I was looking at the plans of yet another collaboration startup this week. Yet another interesting system to help people codify and automate collaboration. And yet another system that will die an unmourned death I suspect.
End users have voted over and over again in favor of ad-hoc collaboration tools — email, IM. We happily bounce messages back and forth to collaborate. But make us structure it just a little bit and we overwhelmingly reject the solution. We are just too impatient and short-term lazy to create a structured message, to use a more structured workflow tool, to do the upfront design work to create a collaboration app.
The same dynamic exists with spreadsheets and databases. The dominant use for spreadsheets is simple lists with some modest calculations. Databases would be perfect for this but we use spreadsheets because we can jump right in with no upfront design time, we don’t have the patience to do a little design upfront.
But I wonder if we can’t do a little better in email, perhaps drawing some inspiration from spreadsheets. When I collaborate in email, I am often making a list — a meeting agenda, a list of tasks we need to do, a list of questions we need answers to, a list of assignments. And then I’d love it if I could easily see status against that list. It would be nice if my email editting app would auto-recognize lists, and then track responses and status to list items, letting me see a summarized view of the list of items being discussed in a thread.
It has to be really lightweight, any list should be autorecognized and formatted, as Word does today if you try to create a list of items.
Just early thinking. I’d like to see some lightweight collaboration grow up from simple email, rather than continue to see heavyweight groupware software.