Friday 10 December 2010

Person-Centric Collaboration

A fundamental principle of collaboration is that it is person-centric. I.e. the important thing about collaboration is who you collaborated with, not which tool you used, or the project plan, or the record of the most recent meeting although these things are important.

Few people are able to label one kind of computing person-centric or not, although the distinction is pretty simple:

In person-centric computing, the primary objects you deal with are objects or icons representing people.

So if you want to see someone's phone number, you click on the person icon and it rolls over or something to reveal the business card containing the phone number. Maybe then you can click-to-dial.

If you want to email someone, you click on some email action button on their business card.

Or equally you can maybe drag the person icon onto a telephone, or drag a telephone onto the person icon.

On my 'Collaboration Station', you establish a collaborative 'conversation with a person by dragging that person's icon into an area on your desktop representing your office or meeting room.

Please note this is not the way most desktop systems work today (Dec 2010). Today, you choose a tool first, e.g. an email client, open it up to the tool function you want, e.g. the 'write an email' sub-tool, and
then input some identifier representing a person. Developments have taken place to make the desktop more document-centric which is a very good thing, i.e. you drag your document to a tool, and my discussion of person-centric computing has issues similar to that. The dominance of the 'tool' on the Windows desktop is still pretty strong though, i.e. to edit a word document you can drag the document to the 'Word' tool, but not to the 'Excel' tool, and vice-versa for spreadsheets - the system would still work if there was an 'edit' area on the desktop and you could drag either spreadsheets or Word documents to that. This is clearly analagous to the common 'Open' function that is triggered when you double-click a Word or Excel document.

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