Channels of collaboration

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Presentation given a while back in SecondLife on collaboration and where virtual worlds fit into the set of tools available, as well as the 'Roobaab' product

Presentation given a while back in SecondLife on collaboration and where virtual worlds fit into the set of tools available, as well as the 'Roobaab' product

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  • Software Architect and Technical Team LeadFormer trainer delivering enterprise software dev courses for IBM and my ownEx teacherVW history – joined SL May 2006Collaboration possibilities for teamsExploring, building, scripting
  • Collaboration as must have, buzz wordIt seems everyone is collaborating. There’s so much collaboration going on…73,800,000 results on google (is this twee?)
  • Point out:RecursiveTwo or moreCommon GoalsSharing
  • Not something you can do on your own!
  • Hmm – this doesn’t seem so good but probably is the state of groupwareDocumentsRich MediaWhat about interaction?
  • Communication essential for collaborationExamplesPeople who simply wait for their turn to speak, don’t listenPeople who reply to emails but ignore the questions in there – maybe just react to the subject lineTrigger-happy – certain words set them offDiscussion could be collaboration – in voice (sync) or IM (sync) or forum(async) or shared doc(async) or Google Wave (sync and async?), or could just be one person expressing their opinion.Some channel(s) needed to collaborate. But they don’t need to be sync. In fact sync can be counter productive. If I want to assemble my ideas for you to critique and contribute to is it better for you to see every character and edit as I type it or for me to be able to get my thoughts assembled unpressured THEN let you see them and feedback on them? There is ongoing debate about the value of ‘seeing the typing happen / simultaneous editing – Google WaveBut maybe you want to get feedback as you go – so maybe an IM channel beside the doc? Or best of all – one scribe, and voice channel
  • What do we mean by channels of collaboration? Obviously there are channels of communication and those could all be used collaboratively. Although they might not be used in a collaborative ‘mode’: Synchronous ones like Speech, body language, writing/drawing (whiteboard, IM), (video conf/webcam), Async ones like text and document sharing (email, shared docs, source code repositories) don’t forget the answer phone, andvideo clips (now becoming huge)In this section I want to go over those channels of communication and the tools that enable them, and also discuss what it means when we use those channels explicitly for communication.
  • Probably the most significant heavily used – telephone is the single ‘can’t be without’ for any team or group trying to work together. Or was…. It is ubiquitous, everyone knows how to use one (well, not so sure with modern office phones!). But there are lots of problems. Teleconferences are generally awful things. Firstly simply coordinating them can be an issue, ensuring that everyone has the necessary dial in information, including local access numbers for wherever they happen to be. There will be sound quality and volume issues, most people don’t have headsets, so you jam the phone under your shoulder, people in the same office will frequently decide to crowd round a speakerphone making the sound quality problems worse and creating a nuisance for others nearby, and leads to another more subtle problem. By clustering one group round a speaker phone, a natural subgroup forms with the advantage that they have additional channels available to them and will often begin chats amongst themselves or share information that is not readily available to the rest of the group. This is also an issue for video conferences, possibly more so. Loud and or eloquent speakers will naturally dominate… you are missing any of the normal cues for when it is OK to start speaking, so shy or reticent individuals will typically not contribute. And finally non-english speakers are at a distinct disadvantage. With good management these things can be overcome to some extent. Teleconferences are reached for almost habitually, but it is worth always thinking – is this REALLY the best way?VoIP can help – generally better quality, good systems will have speaker indication in some form to let you know who is talking at any time, spatial sound has the promise of being able to even more.Streaming/broadcasting is mentioned although rarely used in a team collaboration scenario. It has a lot to offer when there is a need for a largely one-way transmission of information – especially if there are other so-called back-channels such as IM. A great example of this is live performance of music and poetry in second life. The audience get to feel really part of something as a group, they feel more together and more immersed. They have the ability to feedback and the performer can react to that feedback making it much more interactive than a recording would be. The biggest obstacle to the use of streaming in team and group collaboration is the technical knowledge and resources required.Voice is almost always considered as a synchronous channel, but there is a lot of value too in leaving voice messages… I bet everyone here has at some point phoned someone and prayed that they would be out so they could leave a message [[and not have to do the culturally expected dance of polite conversation that would be required if the other party actually answers!]] Or is that just me? Just me then… and of course podcasts have become a big phenomenon – again a hugely underused thing in collaboration. If you have information that you want to get out to a team in a hurry, what could be better – record yourself telling them, upload it to your collaboration platform and let them listen to it when they have time. Job done in a tenth the time of typing the stuff up. I’ve never seen this being built into collaboration platforms – anyone know of anything?
  • So typically whereas Voice via the phone dominates the synchronous communications, text via Email is by far and away the dominant asynchronous channel. For most teams these days email is as essential, and in some cases more essential, than the telephone. Again, it is the defacto means of asynchronous communication often without thought for whether it is actually the right thing to be using. Let’s start with email’s advantages. Ubiquitous – these days if you’ve got an internet connection you’ve got email, thanks to Gmail, hotmail and other webmail providers. Every company as a minimum will have some form of email service if they have no other groupware or collaboration software. Easy to use (we could argue about that… but conceptually at least. The idea of compose, address, send has obvious non-electronic parallels). The asynchronous nature of it means that you have time to reflect and compose your responses, and this is a particular benefit where the user isn’t as confident in the language chosen for communication (more often than not English), or simply isn’t particularly eloquent when speaking. Finally most email systems keep email either for ever or at least for a long period so you have an audit trail of communication.But most people will be familiar with the downsides of email too. First and most obvious is that the impersonal nature of the channel means that some people will tend to be more blunt than they ever would in a face to face or telephone discussion, or even in instant messaging. The lack of vocal or visual cues such as tone of voice and body language, and the inability to elicit real-time feedback means that ambiguity is often a problem, particularly where humour or sarcasm is attempted. The following example is taken from a British Journal of Educational Technology study on conflict in IT-rich environments – when asked in an email if he’d type up some minutes from notes that he was known to have made, one team member replied with this [[NEXT SLIDE]]
  • Imagine this being said accompanied by a big sigh and dropping of the shoulders. Now imagine it being said with gentle good-natured humour, a grin and a twinkle in the eye. Finally imagine it being said loudly and quickly with wide eyes.. you see what I mean, there’s just no way of knowing. Is this person really feeling put upon? Are they genuinely happy to work on it after the meeting tomorrow? Especially in the early stages of a project or a groups life, when people don’t really know each other well, it is impossible to infer the real intent of this kind of communication with email.
  • The next issue with email is that most email clients are not designed for the heavy use they get. In particular, it is hard to keep track of emails, to organise them so that you can keep relevant information together. You can contrive schemes using folders and inbox rules and subject line tags, but it is hard and you need discipline. I bet every person here has experienced not being able to find the one important email that you know you received that contains that essential account information, or the email you are convinced you sent telling your boss you needed the week around Christmas off. One of the most abused features of email that contributes to these organisational issues is the ‘reply To’ button. It should help – it should allow us to keep a thread, but email isn’t really designed for discussion. Each reply gets appended to a growing document that is sent backwards and forwards. Except where it isn’t appended because one party has thoughtfully decided to cut the old replies… but this means that you then have to keep all the old emails, some of them with a huge trail of discussion attached because now the latest ones don’t have… and the discussion has moved off onto something else, so the original subject line is no longer what the discussion is about. Again discipline and awareness of the issues helps, but it is the wrong tool for the job. Most companies email archives are their central knowledge base whether they know it or not.The last issue with email came up in the journal article I mentioned on team Conflict is simply differing expectations of team members in terms of how urgent it is to reply. This can be a big cause of stress! I’ve experienced it twice today already Document SharingThis is usually the other thing that groups and teams will have access to ‘The shared drive’ – put it on the network drive, or words to that effect. That is the limit of collaboration in many organisations. It’s shared, sharing implies collaboration right? Well it’s a start. What if they don’t have access to the network? What ifthey are on a linux PC and it’s a windows share? What if you map the drive as the ‘L’ drive and I map it is the ‘P’ drive? That’s going to give lots of people a headache. What about versions? The way most people work with word and spreadsheet type documents is that they work on them locally. Then they copy them to the shared location. This means that there are copies in various states all over the place. Yes there are technical solutions but just to be clear about what I’m driving at here – the tool here is the start not the end of the process of setting up a channel for collaboration. You can’t just throw tools to people and assume they’ll use them effectively. Let’s see what the alternatives to email and shared network drives can do for usWikisWikis are trendy right? We want to be trendy. Trendy is good. We need a wiki. If we get a wiki then we’ll all be able to share in a wonderful utopian sense of knowledge togetherness and collaboration. It’s amazing how often this happens. Wikis again are a useful tool. But they are also a quite geeky tool. They typically require use of a simple but arcane markup to format text, their structure should be designed and thought through and agreed upfront rather than allowed to simply evolve – otherwise navigating them can be a maze of blind-alleys, wrong turns and cul-de-sacs before you finally find what you want. There’s a big belief in crowd-sourcing at the moment, Second Life is one of the greatest examples of that, but relying on that approach to build your knowledge repository won’t succeed without a lot of process and structure.Forums – these are hugely popular in the dispersed internet communities, probably the single biggest way that knowledge is maintained and grows. 70% of the technical information I use daily comes from forums Weirdly, corporations don’t seem to have noticed this, certainly the ones I’ve had contact with. A forum where questions could be easily posed and answers delivered by anyone at any time would be a very valuable resource. One issue is that they are typically disconnected from other systems of knowledge sharing and collaboration, but the forum concept of allowing many responses and comments to follow an initial question is a very fundamental one for collaboration.Instant MessagingChat or IM is another essential in the armoury of collaboration tools. The perfect compliment to email, it gives a feeling of connectedness but doesn’t require quite the same level of focus or attention as a telephone call. Changing the channel from telephone to IM can often have a very marked effect on the dynamics of the communication. One story here might illustrate this:As a team leader for software development teams, one of the key rituals is the morning ‘standup’ meeting where everyone summarises what they did yesterday, what they plan to do today and anything that is stopping them from making progress. This absolutely essential element in the agile software development approach is hugely valuable if correctly managed and without doubt is a cornerstone of the success of many agile projects. But, it relies on having all the team members in one place. So what should you do if for some reason the team can’t all be together? Many many teams will face this challenge as offshore developers are used increasingly. When more than half of my team had to return to India to continue development, the ‘default’ assumption was that we’d use teleconferencing. And we started like this. Everyday we would have a teleconference to try to achieve the daily stand up aims. And everyday it was a battle and the amount of information communicated felt close to zero. Many of the reasons I have already mentioned when talking about teleconferencing – the Indian team members were clustered round a speaker phone at their end, it was hard to hear for everyone, the more confident would say a lot and those with poorer skills in English would say very little. They may have had problems that some of us could have helped with, but we didn’t get to know. So I swapped the channel. We had a daily IM chat conference instead. The difference took me totally by surprise. Firstly, there were no sound issues! For many of the participants their typing and written English was better than their spoken and using IM allowed a degree of time to compose and reflect. [[ If needed it would have allowed some of the text to be pre-prepared, although I don’t think that happened.]] By managing it just like a normal stand up, we went round giving everyone a chance to type their bit,and text chat acted as a leveller – the less confident said more and the more confident said less. And overall, despite needing to type their responses, people were more concise and succinct and the meeting took significantly less time than it had on the telephone. As an added bonus we had a chat transcript that I could email to everyone within seconds of the end of the meeting. Everyone agreed that it was a complete transformation for the better. It was the most convincing experience I have ever had of the importance of the channel.Twitter and status updates – powerful and underutilised. Google Wave – interesting, we’re all waiting to see
  • The next issue with email is that most email clients are not designed for the heavy use they get. In particular, it is hard to keep track of emails, to organise them so that you can keep relevant information together. You can contrive schemes using folders and inbox rules and subject line tags, but it is hard and you need discipline. I bet every person here has experienced not being able to find the one important email that you know you received that contains that essential account information, or the email you are convinced you sent telling your boss you needed the week around Christmas off. One of the most abused features of email that contributes to these organisational issues is the ‘reply To’ button. It should help – it should allow us to keep a thread, but email isn’t really designed for discussion. Each reply gets appended to a growing document that is sent backwards and forwards. Except where it isn’t appended because one party has thoughtfully decided to cut the old replies… but this means that you then have to keep all the old emails, some of them with a huge trail of discussion attached because now the latest ones don’t have… and the discussion has moved off onto something else, so the original subject line is no longer what the discussion is about. Again discipline and awareness of the issues helps, but it is the wrong tool for the job. Most companies email archives are their central knowledge base whether they know it or not.The last issue with email came up in the journal article I mentioned on team Conflict is simply differing expectations of team members in terms of how urgent it is to reply. This can be a big cause of stress! I’ve experienced it twice today already Document SharingThis is usually the other thing that groups and teams will have access to ‘The shared drive’ – put it on the network drive, or words to that effect. That is the limit of collaboration in many organisations. It’s shared, sharing implies collaboration right? Well it’s a start. What if they don’t have access to the network? What ifthey are on a linux PC and it’s a windows share? What if you map the drive as the ‘L’ drive and I map it is the ‘P’ drive? That’s going to give lots of people a headache. What about versions? The way most people work with word and spreadsheet type documents is that they work on them locally. Then they copy them to the shared location. This means that there are copies in various states all over the place. Yes there are technical solutions but just to be clear about what I’m driving at here – the tool here is the start not the end of the process of setting up a channel for collaboration. You can’t just throw tools to people and assume they’ll use them effectively. Let’s see what the alternatives to email and shared network drives can do for usWikisWikis are trendy right? We want to be trendy. Trendy is good. We need a wiki. If we get a wiki then we’ll all be able to share in a wonderful utopian sense of knowledge togetherness and collaboration. It’s amazing how often this happens. Wikis again are a useful tool. But they are also a quite geeky tool. They typically require use of a simple but arcane markup to format text, their structure should be designed and thought through and agreed upfront rather than allowed to simply evolve – otherwise navigating them can be a maze of blind-alleys, wrong turns and cul-de-sacs before you finally find what you want. There’s a big belief in crowd-sourcing at the moment, Second Life is one of the greatest examples of that, but relying on that approach to build your knowledge repository won’t succeed without a lot of process and structure.Forums – these are hugely popular in the dispersed internet communities, probably the single biggest way that knowledge is maintained and grows. 70% of the technical information I use daily comes from forums Weirdly, corporations don’t seem to have noticed this, certainly the ones I’ve had contact with. A forum where questions could be easily posed and answers delivered by anyone at any time would be a very valuable resource. One issue is that they are typically disconnected from other systems of knowledge sharing and collaboration, but the forum concept of allowing many responses and comments to follow an initial question is a very fundamental one for collaboration.Instant MessagingChat or IM is another essential in the armoury of collaboration tools. The perfect compliment to email, it gives a feeling of connectedness but doesn’t require quite the same level of focus or attention as a telephone call. Changing the channel from telephone to IM can often have a very marked effect on the dynamics of the communication. One story here might illustrate this:As a team leader for software development teams, one of the key rituals is the morning ‘standup’ meeting where everyone summarises what they did yesterday, what they plan to do today and anything that is stopping them from making progress. This absolutely essential element in the agile software development approach is hugely valuable if correctly managed and without doubt is a cornerstone of the success of many agile projects. But, it relies on having all the team members in one place. So what should you do if for some reason the team can’t all be together? Many many teams will face this challenge as offshore developers are used increasingly. When more than half of my team had to return to India to continue development, the ‘default’ assumption was that we’d use teleconferencing. And we started like this. Everyday we would have a teleconference to try to achieve the daily stand up aims. And everyday it was a battle and the amount of information communicated felt close to zero. Many of the reasons I have already mentioned when talking about teleconferencing – the Indian team members were clustered round a speaker phone at their end, it was hard to hear for everyone, the more confident would say a lot and those with poorer skills in English would say very little. They may have had problems that some of us could have helped with, but we didn’t get to know. So I swapped the channel. We had a daily IM chat conference instead. The difference took me totally by surprise. Firstly, there were no sound issues! For many of the participants their typing and written English was better than their spoken and using IM allowed a degree of time to compose and reflect. [[ If needed it would have allowed some of the text to be pre-prepared, although I don’t think that happened.]] By managing it just like a normal stand up, we went round giving everyone a chance to type their bit,and text chat acted as a leveller – the less confident said more and the more confident said less. And overall, despite needing to type their responses, people were more concise and succinct and the meeting took significantly less time than it had on the telephone. As an added bonus we had a chat transcript that I could email to everyone within seconds of the end of the meeting. Everyone agreed that it was a complete transformation for the better. It was the most convincing experience I have ever had of the importance of the channel.Twitter and status updates – powerful and underutilised. Google Wave – interesting, we’re all waiting to see
  • Growing fastShared whiteboarding, better / easier than RL – very collaborative (Pictionary in SL)Video Conference – Issues with camera position / resolution / sound, tendency to form two camps, lack of other forms of tool available at the same time
  • Study in British Journal of Educational Technology found:ICT played a dual role in conflict management of teams
  • Anecdote about WebEx and screen sharing…Irony of the power means you don’t question that everyone is having the same experience when maybe you should
  • I too get all misty eyes and dreamy and carried away with the freedom for creative expression, the wondrous possibilities, the untapped genius in everyone that SL has the power to unlock. I’ve also learned that a lot of people don’t, and I don’t want to ignore them. We need to help them and listen to them.Familiar environments reduce the culture shock and can enhance usabilityEnsure they increase rather than decrease usability.No point in adding lots of non-functioning stuff
  • Roobaab is about bringing people together without needing to bring them togetherShare knowledge with public, community/team, subgroupsMake that information available on the web, mobile devices, rss, twitterCollaborate how you want when you wantFully hostedVery easy to use for less technicalNo self-assembly required!
  • Note additional logged in features:Task ListsOnline IndicatorMessaging – Contact other users with Email, twitter, SMS\\sbility to add and edit content subject to your permissions level
  • So far so CMS, although very easy to use and clean.Then – Twitter update when content is added / modifiedDaily email digest of new content
  • Compared to other efforts to bring people together in virtual environments, we start from the web, allowing the launching of virtual meetings when they are useful and needed
  • We’re just getting started with Roobaab.Lots more to comeIM built in

Transcript

  • 1. Channels of Collaboration
    Neil Canham
    Co-Founder, Flying Island
  • 2.
  • 3.
  • 4.
  • 5.
  • 6.
  • 7.
  • 8.
  • 9.
  • 10.
  • 11.
  • 12.
  • 13.
  • 14.
  • 15. Overview
    What is Collaboration?
    Channels and Modes
    Tools
    Conflict
    Immersive Environments
    Why Roobaab?
  • 16. What is Collaboration?
    Collaboration is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together in an intersection of common goals — for example, an intellectual endeavour that is creative in nature—by sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus.
    Wikipedia
  • 17.
  • 18. What is Collaboration?
    Collaborate
    to work jointly on an activity or project
    Compact Oxford English Dictionary
  • 19. Collaborative Software
    software designed to help people involved in a common task achieve their goals… The design intent is to transform the way documents and rich media are shared in order to enable more effective team collaboration…
    Wikipedia
  • 20. Everyone’s Everywhere
    Most groupware used by colocatedstaff
    “Yeah, just put it on the network drive. You look puzzled. Ok I’ll come and do it for you”
    Collaboration systems only get tested when there are no other channels
    Ease of use and reliability become key
    Timezones, Languages
  • 21. Communication - Collaboration
    Communication is not collaboration
    It’s what you do with it that counts
    Discussion might be collaboration
    Mode of communication
    Synchronous vs Asynchronous
    Do you NEED synchronous?
    Sometimes asynchronous can be more valuable
  • 22. Channels
    Ways to pass information
    Tools for sharing information
    Modes
    Channel of Collaboration?
  • 23. Voice
    Synchronous
    Telephone / teleconference
    VoIP
    Broadcast / streaming (one way)
    Asynchronous
    Voicemail
    Podcast
  • 24. Text
    Synchronous
    Instant Message
    Shared Editing
    Asynchronous
    Email
    Shared Document repository
    Wikis, Forums, Twitter
  • Missing Cues…
    “Sure. I have all the time in the world, I’d love to do all the work and you all can just sit back and take the credit! That just sounds wonderful. Just kidding, it doesn’t really sound wonderful, but I don’t see why that wouldn’t work. I can work on it tomorrow night when we are done with our meeting.”
  • 27. Text
    Synchronous
    Instant Message
    Shared Editing
    Asynchronous
    Email
    Shared Document repository
    Wikis, Forums, Twitter
  • 30.
  • 31.
  • 32.
  • 33. Text
    Synchronous
    Instant Message
    Shared Editing
    Asynchronous
    Email
    Shared Document repository
    Wikis, Forums, Twitter
  • Change the Channel!
    Changing the main channel will have profound effects on group dynamics
    Don’t be afraid to change
    A more restricted channel might be a good thing!
  • 36. Diagrams, Pictures, Video
    Synchronous
    Shared whiteboard / desktop
    Web camera
    Video conference
    Asynchronous
    Picture archive (Flickr)
    Video clip / screen cam (YouTube)
  • 37. Conflict?
    Good
    Effective, efficient communications
    Time for thoughtful reaction and reflection
    Bad
    Enforced strategies for use
    Easier to be blunt / forthright / ambiguous
    Mixed sense of urgency for response
  • 38. Channel of Collaboration
    Communications channel with attitude… as long as it’s the right attitude!
  • 39. Collaboration is
    Tools
    +
    Shared Goals
    +
    Agreed Process
  • 40.
  • 41. Doing stuff together?
    Virtual Worlds
    Persistent Immersive Environments (PIE)
    Powerful sense of place
    Palpable, inescapable sense of sharing
    Building, Watching, Listening, Being TOGETHER
    Togethering?
  • 42. Make it Simple!
    Acknowledge Corporate / occasional users
    Familiar environments
    Intuitive tools to enhance sharing and immersion
    The Principle of Least Surprise
  • 43. Roobaab
    Make it really easy to share and collaborate
    You choose when and how you want to collaborate
    Provide really useful tools
    Bring the team together without bringing the team together
  • 44.
  • 45.
  • 46.
  • 47.
  • 48.
  • 49.
  • 50.
  • 51.
  • 52.
  • 53.
  • 54.
  • 55.
  • 56.
  • 57.
  • 58. Not the end
    There may be no ‘I’ in TEAM
    but
    You can’t take the Labor out of Collaboration
    For more info on Roobaab or a demo of any of the tools in this presentation contact Richard Meiklejohn in SL, or email neil@knowsense.co.uk