Writely or Wrongly, a Failing Grade, So Far, for a Promising Tool

Last Sunday (August 27) I published an essay entitled Social Networking: Why are Conversation and Collaboration Tools so Underused? and encouraged readers to sign up to edit the document using Writely instead of using the comments thread to note their comments. Thirty-one people requested and were granted permission to edit it, and twelve people added their comments. The collective work-product is shown, without further editing from me, below.

My comments on the process, the tool, and the resultant product:

  • Permissioning people to edit is a bit cumbersome — some people have special e-mails for Writely and were unable to use the permission I gave them because it was for a different e-mail address. Unlike a wiki, you cannot grant blanket permission to everyone to edit a document. There is no facility for automatic notification and yes/no one-click authorization when someone reads a public Writely document and wants permission to edit it.
  • Editing a document is easier and more intuitive using Writely than using most (but not all) wiki tools. The newest wiki tools are very close to WYSIWYG editing and avoid the cumbersome non-HTML []-delimited markup language, and are more powerful than Writely. 
  • The collective work-product of Writely, like that of most wiki tools, is truly ugly unless some uber-editor comes in and does clean-up work. Same is true in my experience  with eRooms, Lotus TeamRooms, and Groove. I want to try BaseCamp since a couple of editors seem to find it more intuitive and the resultant work-product less messy and anarchic. I also want to learn more about BlackBoard.
  • It is almost impossible to decipher who made what changes. While some editors’ changes are colour-coded, others are not. I deliberately didn’t prescribe any protocols (“groundrules”), including protocols for editors to identify themselves in some unique way (I naively hoped some standard protocols would just ’emerge’ from a self-managed process), so perhaps I deserve what I got, but there are ways to make this process cleaner and more organized. Yule, for example, talks about diigo, which, rather than allowing carte blanche editing of the document, allows permissioned editors to add annotations to any snippet of text in a document. Diigo users can then see, via coloured underlining, what snippets of a document have been annotated, and by hovering the cursor over the underlining, can see the details of the annotations (in a thread — others can comments on previous annotations), automatically ‘signed’ and dated by diigo. This is a much more elegant way to see the ‘conversation’ that emerges around a document than Writely or wikis. However, diigo is not designed to create a final collaborate work-product per se, and getting set up on diigo the first time through is really tedious.
  • It doesn’t appear that any editors of this document actually deleted anything. That’s a good thing, because there doesn’t seem to be any ‘trail’ to show deletions, other than performing a painstaking comparison of two or more versions of the document. Microsoft Word’s edit mode, by contrast, which allows a document to be routed through several editors and the original author to see each editor’s changes blacklined (and deletions shown in strike-through text style), and then allows changes to be approved either one-at-a-time or all-at-once, seems better suited to disciplined editing of a document.
  • I tried to provide a specific ‘space’ (following the 7 bulleted questions at the end of the original document) for editors to put their comments in. Most editors stuck to these areas, but others, probably used to the free rein of wikis, made changes throughout the document. That’s probably just as well, because the area I provided ended up looking really, well, congested, after a dozen people had appended their comments. Formatting got messed up easily and unintentionally. The edits made outside of the designated ‘area’ are actually cleaner, and easier to follow and read.
  • One editor commented that while s/he was editing this document, Writely noted that another editor was simultaneously editing it, and wished it were possible to ‘watch’ another person editing the document before editing it oneself. This gets back, I think, to the fact that we learn best by doing, next-best by watching a master, and least by being told what to do (in instructional materials and training sessions).
  • My bottom line: I’m not inclined to adopt Writely as a tool for collaborative blogging, or even as a substitute for a wiki. I do, however, believe Google has good instincts, and they probably sense that, at present, Writely is not ready for prime time. That means they’ll either make some improvements, most likely making it simpler to use (that’s what they do best) even at the expense of reducing functionality. They’ll also likely embed it in other Google apps, increasing user familiarity with it (and perhaps making it easier for a lot of non-techies to grasp and start using wikis as well). I see the final version of Writely as being a stripped-down, intuitive type of wiki. And if Google can’t make it that, it justifiably won’t make it out of their lab.

The document as it stands on September 1, after editing by 12 people:

chairsSocial Networking: Why are Conversation and Collaboration Tools so Underused?
ou’ve seen it a million times: At a meeting with a dozen people, some of them take notes and others don’t, and if you have a chance to see the notes afterwards you wonder if the people were actually at the same meeting. The people connected in by phone or online were even more clued out, somehow missing everything important that came out of the meeting. And a month later, the minutes of the meeting come out, and you read them and ask yourself: When during the meeting did we agree to do that?

One of the purposes of the new flood of social networking tools is to try to organize, facilitate and improve the effectiveness of conversations and collaborative activities. The power and promise of these tools was and is considerable, and a year ago Steve Barth even predicted the demise of group e-mails (in favour of next-gen wikis and other more dynamic tools). But most of these tools remain underused, or hardly used at all. The following table is my rough take on current usage of these tools:

Used by Most People Used by Those on the Right Side of the Digital Divide Only (say, 20%) Used by Power Internet Users Only
 (say, 2%)
  • telephone
  • group e-mail
  • face-to-face meetings without any personal documentation of learnings or decisions
  • skype and other free global enhanced VOIP telephony tools
  • discussion forums/groups
  • weblogs
  • face-to-face meetings with personal notes or mindmap documentation
  • instant messaging
  • research on the Web
  • free VoIP voice and video conferencing
  • free telephone conferencing
  • collaborative writing (like this)
  • wikis
  • google writely and other online document sharing tools
  • sophisticated collaboration & coordination tools and ‘spaces’
  • face-to-face meetings using Open Space or other advanced highly-effective conversation and collaboration techniques
  • using tags to look into the minds of others (e.g. Delicious)

What’s happening here? I think there are seven main reasons for this underutilization:

  1. Most people are still unfamiliar with the tools in the middle and right columns. 
  2. Many of these tools are unintuitive and hence not easy to learn to use. 
  3. The way you have to use these tools is not the way most people converse and collaborate, i.e. they’re awkward.
  4. Most people have poor listening, communication and collaboration skills, and these tools don’t solve (and can exacerbate) this underlying problem of ineffective interpersonal skills.
  5. The training materials for these tools don’t match the way most of us learn and discover (i.e. by doing, by watching others, and iteratively by trial and error).
  6. Often the people we most want to converse or collaborate with aren’t online.
  7. Often we don’t even know who the right people are to converse or collaborate with, so we need to go through a process of discovering who those people are first, which these tools cannot yet effectively help us with; once we’ve discovered who the right people are, we’re likely already talking with them using the ubiquitous tools in the left column above.
  8. We are not accustomed to learning with others. Traditional schooling rewards individual effort (e.g. you take the test by yourself).

In many cases the cost of limiting our conversations and collaborations to the 20% or 2% of people who can effectively use these tools is just too high, so we revert to the lowest-common-denominator tools in the left column above.

But the consequence of this is suboptimal conversations and collaborations: A lot of wasted time, high travel cost, a great deal of miscommunication and non-communication, misunderstandings about what has been learned and decided, great ideas and important information not heard or not used, learnings and information lost or forgotten, and collaborations dominated by the loudest or most powerful instead of drawing on the best from all participants.

Many people seem to believe the answer is to make the tools better and wait for the rest of the world (or the next generation) to catch up with the 2% or 20%. But I’m not so sure. The digital divide seems to grow ever wider, not narrower, and if a tool as simple, free and intuitive as Skype can’t replace the telephone even for tech-savvy users, what hope is there for more complicated, sophisticated tools?

And while better education and training in conversational and collaboration skills, and in the use of enabling tools, would certainly help, my guess is that we’re too busy, or don’t consider it urgent or important enough, to make acquiring these skills and tool familiarity a priority, so it just ain’t going to happen. A generation from now someone will write an article very much like this one, and nothing will have changed.

So let’s try an experiment in online collaboration, using Google Writely, one of the right-column tools, and see if we can come up, through conversation and collaboration, with some better answers, or at least an understanding of why social networking tools aren’t going to change the world. You can find a copy of this article on Google Writely here. If you want to participate in this conversation and collaboration, here’s what to do:

  1. Send me an e-mail so that I can give you editing rights to the Writely document.
  2. On the editable Writely version, help create a conversation around the five questions I’ve asked below by answering them right in the document, any way that makes sense to you, and let’s see whether, by using this tool and putting our heads together, in a self-organizing way, we can turn this post into something powerful that will guide social networking tool designers and teach us all how to be more effective communicators and collaborators.

As long as it isn’t a dog’s breakfast, once everyone has had their say, I will replace this version with the collaborative Writely version here on the blog. If it turns out really well, I may make this standard procedure on many of my blog posts.

Time for your say (to get round the writely formatting issues – I’ve changed over to bullet points):

  • Why are conversation and collaboration tools so underused? Is my list of 7 reasons missing anything? Are any of the reasons predominant?  See below, response to first Q#2.

        I would expand on point 4 above and say that the majority of people do not realise there a need to collaborate more effectively.

Here are some suggested additions to your list of 7:

  • When faced with the choice of learning new technology and chatting to colleagues on the phone and email to get a job done, if it can be done with what they already know they will go with that;
  • I think collaboration tools work best when your collaborators are geographically distributed and in other time zones and I wonder how many teams have that as a situation? Sure, globalisation is spreading and small, nimble operators are connecting using these tools, but how many large corporations are active users? I know IBM is and I would imagine technology firms would be at the vanguard. I was surprised however when PriceWaterhouseCoopers consultants arrived in IBM because there were unfamiliar with collaboration tools and disinterested in using them.
  • Collaboration between people in one organization who are not geographically distributed can also be difficult due to differences along generational lines.  In my workplace there is a much older generation with a member who we just got to agree to use email about a year ago.  This year, my organization is introducing the use of ‘Blackboard’ (a course management system for educational institutions) and many of the older generation are just ignoring it.- Blackboard is a terrific tool and easily learned, they are being stubborn.  They have successfully been teaching courses for many, many years without the use of this technology – why change now?  I believe that it is the problem of being able to see the benefits of it without first having used it.
  • It works best when all the collaborators are equally enthusiastic and capable in using the tool. It just takes a handful of influential members of a team to stop using the tool for the tool to be abandoned.
  • The majority of people in organisations are baby boomers (I’m not sure this is true) and haven’t been brought up in environment using collaboration tools. I was in a pub the other day meeting our complexity group and I overheard a small group of people in their 20s and 30s talking about the MySpace interactions. These people already know how to use the tools and will expect them in the workplace.
    • Related point: most collaboration tools’ basic concepts don’t immediately strike people (especially those some of those older than 30) as helpful. “Let other people edit MY document? Why would I ever do that? See other people’s bookmarks? Who cares?” It takes time to realize their power. There’s a learning curve not just for the software, but for the idea itself. You kind of have to drag them through the mud for a few weeks. They pout. “Why am I doing this?” Eventually, they get it. But in the time it takes to make them get it, they drop like flies. I am new to this tool, so your note really applies to me. Great point! -Kay 8/29/06, 2:11pm 
    • Another related point: the MySpace interactions are social interactions.  People feel differently about workplace interactions – they are more ‘serious’ or ‘important’ somehow.  If you have written something down (in a document such as this, for example) there is the sense that it is more legally binding when you’re in a workplace situation.

  • Is the answer making the tools better? If so, how? If not, what is the answer?  Well, I can’t help noticing that my editing of this document is messing up your format (numbering, etc.).  Eg., if I try to hit “return” before typing my answer, I add another numbered item to this list, for example, and right now I see that instead of the original 1, 2, 3, 4 itemisation, I’ve somehow jammed it to create 1, 2, 1, 2…  I do think it’s little things like this that really end up putting people off.  KISS — not a bad leitmotif…  Good user interface is crucially important — that doesn’t mean that crap with bad UI will fail (unfortunately, it won’t), but that it’s very important to stress good UI.  (I recommend Donald Norman’s book, Things that make us smart. Thanks for the tip on book.  What’s bad about writely, BTW, is that you need to know that you have to pull down the “file” tab and click on “view as web page” before you get to see this page as a link, and it’s not even that “smooth” a matter to create the link in the first place (sometimes it ends cleanly, other times it wants to continue into the text you continue typing ad infinitum…) (You can also click the ‘Preview’ link at the top to get a quick preview – Marg :o)
Writely does have some constraints, but leaving that aside, I would share my experience of using basecamp as a collaborative tool for a project recently – between around 15 different parties in around 8 different companies. The tools were ok but there were a number of issues (mainly around the retrieval of documents that had been submitted and the volume of material being posted becoming unwieldy). Primarily the failure of the setting of any ground rules and the presence of a number of key influencers in the group who had not bought into the necessity of the concept hijacked the success of the project.  A number of users went mad publishing too much and others never logged in at all.  Once the key influencers made it clear that they did not support the method, it fell by the wayside.
I think we need to make tools that operate in ways we are familiar using. People are all learning to use browsers so our tools should be browser based. I think we should stop encouraging people to use a new tool and just send them a URL and say, we are going to share our documents here, feel free to update the calendar and let people go for it. By saying it’s a new tool that will make your life better people put up the shutters; “I’m too busy to learn something new.” Yet learning something new is fun
For many people, it’s a deeper issue than user-friendly tools. A pariticpant in one of my workshops on learning with web 2.0 asked me why he should bother reading other people’s blogs. And why share his knowledge on his blog? The fellow did not understand the concepts of the power of diverse viewpoints, the wisdom of the group, learning beyond just the facts, or the notion of karma. People are reluctant to change unless they can answer the ago-old questions of What’s in it for me?

  • Given time, do you think people will eventually learn to use these tools, despite their shortcomings? Which tools, current or envisioned, will be the winners, the killer apps for online-enabled conversation and collaboration, and why?  Depends on what you want to do; I’ve used writely to share meeting minutes with people at my kids’s distance ed. school, and they like writely fine for that, but they don’t use it for their own projects.  Why not?  I don’t know.  Perhaps because they can’t see how/ why they should or could use it?  On the other hand, my son and I have used writely for months to collaborate on his English assignments/ his “think pieces,” and he likes using it very much.  At the same time, there are plenty of “youth” in his youth group who know nothing about any of these “collaborative” tools, and who couldn’t care less.  I think most of everything depends on what people are carrying around in their heads in the first place.  Many people carry … well, the mental equivalent of Jersey barriers.    
    As for killer apps, one of my favourites at this time has to be diigo.com, which lets me bookmark & annotate my online research, PLUS share it with those who need to be in on the loop.
    Content volume is what kills all these collaboration tools. I have used Lotus Teamrooms, Groove, Basecamp and in each case when the volume of the content becomes unweildy the users stop using. Considerable effort is required to clean out the material, archive it, highlight what’s important and bring to people’s attention the key things to notice. At the moment I favour web-based tools like basecamp because of their keep it simple philosophy and the fact it’s browser-based (see my comment above) which every net user knows how to use.
    Anything is possible. Remember the days when executives thought it undignified to touch a keyboard? Or when people could not imagine buying anything on the net? As recently as ten years ago, CIOs were debating if the net would ever amount to anything.
  • What one simple thing should we do/learn to most effectively enable people to become better conversationalists, and how would we do this?
Better conversation comes from listening consciously, not waiting for a gap in the conversation to stick in your own point.  I’m not overly keen on Edward de Bono’s ‘6 thinking hats’ method, but the theory which backs up his method is fairly sound.  I’m a believer in setting ground rules early on in any process though and exploring why a project/conversation/whatever is happening.  Knowing what the key drivers or motivations for each stakeholder is makes eventual decision making more transparent and accountable (apologies – that sounds ridiculously MBA waffle, feel free to edit into ‘real’ english)
In addition to listening I think knowing how to craft and ask good questions which encourage people to converse is essential. I like asking questions that elicit stories such as “What happened?” or “When was the team at its best?”
One must respect the group more than oneself.
  • What one simple thing should we do/learn to most effectively enable people to become better collaborators, and how would we do this?
    Focus on the practice of collaboration and only introduce tools when the need arises. For example, a research group might think a new ways to harness energy from heat is a promising research project. They start off chatting on the phone, sending emails to one another and then someone says: “It would be good if we could track the versions on this document we are creating.” That’s the point a tool should be introduced. I would run a poster campaign in an organisation with the title “Avoid using collaboration tools for as long as possible” and then use the rest of the poster to describe the signs the team should look out for to introduce effective tools. Put practice and process before tools.

I managed to reformat the list so that Nelles’s edits didn’t create new numbered list elements by going into the html view. I note the html for this document does not contain any html paragraph tags, and that new ‘paragraphs’ are created simply by inserting break tags. By the way, the html appears to be xhtml 1.0 transitional, though it’s not a perfect match to the spec. I don’t want to discuss the issues with Writely per se, though the lack of paragraph tags is worrisome to me.

I think your seven main reasons are spot on. Learning how to use such tools never seems urgent, and there are always workarounds (like sending an email) that get the immediate task done. One addition I might suggest is that such tools acquire value only after being used for some time and generating a corpus of materials, as in, a one or two page wiki is useless.

1. Why are conversation and collaboration tools so underused? Is my list of 7 reasons missing anything? Are any of the reasons predominant?
– I’ve just completed a 3 workshop series on communicating and collaborating online using tools available in an LMS, as well extending the conversation into social web tools. To paraphrase one fo the comments of a teacher participating in the workshop: “I always switch off when hearing about these types of tools, because i always assumed they were for ‘geeks’ or techies! But today, you’ve shown me how they can be used in a teaching and learning context and I can see their possibilities now.” Excellent point – the tools ARE becoming easier to use.
– I think its partly a contextual thing that people/educators don’t go for communication/collaboration tools, to a degree. As the teacher above says, tools work and are relevant when applied in contexts they understand and are familiar with. Sometimes it’s knowing where to start and what’s out there. Working examples of tools is often a good way to ‘hook’ people in to learn and try more.
– In my workshops I used Gilly Salmon’s 5 stage model of e-moderation to underpin methods of developing communication and online interaction, although I’m not 100% convinced the model applies across all forms of collaboration, especially social software with its democractic bent its most pervasive feature. In addition to this observation, I’m reminded of Nelson Mandela’s inaugural presidential speech where he speaks about humanity not belittling itself, or thinking we are not worthy of great things being ‘small’ human beings. With this in mind, I reflect on the way we are schooled to communicate and that is to not buck the system, to respect our elders and not answer back. How can the democratic forms of collaboration and communication be easily taken up if this is how we have been formed socially?
In addressing your 7 points Dave, I have these things to say:
–> yes these tools are still unfamiliar to the majority (as per the teacher’s comment above)
–> my view is that these ‘new’ tools are intuitive but we remain stuck in our habits and often don’t trust our intuition (especially in oppressive workplaces for example). There is nothing more disappointing than a teacher using something like a wiki to demand students engage in the same way they demand their attention in a classroom, on an activity that just simply does not interest them. Teachers using Blackboard (for example) is how I was introduced to it. It is a great tool and agree students must choose to use. How to develop the interest? Good question! Developing interest is about going to where people are currently at. What I mean is, start with something people are familiar with (that’s why storytelling is a good ice breaker, people love hearing and telling stories!). This applies to teachers who are developing online subjects/interactions. Kathy Sierra talks about engaging the brain rather than the mind…we are motivated by interest rather than the little voice inside us that says “you must get this done, it’s important” – we need to FEEL the importance in our bodies to really move us to do the things we love to do! I worked with a lecturer in inclusive education who used to use the phrase “create cognitive conflict in students” – he wanted to challenge students to step out of their comfort zone. We need to do this with teachers and learners I think.
–> I don’t think tools can be awkward, more that we feel awkward using them, because, perhaps, they allow us so much more freedom than we are used to and demand a sense of openness from us in order for the tool to be an effective aid for our activities.
–> we continually find ourselves less able to communicate and collaborate in an everchanging world where technology has sped up our lives and we seem to not be able to find ways to learn from this and adapt accordingly. Ulises Mejias wrote a thoughtful paper for First Monday called Reapproaching nearness (2005) (which I find myself consistently referring to!), again – thank you for the reference –  in which Mejias discusses the relinquishing of the body, forgotten in our more virtual experiences and how this also potentially disconnects us from the world around us and Self and Other. Mejias argues that technology can in fact bring us closer to the Other (those in which we would perhaps normally talk about, rather than with) and thus make communication (including online communication) more relevant.

For instance, talking with the Other online reduces irrelevancy to a greater degree than giving a lecture about the Other in front of a live audience. Therein lies the possibility for using technology to increase relevancy, a possibility that is further explored below [2005, para:18].

–> indeed, training in these tools doesn’t match the ways in which we learn, especially if you consider that the ways in which we learn are changing as well! We are trying to train with the expectation that our learners are homogenous groups and we don’t need to think about each learner’s personal experience of that training. A question I would add here is this: are we training for the tool or training people to discover innovative uses of the tool to satisfy a need or satiate curiousity? There is always a tension between teaching and technology that is both positive and negative: the tools can push us to change the ways we do things just as the pedagogy can inform good practice uses of technology.
–> online communication and those who we want to communicate with may not necessary be online as you point out. However, I think we shouldn’t dismiss tools that link us to others simply because they don’t Skype or IM! It is not always necessary to replace existing tools with online tools. The serendipity with which online tools allow for communication is also one of its strengths I find!

All in all, it comes back to our attitudes and the ways in which we accept the systems and administrative features of our working lives (seeing as this is the place/activity we seem to come back to in these discussions). Watching young children handle technology is an eye-opener. They show no fear and much curiousity. Perhaps these tools will find more use in their hands – if we let it happen?

This is my first use of Writely. I want to make collaboration work. But I’m a messy writer – sometimes doing too much self editing – sometimes not enough. So I begin adding comments to comments already made. The tool does not show me where my edits were added. I’m wondering if changing the font color is something I must do? I expected my edits and comments to show up similar to Kay’s. So I bolded them. How did you do that Kay? Or is the proper way to copy the intitial questions into this new box? Which seems a long way around for the person who finally pulls it all together. I’m going with my 2nd choice –  making work for  Dave :)

  1. Most people are still unfamiliar with the tools in the middle and right columns. – 
    • That pretty much says it – no need to expand this point other than the unfamilar becomes familiar after use. Most of us don’t understand collaboration because have not been exposed to it. 
  2. Many of these tools are unintuitive and hence not easy to learn to use.
    • While it seems contradictory to my statement above, I tend to disagree. I used my intuition to get to this point. Whether I’m using the tool rightly or wrongly, the tool is allowing me to put thoughts down. Intuition tells me if allowed – it must work and I must be doing something correctly. It took a minute or two but I am using the tool. Came back today to check on progress – to see – and I begin to get the hang of it. This tool has a learning curve. Its messy – not a bad thing. Understanding how to make sense of it all does not seem very intuitive.
  3. The way you have to use these tools is not the way most people converse and collaborate, i.e. they’re awkward.
    • It certainly is awkward. I feel because we – at least in US – are not used to it. Will we ever be comfortable (less awkward)? With exposure and practice – yes. I might be one of the few who actually enjoy the way my group converses and collaborates. I might not always agree but there IS a degree of enjoyment.
  4. Most people have poor listening, communication and collaboration skills, and these tools don’t solve (and can exacerbate) this underlying problem of ineffective interpersonal skills.
    • I might be one of the most classic example of falling short in these skills. But one ability of humans is to improve skills with practice. We do it by leading, loving, and learning. By helping one another to succeed.
  5. The training materials for these tools don’t match the way most of us learn and discover (i.e. by doing, by watching others, and iteratively by trial and error).
    • I hate reading through training materials. But I love learning and discovering ways to do things. Philip is also editing this document the entire time I have been working on this document – it would be very cool to see what Philip is writing. It would be great to see what his editing looks like, in process. This is a great point – I feel the central point of the argument, David.
  6. Often the people we most want to converse or collaborate with aren’t online.
    • Not sure that matters? I’d consider losing this point unless I’m totally unclear on the concept.
  7. Often we don’t even know who the right people are to converse or collaborate with, so we need to go through a process of discovering who those people are first, which these tools cannot yet effectively help us with; once we’ve discovered who the right people are, we’re likely already talking with them using the ubiquitous tools in the left column above.
    • I feel ubiquitous tools are worthy in many cases. The tool we are using here won’t help us find the right people unless a stream of thought catches the authors eye. If this tool is meant to aid in discovery maybe its good and maybe its not.

The following statement reminds me of the miserable failed attempt at conversion to the metric system in the US – replace conversational and collaboration skills with metric conversion…though I’m not convinced we are too busy. I tend to believe it is a priority question.
And while better education and training in conversational and collaboration skills, and in the use of enabling tools, would certainly help, my guess is that we’re too busy, or don’t consider it urgent or important enough, to make acquiring these skills and tool familiarity a priority, so it just ain’t going to happen. A generation from now someone will write an article very much like this one, and nothing will have changed.

I don’t see the equivalence between getting better at collaboration and conversation and metric conversion. Also, at least in Silicon Valley, I see a lot of adoption of these tools and methodologies in both technology and political organizing. So I guess I am much more optimistic. Wikis and blogs are only ten years old, it normally takes about 30 years for an invention to get widely adopted.

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5 Responses to Writely or Wrongly, a Failing Grade, So Far, for a Promising Tool

  1. There is a much simpler explanation: Most people are lazy and only care about paying their mortage. Since they are not interested in improving themselves, these tools fall short.

  2. Pearl says:

    It could be a factor or email that people don’t know how to use it. Some check email only once or twice a week so in reply of haste they throw a water cannon of answers without reading the question. It’s hard to dialogue for some people without body language, tone adn facial expression and it makes it intimidating.this is a interesting article too: http://www.pointlesswasteoftime.com/misery.html

  3. Bruce Wilson says:

    Very Interesting discussion.Last year I helped found an online collaborative citizen journalism project called ePluribus Media ( also see : http://scoop.epluribusmedia.org/ ). Originally, I was very taken by the power of software for online collaboration, and I’ve even learned to use and even develop collaborative software ( “Scoop”, and “Netroots” ), but now – a year and a half later and several online projects down the road ( for example, Talk To Action ) – my perspective has shifted considerably. I haven’t updated the piece in a few months but I posted a piece, originally in spring, 2005 and later updated and posted late spring 2006 on “Political Cortex” ( a collaborative journalism/bogging site ), on my reflections about online collaboration : ‘The Fog Of Net’( from my intro ) “In the Spring of last year I became involved in an effort that become known as ePluribus Media: I helped shape the organizational framework, recruit members, and envision the direction of the effort and movement. I left for financial reasons but subsequently wrote up an analysis based on that experience – concerning the difficulties inherent in distributed online collaborative efforts – that I dubbed ‘Fog of Net’. It was actually titled ‘Sun Tzu Meets The Wikipedia: Can It be done ?’ “

  4. Bruce Wilson says:

    Also – I like your blog. I’ve bookmarked it.

  5. Jay Cross says:

    Dave, I concur with your observations about Writely but come to a different conclusion. I have little experience with collaborative writing, and I found the Writely exercise great for learning. The need to weigh one another’s thoughts highlights them in memory. And one’s own writing requires forming conclusions. The tool may be flawed but it’s a long way from passing around pieces of paper.

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