Are You Collaborating Enough?

Listening to Marketing Over Coffee on the way home, there was a very small section talking about GoogleDocs and how you can activate a form to collect data for you. It also made me think further on the question about how much we’re collaborating (or not collaborating) online.

We had to create a wiki for our social media class, and of course, wikis tell you how much (or little) someone edited the final output. It was noted that a handful of people contributed the majority of the content, which made our Professor, Michael Netzley, less than thrilled. I brought up the point that though a few people may have been the actual ones to enter the text, doesn’t mean the whole team did not collaborate together. Both sides are debatable, but that’s not the point.

I’m an assistant scout leader for my alma mater’s scout troop and every year around this time we have a camp. As with previous years, the emails pile up, meeting minutes get distributed, camp schedules get sent and changed and re-sent and re-changed until eventually, no one knows what in the world is going on anymore.

To solve this, I set up a wiki for the leaders. It’s a private wiki so I’m sorry I can’t share the link. I will however say that we’re using PBwiki, which I find to be superior to Wetpaint in terms of editing as well as help. But that aside, so far it’s been helping us keep track of personnel and manpower, topics of discussion, a couple of things to be noted, schedules, equipment lists and so on.

No more losing of minutes on paper, no more “can you send me the latest schedule? I can’t find it”. Everything is up there and updated. To the minute.

So why aren’t more of us doing this? Is it the challenge of working alone as Michael brings up? Or an unwillingness to change our styles of working?

Does it make sense for us to share our items on Google Reader (my shared items are here)? Or on del.icio.us? How about collaborating on Google Docs in the classroom? In the office?

To me the biggest problem is convincing the people you’re working with that it’s worth their while. In my scout case study, I knew the people who were primarily going to enter the data would be the younger adult leaders, while the older leaders would keep and eye on it from time to time. To both of these groups, you gotta speak their language.

To my peers, it was the idea of collaboration. To see everything in one place, to have links and for easy reading. To the senior leaders, it was the idea of streamlining information. Not losing paper, not having to distinguish whether schedule(final).doc is the true schedule or schedule(final)THISISTHEREALFINAL.doc is the true schedule.

So how’s collaboration working (or not working) for you? Are you using wikis regularly? Online document processors or software based? Is it a challenge convincing your classmates/colleagues to use it as well?

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4 Responses to “Are You Collaborating Enough?”

  1. Jonathan Kong Says:

    Prior setting up fabrikade, I was scouting around for a web service and platform in which the team can ‘sit’ around together to discuss, disseminate infos, set milestones and set tasks to individuals and manage our outsource. To collaborate, and easily get things done without meeting up in person as we have our own day commitments. I found Basecamp by 37Signals easily the best option for us.

    We could have opt for a Wiki platform but Basecamp simply have necessary tools, ease of use and a worthy UI to get things done, for us. It’s like using a Mac, minimal learning curve and we can start working on things, fast and now.

    Google Docs for our writings and such. Web-based, great reliability (it’s Google), the ability to share and edit by team. Not as powerful compared to MS’s products but for online workers, their collaborative environment proved invaluable.

    Both web services has some things in common that works for us. The ability to comment, share, edit and keep everyone involved synced. It’s useless if they don’t have these qualities as we might just go back to emails and meetups. It has that bit of social element and that’s good. Cos u want feedbacks, suggestions or opinions.

    I think it’s easier to convince people to sign up with the services if the service itself is easy to use and understand. People are used to habits and man, they can be hard to break. Create a easy-to-understand process or click thrus to ya workmates so it takes much lesser time for them to soh around. It’ll helped to take away the first-step techno phobia. hah.

    The features and choices are out there so I think, focus on the value than technology. Will this work for our company/staff/users using it? Will it be able to streamline our workflows, resulted in less noise and yet produce the results we want? Stuffs liked that. :)

  2. oldskoolmark Says:

    I’m doing social media class now and using a wiki is a pretty big change for me (u can tell I’m old school). I think its the change of working style and it takes getting used to. Its great that we can all the see the info and the progress of the work done, but sometimes it just feels like its also a scrutiny of how far one has progressed. I guess some don;t like having their work looked at every step of the way but it really speeds things up. I would use it when time is tight and work needs to be churned out fast.

  3. Sham Says:

    As I have not gone through the academic understanding or learning of social media(it took me 5 secs to argued to myself if I should use new media, social media or social network!), it would not have been easy for me to identify Wiki or Basecamp or any other online tools to help with group collaborations.

    I have always had this thought that Wiki is a non-interactive and purely informational tool while I am not at all aware of Basecamp.

    Just my thoughts for now. :)

  4. Daryl Tay Says:

    @Jonathan: Thanks it’s awesome to hear it being practically used by someone actually running a business! (ie not an academic, personal or “fan” collaboration eg Lost wiki). I’m prepping for a meeting tomorrow and realise that our meeting venue has no internet! Which means we’ll be limited in our ability to collaborate “live”. Argh.

    @Oldskoolmark: I guess the scrutiny factor isn’t an issue for me, but on the flipside, it’ll encourage everyone to do their best work!

    @Sham: I guess a wiki isn’t interactive the way… social networks are interactive. But I’d say they’re definitely collaborative. And hey, no academic understanding or learning of social media required! BTW I hadn’t heard of Basecamp until Jonathan brought it up. Then I went to wiki it. So you’re not alone! lol

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