This website covers knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Home for groups

Kris Olson at Wiki That suggests that What's Missing Is a 'Home' for Groups

All of this is also very focused on the individual. What's MISSING in all of this is the nature of the interruptions – the CONTEXT.

Obviously, most of our interruptions come from others – people we collaborate with. And each collaboration usually includes some other folks because we tend to collaborate in groups. Groups give interruptions context. Yet, there is no infrastructure that supports the 'group' - just the one-to-one communications that individuals get interrupted by.

Eemails, RSS Feeds, cell phones. desk top documents – it's all just bits of incomplete data that force us to connect with the other person to complete it, loop around with others so they get the new data, etc, etc., ...

As you might guess from the name of Kris' blog, one solution to the "group home" question could be the wiki.  Create context via the wiki, and have good use of web feeds, and the group context can be maintained in a single place.  I can see his point, but then I am not so sure this solves the full problem.  We know that organizations and projects are made of people, but any technology solution still ends up requiring that individuals use the tools.  And there is that annoying problem that we can never write down as much as we know.  Over time, however, people can get a sense for what is going on by observing the Home.

Kris' article is based on the much-discussed Clive Thompson NYT Magazine article, Meet the Life Hackers.  A major aspect of what Thompson discusses is the problem of getting things done in a world of interruptions.  In relation to groups, people who physically work together have more interruptions ...

But they have better interruptions, because their co-workers have a social sense of what they are doing. When you work next to other people, they can sense whether you're deeply immersed, panicking or relatively free and ready to talk -- and they interrupt you accordingly.

What is it that looks like "home?"  This gets back to the idea of shared context again.  The group has a familiar vibe due to its language, style and the people who participate.  In the physical world, I get a sense of what's going on from all these queues, but overwhelmingly from the queues that you provide back to me in our interactions.  If I hear you grunting and cursing at your project, I am less likely to interrupt you to talk about yet another problem with the project.  I might interrupt you to suggest coffee, if I know that kind of thing works for you. 

In the virtual world, we lose much of the immediacy of the feedback loop, though we can get pieces of it from some of the technologies we have available.  I think, however, they are not enough.  At some point, I still need to make a direct request for your attention, and I can't truly know how "interruptible" you are until I make the attempt.

I wonder what our virtual "group homes" will look like in the future.

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