Virtual meetings

Just a quick nudge towards Adrian Nixon’s recent post Facilitating Virtual Meetings on his On Facilitation blog. Some good and detailed tips on using Skype in particular, but I imagine many of them are relevant to other VoIP applications.

Lest we forget that other applications exist, and allow Skype to become the new Hoover, I’ve also successfully used Ekiga, an open source equivalent. Then your virtual meetings can also be that little bit more virtuous!

Also thanks to Adrian, because he’s spurred me on to mention a few other posts I found useful on the topic of working collectively but remotely, but failed to mention at the time.

Penny Walker has posted a couple of things in recent months. I particularly found the comment on anonymity in her post on virtual dialogue to be a useful insight – anonymity has the potential to prevent us from seeing contributors as people. More recently she’s also posted a nice list of tips for video-conferencing.

I was also amused and enlightened by 8 Interpretations of Silence when using Instant Messaging over at the Couch Manager.


Collaborative writing online: part 2

We recently blogged about the Kolabora website’s mini guide to collaborative online tools.

Now we’d like to bring your attention to Wikipedia’s Comparison of project management software which neatly complements Kolabora’s guide. Kolabora gives more of a detailed description, but the Wikipedia info is neatly tabulated and crucially, for me, shows which software is open source. Let us know how you get on….

Collaborative writing online

I’m just back from working with a development education organisation (more on that soon) who need to finalise the vision we were working on, and hope to do it online.

I promised to send some suggestions for tools they could use, and decided to broaden my horizons in the process. So a quick thanks to Robin Good for his excellent mini-guide to online collaborative writing tools available on the Kolabora site, including many alternatives to the monolithic Google and their like, should you wish to avoid them.

Mapping new ground

Last week I wasFriends of the Earth staff hard at work back working with Friends of the Earth, helping them take forward the vast quantities of ideas that came out of their recent staff away days. 10 staff members spent 4 hours painstakingly sifting through a mound of flipchart paper and video footage to distill the collective wisdom of the staff into a form that can be presented back to the organisation sometime next month.

It was a tough challenge for the staff, and 4 hours wasn’t quite enough to both sift through the material and create a clear and accessible presentation for their colleagues. That was no surprise as it took me nearly 2 days to get really familiar with the material myself – part of my role in the process was to reflect back any ideas that were missed or potentially misrepresented. Working groups went away to mindmap their findings using

Friends of the Earth staff It’s not a tool I’d come across before, but it seems easy to use and the results look better than other similar tools I’ve used. The only downside is that it’s not open source software, so I searched online for some open source equivalents that you might like to play with. I haven’t used these myself. Feel free to report back!

This particular process also used video and digital photos. Short video clips were taken so that the staff who weren’t present could get a sense of the process that their colleagues undertook as well as to make the process transparent and accountable. Each and every flipchart was photographed, working on the principle that if anyone ever had a query about what was originally said they were very unlikely to locate and then trawl their way through a pile of 50-60 sheets of flipchart paper gathering dust in a corner. They might be able to locate and view a clearly named photo file.