Thursday, January 19, 2012

Favorite File Sharing

We talk a lot about what YOU can do to improve the LARP experience at your game. But a lot of running a game is working with a team. How you interact with them can make or break the event - unless you have a small game and super metabolism, it is almost impossible to run a great game by yourself. And one major element to getting everyone on the same page is sharing content.

What's the best way to manage content between people? Well, my favorite so far is Dropbox. I'll tell you why. :)

So I started using Dropbox at work. It is a free service that allows you to download a folder onto your computer. Within the folder you can make additional folders and share them with other people. If you want to share each of those folders with different people, you can. Everyone has to download Dropbox onto their system for it to work, of course.

The documents (or whatever) inside can be edited by each person you invite, as long as they're not protected. Otherwise they would just view the documents. Each person can just open, edit, and save - and Dropbox will update it to each shared person's system, like you would have on a network. In fact, that might be just what it is, but I'm not computer savvy enough to know the specifics :) Documents you protect are still protected, and so on. And your material is also backed up online, at the Dropbox site; so if someone's drive crashes or people quit, the material is still there.

Now, the free service is only good up to a certain size, so this may not work for those sharing large amounts of images, videos, etc.

I've found so far that it combines the sharing capabilities of Google docs (Yahoo! doesn't allow shared editing, the person who uploads the file has to manage it) with the easy-to-organize system of Yahoo! groups. I haven't been impressed with the organization system of Google docs. It does allow sharing, and for small amounts of files where you want multiple contributors it's great (although I know it doesn't work for all emails, as my work email can't use it). But once you start getting into using it for a content library, or for things like your character sheet database, I've gotten frustrated and been unhappy with their options. Maybe I'm doing it wrong :)

I didn't have those issues with Dropbox, though. It was intuitive for a Windows user like me; it's just like another folder, so it's wonderful for keeping everything organized so I can stay sane. :) So far for me, Dropbox has all the things I want, and removes the negatives.

I haven't been using it for long, but I encourage people to give it a test drive and see what they think.

Or maybe you use something even better?


  1. A group of us have volunteered to run an event for our chapter and so far we've been using a combination of a Facebook group and Google Docs for sharing our writing. Facebook was easy for us to set up since we were all on it and we just use it as a running conversation. Google Docs is used for module writing. I think you are right though at some point we'll have enough modules that the Google Docs organization system will become unwieldly but we haven't reached that point yet.

  2. Hey bgardner! I see what you mean about chatting on Facebook, that's a good idea! It's a lot easier to have everyone talking at once. Just as an fyi for peeps, I read an article about running non-profits that warned against using Facebook for official communication. The idea being that you don't have the control that you do on a forum or webpage, and some groups got burned (I can't remember the legal issue one encountered). Now, the chances of having an issue (especially if your group isn't public) are probably pretty small, but just a thought. Good luck with your event!

  3. The Google docs system is a little unwieldy, but in combination with a Google Group things get much better.

  4. We (NERO Indy Plot and NERO Indy Logistics) use Dropbox extensively:

    Our monster database is stored in an Excel "database" that is stored in Dropbox. I can access the database from my phone, but I have to remember monster names and can't add monsters unless I do it manually.

    Our item tag database is stored in Dropbox, so if I need to do logistics from work or if I need someone else to do logistics, it records any items they add or print. Custom tag designs (like formal scrolls) and the like are also stored in Dropbox. Logistic forms and records are stored in Dropbox and shared between the owners.

    Our plot notes are stored in a TiddlyWiki that is stored on Dropbox. Map images are stored in Dropbox and linked into the TiddlyWiki with relative references. This is awesome (we used to have an online wiki) because it's accessible from any machine if you login to Dropbox online, but you can view it and update it at an event without issue. I can even view it (but not update it) by accessing Dropbox from my phone and loading the wiki.

    Maps can be edited collaboratively, assuming only one person edits the file at a time. We just need to find a good map editing software. We've looked at AutoRealm and Campaign Cartographer 3, but I haven't had the time to look into other tools, like Hexographer. I also don't have the time to learn a tool like Photoshop for this.

    Character sheets that I build for players on site (in NERO Character Creator) are saved in Dropbox for future inclusion in the National Database. NPC Character sheets are also stored here, in a different folder (accessible to plot rather than logistics).

    The entire plot team can be contacted via a single GoogleGroups email address, and we converse through emails there when we can't meet in person.

    Dropbox has minimal version control, but it does recognize when there's a conflict and saves the conflicting file. It's also supposedly fairly smart about network use.

  5. @Corey - Thanks for validating me. :) You should have written this post!! I hope to use Dropbox for all of that - although we don't have a wiki...hmmm... Can I ask what the pros and cons of TiddlyWiki are and if you're going to continue to use it for plot stuff?

  6. As a slight tangent, my plan for Invictus staff meetings is actually to use Skype so people don't have to travel much. So much easier and less of a time suck. We'll have occasional in person meetings (this weekend is one, for example) but the convenience of Skype teleconferencing is amazing.

  7. I recommend MPTW (Monkey Pirate Tiddly Wiki). I learned about it at

    * It is usable while disconnected from the Internet
    * It is easy and quick to edit pages
    * You can view multiple "Tiddlers" (wiki articles) at the same time.
    * It is easy to set up - everything is stored in one file (two if you use locking so it can be edited by multiple users). To get started, just download an empty TiddlyWiki and start editing.
    * It makes it really easy to have a hierarchical structure
    * It makes it easy to keep track of new changes to the Wiki
    * It makes it easy to keep track of references that are empty. For example, if I mention [[Darnek Blackhand]] (a real NPC) in one of my articles, "Darnek Blackhand" will show up under the "More" | "Missing" - along with any other referenced, but empty article.
    * Search is fast and easy.
    * If you want to be able to access it over the web, you can just post it on a website. It won't be editable (unless you install the necessary plugins) and anyone will be able to view it (unless you set up htaccess permissions or install a plugin)

    * If you are using a browser other than Firefox you may run into issues editing it. Chrome has a java plugin that you can use, but I couldn't get that to work with MPTW (I could with other TiddlyWikis, though).
    * Multiple people cannot edit a TiddlyWiki at the same time (unless you have it posted online and set up something like CCTiddly. I set up CCTiddly but couldn't get it to import our plot notes)
    * TiddlyWiki doesn't keep track of changes to individual Tiddlers (unless you install a plugin, like )
    * Complicated text formatting isn't easy (by default - you can install a plugin for this) though the formatting that's available is probably sufficient - bolding, italics, images, etcetera. I'm trying to use a TiddlyWiki to organize my personal writings as well, so this is a bigger deal. I didn't notice it when just using the wiki for plot.
    * No inline image editing
    * If someone else changes the TiddlyWiki, you have to refresh the page manually (it doesn't include their changes automatically)
    * Plugins can be hard to choose or sometimes, to install
    * Exporting to text or other formats might be difficult.
    * Tiddler names are case sensitive.
    * There's no way to preview changes that you've made without applying them (and this matters when you consider that there's no version control by default). If I make a change that messes stuff up and I want to revert, I have to use Dropbox's version control, which means using the web interface, unfortunately.