How We Collaborate Today

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Geek!This is Kenneth Rayl’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

Collaboration has expanded since the introduction of the Bulletin Board System (BBS), back in the day when users dialed into a central computer hub to write messages to one other. This was no cake walk: long distant charges were common, and it took a long time to bring up post with the 2400bps, 14.4k, 28.8k, and even 56k modems. With high-speed Internet and new technologies, collaboration has expanded faster than ever. Here are my top five examples of how people collaborate today.

MMOs

Massive Multiplayer Online games, some known as MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games), have turned into a great way for players around the world to collaborate. Don’t believe me? Ask a player in any MMO game what country or state they are living in currently. You may find it harder to seek someone from your own area than to find someone from another country.

MMOs have lead the way for gamers to work together and accomplish goals, all while residing in different areas of the world. This form of collaboration tends to go unnoticed amongst gamers, since they tend to be more concerned about their current quest than the players they are playing with. When gamers have down time and talk to their group or guild, they find players from different states and countries playing alongside them. Even game consoles are building virtual worlds for their users to collaborate and get together to become friends that can play games that they enjoy playing together. And honestly, while the video game industry gets constant attacks due to its violence and addictive nature, where else do you see a collection of people from around the world working together like the players in MMOs?

Blogs

I realize a blog is more like a journal for most, where thoughts and feelings are posted regularly. But think of all the people who respond though those journal entries – they often collaborate by posting comments and building ideas based upon the entry.

We can look to Chris Pirillo’s community site for geeks, where users with a common interest (people who love technology) can blog and group themselves together based on common interests, then communicate with one other.

Other sites like Facebook, MySpace, and LiveJournal have paved the way for this type of collaboration. Each of these services are geared to different types of users and have evolved to suite their audience, like MySpace and Facebook have. Most users tend to use Facebook to communicate with close friends and family, while MySpace has become a great place to keep up with musical artists, bands, performers, and other entertainers (as well as provide a way for the user to use a nickname so they can post without much consequence of others finding out who they really are). These services have allowed many to write their true feelings with the minimal consequence of losing friends. But user beware: it is becoming widely known for an employer to look up applicants on these sites to see who the person “really” is.

Business

In the business world, conference calls have transformed to sharing PowerPoints, video feeds between clients, and even editing documents together (remotely) in real-time. Businesses no longer have to send employees to locations and pay large amounts of money; they can now collaborate with multiple locations at once, creating a streamlined process to get business done and deals signed faster than ever before. Microsoft is an example of a company trying to create this experience. They have been constantly releasing technologies that have helped innovate the process of collaborating business across the world.

Microsoft is not the only company that is on the business bandwagon. GoToMeeting has created a product where you can “Demonstrate, present, collaborate – right from your PC or Mac.” There are many alternatives out there which accomplish the same task. Business conferencing is still on the move, though still thought to be a young technology; it is getting updated almost daily with new services. Chris Pirillo even pointed out a program called Textflow, which is still in beta, but provides a way for a user to compare various revisions of a document, so the collaboration process is much faster. Business software that’s built atop collaborative toolsets is a great money saver for companies – not to mention a faster, more accurate way to get business done.

Forums

BBSes from back in the day sort of started the trend whereby someone asked for help on a subject and dialed in again a week (or month) later to see if anyone responded. Though these systems were used for other things as well, it was usually the University students who used the technology for help and advice. Today, with the proliferation of broadband in the home, the forum has taken place of that.

You will commonly find forums used for all sorts of discussions. The underlying software is relatively easy to set up and customize. Forums are commonly used on tech support pages for users to search and share advice and answers with each other. Users of the Linux distro Ubuntu take full advantage of the forums set up for them. Common questions and answers are found on the site, many answers found by bringing together user input to find the solution of a problem. You will find many companies use forums for their products so to get input from users about ideas and suggestions as well as questions and answers to problems with the products themselves.

Forums can be used for general discussions, like the forum on Rooster Teeth’s site and Traction Radio’s form hosted by the forum host Yuku – which is a service to help users and companies set up forums. These forums generally have no set topic, but have various topics for users to go into and discuss what they like, know, or have questions about.

Chat Rooms

From text messaging to instant messaging, basic chat is still widely used by many across the world. No bells or whistles – just sending simple text back and forth to one another. The mobile communications companies constantly report growth in text messaging almost every year, and cell phone companies like LG, Nokia, and Apple are creating phones based around text capabilities. All while AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), Yahoo Messenger, even Google Chat are still quite active. Clients like Pidgin, Adium, and Miranda allow users to connect to various IM protocols through one client.

Even games like MMOs and virtual worlds use it. There have been instant message contests, and theme parks are using it to display wait times. Walt Disney World is experimenting with with the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor at the Magic Kingdom. Visitors can text jokes that may be used during the show while waiting in line. Universal Studios Florida used text for visitors waiting in line at the 2008 Halloween Horror Nights to follow a Choose Your Own Adventure story using the storyline of the haunted house they were in line for. Chat clients are getting bigger, and text messaging is showing up for all sorts of uses.

If I missed any technology or you know a company I did not mention which is paving the way for better collaboration, feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!