The SLENZ Update – No 53, March 10, 2009

Getting  right ‘message’

and/or where to read it


There has been considerable debate within the SLENZ Project on just how team members can communicate with each other effectively, in context, in timely fashion, and in the same “language”  without being  buried under a mass of  information both relevant and extraneous.

The major part of the  communications dilemma – a problem apparently inherent to the initial stages of most  if not all virtual world projects built by committee –  has been the plethora of communication methods used by participants, and perceived, by the individuals using them, as having the same weight as other chosen channels. The channels have ranged from blogs, to e-mails, and email lists, to skype, to instant messaging, to twitter, googledocs, and recorded/minuted face-to-face meetings (in SL and RL).

Joint SLENZ Project leader, Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust-pictured), however, has now come up with what appears a workable solution to the virtual morass that the SLENZ communciation/documentation was apparently in danger of becoming swamped by. In fact, at one stage from the outside, it appeared team members were suffering from information overload not knowing where each was at and failing in attemptingarwenna_002 to sort extraneous and out-of-date material from the deluge, with each having a different viewpoint.

“We have struggled to figure out the best way of keeping us all in touch with the latest versions of documents, the latest thinking on our development process and how to work collaboratively and collegially,” Atkins said in  an e-mail to members, after thanking them for their”patience.”

“I know that it has been frustrating at times for all of us but I hope we are working towards a better solution,” she said. ” I don’t think it is yet the ‘best’ solution but I am confident it will be an improvement.”
She  said that, if one visited the SLENZ Update blog and chose the SLENZ tab now, one would find a static (i.e. not a frequently changing ) page relating to the SLENZ Project.

“From there you can follow the link to the project development page.
Alternatively, she said, one could  bookmark from where one could find links to various documents.

These include:

  • The Project Development Roadmap – this is the current version of the process of development that SLENZ is following. “This is a google document that has been published as a web page,” Atkins said. “This means that anyone can read it but only those invited to collaborate on it can edit it. I am going to restrict the people who can edit it for now so that changes to the process are all agreed before we publicise the change by way of the document. This will ensure that the document always reflects the baseline that we are currently working to.”
  • Working Documents – There also are working google documents for each of the sub-projects. These are  viewable by anyone but will be editable by only those who are collaborators. Any changes made to the documents will be instantly reflected in the public version. “Once again, it should mean that we all always have access to the latest document,” Atkins said.

“This process is only going to work  if we all agree to work on these versions of the files – as soon as we start working with a private copy or with a new document that is not on the page then we are going to run into trouble again,” she said. “As a new document is needed or created please please please share it with me and then I can publish it. Of course you may have documents or emails that flow between you and that is fine – but be aware that they are just private, personal documents until we have them up on the site.
“I am as desperate as you are to find a solution to this document management problem – it is one of the major headaches of virtual team work I am sure,” she said. “Any improvements, problems or comments please let me know as soon as possible. Also let me know if you feel that there are other documents that should be here (on the same basis as above).”
“While I am happy to see links to blog discussions within the documents, my personal opinion is that the blogs are a discussion tool not a documentation tool,” she said. “The ‘documents’ should be capturing and summarising, if necessary, the decisions that have been made as the discussions progressed.

“My intention with the documents has always been to provide a baseline of agreed information on which others could base their work, even though there may be change with refinement or further discussion,”  Atkins concluded


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