How Hard Is It to Collaborate? Harder Than You'd Think

Ann All

After months of writing about Web 2.0 and feeling a little left out -- less than cool, if you will -- we decided to try out a simple, inexpensive (and hosted, how cool is that?) solution from a company called Squarespace that we hoped would set off a frenzy of collaborative activity among our editorial team.


My boss wrote about it in a recent blog entry. We had originally envisioned a set of dueling blogs, a "he said, she said" take on the experience. Somewhat disconcertingly, however, I find that I agree with pretty much everything he wrote.


Because we are such a small shop, we tend to rely on IM or even -- get out the cart and buggy -- talking to each other to bounce around ideas. When we come across a notable site, free tech tool to try or particularly insightful opinion, we notify our coworkers in one of the aforementioned ways -- or worse, keep it to ourselves.


Those approaches have a couple of obvious problems. They don't leave a lasting record, and they exclude our freelancers who are scattered about the country.


Squarespace, which my boss refers to as a "power blog," offers us an online forum for sharing ideas and airing viewpoints. RSS feeds notify us of new postings. It's simple and intuitive to use. Problem is, we largely don't.


My boss recognizes, and rightly so, that it will likely take some prodding to get us to change our ingrained, Web 1.0 habits. It's a people problem, not a technology problem.


Dave Hersh, CEO of Jive Software, made a similar point in a recent interview with IT Business Edge.


Hersh suggests using tools that accommodate different styles of usage, so for example, folks could contribute to collaborative discussions without leaving their e-mail client if that was their comfort zone. Squarespace, to my knowledge, isn't that flexible. (I'd probably know for sure if I used it more.)


He also advises using "the lowest common denominator of people who are not quick to adopt new technologies" (ahem, that would be me) as a baseline to determine how to introduce the new tools.


It's a little late for that, and I don't have any obvious solutions.


Writing is largely a narcissistic endeavor. In my experience, writers -- even those who cover tech -- are old-school types who prefer to collaborate face-to-face, preferably at a bar.



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Mar 16, 2007 12:30 PM Josh Walsh Josh Walsh  says:
Our team here, a web 2.0 development firm, uses 37 signals Basecamp ( for collaboration.Because it's so simple, and is purposefully minimalistic, it lets your come up with your own collaboration methods which aren't a headache to stay on top of.We couldn't have developed and released our product ( in a timely for organized fashion without it. Reply
May 3, 2007 4:23 AM Scott Annan Scott Annan  says:
I think it was the tool of choice.Squarespace is a great website / webcontent management tool, but not necessarily a strong team collaboration tool.From a biased position ;-) a better choice for what you need is Team Collaboration my Mercury Grove ( - that is designed for teams to improve brainstorming with structured and unstructured tools designed for everyday users.Tools should be user friendly and not expect too much from users, but they should not be targeted to the "lowest common denominator" as that will not deliver true innovation. As Ford famously said: "If I had asked them what they wanted they would have said a better horse". Reply
May 3, 2007 11:43 AM Scott Annan Scott Annan  says:
I think that you were using the wrong tool to achieve group collaboration. Squarespace is a content management system. I would recommend Team Collaboration by Mercury Grove ( for internal communication within the team.Regarding the comment of using the lowest common denominator for introducing technology: I also believe that technology needs to be easy to use, but significant change comes at a cost. Ford said: "If I had asked them what they wanted they would have said a better horse" - I think the same thinking applies to new technology. Reply

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