Collaborative Technologies

Submitted by robataka on Fri, 12/16/2005 - 10:37.

Checking out my Planet Case RSS feed, saw two posts by Brian Gray which struck me as interesting in juxtaposition. Well, actually three posts.

Two are from yesterday. One post from yesterday references a story on NPR's Talk of the Nation about Wikipedia. You can listen to the piece here. To excerpt from that page:

A new wave of Internet sites, like Wikipedia, invite their users to interact and contribute facts and opinion and edit each other. It's a more democratic way to present information. But is it more accurate?

The second one discusses usage of RSS. And the final post references a Business Week piece entitled E-Mail Is So Five Minutes Ago . Brian's comment on the business week article is what caught my eye:

It gives some examples of business usage of wikis, blogs, instant messaging, RSS, and groupware.

Of great concern was the statistic that next year only 8% of all emails will be legitimate. I think this will just further drive alternative technologies such as RSS even harder into everyday usage.


How many of you use an RSS reader to access headline news, or blogs? I certainly do. I use a piece of software called Akregator which is integrated into my PIM software called Kontact.

Kontact's RSS Reader Akregator

And Wiki's are great too. There was a learning curve that was fairly steep for
editing wiki's but with the new word processor type apps like TinyMCE here on
RealNEO have significantly reduced that learning curve.

In fact, I have used all of the technologies mentioned over the years. I personally
prefer Jabber for my instant messaging and when
I had my own server in Japan I had it gatewaying into Yahoo and MSN(never had much
need for AOL). I never really got much into groupware though. Like I mentioned in
my BloGTK post yesterday,
I prefer not to use web interfaces.

MShafarenko in a comment to his own post, Engaging Youth in NEO, asks:

In that regard, how can technology be used to attract the many versus the niche-interested few?

I am not sure that is the appropriate question though. Technology is already
available to the many, and Case is doing a great job of making sure that their
community is using, or at least has access, to collaborative technology. Ever
seen Case's Wiki? Licensed under a
Creative Commons license even.

As the articles pointed out by Bryan suggest, the technology shift is happening
and being used. The real question is can we leverage that usage to effect
constructive and effective development for NEO. That is what RealNEO is about

However, IMHO, its the interested-few are the ones that are going to create
results. Once results are achieved, then the many will come to the realization
that it works. Leaders will lead, sheep will follow, as long as it is safe. So I
would tend to think we want to identify some of those interested-few and make
examples of them, and their impact locally.

kontact-akregator.png186.7 KB
( categories: )

If you build it, they might not come

No question that innovative, cutting-edge technology is spewing out of Case's pores. But with all new innovation comes the learning curve - especially that of the non-tech saavy individual.

While the internet is a wonderful tool replacing many of the tools of the industrial era with the intent of more effective and efficient production, creation and sustainability, the adaptability to this "new" tool is slow and cumbersome. Additionally, many people approach that which is new with great caution and general apprehension - there is the old way of doing things and we've gotten this far as a society, what's the use in trying something new?

I say that with great sarcasm, as I try to embrace that which is new as quickly as I can manage to learn and understand it. Yet, I gave Rob this example in the office - I worked on a Charity Choice campaign for Case, where we raised money for three charities from our 5,000+ employees. This year we introduced an electronic pledge form where those who wish to donate could login to our PeopleSoft system, click on a couple of options, and make a charitable contribution. As the coordinator of the campaign, I received quite a bit of resistance to the new form - people wanted to receive the pledge packet that they had received all the years prior. This online-pledge thingy was "too complicated" (we made it as easy to use as possible - 3 clicks and you're helping the Girl Scouts on their cookie mission) and/or a host of other complaints about using an online form (some being: I don't use e-mail, much less a computer, I'm not donating through this internet-thingy).

I guess to say that unfortunately, the learning curve (given people are even willing to learn something new) is far behind the technology of the day. The question to the IT world is how to teach the average American to utilize technological tools to their maximum potential? With the internet developing at such a rapid rate, what can we do to shorten the learning curve and maybe even make it a linear line?



Interesting comment. I have been thinking about how to respond since you posted it. You will always run into luddites, or those whom just refuse to try/learn anything new. I think the emails you referenced are evidence of that.

Reality is that, for example, the Salvation Army is finding that an increasing amount of donations come through the internet. I can pretty much guarantee you that *I* wouldn't donate any other way. And then if you think about it, my kids are going to be even worse when I they are "consumers". My son is creating his Christmas wishlist by searching the net. His school has three computer labs, and computers(note the plural) in each classroom. Much of the curriculum is designed around using the web.

Anybody whom doesn't take the time and effort to learn new ways will be left behind and/or has their head in the sand. Simple fact is that it is not rocket science. My 73 year old mother uses word processing, spreadsheets(unfortunately of the Microsoft variety as opposed to OpenOffice), and email daily in her role as a freelance grant writer. She has never taken any courses whatsoever in how to use it, she just uses it. She doesn't even particularly like the computer.

The impacts of the internet and the technology are being felt throughout huge areas of industry: Mass and publising media, recording and movie industry, software, retail, as just a few examples.

While I appreciate your concern on how to make technology more accessible and understandable to more folks, I feel its like the old saying "you can take a horse to water, but you can't make him/her/it drink". If you run into people whom refuse to use email, I am fairly certain that regardless of how easy and understandable you make it, they aren't going to use it. Their proud, card-bearing luddites.

I am curious though, Mike, is how did the Campaign go as compared to previous years? In reality, since you were on the front line to receive the complaints you maybe placing more weight on them than is due. For example, you mention 5000+ Case employees and if you only had a 10 complaints that is insignificant. Did you also analyze the
cost merits of the new-fangled online method versus the tried-and-true method of previous years? Did you do a comparison of participation rates?

It is just simply hard for me to believe that the mindset you suggest is really prevalent at Case. That it exists doesn't suprise me, but it would suprise me if that were true for the majority at Case.

Lower Charitable Participation

In response to your questions, we saw the following results:

-Less participation

-Equal charitable contribution

-Greater cost/benefit

Our communication to the community was via e-mails and a branding campaign - I worked with our marketing/communications departments to create an identity to the campaign, with a logo, fliers, and a slogan. Here is the link to the campaign website:

Essentially, you're right in saying that it was the few versus the many that had complaints, and that we actually picked up a new pool of participants due to the easier nature of giving through an online form. Yet, we still raised significantly less than last year and so the questions start coming as to why?

There is no single reason, and there are economic and social conditions to consider. But you're right - as the campaign coordinator, I put the weight of the complaints on my own shoulders and figured that somehow I or "we" didn't do a good enough job selling the idea of the new online pledge form to the community. Many people told me they weren't even aware of the campaign at all - either because they hadn't read their e-mail or were not notified any other way. In years prior, each employee received a pledge packet, and that was their heuristic signal to participate in the campaign. As I worked with a $0 budget this year, there were no pledge packets - yet, given that budget, the return on investment was positive. Unfortunately, the three charities (United Way, Community Shares, Earth Shares of Ohio) we raised money for don't take that into consideration - what they see is lower $$ and call me asking why.

Long story short, we ended up sending out pledge packets to our emeriti faculty and are seeing a bunch of return envelopes coming in. So I guess before year end, we'll get close to last year's amount.

Haven't Forgotten You

Hey Mike,

I haven't forgotten you...I wanted to respond to this, I just haven't had the time to sit down and do it yet. I will respond eventually. Just not now. ;-)