Approver, a simple way to collaborate online

Jeffrey McManus, a former Yahoo developer, has unveiled a product called Approver, a new way to collaborate on projects online.

It lets you create a document and solicit feedback from numerous people, keeping the document intact and in once place while others approve or suggest edits.

Approver offers a system of alerts, showing the sender if a recipent has gotten the request for collaboration, and whether it has been approved or edited. A recipient of the request gets an email, with a link. This takes them to a document, and they can respond by checking an “approve” box, or supply suggestions with an edit box. It uses Word-like revision tracking features — with highlights in red so you can easily see suggested changes.

Here is a a tour, just released. We tested it a couple of weeks ago.

For certain projects, Approver has more convenience than email correspondence, which can confuse by producing multiple copies of attachments. And it avoids use of expensive work-flow software, or the default openness of the publishing format offered by wiki software.

In many cases, it may replace conference calls, meetings and email. It’s free to create one document, and you can send it for an unlimited number of approvals. Significantly, McManus started charging people immediately for use of more than one document, in order to cover costs from the beginning, he said. How revolutionary. It costs $5.95 a month to create more than one document, or $39.95 year.

McManus says he’s been bugged for years by the lack of something aiding collaborate work-flow that that most people engage in daily. “I kept running into the same problem, over and over again,” he told us. “I’d send a Powerpoint out to some people. One person would grunt. Other people wouldn’t say anything. I was left asking, ‘Did they get it? Did they care? Did they not have enough time? Whatever…” Sometimes, many people responded, and his email box was polluted with similar me-too comments.

Approver is designed for soliciting feedback, typically for an editing process that may take a week or two. The idea is to publish it later. “With a wiki, some people are hesitant about using it; they don’t want to see their errors broadcast around the Internet,” he said.

This is a bootstrapped company; he has raised no money. He is based in San Francisco, and has one other person helping him in New York.

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