Monday, October 03, 2005

Communication Nation: Information overload in the office

Communication Nation: Information overload in the office brings to mind some thoughts about problem analysis and solution design. I've recently been reading through Ed Yourdon's Just Enough Structured Analysis, specifically the section on why some systems should not be automated. Given this background and a caption writing contest and a situation to comment on with an all too familiar pile of documents estranged from any kind of context, I'm reminded about the rush to implementing some system, any system with a potential for making things better instead of a solution with a chance of working. Why, for example, store documents in individual files with access limited to the author and a selected group of specificially intended recipients and then present them as unitary objects of information rather than creating a genuine information space or information world in which these can have a natural contextual connection to the environment of which they form a part? Wiki's provide a great start (and yes, Virginia, some bits of information can be protected from writing and viewing), but commercial vendors and open-source projects alike miss out on creating information environments capable of utilizing innate human capabilities for immersion and adaptation. Where is the SubEthaEdit of the office world, not just for text files but for meetings, documents, consensus building, presentations, workflow design, and any other potentially tool-mediated activity? And, most important, what would such a thing be able to do better than a big table, white board, and stack of index cards?

3 Comments:

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12:56 PM  
Blogger dave said...

I am not familiar with SuEthaEdit -- is it similar to Writely by any chance?

http://www.writely.com/

8:05 PM  
Blogger Roland Jones said...

SubEthaEdit is somewhat similar in that you can share the editing of documents. However, there are several key differences. First, it's an OS X application only, so it runs as a regular text editor which can be linked to other copies of itself in order to share editing of a text file. Second, though this limits the platform, the speed and features are great (like a programmer's text editor) and changes appear in real time. Really this seems to be a class of application just beginning to make itself popular in the market (as the Beta designation with Writerly suggests). MoonEdit does something similar on Windows, but is not as refined as SubEthaEdit. I understand several other projects are currently underway to bring collaborative text editing to Eclipse and JEdit, but I just saw that in passing some time ago. In the past I've played with online drawing/whiteboard applications and online office suites, both of which allowed different levels of collaborative work.

None of them [collaborative tools in general], to my knowledge, combines the collaborative aspects with the maintainence of an information space with the flexibility of a platform based application with enhancements specifically designed to help us manipulate information more than simply publish it.

10:42 AM  

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