Barbal addresses a very real and painful problem for our users; even with all the advances in online collaboration and document management systems, working with others on documents is still really painful — particularly when lots of people are involved in drafting or commenting.

Our technical hypothesis is that we can adapt the version control tools that software engineering teams use to collaborate on code and make them intuitive for anyone working on docs — which we’ve done.

One of the biggest challenges in building the company is nailing our marketing messaging, particularly for early adopters. In some ways, we’re…


Woman at a laptop with her head in her hands
Woman at a laptop with her head in her hands

Whether you’re using modern online collaboration software or sending marked-up files via email, working with others on documents can often leave us feeling out of control.

In this short blog I’ll explore five ways collaborating on documents can heighten the stress and frustration we can feel when we aren’t in control.

The ownership conundrum

The intellectual property might belong to your employer or client, but until handed-over “work in progress” text drafts feel like they belong to you.

If you’re the technical expert or have been assigned a complicated task there is always pride in your work. …


Collaboration is becoming ever more important in business especially as we overcome the challenges of the past twelve months. But have you ever stopped to consider what it actually means to collaborate?

Since founding Barbal I find myself mulling this more and more. Why is collaboration so important? How does collaboration interface with related concepts like consensus or negotiation? How do we ensure that we build a document editor that is truly collaborative, rather than just allowing people to work together more efficiently?

When I used to run collaboration training in a professional services firm I would ask the attendees…


Barbal was founded in November 2018. How have two years gone by already? And is it really 20 months since I last published an update on the business and our strategy?

In case you are catching up or need a reminder: My co-founder, Dave, and I met whilst helping a public sector body in the UK deliver a project to review 500 design standards in 30 months (previously, the typical time for just one was 36 months). The project involved a drafting team of over 400 people and over 2000 stakeholders reviewing drafts.

We witnessed how passionate technical experts get…


Aside from general pandemic despair, recently Twitter has been awash with an ongoing stream of arguments; “is this a digital twin?”, “is that one?”, “a point cloud isn’t a digital twin”, “does a digital twin require a live data stream between the physical asset?”, “no Vendor X your software does not make digital twins”, “my digital twin is bigger than yours”. I paraphrase.

Whether something is a digital twin or not is a moot point. It’s a pointless argument. It might be a digital twin or a digital gorilla. It doesn’t make a difference. …


In March, Barbal moved out of Bristol’s Engine Shed and became a remote company days ahead of the work from home announcement. It was the right thing to do.

As a software startup, we were already set up to work from home and would do so as a matter of course as part of our flexible working approach, so we didn’t feel there had been much disruption. Our four full time staff are all local to Bristol but two of our summer interns were based in Hertfordshire and Budapest — in fact I’ve never even met Daniel in person —…


In February this year we set off on a mission to develop a standard for construction knowledge on behalf of the Construction Knowledge Task Group (CKTG).

The CKTG comprises the largest publishers and professional bodies in the UK built environment sector and they all share the same challenge: not enough construction practitioners are accessing the knowledge resources they develop and publish. The result is continuing low productivity, a failure to learn from the mistakes of others and poor adoption of new ideas and innovation.

On exploring the problem through a survey in 2018, they found the root of the problem…


It is almost a decade since the UK was told that Building Information Modelling (BIM) would become mandatory for all public projects. The approach that was developed through the UK definition of BIM Level 2 has become the global basis for BIM according to ISO 19650.

After a flurry of marketing activity and huge strides being made in technical terms, it seems that adoption and penetration of BIM is stagnating. The UK BIM Framework is firmly set at embedding BIM according to ISO 19650 and the Centre for Digital Built Britain is progressing to develop the National Digital Twin. …


The construction industry is huge, fragmented and slow to innovate. At the same time, we are seeing increasing pressures on the industry to adopt new and important ideas like digital transformation, modern methods of construction (MMC) and sustainable building practices.

Between 2012 and 2017 I conducted a doctoral study on implementing change into the sector and found that the industry’s ability to learn from itself is the key enabler to making innovation scale. The primary output from the research (which earned me the title “Dr Tom”) was an industrial learning model.

In broad terms the industry can be seen to…


The Shuttleworth Foundation was started in 2001 by Mark Shuttleworth, the founder behind the Ubuntu operating system. They look for social innovators who are changing the world for the better and could benefit from a social investment model with a difference.

The Foundation runs a fellowship to “fund people who are unafraid to reimagine the world and the way we live in it” to “build an open knowledge society with limitless possibilities”.

And this latter point is the key bit. They challenge the status quo of closed systems and IPR ownership to solve the world’s biggest challenges:

We wanted to…

Tom Bartley

Co-founder and CEO at Barbal.co — helping experts to reach consensus faster.

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