war rooms, when the whole design team are in the one location is great, big wall space, post-it everywhere, the energy, atmosphere is inspiring. what's a good method (tools?) to recreate the same vibe when the design team is spread across oceans?
We have used a mix of software tools and video-conferencing to do this with our geographically-distributed team (though not across oceans, just continents, for us):
A wiki for notes, sketches, screen shots, photos of whiteboards, and discussion. This is pretty asynchronous. Discussion threads can get hard to follow, so somebody has to curate this from time to time. We try to bubble up decisions to summary pages so it's easier to see the current state of things while preserving access to all the backing data.
We make a data-visualization software product, which we sometimes use to share mock-ups (live workflows). Synchronous and asynchronous collaboration are possible, ranging from mirroring desktops to attaching notes to particular items. Recently we used this software to organize and analyze a pile of data that had started life as stickie notes on the wall of a conference room. (Somebody typed the notes into Excel and then we imported that.)
Video-conferencing. We conducted a week-long design session this way last year, starting with affinity groups and personas and ending with information architecture and workflows. The cameras were good enough that we could share expanses of stickie notes and whiteboard scribblings this way, though we also had screen-sharing available for sharing digital mockups.
We have found that document repositories (shared drives, SharePoint, etc) do not work well; they are where documents go to die and be forgotten. The reason the wiki works for us while SharePoint doesn't is that "edit" link right there in the page, plus a model of informality. Anybody can add a comment, and people do, in a format where it's easy for everybody to see what's been changing.
This is a really good question. I think War Rooms are a huge benefit to any project especially when people outside of UX are also using it (business line managers, developers, IT, marketing, etc).
I've rarely seen it implemented well in a physical shared room, so it's likely going to be a challenge online.
One option that comes to mind is 37Signals Campfire tool...which is really just a group discussion room where people are sharing a constant stream of questions and critiques along with all sorts of visuals. We use something similar, but sans pictures, so, not nearly as useful.