Thursday, 6 January 2011

Collaboration - The next big thing?

The amazing thing about the internet is that people were totally unaware of how far it would grow. It has grown to the point where the internet is the centre of our lives, be it in business, social activity or personal use.

It started with email (which first appeared as early as the 1960s). It was the start of the evolution of communication. The next stage was IM (Instant Messaging). Based on the concept of email, with the ability to “instantly” exchange messages in a feed, rather than sending separate emails for each line of a chat. Makes a lot of sense from a conversation perspective.

One of the net’s milestones was when people began to create websites. A simple way to release information and keep people informed. Then came VOIP (Voice Over IP). Hence the name, it enabled people to make calls over the internet. A painless way to call abroad, but only painless if you had enough bandwidth and you managed to hold the connection for more than a few minutes.

“Can you hear me?... Can you hear me?...”

Blogs were (and still are!) the easiest way to share articles or even a few lines of information on a certain topic. There are blogs touching thousands of topics, and you are sure to find one that follows your particular interest.

More recently “Posting Websites” have appeared. Websites that are made up of user provided data. YouTube, for example, is built around user uploaded videos.

I would say that the next milestone was the launch of social networks. The new definition of socialising and a new way to communicate. It breathed new life into IM and in some cases, rendered email redundant. Facebook are expanding on this concept as we speak.

Then we come to today, and the cloud. I have discussed it before (see article: “Google Chrome OS – A year on). In it’s current state, the cloud is just a storage area and a very unused storage area. It gives the ability for multiple users to gain access to files – but not sharing. It’s not yet seen as secure and not at all practical. People don’t trust it yet.

So what is the next stage of the internet’s evolution?

What we need is real-time collaboration on documents stored in the cloud. People with the ability to work on large scale projects and productions without having to meet face-to-face (i.e. virtually). Even the ability to work on the same document (possibly different areas of the document) at the same time. The ability to post boxed comments against design work whilst the designer is working on the same document. This would allow real time collaboration just like being in the meeting room working on the same document together.

Collaboration – real time.

Online collaboration could be a very effective tool for developing relationships, building agreements, and working with colleagues or friends to accomplish shared goals.

However, right now starting your own online community or even collaborating online can be a little overwhelming. If you are an organisation, these tools probably exist internally. But, for the general public, these tools just don’t exist. And we are ready for them.

There are many resources available to help people collaborate and these products range from extremely complicated with expensive file servers to simple online collaboration solutions (such as Google Docs). But what about the general public? What about their requirements for limited or public access to collaborative or virtual environments. This is the next step in the evolution of the internet. Forget social networking. My concept of online collaboration creates a social collaboration and networking environment.

What is required is a follows: Simple online storage; ability to post documents through your web browser;  ability to assign parts of documents and make changes. Essentially you can create an online collaborative document repository.  Versioning will help to track changes whilst working in multiple groups. Security and reliability will be a major factor if this idea is to succeed.

I am very interested as a young tech blogger to hear from people who use these types of environments in the workplace today. These technologies already exist for large companies and I truly believe it is only a matter of time before this is made available to the general public.

Collaboration is for me, the next big thing for the internet community. What are your thoughts?



Anonymous said...

Got a feeling that Microsoft is planning this very idea as the next level of their online Office application.

Anonymous said...

Awesome blog. Great ideas. Gonna think about this one for a while. Keep them coming.

Anonymous said...

This touches on some interesting ideas Rafy. Security is always an issue and so is data loss. It will take some time though until people trust this technology.

Anonymous said...

I like the way you built a brief history so that the Collaboration idea seemed a natural next step. Great job.

Anonymous said...

great article Raffi, think we're really close to this - need to keep a close eye on Facebook and Google who are both edging towards a fight for the centre ground in this area.

well done. Gideon.

Hank from Dallas, Texas said...

You should approach Google with this idea. They are looking for a new idea to give them a fresh direction. They were going to give everyone unlimited web space (GDrive) but that never happened. So maybe your ideas will work.

Anonymous said...

I really liked this post and was thinking about the environments I use at work. I work for a Multi-National Blue-Chip company and we use a variety of tools to collaborate between workers. If it can be done in-house then it can be done on the web. For someone who is young and does not work for a large company you have a real insight into this - your name should be Bill Gates Jr or Steve Jobs Jr!

Tali said...

I think you are absolutley right about collaboration, and as service provider who is totally dependent on the web for my work, this would be a really helpful tool. Keep up the blogging and the good ideas. Tali.

Rakhi said...

Great article Raffi. Security is definitely the issue here. Your father & I used to work got the same blue-chip & I'm sure can safely say half the problem is bIg companies take way too long deciding how the money should be spent, especially in IT. Typically IT budgets are managed by the CFO instead of a CIO!!! If the money was put into researching web security then the up-take would be much quicker. I think social media (Twitter more than FB) is changing that as the information has normally already been gathered & posted. Keep up the good work!!

Denise Landau said...

Raffi, read this article by Vannevar Bush from 1945,
Following the end of WWII, he calls for calls for collaboration in order to produce instruments of peace rather than weapons of war.
Also look at Mark Weiser's Computer for the 21st Century,
Hope you find them of interest,

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