Sunday, September 30, 2007

Weapons of Mass Collaboration

As an aside, today marks the first annual anniversary of my blogging expedition. And I have written a blog to commemorate the occasion in my other blog here.

The much awaited game between the Gators and the Auburn Tigers came and left last night. And the outcome was not one to my liking: a loss for the Gators, just like last year, except that it was an away game last time around.

Anyway I switched channel (but not allegiance) when the Gators was behind 0-14 halfway through the second quarter. I did that because I found that my emotion had become affected by the course of the game, going through big swings as the game progressed.

So I ended up watching a movie on DVD, Zodiac, the story developing slowly and forcing my mind to think about the connections between different parts of the movie. In other words, a more even-keeled disposition bereft of the imposed mood swings if I were to continue watching the Gators' game. Admittedly, I still have some earthly attachments to forsake. The good thing is I'm working on it.

But I did go to sleep thinking about the game, however fleetingly. So I had to resort to chanting Buddha's name (I could feel wify turning in bed too but for a different reason, or rather worry) to keep my restive mind at bay. In between, I chatted a bit with wify, assuaging her worry until I could hear her even breathing, a sign of slumber setting in. I guess I followed suit soon after as the next moment I opened my eyes it was already daybreak, the morning light streaming through the gaps in the vertical flaps of the window blinds.

A new day was born and by the time I read the headline on the front page of the morning's papers, Auburn Field Goal Fells Gators, my mind was calm and collected.

Post breakfast, I started on Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams (2006, Portfolio). The front cover lists exemplars of community-driven websites (e.g., Wikipedia, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube) that defy hierarchy and control to gain a substantial foothold in cyperspace, making inroads into the business realm.

Long before this proliferation of peer-centric contents, we have had shareware, freeware, and now open-source ware. The last one resonated a chord in me just recently, from a user's standpoint. Thus far I have been using free browsers for Internet surfing, e.g., firefox, and also software that comes packaged with the PC purchase, e.g., MS Office suite.

As for the operating system, it still comes bundled, MS Vista in my case. In early 2000s, I have heard about the LINUS, even having paid a pittance for RedHat. But since I don't maintain a homepage, that remained on my shelf, demarcating the full extent, or the lack thereof, of my dabble with the opensource genre.

More recently, the office suite has become unbundled. Instead, there is a trial use version of up to 25 times, as in my latest PC acquisition.

I did not keep count of the access, but was rudely reminded earlier last week when the tool bar became watermarked, meaning most of the command icons inactive/disabled. And I know my honeymoon period was over, prompting a decision whether to get a license, or not. If not, then what? While I can get by with the MS Works word processor for blogging and Paint for editing images, they can get cumbersome at times.

Then I recall that Wei Teck has installed OpenOffice software on his laptop last year, and more recently he did the same for his sister's new laptop this summer. And migration, or portability, between OpenOffice documents and MS documents has been seamless. So yesterday, I did the same, and my desktop writing/publishing has become OpenOffice-based since, though I still have to use Paint to resize my images. That makes me a neophyte and beneficiary of the opensource platform.

As for mass collaboration, the web-enabled one, my participation is at best peripheral, sporadic, at the fringes, in the form of my blogs (again, using a free blog site). I have not contributed to Wikipedia, though my academic achievement and professional involvement do qualify me to become a contributor, in my humble opinion.

But within the more restricted arena of private practice, as in company- and firm-wide, I'm seeing, and actualizing, the benefits of peer production through knowledge sharing, leveraging the collective knowledge base of the entire firm to bear on specific geographically circumscribed problems and undertakings. This could be both intra- and inter-continents, the physical distance becoming a non-factor.

All that's required is a broadband connection, and a commitment to sharing and consultation. Much like maintaining a running inventory to meet seasonal demands among different outlets of a store chain, a consulting business likewise can allocate finite human resources at its disposal to cater for different work loads among its branches through Intranet portals without having to physically move its employees.

At the moment, there is still a dichotomy in leveraging the Internet for social/political networking/interaction and for business imperatives where the bottom-line is still largely profit. Mass collaboration is relevant, and in fact vital, for the former where the goal is leveling the playing field in the collective commons; as for the latter, the inter-firm boundaries are like the proverbial lines drawn on the sand, each firm encamped and jealously guarding what is in its own domain. It's fair to say that it may be a while before the much touted “weapons of mass collaboration” in the former realm would permeate into the latter, displacing the reigning “weapons of mass competition” in the private sphere.

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