Looking for a non-commercial alternative to Zoom? Want a particularly secure search tool? Need office automation tools suitable for private collaborative working? Consider looking at the services of the Dutch organisation disroot.org. They provide a variety of useful online services, including videoconferencing, that seems to be aimed at activist type organisations and they use a pay-what-you-want model. They host everything themselves and, where they can, make it secure and private.
One needs to register to use some of their services, but not the Jitsi Meet video conferencing. That seems to have all the functionality one might desire: chat, hand-raising, recording, screen sharing and so on. It runs from the browser so works on most anything. https://calls.disroot.org/
The other functions on disroot.org also look very useful: document and spreadsheet collaboration, fora, shared cloud storage, polls, project Kanban boards and chat.
Registration takes a couple of days to be processed. I’ve just started the process for myself so I can have a play with what they provide. But some facilities are available for anyone to use.
Mail. You get a email@example.com email address. So it is associated with them, but it is free.
Cloud. Online storage. This is horribly expensive through most providers but starts at free with Disroot for 2Gb of data. 54Gb of shared storage is merely about £82 per year! They use NextCloud, which is the same solution as I settled on for the Conscience cloud-based file-sharing solution (although that does not use the cloud; I host it).
Forum. Can be used as an online public or private forum or as a discussion mailing list. We have a Conscience forum of our own now anyway, since the last EC meeting.
XMPP. This is an instant messaging protocol. Remember instant messaging? Where you have an app open on your desktop and you can immediately chat to colleagues / friends and see when they are online? Mostly replaced by social media sites now but still useful for chatting confidentially with others online. This is what I was looking for: an IM server as I use Pidgin to communicate between my PCs.
Pads. Online collaboration for shared text documents. This looks like a really useful tool for working on something together when online. Here’s an example. One could write something in draft in advance, then share the link, then agree a time to finalise its content together. This does not require an account. The document stays for about six months before being deleted.
Calc. Same thing as Pads, but for a spreadsheet. Does not sound so useful, but is a good way of capturing lists.
Upload. For sending a document to someone securely. You drag the file to the web page and it is encrypted before sending and stored on the server in encrypted form. It provides you with a long code to retrieve the file which you send to the recipient to download the file. You can add a password to de-encrypt it, and set it to auto-delete once it has been downloaded. Can be handy just for sending something to yourself that you don’t want anyone else to see, or files that are too big to send by email.
Polls. Make your own polls, completely customisable. For sending out to people asking their opinions, selecting choices, etc. This does not require an account.
Project Board. Similar to Trello; looks like it requires an account. Trello might be better, but Disroot is secure.
Calls. This is Jitsi Meet video conferencing and it works. It seems to have all the functionality one might desire: chat, hand-raising, recording, screen sharing and so on. It runs from the browser so works on most anything. This does not require an account.
Cryptpad. Apparently, an “encrypted collaborative office suite… allows you to create, share and work together on text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, whiteboards or organize your project on a kanban board”. That seems to be the overarching name for the solution they use for their office tools. If someone was setting up a small campaigning organisation, this looks like a potentially good solution for collaborative working.
They’ve other functionality too, such as managing software source code and audio conferencing. One can also pay a nominal sum to make use of your own domain name with their email. You could register OurCampaign.co.uk and use Disroot’s email services with that domain name.
So there are a few useful things there. Some of that functionality might give ideas for other ways of working, especially remotely. And as a package, it might be very useful for any small campaigning organisation. And the price is very competitive!
What do you think?