Climbing Levels Of Collaboration


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Groups can take action even quicker than before thanks to tools that amplify group communications, such as wikis, blogs, forums, social networks, and instant messaging. There are distinct levels of collaboration that a group can attain and what they accomplish directly correlates to the level of collaboration.

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  • Groups can take action even quicker than ever before in history thanks to tools that amplify group communications such as wikis, blogs, and instant messaging. There are three distinct levels of collaboration that a group can attain and what they accomplish directly correlates to the level of collaboration. 1 Information sharing - this hands-on example would be just finding out information as any technical writer does, via email, phone calls, interviews, etc. 2 Cooperating - this hands-on example would borrow from Agile techniques to help shape a web application and online help going with it, more like a "we're all working at a startup in someone's garage." 3 Collaborating - this hands-on example would demonstrate how a Book Sprint is run with subject matter experts identified and working together to create an information deliverable, with FLOSS Manuals' wiki platform as an example.
  • Author of the book, Conversation and Community: The Social Web for Documentation I’ve had a lot of interesting collaborative authoring experiences plus I’m embedded on an Agile team and I’d like to share. Michael Cote challenged me to find good end user doc wiki
  • These are the classics of collaboration. Follow the rules. Be on time. Be professional. Share. Offer candy or chocolate. Interesting side note – more submissions to STC Intercom about “how to get info from SMEs” than any other unsolicited article topic. We know how to do this part. Exercise – design a transportation device Transport people between 1 and 10 miles per hour Stop on demand Carry at least one person Restrain at least one person (so they don’t fall out) Look nice Now imagine if I told you: Work alone! Don’t look at your neighbor’s paper! No collaboration! No talking! You’d each have a nice drawing at the end of a five minute period. Now, if I had you gather back together into workgroups, and you took the braking system from one design, the propulsion system from another design, and the restraints and aesthetics from another design, what would you get?
  • Agile development practices – Communication tools borrowed from the gaming industry offers voice interaction Video conferences Creating “ball points” example – went from 1 “ball point” to 5 to 50 due to iterations and learning from experience plus being willing to experiment Define crowdsourcing: delegating a task to a large diffuse group, usually without monetary compensation Iterations involve retrospectives – what went well? What would you change? (photo is a Bog oak floor in Denmark) What are some of these collaborative tools? Wikis are one. Other methods involve getting to know each other and your readers. Social bookmarking – show Wordle Social networking - Facebook, LinkedIn (search LinkedIn for your product’s name)
  • Wiki is a website that uses wiki software, allowing the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked (often databased) Web pages. Based on permissions, users can edit pages Basic code is either wikitext (ascii based markup language) or HTML code - A wiki allows a group of people to collaboratively develop a Web site with no knowledge of HTML or other markup languages. Anyone can add to or edit pages Not just Wikipedia, your enterprise wiki is not Wikipedia
  • Enables simultaneous edits Give customer a voice and view point Living, breathing, changing documentation
  • Crowdsourcing is the term for the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call. Twitter mosaic
  • eBay wiki, now defunct, originally said their goal is to reduce support phone calls Open source wants open documentation Apache wiki, One Laptop per Child wiki, FLOSS Manuals free documentation for free software
  • from Wiki for Dummies Don’t go on wiki suicide missions Wikis don’t have magical powers. They cannot create camaraderie where none exists, nor can they streamline an out-of-control operation. They are not powerful information magnets, nor will they make your team better writers, more organized, or more intelligent. In short, without a strong guiding hand, wikis are useless. starting a wiki was in reality just a procrastination attempt—put off the real work of collaborating and cooperating with each other by distracting yourself with wiki engine research and selection and installation
  • What will your customers receive in return for their contribution? Borrow a point system from your customer support forums, perhaps? Points can be traded in for t-shirts or registrations to user group meetings or conferences.
  • Efficacy Reciprocity Reciprocity Reputation Reputation
  • First and foremost: Build a sense of community Adaptations on a theme - comments, wikislices, internal wikis Online forums Feedback from customers always looping to your source files Listen: for product name, search for product name Infoslicer at
  • OLPC chose a wiki as an open source solution to offering information to developer volunteers initially, but end-users also need documentation in their wiki. Mediawiki and Floss Manuals, which runs on TWiki. contains all information about the XO laptop, but FLOSS Manuals contains targeted information for certain audiences. The structured nature of the wiki would let us re-use content for different audiences such as kids, parents, school admins, or teachers. Since they started with it from the beginning, the only changes I observed were my own learning and building of mental models for the use of wikis for information storage. Looking at, which patterns or anti-patterns are in place? The Invitation pattern is a nicely done people pattern. They also have a nice Starting point on the OLPC wiki. And Welcoming is definitely a part of their best practices, even though it’s very difficult for them to keep up with the interest in volunteering. Have you done anything to encourage one pattern or squash out an anti-pattern? I know there have been acts of Vandalism on people’s talk pages, but those just get reversed immediately by a very on-their-toes administrator. I guess the act was in retaliation for an answer someone gave in an FAQ. I also see a little bit of ThreadMess going on with some development-oriented pages.
  • The original Book Sprint was invented by Tomas Krag, who wanted to get his friends together to write a book for wireless networking in the developing world. He thought he’d buy a stack of plane tickets, get everyone together to figure out the book’s outline, then send everyone home to write. What was unexpected is how much they got done just while in the same room together.
  • Climbing Levels Of Collaboration

    1. 1. Climbing the Levels of Collaboration Or, How to Harness the Power of Crowds (or your Coworkers) Anne Gentle STC Webinar, September 2009
    2. 2. My Story <ul><li>Senior technical writer at ASI </li></ul><ul><li>Blogger at Just Write Click Started researching wikis at BMC Software Working on the FLOSS Manuals wiki and community </li></ul>
    3. 3. Information Sharing <ul><li>Co-location, email, IM, interviewing </li></ul><ul><li>The classics of collaboration. Follow the rules. Be on time. Be professional. Share. </li></ul>Photo courtesy
    4. 4. Cooperating <ul><li>Agile development practices : iterations involve retrospectives – what went well? What would you change? </li></ul><ul><li>Crowdsourcing </li></ul><ul><li>Computer supported (social web enabled) </li></ul>Photo courtesy
    5. 5. What’s a wiki? <ul><li>Created in 1995 </li></ul><ul><li>Makes web pages quickly </li></ul><ul><li>Cross-platform, cross-browser </li></ul>Photo courtesy
    6. 6. Wiki growth <ul><ul><li>Enables simultaneous edits </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Give customer a voice and view point </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Living, breathing, changing documentation </li></ul></ul>Photo courtesy
    7. 7. Collaboration benefits <ul><ul><li>Encourage crowdsourcing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Scalability  goes up and up </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Online identity </li></ul></ul>
    8. 8. Wiki matching <ul><li>Return on investment by reducing customer support calls </li></ul><ul><li>Sometimes a customer forum isn't enough </li></ul><ul><li>Open source products often use wikis </li></ul>Photo courtesy
    9. 9. What a wiki can’t do <ul><li>Don’t go on wiki suicide missions (Wiki for Dummies) </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t put off collaborating with wiki engine research </li></ul>Photo courtesy
    10. 10. Motivating community contributions <ul><li>Reputation </li></ul><ul><li>Reciprocity </li></ul><ul><li>Attachment </li></ul><ul><li>Efficiency </li></ul>Photo courtesy
    11. 11. Reputation <ul><li>Will your customers appear expert in your product if they contribute to your wiki? This type of motivation is especially important to consultants. Make their contributions shine so that they will return with more scenarios. </li></ul>
    12. 12. Reciprocity <ul><li>What will customers receive in return? </li></ul><ul><li>Can you borrow a point system? </li></ul><ul><li>BMC Developer Network example: points can be traded in for t-shirts </li></ul>
    13. 13. Attachment, belonging <ul><li>How will customers feel part of your team or part of your support team, if that motivates him or her? Association with a cause - </li></ul>
    14. 14. Increased sense of efficacy <ul><li>How will customers save time or money by contributing to your wiki? Consider a knowledgeable expert who feels she answers the same question via email over and over again. </li></ul>
    15. 15. Test yourselves – Which motivation is in play? <ul><ul><li>I like to see which online forums have the quickest response times to questions. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>I help out on the message boards because I know I’ll have a question that I won’t be able to answer, and I will get help when I need it. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>When I was new to this technology or tool, someone helped me, so I want to help others who are just starting out. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>I’d like to switch careers so I make sure my online answers are sharp and quick. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To promote and grow my consulting business, I’m learning more troubleshooting techniques by helping out with the scenarios that people bring to the community. </li></ul></ul>
    16. 16. Do you have to use a wiki? <ul><li>First: listen. Then: participate, join a community Adaptations on a theme - comments, wikislices, internal wikis Online forums </li></ul><ul><li>Feedback loops to your source files </li></ul>Photo courtesy of
    17. 17. FLOSS Manuals wiki <ul><li>Why did you choose a wiki? </li></ul><ul><li>What type of wiki are you using? </li></ul><ul><li>How are you using the wiki? </li></ul><ul><li>What changes have you seen as a result of using the wiki? </li></ul>
    18. 18. Book Sprint <ul><li>FLOSS Manuals wiki and community </li></ul><ul><li>OLPC and Sugar Labs </li></ul><ul><li>Firefox and more </li></ul>
    19. 19. FLOSS Manuals Book Sprints <ul><li>Many lessons learned along the journey. </li></ul><ul><li>See for a manual. </li></ul>July08: Inkscape, Paris Aug08: OLPC, Austin TX Nov08: Internet Censorship, upstate NY Feb09: Digital Foundations, NYC Mar09: Firefox, DocTrain West, Palm Springs CA Mar09: Command Line, FSF Annual Mtg, (Boston) Apr09: PureData, NYC & Berlin May09: CiviCRM, Truckee CA
    20. 20. Wiki Patterns <ul><li>Stewart Mader's website and book of the same name are extremely helpful for spurring wiki adoption. </li></ul><ul><li>Patterns describe a certain solution to a problem in a context. </li></ul><ul><li>To avoid problems, you want to follow a model pattern or be on the lookout for anti-patterns. </li></ul>
    21. 21. Best Practices <ul><ul><li>Establish a working draft area and a “published” area (or wiki) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Write a wiki style guide </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Give training on the wiki and a sandbox area </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Maintain rules for arbitration </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Offer original content, update content </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Beware of spammers, and back up often </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Join the community, be a genuine contributor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Recruit reviewers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Maintain categories </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Watch recent changes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Expect small percentages of contributors and value them highly (90-9-1) </li></ul></ul>
    22. 22. Resources <ul><li>Wiki tools research at </li></ul><ul><li>Wikipatterns website for adoption and people patterns </li></ul><ul><li>Meatball wiki </li></ul><ul><li>Anne Gentle’s podcasts on </li></ul><ul><li> - technical writer at Confluence </li></ul><ul><li> – wiki category </li></ul><ul><li>FLOSS Manuals at </li></ul>
    23. 23. Discussion <ul><li>Questions? </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Contact: [email_address] </li></ul>