October 22, 2015

Collaboration is process. Not a feature.

People editing a document in parallel is the gold standard demo of collaboration as a feature. It looks great, and even today is an amazing coding achievement. But it’s a Pepsi Challenge sip test.

Doing anything on a common canvas simultaneously is only viable on two ends of the groups spectrum: extremely experienced and in-sync teams, and kindergarteners finger-painting.

For the rest of us, any sort of collaboration requires a sequential approach. Even with a clear objective there’s friction on creation. The back and forward interaction that happens while collaborating polishes ideas in the best of teams — and compromises viewpoints in most of rest.

Real time collaboration is a buzzword, not a 80/20 use case. Digital collaboration works best when it focuses on universal availability. A link should be all that’s needed for sharing the canvas: in mobile, web, desktop, online, offline.

The next paradigm shift in collaboration will be about sharing what’s on our mind, and not on the screen. In the meantime, there’s still many complex problems that need to solved for making digital collaboration as easy as a whiteboard on a meeting room.

Productivity Essay

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