In a good session yesterday, Eugene Eric Kim discussed some of the features of what I'd call peak collaborative experiences, in which we can discern several several patterns:
- They are natural. Eugene calls this "permission to laugh", but I generalize it to include any tool or experience that allows for informality. Any technology that is highly structured (even something as simple as the layout of a room) will discourage the kind of informality that makes positive collaboration possible.
- They are participative. This is closely related to naturality. A classic example is a circle layout rather than rows of seats with talking heads in front of the room. Another is the "Edit This Page" link on a wiki page.
- They enable shared display. Everyone who is collaborating needs to see the same thing. Physical whiteboards and pair programming are good examples. But even instant messaging chats enable the two (or more) parties to basically share the same collaboriative context.
- They have a visible pulse. A conversation has a rhythm, whether it be the flow of an IM chat, the calendric quality of a blog, or the regularity of RSS updates.
Language note: Eugene used "emerge" as a transitive verb, as in "Smart organizations emerge best practices" (or whatever), which I'd never heard before.
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