A Short (biased) history of Collaboration - The Final Part (Phew!)

The story until now…
*This is the last of three parts in a series on Collaboration. The first of the three articles presented a quick introduction to the historical aspects of collaboration. The second article discussed the concept of Wikis as the new collaborative concept. The final part of the series concludes with an analysis of the current alternatives. Possible alternatives to the current scenario are suggested, and probable outcomes described. *

RSS – Really, Simple Syndication!

The primary element of a collaborative process is – obviously, participation. For synchronized alternatives, this is obviously mandatory and hence, somewhat redundant to talk about. For asynchronous software, the process of collaboration relies heavily on syndication – some sort of information must be given to ‘alert’ the invited party. And so RSS comes into the picture. RSS, or Really Simple Syndication (Yes.) manages this by drawing ‘feeds’ from the source and then sending the updated ‘feed’ across to the subscriber(s). Thus, when you add a new post to your blog, your RSS feed ensures that your new post appears in all your subscribers’ pages, the next time they log in or refresh the page.

RSS has added a new dimension to collaboration by speeding up the process of collaboration. On the other hand, RSS posts need to be aggregated and you need to visit the posts regularly to see which of your comments has been answered. One alternative to this is to subscribe to the comments as an RSS feed. But this, according to me, is merely patch work. A blog post (as Jeremy Zawodny of Yahoo! says ) has a short shelf-life. The discussions decay with the addition of every fresh post . Truly, I agree with Jeremy when he says Following online conversations is hard work. And remembering to unsubscribe from the comments aggregator is another job, that many people would love see become automated. But is that the solution?

A few stubs…

Aggregators and Newsfeeds help in tracking information. What do you do when your Nerws page becomes untrackable? Or how do you know when to track it? Refreshing the page is just an alternative, and definitely not one that many self-confessed lovers of automata would appreciate. With speed and time becoming two major factors in communication, the obvious requirement is of a tool that combines these two factors and uses them effectively. A tool that saves time and speeds up aggregation.

eMail is passe. All innovation comes with an expiry date. No, not because eMail has become ‘square’ but because it has outlived its innovation. And eMail has outlived its date. RSS and Wikis are the new kids around the block. And they have come with an expiry date, too. Only, nobody knows what the dates are. Only time can tell.

Ergo Cogito Sum…

The collaborative process has seen evolution worthy of Darwin’s praise. From Messenger pigeons to RSS feeds collaboration has definitely come a long way. With each evolutionary step, the world became two sizes smaller. This, in times, where collaboration was just another one of those words that described brain-storming. With collaboration becoming the buzz-word today, I wouldn’t be surprised, if the major players like Google, Yahoo! and MSN soon step into the market with some of their own ideas.

Personally though, I feel, the time is ripe for another innovative idea to sweep the Internet junta off its feet. Much as I hate to admit, I am not too sure where it’s coming from.

I would give an arm and a leg to find out what that is. But I think, I’ll just wait and watch.

What about you?