I saw this service on freetech4teachers and thought I’d try it out. This is an online meeting space where people can work collaborative together on a project, as a study session, or to compare and create a common set of notes. I think this is a good idea, I mean people always say two heads are better than one and that is what hall.com is definitely getting at here. So does it deliver? is it something that teachers/students should use? Ehhhhhh . . . . . . . maybe. There are things I like and some things I don’t. Read on past the break to see the gorgeous screen caps and my rationale.
This thing is nice. I mean I wanted to get to know it. It looks great, it is easy to navigate and it is just pretty well made and it shows. It is easy to navigate, it is simple to use, and it is snappy and responsive. Posting comments show up as quickly as any instant messaging program I’ve used and you can even direct comments to specific individuals in the “hall.” Overall it is easy and when you’re collaborating with people that’s what it has to be. You don’t want to be searching for different features, you just want to be able to communicate and collaborate and the user interface should facilitate that, not get in the way.
This is something that I really love about hall.com. You can create your own hall in a few seconds. No need to sign up, no need to log in, just one click and you’re on your way. Unlike other sites that let you “try it out,” you are actually using the site, all its features and everything it has to offer. You can even invite and start collaborating with others. From the homepage just click on the big green button title Create a Hall. Then you have to give your name and you’re off. Check out the pics below to get a feel for how simple this process is!
If you want to sign up, it’s just as easy. You can sign up (or in) with your Facebook, Google account or with any email account. Once you’ve signed up you will notice that you have to create a hall. Simply click that very conspicuous green button that says Create a Hall and then give your hall a name and you’re off once again. Simple, easy, painless and we at IT Babble like that. Check out more pics below!
The main workspace
This thing is very attractive. I mean it is like LIz Taylor in her hay-day. OK no more lousy similes, enjoy the picture below.
As you can see everything is clearly broken up. All conversations at the bottom, adding an app (only a hall monitor can add them) at the top. In the bottom right hard corner you have your activity bar that will show you of all changes and mentions. In the top right hand bar you can invite people using your Twitter, Facebook, or email. You also have a link that people can go directly to. It is so simple and everything is right there. No need to dig through menus, no need to search for features, it is laid out for you to use.
Apps & Conversations
You have four apps you can add, a poll and ranker (pretty straight forward), a to-do list, and a notepad. The notepad lets people update it together in real time. They’re all pretty simple and easy to use. The notepad could be a great collaborative tool for students trying to consolidate and compare notes effectively. Two heads are definitely better than one, and while I find taking notes to be incredibly helpful for me, I always miss a point or two and comparing my notes to another person’s is a great way for me to solidify what I’ve just heard.
The conversation though is the real bread and butter. Here you can freely converse with anyone and everyone in the group. You can direct messages to people by putting the @ symbol in front of their username. While this still sends it to the whole group, that person will receive a special notification explaining that they have just received a message intended for them.
As I mentioned earlier, this system is awesome. It works quickly, efficiently and is super easy. Simply type in a message and hit return. That’s it. I know that using the mouse to click something is not that big of a deal, but it is small details like this that make certain programs shine over others. When a new notification is received you get a pleasant chime (you can turn that noise off if you wish). Overall it is quite fluid and I can see real productive discussions happening here.
What’s not to like?
Well, unfortunately there are some areas that hall.com that I find a little troubling. First, there is no way to send files (at least not a way I could see). If you’re really working on a project with a group, then sharing files (pictures, documents, videos, etc.) To me it seems a little counter productive if you’re talking about this information but can’t share it effectively or need another site (say GoogleDocs) to share them. It just doesn’t make too much sense.
Another thing (and maybe it was just me), but I found myself getting timed out a little too quickly. I would sometimes get up and tend to my two year old (he’s adorable by the way) and ten minutes later I was timed out. Here’s the message I got.
While I can understand, but ten minutes and it happened a few more times after that. Sometimes I need to get up and talk to people or get something else done quickly and while it was easy to get back into the hall (click the link or refresh the page) it still seemed a little quick for my taste.
Summing it up
I love how easy it is for anyone to get going on hall.com. That quick set up and ease of use when using the service will win a lot of people over (myself included). I just wish that there were a little more umfff when it came to the actual productivity of the service. At this point, as a teacher, it is a nice place to brainstorm some ideas with other teachers or students, but actually getting completing a project from planning to completion is a different story. Hall.com may make an appearance in the project, I just wish it could be a key node of information not simply a starting point. Keep your eye on this one, it’s new and could be a real boon for people looking to increase their productivity and organize projects a bit better.
Until it gets a little more power, I’m giving it 3 DT’s out of 5.