February 29th, 2008
We don’t know how to collaborate through the network
Sharepoint is the collaboration model for Microsoft Office. It’s meant to save Office, because we work with teams, and teams are supposed to collaborate. But the problem is that we don’t know how to collaborate. Google has just launched Sites to provide a collaboration portal for Google’s business apps. But the fact remains, that most workers barely know how to operate the basic apps in Office. It’s one of the reasons that Google’s apps have a chance, they do less, but in many cases that’s enough.
There are many wonderful Wikis out there, but the best ones have a strong culture of collaboration. The form a social network with thier own customs. Corporate America doesn’t particularly like to collaborate in any deep sense. Sharepoint is used as just a slightly better version of email and shared network drives.
Considering all the money spent building applications in this space, you’d think it was fairly assured that the future state where we all collaborate is just around the corner. It may be a moment that never comes. Collaboration on a network is a culture, a social relation, something that requires practice. Most of the collaboration in business happens through people talking or through email, not much at all happens through the network. You’d think we’d be much better at collaborating with work than at play, but the reverse is true.