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What I learned about collaboration

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Posted by Ken
Jun 19, 2020 at 03:09 AM

 

This is slightly OT, but I think that this group may find some of this discussion interesting.  While I use a variety of the products that we have discussed here over the years, I mostly use them as a single user.  At work, we are a mostly Microsoft shop, and have only recently been introduced to programs like SharePoint and Teams, and the latter mostly as a video platform.  so, the SOP for working with others has been email and emailing documents.  It has it advantages, but it also has its challenges.  Still, I have never been a fan of co-authoring documents in OneDrive/SharePoint as I find the process cumbersome and not to my taste.

Recently, we lost the matriarch of my family and it got me to thinking that I had better start scanning and sharing a large number of photos that had been pulled from my childhood home and the home that my grandparents occupied.  This was a project that I had wanted to tackle when I (hopefully) retired, but I now realized that if I waited until then, that there would be few relatives left to identify who was is all of these hundreds of photos from the 1920’s forward.  As photography is a hobby of mine, figuring out the scanning of the images was not too hard.  But what came next proved to be quite a rabbit hole journey.  I initially thought I would just high and low resolution copies of the files on a photo hosting site I use and make them available for download.  Then I realized that I needed family members to identify people in the photos and started to think about how this could be accomplished.  I figured few people would be interested in learning or joining hosting sites, so I had to find ones that were reasonably easy to use when it came to downloading and commenting.  Flickr rose to the top of the pack because it was somewhat common and not that difficult to learn, but it did require an account for users to comment on the images.  I was winning to make that concession, but then it dawned on me.  While sharing the images was my original goal, it now became clear to me that the comments would be more important, and did I have a way of easily exporting them from the site?  I was not planning on leaving the images up on one site forever, so how was I going to take all of these comments with me?  Flickr exports all of your data into JSON files, and while that is not that uncommon of a format, it did not seem like an easy way to access the data.

I then searched further, and tried to deconstruct the “problem” to see if I could find more generic solutions like Dropbox, Samepage, Notion or Notejoy.  None seemed to offer the right mix of user friendliness and function that I wanted.  But, I soon started discovering somewhat similar sites like Dropmark and that eventually lead me to a whole new world of collaboration sites that cater to the world of video.  I learned there are about a dozen competing sites that offer collaboration and commenting without the need for a guest to open an account.  They easily allow the exporting of comments and also offer a host of additional organizational features.  It was as if somebody took the best parts of a blogging platform, a photo hosting platform, Pinterest, and Dropbox and melded them together.  Some of the sites that I looked at included Kollaborate, Ftrack, Screenlight, Syncsketch, Wipster and Frame.io.

If you are familiar with these types of sites, then my apologies for stating the obvious, but if not, I find them to be an interesting study in how they approach collaboration.  They all do follow a similar formula, but some are polished quite nicely and seem both powerful as well as user friendly.  Guests are usually provided with a link to review and comment, and only have to enter a minimal amount of personal information, mostly to identify them to the host.  The UI’s were pretty friendly for guests, and could mostly be figured out without much instruction.  Why, I began to wonder, could the video industry have this figured out so well, but collaboration in the realm of the office still be so awkward?

Working in Sharepoint is anything but friendly in all of my past experiences.  There really was not that much new technology in these video collaboration sites, yet, for the most part, they seemed to be put together so well.  I realize they are not perfect, but they do seem to understand the value of convenience and an easy to navigate UI.  One analogy that come to mind is how smartphones changed the world of digital imaging, no through IQ, but through convenience.  I appreciate what Microsoft Office has offered us as the business world’s lingua franca, but I wish somebody would really take a second look at the collaboration models the business world has considered.  I understand it is a completely different business case with different needs, but it still seems like we could do better than the likes of Sharepoint.

—Ken

 


Posted by jaslar
Jun 19, 2020 at 04:57 AM

 

Ken, it might be a *little* off topic, but it’s certainly the kind of information management case likely to interest this community. I didn’t know about ANY of the services you mentioned. I once helped someone put up a Blogger site to do something like this, but I can see why you’d be looking for an even more frictionless enviornment.

As for Microsoft, I just hate the Office environment. (That’s why I’m responding, shaking my virtual fist!) At my last, ostensibly Microsoft shop most staff used Google apps to get things done. There are a host of new, collaborative office toolsets. Most of them seem focused on contact lists, calendars, and project management. You’re looking more for a collaborative content management system, I think, although maybe it’s enough to display images, collect comments, and export the files to ... something enduring or manipulable. I’m curious to hear how your journey progresses.

 


Posted by Ken
Jun 19, 2020 at 06:26 AM

 

jaslar wrote:
Ken, it might be a *little* off topic, but it’s certainly the kind of
>information management case likely to interest this community. I didn’t
>know about ANY of the services you mentioned. I once helped someone put
>up a Blogger site to do something like this, but I can see why you’d be
>looking for an even more frictionless enviornment.
> >As for Microsoft, I just hate the Office environment. (That’s why I’m
>responding, shaking my virtual fist!) At my last, ostensibly Microsoft
>shop most staff used Google apps to get things done. There are a host of
>new, collaborative office toolsets. Most of them seem focused on contact
>lists, calendars, and project management. You’re looking more for a
>collaborative content management system, I think, although maybe it’s
>enough to display images, collect comments, and export the files to ...
>something enduring or manipulable. I’m curious to hear how your journey
>progresses.
> >

Thanks for indulging. :)  I try not to go OT, but I guess this was a bit like CRIMPing - trying to find that perfect solution to an information management problem.  I realize comparing the two scenarios (office vs photos) is not really a fair comparison, but I just wanted to highlight that there can be new approaches to old issues that improve the interaction and process.  I really like the term “frictionless” and am glad that you called it out.  It just seems to be somewhat lost in the office software environment these days.  I realize that the number of documents and the number of parties involved in my work is probably never going to fully lend itself to such an elegant solution, but I am sure it can still be improved.  The video industry had a similar issue with reviewing and gathering feedback and they managed to create a number of solutions that attempt to make things better for all of the parties involved.

Regarding my selection, I chose Frame.io.  It was not perfect, but it had a good blend of features, UI and value.  Had I been able to do one or two tweaks to most of them, I am sure that any of them would have been close to an ideal choice.  I am just starting out, but I will try to report back when I know more.

—Ken

 


Posted by Garland Coulson
Jun 21, 2020 at 02:43 AM

 

I went through a similar process and decided to use Facebook to share old photos I had scanned. Nearly everyone has a Facebook account and I didn’t have to pay for hosting the photos.

 


Posted by Ken
Jun 21, 2020 at 04:28 PM

 

Garland Coulson wrote:
I went through a similar process and decided to use Facebook to share
>old photos I had scanned. Nearly everyone has a Facebook account and I
>didn’t have to pay for hosting the photos.

I did have a request from one family member to consider FB, but there were a number of reasons that I did not want to use them.  But, you are correct that having an account with them is pretty common.

—Ken

 


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