Collaboration Spaces

January 22, 2004

in COP's Communities of Practice, Knowledge Innovation, Social Software

Robin Good is fired up after a visit to the US on next generation collaboration software. It’s a real contrast with how I feel about subjecting myself to Web-crossing which despite upgrades hasn’t changed much in years. It’s this quote from Robin that got me going today.

Allow me to extend my desktop to yours. My voice to your ear. My word document to your skilled editing hand. Extend what I already have, know and like. The name of the game is “hide” yourself. Be inobtrusive. Easy. Do not intrude. Be quite, gentle, on the side. Let me call you and fire up the colaboration facilities I need without needing to dress up for a ceremony when only neighbours are coming (meaning, stay-away from elaborate setups that offer you everything and more, like classical conferencing tools do trying to make available every and each possible function desired).

Carry over from real life what works so well for us, and make it secure, reliable, robust…and fun.
Robin Good

I like the personal nature of his words and emphasis on letting me share. I too don’t want programs that are invasive rather they must be natural. Be an extension, let us easily dock, and live a set of events together. Don’t force me to turn off the music, rather share that connection as well. Let them know my phone is ringing via our always on connection, help me pace that collaboration like the open space in an office. Encourage my use of dual monitors so we can share while we work visible and invisible at the same time. Enable brains to work together, don’t allow lapses or formalise the structure so formality dumbs down sponteneity. Make it more than one to one.

So back to my current participation in an online Muckabout. I like what is happening there. The early signs are encouraging. I just think today that “forums” like this should be obsolete. Many never adopted them, and only a few have thrived in them. I’ve simply never grown to love them. I’ve had some good experiences in them, and also learned some lessons. I presume that Forums and Online Communities sort of go together at least the practice thereof. I’m not certain that will be true in five years time.

Today my forum format gripes are a little different. I’m much more blog – wiki centric than I was a year ago. I need new information in my aggregator. I expect better profiles etc. I’m used to back-channel chat and even having “working-on” Skype conversations. So signing up for a conference with an online forum feels a little backward for gathering introductions and getting topics going.

I know I shouldn’t expect blog centric enthusiam, or IM adoption. A part of my gripe traces to remembering the new url (and having to sign in each time) using web-crossing again, and dealing with forums that are nowhere near as easy as a newsreader to read. Forget about the fun new introductions that could be made. There are no guest books, no Ryze like pages to quickly make aquaintances. No social network that says who already knows who etc. I may be able to sort the posts by author however that function isn’t traceable to the list of members. It doesn’t dock with linked in or any other program I’ve made an investment in. So, for the most part why invest time in building a profile there? I predict most won’t. They reside elsewhere and it will be over in a matter of weeks. Yes there are a few phone numbers now listed but who wants to be called? I thought about adding Skype and other IM connections yet I know there will be resistance. There is no way currently for this new “conference” circle of connections to gain special access to me for a few weeks without effort despite the fact that is part of what I signed up for. (Others may not want that of course!)

Robin’s quote doubled my frustration as I’ve been editing scenario documents and it is easy to get problems with version control. We are not using Groove, while Wiki’s and blogs are foreign. We aren’t connected by IM (for the most part this team doesn’t use it) and so I’m using the phone and can’t even point to parts of the document I’m suggesting needs changes. I could use Glance maybe next time. This group is important to me and yet pushing forward in one area may require lagging in others. I’m already pushing the boundaries so I am just understanding their work practices and product first. Then the opportunity for a broader conversation may arise.

I should really draw a conclusion. Another day for I think the Muck may just begin to address the future of collaboration technologies.

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