…it seems very difficult to get people to collaborate freely and consistently in a medium where they feel like they have an obligation. […] But I am still left with this need for collaboration that is more meaningful that web logs and people interact more directly. Thus far, in the absense of a project, it has eluded me.
I think the key there is “in the absense of a project.” I really have three types of online collaboration. First, there’s personal interactions with my friends. Second, there is the collaboration on specific projects, where the collaboration is part of my job. This would include email with coworkers, and Groove-style collaboration. The third type is the informal collaboration on those topics I have an interest in. This includes the weblog community I read, newsgroups, mailing lists, etc. I participate as I have time to do so.
Sam is talking about collaboration in the absense of a project, and I think it’s the third type he’s referring to. I think the possible cause of his frustration is that we all have our favorite communities that we participate in, even without a specific business need, because we enjoy them. However, I think many folks are just out of time, and have to make choices. When I run out of time, I first drop off of the newsgroups; next to go is the .NET mailing lists, and finally the weblog posts dwindle. Adding more collaboration mediums is great when there’s extra time – but when the crunch comes, something has to go.
Perhaps what we need is a collaboration medium which more effectively aggregates multiple sources into a single “community”. Rather than having to divide time between newsgroups, mailing lists, workspaces, etc., maybe it could be organized by topic. One could participate in the “.NET community” without having to consciously make choices as to the medium. Hmm…