Shared artifacts

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Shared Artifacts are tremendously powerful in helping us collaborate more effectively. There are low bar and high bar ways to integrate them more effectively into our work. This page describes both, along with general principles for how to leverage and design Shared Artifacts.

Understanding the role that Shared Artifacts play in how we collaborate is critical for understanding how to collaborate more effectively online.

Why Should We Care?

  • Sensemaking -- Rule of 7
  • Validation (listening)
  • Alignment
  • Focus

Three Intentions

Artifacts can play three roles:

  • Transcriptive
  • Interpretive
  • Evocative

When we create artifacts for ourselves, we're not always explicitly intentional about what we're doing and why. If we want to leverage Shared Artifacts effectively, we have to be. That way, people know what they can defer to the Shared Artifact and what they need to capture on their own.

A Shared Artifact that's interpretive might be great for the participants, but not useful to others, at least from a content standpoint. From an evocative standpoint (this meeting happened), it may be extremely useful.

Meeting Notes Example

For our shared meeting notes on Google Docs, we were aiming to have a high degree of transcription, interpretation, and evocation:

  • Notes: Transcriptive
  • Key Takeaways section on top, plus process to encourage filling it out: Interpretative. . (We've slipped on this)
  • Video excerpt: Evocative. (We've also stopped doing this)

Best Practices

  • Make sure everyone can see / contribute to shared display. Put it in an optimal place!
  • If it looks too good, no one will want to change it
  • Work Big
  • Templates help frame the conversation. Otherwise, you're relying on the group or on the facilitator to be inviting, to stay focused, etc.

Shared vs Individual Artifacts

A general best practice is to encourage people to do what they would normally do individually, just do it in a shared space. Michael Idinopulos calls this leveraging In-the-Flow work. For example, a lot of people already take notes. So instead of taking notes individually, you ask people to take notes in a group document (using a collaborative, real-time editor such as Google Docs). You're leveraging what people already do, but you get a shared benefit.

This is a good principle, but you have to apply it carefully, because there are some potential downfalls. If you have someone who takes comprehensive notes quickly, that person's actions may have a domineering effect and discourage others from sharing their ideas, even if that person has the best of intentions and is just following the principles. It's the equivalent of a person starting a real-time, group conversation with a steady stream of ideas. It can make it hard for others to join in. The asynchronous nature of an online space may mitigate that to some degree, but it's something to be careful of.

For example, I (Eugene) often wonder if I'm unduly scaring away participation by taking notes in this shared space as I think of them rather than distributing them over time. Just as I'd like to see Kristin take notes in shared space by default, perhaps I need to practice taking notes in individual space by default and integrating after others have had a chance to have their say. —Eugene 17:41, 24 December 2011 (CST)

Another downfall has to do with the psychology of writing things down. It may feel safer to explore half-baked ideas if they are not being written down. When you see something in writing, you may feel more reluctant either to share your own ideas or to challenge others, because there may be a sense that a decision has already been made. Richard Gabriel has suggested countering this effect using the Working Draft pattern.

Online Collaboration

Understanding the role of Shared Artifacts is important, because this helps us understand what's interesting about online collaboration and how we can better leverage it. Online collaboration is essentially collaborating via shared artifacts.

More Notes

  • Creating shared ownership
    • Not necessarily enough to aggregate a bunch of individual notes on a shared display

See Also