A short (biased) history of Collaboration.

Steve Rubel introduced me to AlwaysOn and I am thankful to him.

Two killjoys:

  1. We’ve never met each other yet.
  2. He doesn’t know who I am. :)

I am one of the thousands or millions of subscribers to Steve Rubel’s Blogfeed. Yesterday, he happened to mention AlwaysOn in his Blog post. The rest as they say, is history. Or rather, my story.

From Messenger Pigoens to Instant Messengers

There was always an element of aynchronous, non-physical communication that man followed judiciously and conscientiously. Some people went so far as to attach a romantic perspective to it, while other looked upon it as just another extension of communication. Mankind has had messenger pigeons, letters, the telegram, the telephone, eMail and now instant messaging, inform him of the various happeneings in his life. With each new discovery/invention, the world has progressively grown smaller. And the interesting part is: it doesn’t stop here.

As a method of broadcast, we have seen and experienced everything from town-criers to Internet Newscasts, from Radios to Podcasts, from Television to Video Blogs, until today, information was pushed down our throats and we had no option but to either accept it or reject it. We had no say in what kind of information we wanted.

Then suddenly, one fine day, a smart guy stood up and said, “Hey I want all this, and more. I want to have my opinion, my say, on the subject you are yapping away on.”
That was the day when life came to a stand-still and turned around. Collaboration was born.

Exchanging notes.

Collaboration has been prevalent in society for a very, very, long time. We have been collaborating to build bridges of every kind – from the early prehistoric rope-bridges to the current rage – The Internet. Now, there’s another bridge that people are trying to re-build. Oh sorry, re-novate. There’s a sudden buzz in the air about collaboration and Social Software. Yahoo! seems to be going for it with Yahoo! 360, Google has already taken over Orkut and MSN has Spaces in its top priority list for the next five years. How did this sudden social fever come about?

It all started with a smart guy who wanted to know what people felt about him. Until then, the din had been: Don’t care what people think, just do it. (Apologies to the owners of the trademark phrase.) He added a comments page where people could scribble their thoughts about the subject. And boy, did they let it fly or what!

Exchanging comments progressed to exchanging mails and exchanging links. Soon thereafter, people found out that collaboration was indeed an effective tool. They realised that they had been using it for centuries. They had used it when they sat in the town=-square or when they exchanged recipes for a delectable Chocolate mousse (my personal favorite). They used collaboration, when they closed those heavy Oak doors and decided on which smart-ass was to be retained and who was to be given the boot. The light of understanding suddenly dawned upon them and they cried, “Holy Cow!! I need to collaborate!!”

In the meanwhile, another smart-guy (boy, we do have too many of those here, don’t we?) decided that he could sell his products really well if he could make people read it. So he went about sending mails to everyone who would care to flaunt his eMail address. Smart-guys are always followed by copy-cats. And so the ‘trend’ grew and grew until we grew sick of it. So we decided to give it a name and we called it “Spam.” and then came filters and Junk eMail boxes, and they are around till date.

Chaos & the Calm

The Wiki was born around the same time this was happening. And it was an instant success. Thousands and millions of stubs were generated by the minute. Keyboards all around the world experienced a never-before harassment. Documents and Words began to fly back and forth, ideas exchanged, corrections made, plans changed, discussions held, and what not.

But, in the midst of all this ruckus of ideas, one important point continued to be overlooked. How do you track all of this? The bookmarks began to grow and they grew at such an alarming rate that everytime you added a new bookmark, you forgot one. The ideas piled up high and wide. Ideas were flowing in from everywhere. The human brain, however fast it may be, still has its own limitations. We are still trying to find a way to process all this information.

(To be continued…)