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Conversation begets collaboration

Dave » 17 years 14 weeks ago

It’s really incredible when you think of how the Internet has expanded the reach and ability of our conversations. Information can spread through the world at the speed of light, and we’re more empowered to connect and to share because of it. That creates the possibility for a radically new world, unprecedented in all of history. When we can connect with such ease, we can have a conversation. When we can have that conversation, we can discover synergies, and explore working together. When we work together on such a global scale, well… the potential is exponential.

In a recent post on my personal blog, I pointed to a few places where the Woven blog was mentioned. As a follow-up example, Jim Ware over at the Future of Work Weblog just posted his reply to comments I had made about a previous post of his. As he notes, Jim and I have never met, but it was easy to discover that he and I share some of the same interests, and it was easy to begin a perpetual conversation.

“It’s all about the conversation”, I’ve often said. I’ll throw out abstract statements like that, and most can decipher what I mean given its context. Yet I’ll go on the record with what might be a more accurate statement:

Conversation begets collaboration.

That is, the ability to have a conversation fosters the ability to work together, to collaborate.

As we’ve come to terms with the raw connectedness the Internet facilitates, we’ve created new applications to help us harness it. The web itself (the World Wide Web, or WWW) is an application that sits on top of the Internet which defines a common way of speaking and understanding rich documents, and of linking between these documents — it’s made of web pages and the web browser. Search (like Google) is an application built on top of the web (just like eBay and are) which serves to follow all the links it can find, index and sort its content, and help you find what you’re looking for.

Blogs are also web applications, with a particular focus on making it easy to publish and subscribe to story-like content on the web — it’s made of your favorite blogging service or tool, RSS for syndication, your favorite newsreader for following your subscriptions, and even trackbacks for tracking references between blogs. The conversation can now be more distributed, more effectively than ever.

We’re adding layers to this new kind of world-wide communications infrastructure we call the Internet, and it’s all about more effective connections — which in turn affects everything from knowledge sharing to commerce. As this infrastructure matures, more possibiities will continue to emerge, and it’ll become more simple — it’s all really at its early stages. It’s important to look at what we know about how connections are made in the real-world, and to then advance the technologies to support and build on that in a distributed environment.

As we continue to push ahead in an increasingly connected world, our ability to harness technology to foster conversation and effective collaboration will play a vital role. Even the small connections still amaze me — like discovering a shared affinity with Jim, and starting a conversation — and it’s all made possible by technologies properly harnessed.