I'm doing some work with Steve Moore and colleagues at Policy Unplugged, where we are mixing social conferencing events with before and after online activity on a multi-user blog space ... so I'm on the look-out for other examples of this type of mix, and what works and what doesn't.
The most recent event was Bricking it where Johnnie Moore worked his magic as open space facilitator, and within three hours had more than a hundred people generating a score of conversations around issues of globalisation. Pictures and video clips here. The meeting technology is clearly excellent, and so is the Drupal-based blogging system developed with Robert Castelo. The challenge for this and future events is how to help participants make most effective use of the system, in ways that really add some value to the face to face experience. I'll be exploring this in more detail, but for now was struck by an item on the ever-excellent Anecdote blog - Why people don't use collaboration tools. There Shawn Callahan develops themes originally raised by Dave Pollard, first on his blog and then actually using a collaborative writing tool, Writely. Dave and Shawn produce a useful analysis of the barriers to using online collaboration ... see the Anecdote post.
Not many people used the Writely tool to develop ideas further, and Shawn observes that perhaps collaboration requires a strong need to work together. In other words, it is down to purpose, motivation - and whether people feel it worth the investment of their time to use the tools. If you are a team spread around the globe, with tight project deadlines, it is clearly worth making the effort. If you are going to get together with people face to face, where is the added benefit of blogging and commenting before and after?
I believe there are major benefits ... making sure you meet people that look interesting, by reading their profiles online ... raising your own profile ... flagging up issues you want raised .... providing background reading ... carrying the conversation on afterwards ... building up your social network.
But then, that's just my view. The people who really know are the people who come the event, so we need to start that conversation with them. One of the people contributing to the Bricking it event was Leon Benjamin, author of Winning by Sharing, and as you can see in this video clip I asked him what he thought the solutions to the challenges posed by globalisation might be. His response - I don't know, but together we can work it out. I hope the same applies to collaborative tools.