Conceptualizing collaboration software: What do we actually "do" in there?

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Jonathan Eyler-Werve, Global Integrity

Session Description

While "collaboration" "tools" "portals" and "forums" spring up like weeds, it's often hard to define exactly they "do". In this session we'll break collaboration into three function areas that all teams must perform successfully to get work done (relationships, accountability, knowledge). The goal of this session is to provide a analysis framework to understand collaboration tools and better apply them to specific, solvable problems.

Session Notes

- there is an "epic graveyard of intention and ego" of online collaboration platforms

- often collaboration platforms are created without a real world need or an active community

- "no one likes building a $100,000 website that no one is going to use" like "the next facebook of X"

- How do you recruit people to work on specific tasks, and ensure that it gets done?

- If you want to create a collaborative community start off by giving them a goal and something to do

- Don't make a space until you figure out what you need to put in it

- Every collaboration portal:

 1) has a goal
 2) creates working releationships
 3) build and provide the necessary knowledge
 4) has accountability of its members

- tracking reputation is important to estabilsh relationships and ensure accountability

- Wikipedia's discussion pages are the place that relationships between editors are built

- It helps to have a compelling founding story or business model

- It is good to release projects as "minimum viable product" to make sure there is viable interest

- It is hard to get people to be honest with what work they or their organization is willing to do

- Many organizations are hypochondriacs that think they need tools that they don't

- People vocally complaining is a good indication of what to build

- Iterative cycles are great for improving sites

- The nonprofit funding model worlks against growing a community (grand vision and a big lump sum)

- No funders want to hear "I have a sensible plan to roll out features over the next 12 months"

- You don't need to complete your whole vision at once. Build upon sucesses.

- Collaborative sites are a lot more like farming than construction

- Yelp did a lot of outreach and providing rewards to their contributors to get things started

- "Is this review helpful?" is a good way to highlight and reward the best contributors

- When starting a sice, you need to know a group of people that are actually going to start using a tool

- If we abstract the tools, we can stop building tools, and start building communities (things like Drupal distributions are starting to address it)

- A goal should be more specific than "end poverty"

- We keep coming back to the metric of "how much buy-in do you have from the community"

- It is important to get a worlflow that people can build into their daily lives

- Start with the things that you want to collaborate on. There is a real danger to not being a user.

- If you are starting a comany, and have not managed to convince ten actual people to buy your product, just stop

- There are many projects that have forums for people at events to continue talking after the event is over, most don't work

- [Talk about new facebook groups]

- Aspiration is starting a mailing list, and people are actually thinking they will participate

- People still use email lists. Good for relationships, but not best for archiving knowlege, and ensure accountability

- Low-tech solutions are often the best solution to start off with

- Help users contact each other directly in order to reduce message volume

- Having someone curate your space, highlight/promoting the imprtant stuff, and removing inappropriate things

- [debate about whether you should delete messages that may not be pertinent over the long term]

- Important to have two tracks of discussions vs the public project

- Debreifing is something that needs to happen at the end of a project but very rarely done

- Can you build mandatory briefing into a tool in order to close a tool