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.


  1. Credo che i feed siano uno strumento potentissimo e che i servizi in futuro ne faranno ampio uso (diciamo sia in in output che in input), e che il loro uso beneficerà non solo internet e i social network ma tutto il modo di condividere e scambiarsi informazioni.
    Oggi ho cominciato a usare jaiku e la sua potenza sta proprio nel poter inserire i proprio feed e renderli visibili a tutti, in pratica si condivide tutto c'ho che si vuole.

  2. I couldn't do more but post it here. I got a response from a guy who's implicitly mentioned in this story: "RSS? Let's be serious", he said. Whoa, before writing this post I was hoping something would've changed in their vision. Now I just think it's a total waste of time.

  3. yep, you say: use real collaborative applications if you want a really collaborative advantage! But are you sure that they are tools really well known to everybody?
    In my opinion wiki is not so common as you think and the real common playground is the msword you are criticizing...

  4. Linus, it depends on what you mean by common playground. All I'm saying is for where MS Word is "the real common playground" (especially dev, R&D and such projects) and other tools aren't known much - at least try them for real, because it really is worth it.

  5. You know, learning a new tool for most part of people is like climbing a mountain, they simply don't want to do something so tiring.
    You are speaking about web 2.0 and similar as an easy change, as a sudden revolution that is obviously appreciated by everyone, but this is not the case.
    How many persons doesn't want to upgrade even the new version of the same software?
    How many persons doesn't want to try office 2007?

    Innovation is perceived as fatiguing, even by supposed "researchers".

  6. ok, Alex, waht are you saying? That even the idea of research can evolve?
    What do you think? That sometimes we are trying to go on mars using a bicycle just because the shuttle is not at our home door?

    beh, in my opinion most of times you are right!
    And I think that all these collaborative tools could change even this paleolitic way of publishing papers...

    Please onorable "supposed researchers" go drinking more beers and write less spamming papers, thanks!!
    Beer helps original ideas

  7. How many persons doesn't want to try office 2007?


What do you think?