Eating Our Own Collaboration Tools Dog Food

Last night, Tom and I were finishing up work on a new project (that I now realize as I write this, I might not be able to disclose quite yet).However, it is definitely related to our book and collaboration.

I thought it might be instructive to describe the tools and techniques we actually used as we worked to finish this project.

We were working, simultaneously, on several articles, a list, some forms and an audio file.

First, we exchanged emails to confirm our to-do lists and the division of labor.

I had the job of preparing a couple of first drafts. I went first to Google Docs to do those.

We also opened up a Skype instant messaging session so we could send quick messages back-and-forth, especially to get quick answers to questions.

When I finished a first draft, I'd share the document with Tom so he could access it in Google Docs.

By the time, I had finished drafts, Tom had emailed me Word versions of other documents he was finishing up with revisions marked with Track Changes.

We used Skype to alert each other about areas to pay special attention to or questions we had about the documents, as well as share some ideas.

I marked my changes  to Tom's documents in Word with Track Changes and emailed the documents back to Tom to finalize so he could submit them as Word documents.

We were also using Skype to make decisions about going forward with preparing an audio file from a recording of one of our presentations and making a last-minute decision to add another list to our set of materials.

Tom took my first drafts out of Google Docs, put them into Word documents and used Track Changes to show his edits.

While he was doing this, I used Audacity to do some clean-up and light editing of the audio file.

Tom then sent me the edited Word documents, which I checked and made minor revisions to, again using Track Changes. I also used Skype instant messaging to discuss a change Tom made that I thought made a different point than the one I had intended. We discussed that and decided on the final wording. I then emailed the Word documents back to Tom to finalize (Tom was taking charge of submitting all of our materials.)

Once I finished the audio file (approx. 50 megabytes), I used YouSendIt to transfer the large file to Tom, who received notice that it was available and downloaded it.

We then compared noted and checked our lists using Skype IMand determined that we we were done.

Tom then assembled all of the files and used (which he prefers for its ability to handle multiple files) to send all of the files in, beating our deadline by a day.

We then used Skype IM to get caught up on other things we had been doing.

Some takeaways:

1. We actually use the collaboration tools we write and talk about.

2. We like having a tool box of collaboration tools for different purposes rather than being concerned with a single all-purpose collaboration tool.

3. Different tools work well for different purposes.

4. Even in the same project you might use a number of different tools to do the same types of thins.

5. We really like the way you can open a constant communications channel to help you work by using instant messaging.

We invite your comments.