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Defining Mass Collaboration
If you run a web search on “mass collaboration," chances are the most popular hit will land you on Wikipedia first. The vision statement for Wikipedia reads, “Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That’s our commitment."
Other top web page hits offer that mass collaboration is a group effort and exchange of communication to reach a common goal.
Criticisms of mass collaboration, especially when it comes to the “sum of all knowledge," are that web-sharing sites and social media sites are not really collaborative, but opportunistic.
If the goal of mass collaboration is to offer a point of view or expert advice based on education or experience—all in one freely accessible online source—then indeed mass collaboration will continue to have its critics. On the other side of this equation, in projects where collaboration is necessary to realize the goal, and with available technology, mass collaboration is on the rise. If teams or groups can’t physically be in one location, projects may incur bits and pieces of information (part of the mass collaborative input) making project managers wear the puzzle-solver hat to connect those pieces of knowledge or information.
Image Credit (Freedigitalphotos)
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The Cons of Mass Collaboration
Mark Elliott of the Media Culture Journal writes about collaboration and its importance but is also a critic of mass collaboration and defines it as stigmergic collaboration, meaning that without communication there can be no collaboration. It also means collaboration often evolves in stigmergic efforts, where one’s environment or beliefs influence or push the collaboration along.
For example, wiki websites may offer a mass collaborative opportunity, but with stigmergic collaborative efforts, the collaboration merely becomes more of opinions based on one’s environment. Some input is based on knowledge, but wiki sites mostly contain beliefs or ideas.
However, if a mass communication effort is needed to reach a goal or milestone, without this type of connected collaborating, how can tasks completed by outside teams be considered valued input?
Perhaps the criticisms of mass collaboration must include a look at the necessity of communication from multiple sources; but to use it effectively, it must be an organized framework designed to handle the collaboration in a positive and structured way.
No project will ever be successful if shared input isn’t organized and either utilized or disregarded and points to the common goal of project completion. If a project manager must utilize collaboration from many sources, in many locations, they must also take the time to develop a collaborative plan that is not only accessible but has guidelines the team must follow.
Mass collaboration through technology communication efforts can harm a project if the information is allowed to be an opportunity or opinion where there are no set rules. Therefore, the efficient project manager must set the rules for communication, what is acceptable, and how collaboration between teams will be accomplished.
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Mass Collaboration Sources
Platforms like Windows SharePoint have been around a while and, as an add-on, allow users to search millions of shared documents—but are these sources accurate? Other file-sharing websites such as DocStoc, GoogleDocs, and Zoho Share can make one question the legality of file-sharing websites.
Those who speak or write on the criticism of mass collaboration must agree that file- and information-sharing websites may not be the best source to find a solution to a question or assigned task, especially if that task needs to be completed in order for a project to succeed.
If the task is defined via a mass collaborative website, is it only an opinion or can it be used as factual and correct?
Technology through the World Wide Web will continue to allow participants to offer opinions—factual or not, but if mass collaboration websites are utilized as the end-all to find answers to important project elements, the criticism of mass collaboration will continue—unless managers utilize a useful framework with set rules that define a good communication and collaborative plan.
Image Credit (Freedigitalphotos)
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- Brianna Laugher - Is Mass Collaboration All it's Cracked Up to Be? - http://brianna.modernthings.org/
- Mark Elliot - Media-Culture Journal - (http://journal.media-culture.org.au/0605/03-elliott.php)