In many ways, I think you could say, I live and work in a bubble of the
technical future that, as Gibson said "isn't evenly distributed," yet. I
have developed a set of tools and work flows that enable me to work
nearly anywhere and on a moment's notice. I work for a company which
great and open internal infrastructure that allows us to securely
communicate and collaborate in whatever way we think will best serve the
projects we're working on. And I know enough to be able to automate the
boring parts of my technological experience. In all, pretty good.
Here's the thing though: despite all of this technological
infrastructure, all this know how and frankly awesome connectivity: all
of the tools we use to collaborate technologically: chat rooms, wikis,
paste-bins, version control systems, instant messages and email all work
better when you're in the same room. Examples:
I was sitting in a talk with a coworker, and we were both logged into an
IRC room from our laptops, where we were able to share some useful
examples, links, and other commentary without being (very) disruptive.
In day to day work, I (and my coworkers) spend a lot of time using chat
rooms to communicate and share information with people who are only a
few feet away, and in the end we get a lot done.
There are probably a lot of reasons why this is the case: digital
relationships are almost always supported by real life relationships,
there's a level of hard to document interstitial and context setting
that we do in real life that is difficult to efficiently create
digitally, but that can be accomplished without second thought *in real
life, and so forth. But, having made this realization, I think there are
a few conclusions to be drawn about collaboration technology:
It helps to centralize information flow. So much collaboration
technology is "pull" based, and there's no good way to ensure that
people know you've done something that they might consider without
pushing information to them in some manner. Even so, create one
place where the people you're working with can see what you're
Use something like an IRC channel, or an xmpp MUC room, combined
with a service like notifixious or
something similar. In a lot of ways, the incessant emails Facebook
sends achieve the same goal.
Communities come together to work on something specific and
concrete, but inevitably they bond and endure for other reasons and
other kinds of conversations. While creating "off topic" silos is
awkward, creating the space for people to get to know each other is
essential to making people work together well (and thus use
collaborative technology better.)
Focus most of your attention on "getting things done," and less
attention on the "how things are done." There are so many
technological solutions, so many options, and so many different
contexts that it doesn't really matter how things get done as long
as they do get done. The right and preferred tools will arise and
present themselves when needed, and as long as things are getting
done using the right tool doesn't matter much.
Onward and Upward!