Daily note for 12 September 2023

It’s Official: Cars Are the Worst Product Category We Have Ever Reviewed for Privacy” – somewhat concerning.

Love this, eccentric bringing back to life of ancient, almost useless technology. Beautiful.

Lovely reflections from Tim Davies, someone I don’t speak to much these days but remember very fondly from the wild west early days of social media and whatnot.

Lloyd on networks, connections and location – and why we need Dopplr back.

Lambeth are in the seat for this Local Digital Fund project on building control. Worth keeping an eye on. (Again, though, why oh why Medium?)

James Herbert reflects on recent engagements around data, and what lessons can be drawn. Definitely worthy of a mull.

As Rob on Twitter says, these five points from TechUK about ‘care tech’ feel a bit sticking-plaster-y.

LINK: “Slack must use cash hoard to find new ways to keep competition at bay”

Slack’s success has always been a bit surprising because it’s facing off against giants like Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Cisco, Salesforce and many others, all gunning for this upstart’s market. In fact, Microsoft is giving Teams away for free to Office 365 customers. You could say it’s hard to compete with free, yet Slack continues to hold its own (and also offers a free version, for the record).

Original: https://techcrunch.com/2018/08/22/slack-must-use-cash-hoard-to-find-new-ways-to-keep-competition-at-bay/

LINK: “On Microsoft Teams in Office 365, and why we prefer walled gardens to the Internet jungle”

Having lots of features is one thing, winning adoption is another. Microsoft lacked a unifying piece that would integrate these various elements into a form that users could easily embrace. Teams is that piece. Introduced in March 2017, I initially thought there was nothing much to it: just a new user interface for existing features like SharePoint sites and Office 365/Exchange groups, with yet another business messaging service alongside Skype for Business and Yammer.

Original: https://www.itwriting.com/blog/10883-on-microsoft-teams-in-office-365-and-why-we-prefer-walled-gardens-to-the-internet-jungle.html

Five for Friday (26/5/17)

Five more nourishing morsels I’ve spotted this week:

  1. LocalGovCamp is back this September in Bristol. Find out more and sign up for the ticket lottery here.
  2. The Disappearing Computer – Walt Mossberg’s last column is a great read on the future of computing
  3. Put employee experience at the heart of the digital workplace – interesting presentation on deploying communication and collaboration technology in your workplace
  4. Digital skills in the workplace – I’ve decided to give this rather dormant LinkedIn group a kick to see if there’s any life in it. If you’re interested in digital skills and confidence at your organisation, do jump in.
  5. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying HBO’s Silicon Valley recently. If you have Sky Atlantic, you can binge on it. Here’s the first season trailer to whet your appetite:

These have mostly all been tweeted during the week, and you can find everything I’ve found interesting and bookmarked here.

On collaboration

shutterstock_111390131

Euan Semple writes:

I have always said that the first step to real collaboration, as opposed to just having a shared space to stick your unreadable documents, is having the self awareness, the humility, and the courage to admit that you need help.

Too right!

Back when I was a local government officer, I used to be involved in things like local strategic partnerships – only the first word was, I think, accurate.

Anyway, various ‘delivery partners’ would turn up to a meeting, pledge to do something collaborative – i.e. something they were going to do anyway – and then go off and do it on their own, as they always would have done. Three months later, this activity would be announced at the result of partnership working and collaboration.

Am sure everyone reading this will have seen this happening, and as Euan says, no file sharing platform is going to fix this.

Instead, a sensible collaboration conversation ought to look like this:

  1. Decide on shared outcomes – are they really shared? are they really outcomes? Much of this is about aligning interests – all organisations should be open about their motivations and why they are collaborating. Then, through some enlightened self interest, it ought to be possible to plot a course that meets everyone’s needs, including the people all the partners are trying to help.
  2. Map what every organisation can bring to the table to help achieve those outcomes
  3. Identify the gaps. Is there another group who could meet those? If not, are they collaboration-killers? Can you still achieve your shared outcomes without those skills or resources? If not, you might need to reboot. Important: don’t pretend you can do something you can’t!
  4. Come up with a framework for organising and measuring activity and how it maps across to your outcomes, so you know whether you’re succeeding or not and can pivot accordingly
  5. Only meet if you really need to – and only have those that need to meet turn up – no agenda stuffing, or meat in the room
  6. Have an open way of reporting progress, through an online dashboard, say, so that everyone can see who is doing what and how much of an impact it is having.

LocalGovCamp 2014 thoughts #3 – collaboration is key

I found LocalGovCamp a really refreshing and cheering event this year. I’m going to spend a few quick posts writing up my thoughts.

Mary McKenna brilliantly facilitated an excellent discussion on collaboration – why it is needed, why it hasn’t worked that well up to now, and how that might be fixed.

Some great input came from FutureGov‘s Dom Campbell, who spoke about the some of the challenges trying to implement their Patchwork tool across multiple agencies.

There was also discussion of the limitations of the traditional approach to partnership working – overly bureaucratic, slow to make decisions, agencies working individually to deliver what should be shared objectives, really boring meetings, and so on.

What’s needed is a more agile, responsive and flexible approach to working in partnership to deliver shared outcomes.

This needs to mean organisations sharing people, resources, systems, data and more – and not just tick-box style partnerships.

What’s also vital to to this working are grown up conversations are needed about who can deliver what with the resources they have. This is no time for pride.

Five for (Good) Friday – 18 April 2014

linksFive for Friday is WorkSmart’s weekly roundup of interesting stuff from the week’s reading.

  1. On a quest for the future of enterprise collaboration
  2. The best training ever
  3. The Right Mix – review of task management apps
  4. Socialogy Interview: Anne Marie McEwan
  5. Innoveracy: Misunderstanding Innovation
Did you know that WorkSmart has a Pinterest board where loads of cool stuff is shared?

We also now have a LinkyDink group which will automatically email you links to read everyday!

Collaboration – 10 steps to success

collaborationDigital tools provide great ways to collaborate online. Whether working with a smallish team to co-create a document, or engaging the wisdom of the crowd to build a list of ideas, the net allows us to work with people at a previously impossible scale.

But how to do so effectively? There’s nothing more depressing than a collaborative project that nobody wants to collaborate with you on; or a popular collaboration that runs out of steam, or drifts off at tangents.

Here’s a ten step process I’ve come up with to help your project succeed.

1. Identify who might be interested

There’s no way you will pinpoint every person who might be interested in what you are collaborating on. However, you should be able to spot the people you are aware of who will definitely get things going. This might be because they have a track record of getting involved on this issue, or that they know their way around these kinds of processes. Either way, they are useful people to have around.

Reach out to these folk and let them know what you are planning to do. Keep the specifics around the tech side of things vague, but recommend they encourage others to get in touch, so you can use other people’s networks to create a bigger list of initial collaborators.

Also find out at this stage roughly what level of tech-savvyness there is among this initial gang. Find out how they like to communicate – do they prefer email, discussion forums, or are they happy getting their hands dirty with a wiki? This will help inform which platforms you choose.

2. Put a platform together

Bearing in mind what you found out in step 1, decide at this stage what system you want to use. The fundamental factor is to keep things as simple as you possibly can. Other issues include whether you want to host it yourself or are happy for the content to be sat on someone else’s server, and whether you need to restrict access.

On the first point, by and large hosted platforms are far easier to set up and use and often are more functionally rich than those which you manage yourself. On the second, make it as open as possible, so that there are few barriers for people to get involved.

Make sure your decision on platform and process matches the research you’ve done with your initial user group in terms of the way people collaborate. Are they happy editing other people’s work? Would they prefer commenting, or submitting ideas?

Getting this right is important, but it shouldn’t get in the way of starting your project. Pick something that will hopefully work, but be flexible to allow for change in the future.

3. Get the content on the platform

It’s very hard to begin a collaboration with a blank page. You do need some content to get people talking and give them something to work with.

This, depending on your starting point, can be a quick or a very labour-intensive job. Copying and pasting text from other documents is fine, but when it is from (say) a PDF some cleaning of the formatting is likely to be necessary. Make sure you factor the time in to get this done.

Don’t forget your users when adding content. Consider adding some consistent header text to the top of each page, explaining what the content is, how it can be edited or discussed, and how the project administrators can be contacted for help, etc. Ensure that you take into account what people told you at stage 1. If people say they like to respond by email, make sure there is an email address they can send comments to, and a process for getting those comments onto the platform.

Ensure that the navigation for the platform makes sense and that people will be able to find the bits they are interested in easily. Test it out on some of your initial group to get their thoughts. Maybe find a complete web-novice in your organisation to take a look and see how they get on with it.

4. Set the rules of engagement

Having rules is boring, but a lot of people like them. Part of this will come into the page heading text I mentioned in step 3, but it is probably worth explaining again on a separate page. Make it explicit who should have view and edit rights to the content and also how vandals will be dealt with.

It might also be worth explaining exactly what will happen to people’s content that they add, who it ‘belongs’ to and under what licence it is published online. These things shouldn’t matter to most people, but those that do care often do so loudly.

It probably is also a nice idea to explain what the aim of the whole exercise is – what is the eventual output likely to look like? And how will those who have collaborated on it be credited?

5. Invite and manage contributions

Now invite your initial group to come onto the platform to start collaborating on the content. Keep it to this gang as much as you can to start off with. Any problems in the structure of the site or the way content is made available will soon be spotted and fixed.

Other things will be bound to go wrong at some point. People will accidentally delete entire pages of content, for example, and panic about what to do about it. Make sure you and your team are keeping a constant online presence to monitor what’s happening so you can react quickly to a) calm down the person who has just ballsed things up and b) put things right so the project retains at least a veneer of professionalism.

6. Figure out some roles

As part of the initial work with the smaller group, take the opportunity to identify some roles on the project and fill them with some of your early volunteers.

Roles can include:

  • Community manager – someone to keep everyone engaged and motivated on the project
  • Social reporter – a content creator who
  • Curator – collecting relevant content and useful information from around the web and bringing it together into one place
  • Gardener – a person who likes to keep your project tidy, cleaning up formatting errors, ensuring links work, and navigation makes sense
  • Evangelist – someone willing to go out and recruit new people to come and collaborate on your project

7. Market it

To get people involved beyond your core group of volunteers, you need to get eyeballs. Post to relevant forums, blogs and mailing lists about what you are doing. Telephone other contacts and get them to sign up. Stick a link to the project in your email signature. Mention it in every letter you write.

Don’t forget that you are asking people to give up their time to help you out for nothing in return other than the kudos of actually being asked for their opinions. Some will jump at the chance, others will need more persuading.

8. Get everyone in a room

At the very least, have a party at the end of the exercise to thank everyone. But even better, have one towards the beginning too. Even online networking fanboys like me appreciate that to get trust in a community, you have to meet one another face to face first. OK, you don’t have to, but it really does help.

Maybe you could have a collaboration hack day – a big room with lots of laptops, wifi, flipcharts and post-its, where everyone does their best to get as many quality edits done as they can, chatting to each other and developing ideas in real life. Plenty of coffee and sandwiches would probably help too.

9. Let go

Involvement in any activity like this one will involve the acceptance of a significant loss of control and messiness in the way things develop. This is good, don’t try and fight it.

Do moderate offensive or stupid content – that does no-one any favours. But if things are developing in a direction you didn’t expect, or don’t like, let it. Have a conversation about it. Examine your own preconceptions and assumptions and see if things can be worked out another way. But don’t go round reverting pages because you don’t agree with them.

10. Get the output sorted

Finally, make sure there is a recognised output at the end. Hopefully this could be some sort of document that people who like documents can read. Make sure it is full of links back to the wiki so that people can see who developed what idea, and how that idea changed from the original.

Make sure that a description of the process is included in the final document, and that everyone who contributed is credited. Go back to those forums, blogs and mailing lists that you punted the idea around on and let them all know how it finished. Make a fuss about the fact that this stuff works!

Do you have any tips for making collaborative digital projects work?