Friday, March 28, 2008

Collaboration for real

Yeah, it's been a while. I wasn't into blogging lately: catching up with emails, twits, feeds,... well my friends' lifestreams.

I wasn't sure if I should post this but, hey I just can't shut up.

I'm working with couple of groups on a few projects. The thing is, sometimes I'm really disappointed about how some research project management [setup] and design tasks are done here at the university.

So, the guys are usually from old school: emails (communication) + MS Word (documentation). Now, this was a bleeding edge like, how many, 10 or 20 years back?

Here's a little [recent] story. A guy is writing a spec doc using wiki, emailing the link to the group asking for a feedback. "Finally! someone's getting it right", I thought. Guess what: "uhm.. this isn't good. we got our golden standard: MS Word". Well, the guy copies & pastes that into MS Word doc.

Some people modified the document (you know, the review feature) and email it back; some others (like me) just email the comments. Now, of course I wanted to read the others' comments too (hey, yes, we're talking about collaboration here) but here it is: OpenOffice just don't want to show it to me! Oh man.

"Guys, not that I don't want to but, sorry I can't read your comments...". Right, so someone converts the reviewed MS Word doc into PDF and email it back to me. I finally got to read it all, and of course I had my comments on their comments too. I send another feedback in plain text back: conversion to MS Word, email, back to MS Word, PDF, email,... you get the feeling, don't ya?

Well, poor guy couldn't figure out any more where it begins and where it ends. I guess, he just started almost from scratch.

My question is, is it a real collaboration? Oh, come on, give me a break! Please, just try at least get acquainted with new concepts and technologies we have living in 2008!

Aw, did I mention social software? Aw, and did I forget to mention that you can push all that stream (of course, including emails) into a RSS feed?

What? Oh come on guys, give it a try, at least!

I guess the problem is, it is sometimes (rather often here) hard to deliver this sort of information to a boss (the guy who doesn't know much of technology) in a comprehensible way: advantages that gives you a certain new technology. And the project managers who work directly with those bosses often afraid of the new stuff - afraid to fail and be blamed for that.