Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Side by Side

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From Open Space Web Conferencing To
Living And Collaborating Together In A "Private" Space

I have been struck by one consideration.

I talk so much about web conferencing, real-time collaboration tools, but do I really understand what is the future of online collaboration?

Are we just going to have online classes, Internet seminars, Web workshops, Web conferences and real-time chats? Is this really what the future of online collaboration as in store for us?

For example, what is really going to be like to share an online space and to live it? (I mean being in a virtual space rather than going there to carry out a preplanned activity.)

Though, the question may appear naive at first, I wish to paint for you a little story that tells you a little more about what I am envisioning.

Me and Massimo are like brothers, in the sense that we help and support each other so profoundly, that our strengths are often made out of the visions and feedback we continuously serve back to each other.

Massimo is a technology professional like me, and while we have individual projects and business interests, we are also together on the IKONOS New Media communication team, and have been many times working side by side for many ambitious projects for international organizations.

So, while we are not in the same office, we may call each other several times in a day, we have tens of shared YahooGroups open together, some Groove workspaces running, are in contact when needed through an instant messenger, and obviously send each other tons of 2-lines emails.

It is often to get an alternative view, a confirmation or the voice of a questioning mind that we call each other on the phone, so that we can both make sure that ideas and solutions we envision are at least tested against the devil's advocate each one of us plays so well for the other.

Imagine now if we and Massimo did the following.

Instead of setting up a Web conferencing tool to meet and do more of what we normally do on the phone, we decide to work together in a virtual space from 4 to 7 pm everyday.

This is something different.

This is not meeting in a virtual space with an agenda of topics to be presented. This is not a training class nor a discussion opportunity.

This new situation portrays two people working side by side in a virtual space and having the following facilities:

Your screen is a tab on my monitor, and when I click it I see anything that is going on over there. Same for you. I see what you are doing, what files you have open. It's like being there. Same for you.

One click on my spacebar and I can talk real-time with you. And you can respond. Crystal clear, just like we were on the phone.

Now imagine me working in this mode and suddenly having an idea for a technical solution I want to implement in my next project. "I need to ask Massimo" I would say in my mind.

But now I don't need anymore to interrupt him. (How many times have I been maybe the 13th call in a row on his phone, or another buzzing instant message cluttering a screen already begging for air? God knows.)

Now, I click and I look at what my teammate is doing. He doesn't feel it. He knows that I am there, but he doesn't know when I am looking. And so do I.

Now I have more choices.

I can decide to click the space bar and talk as I see him reading my own email of this morning, or I can send him an email if I see him working his way through a debugging session for his new Lightwave plug-in (

Isn't this something altogether new from what you and I had been thinking all along?

Can you see how useful it is to share a virtual space and have the option to stop and talk to your mate, friend, boss, and share something when you need to.

Can you see the peaceful advantage of raising your head and asking: "Hey, what do you think of this?" and get an answer right then and there?

Side by side.

Of course I understand the many implications of this.

Your fear of showing what you have on your screen in such an unfiltered way, and your desire from time to time to blank out to do something very personal. That is OK, these are understandable concerns.

In my case I would have no secrets that could not be shared, and the strengths of our professional collaboration stems from this very unique force. If that says anything about the true ethics of collaboration online then I am doing my job right.

But do not limit your view when a glimpse of a new panorama opens up. Look through it and explore where and how it could help me and you work together better.

While distant, ever so closer together...

from an idea sparked by a conversation with Wes Kussmaul founder of Delphi Internet Services CEO of

"If we could have an office facility where we both show up for work during our overlapping hours, say 2:00pm to 5:30pm for you, 8:00am to 11:30 for me, what we would have would be among the first genuine online workplaces in the world. I don't mean a 3.5 hour meeting every day, I mean a place that we occupy simultaneously as though we were in adjoining offices on a corridor. If one of us needs to say something to the other we just pop our head in the other's door and ask whether we can go over a document, run an idea past each other, etc. "

Find the most effective SOHO Web conferencing and live presentation tools for online meetings, live showcases, and distance training classes.

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posted by Robin Good on Wednesday, April 30 2003, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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