Friday, December 21, 2007

How to co-produce an article the E2.0 way

This week Robbert, Melior and I created an article on "Internet consultation", in little more than a day. It was co-produced entirely with the aid of Google Docs and Skype. The article turned out quite nicely, but, the process of creating it was very captivating in itself as well. I dare to say that this article couldn't have been co-produced at this speed and quality without using the above mentioned "E2.0 tool set".

What was so captivating en what value was added by the tool set, I hear you say?

To get the context clear
First of all, Robbert was working in Groningen, Melior in Amersfoort and I at my project in The Hague. So, getting together wasn't an option.
Secondly, we were very busy and had overlapping meetings at our projects. So, claiming a time-frame to do a conference call was neither an option
Third, we all read the press-release independently, all had ideas, but how to put those ideas on the same page (meaning this literally and figurative) quickly and coherently?
Last but not least, the article had to be ready within a short time frame. A press-release doesn't stay there for the taking very long.

Google docs
We needed an environment wherein we could "dump" our initial statements (very mind-mapping) on the canvas, during the scarce moments between meetings, but in sight for the others to see. We needed real-time collaboration, with which the story could unfold organically, separately, but together. Sounds paradoxical? Not so. With GoolgeDocs such a canvas is created with ease. Each statement, word, sentence written by an editor, gets pushed in real-time to the other editors (even when he's not there, the canvas just gets refreshed). So there's no asynchronous "checking out" of documents, "locked" documents or "read-only" documents that have to be stitched together afterwards. The synergy is there for the taking! And it was. Adding statements, enriching each others, editing, using the growing canvas as input for your mindmap. Very energetic.
Furthermore, real-time collaboration also deals with another bottleneck in asynchronous writing. I call this the "Ping-Pong effect": getting the different pieces of text of the editors aligned and making it one coherent story. With real-time collaboration, each sharing the same canvas, this aligning was self originating: quickly using the same definitions, labels, picking up on a metaphor, referring to a piece of material just produced 5 seconds ago by your co-producer, keeping the thread of the story while it unfolds.. It comes naturally and stays that way.

What we also needed was a medium which we could use to establish a "working method" for co-producing the article: I'll take paragraph one, you'll take two. Stay out of that part, Could you look at that sentence, What's your opinion on the last paragraph, Could you pick op on my metaphor, et cetera. The phone wasn't the way to go here, since our time-frames weren't overlapping. Skype was perfect: I could suggest a working method to the co-production group (being the three of us) at once (and visa verse), it would stay blinking until read. So, the main rules of editing established itself just as organically as the article!

In result
It was quite exhilarating putting the puzzle together in this way. The result, and I say this totally unambiguous, a very interesting article! So, the next time you want to create co-produce an article, think of using the "E2.0-tool set" of doing it.

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