In recent articles, I have been writing about the planting of the seeds for what many think will ultimately lead to the declining role of e-mail as a form of electronic communication among professionals, and indeed among humans collaborating on any project or task.
At present, the key elements of this trend are comprised of cloud-based computer programs that allow users to communicate, share information, and collaborate among themselves. These programs are part of a segment that aims to replace e-mail as a far outmoded, indeed primitive, mode of electronic communications.
These are perhaps relatively simple ideas by now. But it is their features, ease of use across many devices and platforms, and the incorporation of new collaboration tools that make these programs noteworthy and powerful.
What sets apart the various companies in this market segment is the unique combination of features, ease of use, and layout design. Most importantly, perhaps, is how well each key feature performs and how well each of the key features works with one another as an integrated unit across all platforms. This is particularly important in mobile settings on tablets and smartphones. It seems to me the unique combination of these elements will set apart the growing number of vendors in this segment.
A new and potential future leader of these interactive programs is Moxtra. It was launched in early 2013 by the co-creator of WebEx (which was sold in 2007 to Cisco for several billion dollars).
At the core of the program is a collection of virtual “binders.” Binders may be set for individual and group sharing privileges, and may be stored by customized categories. The program is focused on mobility and a layout that accentuates the visual, rather than text.
Each binder may contain any combination of the following components:
• voice recordings; and,
• voice recordings of users’ meetings.
These features let you annotate over content, add voice, add multimedia recordings, and share your screen with other users.
The ability to combine these features in a simple, linear, and visual manner is one of the most powerful features of this program. For example, voice recordings can be synched with document annotations. This way, playing back an annotated document unfolds the annotations synched with your voice recording.
This makes for a highly effective explanation of a document. I can think of numerous useful applications in the legal practice for this feature alone. Here are some:
• explaining a document (draft affidavit, brief, contract, etc.) to a client, with your voice recording and annotations unfolding as if you were in the same room pointing to specific parts of the document;
• exchanging ideas in relation to a document among several professionals in different offices;
• negotiating aspects of a document with opposing counsel; and,
• perhaps even using it as a demonstrative evidence tool in a legal proceeding.
There is also the ability to just record a message and quickly post it into the program for other users to quickly listen to. The ease of use of the recording feature is noteworthy. Think of a situation when you need to pass along a message to a colleague, staff, or client, and a dry text e-mail will not do service to your intended message. You can quickly record your voice message on your smartphone and upload it onto the program. Your voice recording instantly shows up in the system for other users to playback right away. The program instantly notifies other users about each new update.
Another voice feature enables the recording of a meeting. It may be helpful to play back part of a meeting at anyone’s leisure in order to recall any point or discussion.
The layout of the program and its other interactivity features — specifically geared to maximize mobility ease of use across many platforms — are founded on three main tracks that define the look and feel of Moxtra: chat, pages, and to-do:
• chat shows a continuous stream of updates by users;
• pages shows parts of binders where annotations were made or multimedia components were added; and,
• To-do shows the to-do tasks that are assigned to various users.
Other than the simple nature of these tracks, each of them may be viewed globally with respect to all virtual binders in the system, or specifically inside any particular binder.
There is also an interesting “meet” feature based on a calendar. It allows users to schedule, create, and join meetings. During meetings, users utilize the various features of the program to conduct an online discussion in real time.
The security of the program appears at par with high-end security encryption levels, including Amazon “S3 Server Side” encryption.
Like any program, it takes a little bit of time getting used to. Overall, the program layout and its features are intuitive and very simple to learn.
This is not a program that does all things for everyone. It is simple in its content and layout, and focuses on its main features. If you are looking for an interactive cloud program to share and interact on key documents, Moxtra may be an interesting tool to start incorporating into your digital repertoire. It can be used for internal work with colleagues and staff, with clients and even opposing counsel and beyond.