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.


Can twitter support social structure in organizations

The basic idea of twittering is sharing social information with your friends. An example is hyves where you can let know what is on your mind by 140 characters (this is called ‘wat doe je’). All your friends can read and react to your short social/emotional message. This is more or less the same on twitter. But will this also work in our organisations? Will a worker ever put his social message in a Tweet and share it with the whole company? Does the rest of the company care about the Tweet of the salesmanager?

Maybe you have some doubts, but realise that the mental model in the organisation is that employees every day have their CCC ‘coffee-corner-chat’. And as we all know if you are seeking for the right information or you are preparing a decision in a meeting, the first thing to do is triple C. And because employees are known with sharing things with each other in their mental model. We expect that supporting this habit by Twitter, people will use twitter from day one. Maybe you should rename it to coffee-chat, so everybody know what twitter is.

For example:

I went on a biking trip this weekend and hit a tree. Monday morning in my coffee-chat I put the words ‘I’am hurt by a three’. Later that day Robbert sees me in the restaurant and asked me how I’am doing.

One of the best things about twitter is the possibility to twitter by more features then internet but also SMS of txt!

This very simple example shows how the social structure in your company can grow.
And yes we hear you thinking: will my people still work and are they going to socialize allday long. Maybe the first two days people are using it like mad. But they will start to be smart about it and only twitter useful stuff. Then your social structure will get stronger. And the positive impact on performance will happen.

So our advise, don’t wait, start today with introducing the digital coffee-chat. This is a great way to enhance the social structure of you company at no cost!

A nice video is here from MIT about twitter and ambient intimacy

this post is written by hendri and robbert


Internet consultation the next step to eGovernment in the Netherlands?

Last friday the Dutch government raised the green flag on “internet consultation”. In short, “internet consultation” means people are able to get involved in making new regulations and legislation. From the beginning of 2008 a pilot will be launched, which will last for a period of two years. In our opinion, there’s something special about this inititiave.

What makes this a (very) good initiative
In 2007, the dutch government spent 100 days talking with the public and discussing forthcoming regulations (amongst other subjects). It’s goal: getting back in touch with its citizens, listening to what they have to say, and therebye “closing the gap”. Taking the dialogue online is a logic next step. Actually, to put things in perspective, we think this is a great start and a big step towards embrasing the viable concepts of “Enterprise 2.0” and to put them to good use. Explicitly: “internet consultation on legislation” means a shift from “Invented behind closed doors” to “A transparant co-production between Government and it’s Citizens”. The potential outcome: higher quality of legislation, within a shorter timeframe, which is more accepted and embedded within the country.
Of course, the legislationproces already has it’s formal plannend public moments wherin citizens can make a stand. But these moments are scarce, few and scatered in time. This initiative takes making regulations to another level. It makes the designproces transparant, the citizens are consulted, get involved, are asked for there opinion en can actively give there input. It’s a brave step in letting go of the orchestrated designproces into the unknown. This initiative fits perfectly in the strategy of becomming a more effective, flexible and decisive (e)Government.

What will make or brake it, from our opinion
A brave step, but not an easy one. From our opinion, several aspects could make our brake the initiative.

It’s about a higher quality of legislation in a shorter timeframe. Not about doing “Enterprise 2.0”, or being “eGov”
We’ve stated that internet consultation is a form of embrasing Enterprise 2.0. That’s a nice statement, but it’s just a label. The real goal and the consequented paradigmshift, should not be forgotten: a higher quality of legislation! produced bij citizens and the governement side by side! In a shorter timeframe! With a higher degree of acceptance!
The initiative shouldn’t be something that’s fits nicely on the currenct political agenda, but can fall off when the agenda shifts: politicians come and go. It shouldn’t be going for the hype either. Hypes will pass, and so will their labels. But each hype has it’s tendensies, it’s possibilities and it consequences. The potential of this initiative is huge, but stay focussed on the goal, not the hype, nor the political agenda.

Carefully identify and select the subjects that are prone to “co-production”, don’t just “put them all out there for everybody”
Not every piece of legislation fits in the co-production pie. Nor does every citizen have the potential to become a co-producer on all (forthcoming) legislation. Think carefully about which legislation should be adressed in this new innovative form. For instance, pick the ones that are interesting for the masses, on which te public opinion doesn’t vary too much, that aren’t too heavy politically, that aren’t too complex and won’t take for ever to reach completion. Furthermore, think about you co-producergroup. Who can adress the matter and how do they get selected?

Actually listen to your co-producers. And when you listen, you have to give a real response
The much heard critisism in sight of the “100-day walk ‘n’ talk with the citizens”, was that, while the walking and talking part worked out nicely, the “doing something with it and giving feedback on it”-part didn’t get top scores. This is a big pitfall that should be adressed. The government has to be prepared and has to have employees on board which can make the paradigmshift and act accordingly. The citizens are co-producers: “Protizens”. Treat them that way. We had the innovationplatform, it wasn’t a success.
Big companies, like Procter & Gamble, Boeing and Dell made this paradigmshift a while ago and have given some important lessons. They listenend a great deal, but what to do with the opinions, discussions, reactions and new proposals? Dell started gathering ideas online from their customers. The biggest mistake was doing nothing with the top priority ideas. The public could give priority to ideas and clearly made other choices than Dell. Even more reactions started to come in, customers started to complain big time. Eventually Dell started to adopt these ideas and learned the power they unleashed. The Dutch government has to make sure they use the ideas and opinions. Not only it’s employees, but also the internal processes and procedures have to be ready to cope with the output of the public and these processes have to be flexible to scale when it gets succesfull. This is partly the same lessons that should have been learned after the 100-day walk ‘n’ talk critizism. A real eGovernment walks the talk!

Anonymity is a great thing, but creating a secure environment for progressive discussion another
A big concern for most companies is security in starting with Web 2.0 initiatives. Spam and misconduct are the worst nightmare of every online initiative. Spam protection is big business nowadays and very nice initiatives are around to keep spam out! Misconduct can only be managed if people are not anonymous. Getting people to logon and use their real names will make a secure environment to give your opinion. In most companies this is fairly easy, but the bigger you are the harder it gets. Now think about getting a userdatabase for a whole country. We have this in The Netherlands and it is called DigiD. This will be a good test to see wether this service is truely open and reusable!

The tool has to fit the pupose! Not just an IT implementation
Making regulation is about giving opinion and not erasing opinions of others, so no wiki for this project! Giving opinion is more about blogging. But blogposts is more one to many. Discussions between readers is not very well supported by blogs. For the government it has to be important to get some data on whether people aggree or not. This is not supported by blogs but is more like Rating regulations, giving comments, discussing sounds nice for a start and not very hard to set up!

This is just one approach to selecting a tool, but it all depends on whats the purpose and being creative.

Don’t just start but think in phases
The chances are you will not be able to get all possible legislation or regulation on the net, target the right people to join in, handle the sitetraffic and (maybe most important) use all the discussions in new legislation! Start simple with one question and a simple site. Form the start choose an emergent strategy on the content side. Use statistics to make choices about the road to follow not just do stuff. On the functionality side start simple and add features. Again use statistics and feedback (i.e. use internet consultation on the topic of the site!) to add features. When the internal operations seems fit to take on more topics, add more topics! Start one department at a time. And for every departement take it slow. Maybe there will be differenc
es on usage and relevance for every departement. The people that join in may be different as well but neither will be representative for The Netherlands in total.
16 milion people will be able to use the site and will have high expectations. 11.000 people will have to work with the consultations. If you do not start small you will have a lot of mad people!
Don’t be scared if the number of active contributors is small. Wikipedia only has a small number of contributors and manages to make the most valuable encyclopedia around. Somewhere between 1 in 30 or 1 in 100 people will contribute. And not all 16 milion people will join in. Lets say 3 milion people will come to the site. Then 30.000 people will contribute! You only have to stay relaxed and spread the word in the right places.

(This Blogentry was co-produced bij Robbert, Vincent and Melior using Googledocs realtime and Skype)