Friday, January 28, 2011

Collaborating on documents, working papers, manuscripts, etc.

Yesterday I received a phone call from a product representative for a new collaboration tool called Hylighter. If you visit their page you can see very brief video that gives you the basics of the thing. This simple tool enables groups to share and comment on documents in a very straightforward way while maintaining the integrity of the original document. Unlike MS Word's track changes feature, Hylighter doesn't require users to distribute multiple copies of a document, nor does it enable collaborators to edit the document. All commentators work on a single iteration of the original document, which reflects all ideas and comments in a clean, color-coded format. A real dialogue can emerge on the page, through threaded comments, which then leads the editing or review process forward. It seems to me that this application harnesses the best features of Word (comment capabilities) and Google Docs (single document centrally accessed) while maintaining editorial (version) control of the work.

I'm considering negotiating a NELLCO offer on Hylighter. Is this something you can see having application in your environment? Do you think journal and law review staff would find this useful in their work? How about faculty using this in the peer review process? Could you see uses for it in your own work? Please share your thoughts!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Library collaboration in non-academic settings

In the last few months NELLCO has been looking carefully at our governance and membership structures, our services and benefits, and our long-term sustainability. As we've thought about whom we are serving and whom we might be missing, we turned toward the non-academic law library arena. This includes state, court and county and law firm libraries, and could include corporate or special law libraries as well. Do we have something to offer in these segments? Are we missing opportunities? We'd love to hear any thoughts or ideas about how we can serve these currently underserved (by us) libraries.
I've also linked here to two recent articles I wrote, one for the SCCLL Newsletter entitled SCCLLs and Consortium Activity: Advancing Justice Through Access, and one for Law Techology News entitled Follow Our Lead? Collaborating With Competitors May be Fruitful. Check them out and let me know your thoughts!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The role of intent in collaboration

OK, so I didn't get to this post in the pre-holiday week as I had hoped, but it turns out that's a good thing, because in the meantime I received the book I mentioned in my previous post, 42 Rules for Successful Collaboration, by David Coleman.* His book gave me more to think about when it comes to intent. Here's how he defines collaboration: ". . .a human behavior, not a technology or a process but an act or series of acts that you choose to perform with one or more people . . .to accomplish a specific purpose or goal." There are a few markers in that definition that clearly implicate intent as a necessary component of collaboration. The collaborator 'chooses' to participate (intent). The collaborators have a 'specific goal' (intent).Throughout the book several contributors make the point that in order for collaboration to be successful you have to have a clearly defined purpose. Until recently I might have agreed. But I'm starting to identify a more amorphous kind of collaboration in which intent is more squishy, less outcome driven. It's the collaboration that is a natural byproduct of social media and web 2.0/3.0 technologies, and it's collaboration as a state of mind and a modus operandi.

In  NELLCO's work with ODDA over the last few years I've had the pleasure of getting to know Laura Freebairn-Smith. Laura's dissertation is entitled Abundance and Scarcity Mental Models in Leaders. Now I haven't read her entire dissertation but Laura shared some of the concepts with me and it has sparked my thinking about the basic models and how they foster or hinder collaboration. As you might expect, abundance is good, scarcity is bad. If your weltanschauung is one in which resources are limited and you have to scrimp and scrape for your fair share, you're less likely to feel inclined to share what you have once you have it. On the other hand, if you see the glass as half full you're more likely to be the stone soup type, willing to share what you have to make it into something more.

Social media and the concept of 'the cloud' have made me rethink my definition of collaboration. If you have a spirit of collaboration (abundance) perhaps you need not have a specific goal for your collaborative efforts. In fact, you may never even know the impact of your collaborative actions. You just sort of set them free, via a tweet, a blog posting, a wiki, list or even e-mail (still) and hope they land somewhere they can be useful. I'm now less certain about the clear distinction I've maintained between cooperation and collaboration, which hinged on intent.  What do you think? How do intent and collaboration relate?

* My micro review: content is useful; editing is poor.