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More on Collaboration, Courtesy of Cape Town, ZA

Today I got a suprise response on the Hula Project entry. Jesse Pretorius, a former colleague from South Africa, shared some insights on directions he thinks Collaboration tools need to go. In addition to having the coolest sounding surname, Jesse shows he understands something about what’s wrong with the current collaboration technologies in the market. [Click the link above to see his full comments.] Not having a collaboration system is kind of like not having a car in Los Angeles–impractical. But that doesn’t mean that we should not be looking critically at what systems are available today and pondering ways to fix them.

On a tangentially-related note, one of the features I really like about Evolution is the quick search that is conveniently located right above the message list. It lets you quickly find what you’re looking for without having to open up a new window or hit a key or go up to a menu. It’s just there, letting you quickly find what you’re looking for. [Look for “Subject contains” in this graphic and you’ll see what I’m referring to.]

Such user accomodations are a great help, but perhaps they are exposing that we have a more serious problem on our hands. Certainly by Jesse’s comments, this feature only scratches the surface.

Jesse makes the point that our current set of available collaboration tools actually make the information overload problem worse. What that indicates to me is that technology is doing exactly the opposite of what many feel that it is supposed to do (make our lives easier). Along with some key colleagues of mine, I am hoping that we can start to address the issue that Jesse points out.

P.S. Oh, and previously I mentioned that I’m thinking more and more about social software. if you haven’t checked out del.icio.us yet, you should give it a look. You can share interesting bookmarks with others (mine, still so young, is here), and access your own bookmarks from multiple machines. Firefox has a plugin called foxylicious that shows promise, too.


4 Responses

  1. If you’re interested in the taxonomy/tagging side of delicious, Ted, you could also poke at flickr, and technorati’s blog tagging, both of which do similar stuff in slightly different problem spaces. David Weinberger has been doing a lot of thinking-out-loud about this in various posts, which make for interesting reading, as well. I’m going to see him talk in a few days and thoroughly looking forward to it.

    [Bigger picture, I think the really interesting explosion will come when social tagging gets combined with something like simile‘s rdf-izers to structure all this new metadata in consistent, shareable ways. If/when that happens, suddenly google and beagle get even more powerful and interesting- and the record seems to show that this is a good thing.]

  2. Hey Ted,

    Agreed on all counts, I think. I think the defining element of the more successful new “collaboration” platforms – be they Gmail or Hula – is simplicity. They don’t have all the bells and whistles, and users love them for it.

    One thing you didn’t mention with the Evolution find feature, however, was the speed. The near-instant return of results on queries to subject, sender, etc. are startling for former Outlook users.

    Last thing, bridging del.icio.us and some topics of interest to you, you might give some of my links a browse:


    You might find a few links worth reading up on. Great meeting with you at LWE.


  3. Two other quick thoughts, Ted:
    (1) I’d love to hear how you define ‘social software’. In a way, the whole web is social software of a sort- del.icio.us is just making more transparent the process google takes advantage of to figure out link juice- google uses links with the context of a page, delicious uses bookmarks with the context of the tags.
    (2) The comment I made about the pending explosion of RDF comes with the caveat that spammers could screw everything up, as they did when they made html’s keyword field useless- Brad DeLong talks about that a bit today.

  4. lol, my surname is a rather common one for South Africans 🙂

    Anyway – I think the danger we’re in is trying to build some kind of all-encompassing collaborative system.

    The killer app would be something that can facilitate as much as possible in terms of bringing the different ways we collaborate together today, and be flexible enough to include the systems that we will build in the future.

    Historically the problem with GroupWise has been that it hasn’t been flexible enough to plug things into easily. Other GroupWare systems have similar problems and deal with them in better or worse ways.

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