in section of the app you want to integrate it with. Visual results can vary somewhat based on the web app you integrate it with but generally it’s a simple IM tool as you can see above. Nothing special but for groups of  working on a complex project it could be an awesome tool to have open right there in the coding window.

Any discussions that take place outside of the app itself appear instantly on the web app. Any files that are uploaded, links discussed or code samples attached are saved too.

One thing I really liked about Jaconda is the smartphone support. Even if you’re not at your computer you can still be part of the discussion using your phone. There is also support for various IM clients but I feel that defeats the purpose somewhat.

What Jaconda looks like when integrated

What Jaconda looks like when integrated.

While Jaconda can be used for various different types of collaboration software I think the only practical use if for developers and other technical teams. Not that it won’t work with other group web apps but that most will already have a form of messaging system. Never the less the third-part app support and the ability to access IM on from smartphones may be enough to tempt other users to sign up.

The support for helpdesk software, namely Tender, really impressed me. I guess it takes a step outside of project management field and transfers really well into a customer service role. This could make an awesome fix for a small company’s customer service needs.
The only downside to Jaconda is the lack of support for the dozens of popular collaboration apps out there such as Basecamp.

Pricing

There is a free plan available which allows for the use of one discussion room with up to four members – ideal for small teams on small projects. Anything larger than that and you’ll have to part with some cash. You can get small packages such as ‘four rooms fifteen members for $12 per month with larger packages running up to $50 per month. Corporate packages are available which run up to $200 per month with over 500 members in 100 rooms.

Final Word

The normal kind of positive aspects in web apps that we look for are quite secondary with Jaconda. The issue of design, usability and so on doesn’t particularly matter. It’s a highly practical service built to log conversations and above all else run smoothly on as many different web apps, IM platform and phones as possible.

The developers have gone straight for what matter with group project apps; making them work.

What individual features there are such as the ‘rooms’ aspect only serve to enhance the practical nature of the app. If you need to coordinate a big project without the need for a fully fledged project management suite then I definitely recommend using Jaconda. It’s reliable and easy to use.


Summary

Jaconda is a basic online IM service in the form of a project management app. Users can log in, discuss projects in their designated rooms and upload files. Their API also allow Jaconda to be attached to third-party apps while the conversation still appears, and it archived, on the Jaconda website.

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