Online Collaboration: Quantifying the Problem, Designing a Solution - Session Notes

Submitted by Sarah Pullman on Thu, 2007-10-04 07:40.

Session lead: Dave Eaves

Notes by Dharma Dailey

1 sentence take away: It's all about toasty warm fuzzies.

Defining Collaboration.

Collaboration implies very different things to people in the room. For some it means getting work done together for others it implies power sharing in decision making. For the facilitator, collaboration implies that we have an equal opportunity to influence each other.

Online collaboration works well for:

Tasks broken down into chunks that are managable by one person or one discrete group work well for online collaboration.

Online is good for educating on issues and concerns: such as Bugzilla
Bugzilla walks you through the issues and concerns really well, so has taken off.

Online collaboration - Room for Improvement:

Strategic conversations don’t happen well online.

It’s very difficult to establish trust online. Trust is essential for making decisions.

Shared decision making via only online is challenging.

  • Open source model -- is a top down model-- benevolent dictatorships -- decision makers can be influenced but there is generally one person choosing course of action.
  • Champions -- often those who engage in destructive behaviors to champion their ideas are rewarded for that behavior, those who support everyone else are not rewarded well.

Scaling issues.
Projects that generate a lot of volunteer interest may have these additional problems:

  • leaders keep going back to the same people. (online trust issue)
    • those who think differently are harder and harder to engage with while people who think like you tend to stay around.

Wisdom of the WOC Crowd:

Separate the tasks of setting common interest among participants and doing the work on the project sequentially:

First --- Ground the common interest via the best tool you have available to build trust among the group -- offline : meetings face to face are great for building trust, email lists can be effective icebreakers for the group to get to know each other to hone the common interest perspective interest. Set aside a set period of time for this step - a number of weeks. THEN Commence the work after step one.

External pressures are good at creating a common ground culture, but how do you create and channel a sense of urgency online?

80% of running an open source project is time spent on time diplomacy-- 20% of time is doing what most would think of as “the actual work.”

The most important question for those coordinating open source projects is: What is here in this org for someone who walks through the door today?

Example: One community management software project has a policy that anyone can participate in the core programming UNTIL something goes wrong. Whoever does the work gets to decide how the work gets done. The leaders of the project don’t delegate. This makes it easy for people to become vested in the project.

There are ways that collaboration emerges online without people choosing to collaborate.
Example-- RSS feeds becoming popular with the unwashed masses pushed copyright based publishers to make their material more accessible on the web via RSS.

Project specs don’t have to be mediated.
Example: A passive solar design project facilitated anyone to post potential projects, anyone could sign on to the projects. Those projects that didn’t generate enough interest from the community of interest disappeared. Stragglers signed on to the projects that remained.

Framing matters for collaboration.
Example: If Mozilla -- is not a software co. but a community management organization Then: most relevant framing for them to ask is How do we expand this conversation to create optimal outcome? instead of antagonistic Open Source SW company: How do we get these morons to build our killer app for free?

Consensus process can be modified to work for online work. One example: consensus decision process can be used up until deadline then if no consensus has been reached the decision can go to a vote. It’s also helpful to create a lower threshold for reaching consensus: “Will you not block?” instead of “Do you give consent?”

Facebook Fuck Islam group violates Facebook’s terms of service -- 62,000 people -- “Close the Fuck Islam group or we’re quitting Facebook.” Facebook is completely ignoring it. (I can’t remember how this tidbit threads into the discussion.)

Specific needs identified in the room:

A leadership model for crowd-sourcing tools would be really helpful.
Example: Volunteers in projects like the Katrina People Finder project get burned out rather fast.


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