Yesterday I created a post over at my other weblog (elsua @ ITtoolbox) with the title GROU.PS – Your Ideal Community Collaboration Tool Suite ? and while I was actually writing down my thoughts with that quick commentary on GROU.PS and while I was playing around with the application to see what it actually offers and how it works (By the way, if you would want to give it a try you can join elsua – Knowledge Management and Collaboration and play around with it) I was actually thinking what it would be like to have the perfect collaboration tool suite in place in order for distributed teams / communities to collaborate.
What would be those key aspects that you would consider fundamental for a collaboration tool suite to become the focal point of entry for every single team / community member? I know it is not an easy question as it would probably have multiple answers but I just thought I would venture to draft over here what I think would be some considerations to take into account whenever a community would be about to get started in choosing whatever tools they would want to make use of. And to get things going I am going to use the example of GROU.PS and see how far I could go with that ideal community collaboration tool suite:
One of the capabilities of GROU.PS is the possiblity of using Google Maps to help contribute a little bit to the aspect of social capital by allowing people to identify themselves and indicate what their location is. I think that this is an option that every community should have if they would want each community member to have a sense of belonging to the group in such a way that it can be used as an excuse or icebreaker to establish the initial conversations to enable trust to be built up. And pretty much like Google Maps a couple of other good options would be Plazes or Frappr, to name a couple of them.
GROU.PS has got also the possibility of handling the membership list of a specific community and I think that this is also one handy feature from any collaboration tool suite that would need to be put together. However, I would add another key element to help boost the real-time interactions within that membership list management. Yes, indeed, Instant Messaging for the community members, so that they would be able to work together on demand and without having to wait on whatever the tool. We have seen how more and more Instant Messaging is starting to be considered a critical business tool and I would think it would also make sense to have it added into that collaboration suite. And in this particular case I think that examples like Meebo would make perfect sense to have them added..
Moving forward there are two other different options available within GROU.PS that I was very happy to see: weblogs and wikis. Indeed, I would think that every single collaboration tool suite should have both of them in order to allow community members to collaborate by allowing each member to have their own voice, through a weblog, to share their thoughts and to also collaborate actively in a collective way by sharing knowledge and exchanging information on a community wide space, i.e. a wiki. That way community members would be able to share knowledge both on an individual space like a weblog at the same time that they would be able to collaborate actively in the group space.
And getting closer towards the end of the components for a indispensable collaboration tool suite GROU.PS adds two other different components which are very powerful for what they have to offer: first the possibility of sharing your Flickr pictures, which will help you as well in the area of helping your community members to build on their social capital skills by sharing pictures they would allow them to create a connection with. Yes, indeed, a picture would be worth a thousand words, but it is way better to share it with others and make a connection through it. Secondly, the other component is the integration with del.icio.us in order to be able to create a collective range of links or key web resources for the community itself but that would be built by everyone else. So instead of having one or two folks creating that index of must-have resources it would be the entire community, which will help create multiple connections and interactions between members by using the handy features of tagging and annotations. This is one of those features that would be very handy especially to help build the collective knowledge of the community which can then be shared with the new members of the community.
And that would be it, folks. Those are all of the features that GROU.PS puts together in this particular offering and which in my opinion would make for an interesting approach towards the creation of that ideal community collaboration tool suite. Perhaps the only one other aspect that I could think of that could be added and which would be very much needed would be the existence of a knowledge repository where not only the Intellectual Capital would be stored but also those knowledge snippets that could then be reused by other community members.
In short, and from what I have mentioned above, I would think that a good community collaboration tool suite should be based on some kind of (web / location) presence indicator, a membership list management capability, that would include not just Instant Messaging as I have mentioned above, but also with VoIP included. Then it should also have weblogs and wikis for the reasons I mentioned above as well and, finally, integration with already existing great services like Flickr, to share your photos, and del.icio.us, to share your community and your own favourite web links. And in the end it would also be a key component to have that particular searchable knowledge repository database where IC could be stored and reused in order to help improve the quality of the community interactions.
So with all that said, that is what I would consider a key community collaboration tool suite, but what do you think ? Do you think that GROU.PS would be able to make it as a strong offering from the myriad of tools in the Web 2.0 space ? Or will it be just one of those tools with a bit of hype that will disappear within a few months. I am not sure what would happen, if it is going to disappear or not, but I am surely liking the concept of what they have put together and somehow I hope one way or another it continues to survive and provide a unique approach for communities to collaborate.
[tags]Collaboration+Tools, KM, Knowledge+Management, Plazes, Frappr, Meebo, Flickr, Google+Maps, del.icio.us, Web 2.0[/tags]