Ben Nadel
On User Experience (UX) Design, JavaScript, ColdFusion, Node.js, Life, and Love.
I am the chief technical officer at InVision App, Inc - a prototyping and collaboration platform for designers, built by designers. I also rock out in JavaScript and ColdFusion 24x7.
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Ben Nadel at Scotch On The Rock (SOTR) 2010 (London) with: Andy Allan

EtherPad: Potential For Great Peer Debugging

By Ben Nadel on
Tags: Work

After Brian Swartzfager posted an EtherPad tweet a little while ago, I went to watch their 90 second demo video. It looked pretty darn cool. I like the fact that you can just start a new pad online, no membership, no additional software, and just start inviting people to edit with you. While, I don't think it makes as much sense for two people to edit a file in a true simultaneously fashion, I can definitely see a huge potential here for peer code debugging. It lacks the color coding and code insights that make a true IDE so helpful / readable; but, when you just need to jump into a file and help someone figure out why it's not working or walk them through your ideas - this looks like it might just be fantastic.

I wanted to get a sense of how this worked in real time, so I asked my fellow Twitters to test it with me. It was a lot of fun (names have been removed for privacy):


EtherPad - Group File Editing And Document Collaboration.  

Even with 5 or 6 people in the room editing at the same time, the updates were quite fast. Not as fast as in the demo video, but not nearly so slow that it became any sort of pain point.

I can also see this as a great collaboration tool for group learning and small classes. Someone had the idea of using it for group activities at a conference or like-style event. I really like that idea as well. The major downfall here is that you cannot just "Run" the code right away, you'd have to copy it into an actual file on your server. But, even so, I really think this could be great.

Reader Comments

Ahh, good times! Shared it with everyone in the office, and wasted a good 15 minutes writing nonsense :P. But as you say, as a collaborative tool (especially for remote workers) this is a really great find.


Agreed. I've seen other things like this, but none that were this easy to use. I saw an Eclipse plug-in that seemed cool, but again - requires ecplise. This didn't require anything (except maybe a modern browser which is not an issue with developers). Such a low barrier of entry.

@Ben - very cool app. passed it around the office as well and everyone "ooh'd" and "aah'd" quite a bit.

Curious about the eclipse plugin tho. What's it called? Would like to check that out as well.

I'm particularly excited by the AppJet platform that EtherPad is built on. Another player in the server-side JavaScript field is most welcome!